“Don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you got till it’s gone.”
The singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell wasn’t referring to COVID-19 when she first wrote and recorded those lyrics 50 years ago this month in “Big Yellow Taxi.”
But in the age of the coronavirus, the sentiments still apply.
The vexing losses of jobs, mobility and simple pleasures that we took for granted not that long ago, continue to mount as we ride out this quiet storm.
Among the latest casualties is an especially significant one: the High Point Market Authority last week officially canceled its Spring Market.
It was both a shame and a necessity. As the number of novel coronavirus cases and deaths had begun to climb, the authority earlier had postponed the Spring Market from late April to June. Now there won’t be a Spring Market at all, marking the first time since World War II that the event has been canceled.
As for the wistful refrain in Mitchell’s song, it’s particularly apropos here because, for all of its heft and tradition, High Point’s storied semi-annual international furniture trade show, which debuted in 1909, is still underappreciated by many North Carolinians.
We lamented in March — and rightly so — when the ACC Men’s Basketball Tournament was halted in Greensboro barely before it could begin. We cited not only its entertainment value but the $18 million the tournament was projected to pump into the local economy. That’s hardly small change.
Then again ... a 2018 Duke University study concluded that the fall and spring furniture markets constitute a $6.73 billion combined annual economic impact, the largest of any event in the state. A year later, a follow-up report by the Global Value Chains Center at Duke University and UNC-Chapel Hill found an 25% increase in the market’s impact over five years — to $6.79 billion within a 75-mile radius from its epicenter in downtown High Point to 22 counties in North Carolina and eight in Virginia.
The spring market is typically the larger of the two events, so the price of not having it is especially steep.
But the furniture market, which annually attracts 150,000 attendees a year from all over the world, has all the hallmarks of the kind of the event that you simply can’t afford to have in the midst of a pandemic. With Gov. Roy Cooper’s stay-at-home order still in effect, and likelihood of an incremental return to normalcy when it ends, market leaders had little choice. For now, the Spring Market will carry on digitally with a website, e-newsletters, webinars and social media. At the same time, the authority will focus its energy on the Fall Market, scheduled for Oct. 17-21.
We’ve lobbied in the past for increased state support for the Market because of its obvious importance to the economy: 42,427 jobs, $616 million in tax revenue, including $202 million on the state and local levels. We also appealed to Guilford County and Greensboro leaders to support the furniture market in light of those lucrative ripples. So its absence will be felt.
There’s no reason, of course, not to expect the market to come back, strong, when the time is right — we hope in the fall. It has endured its share of adversity before.
An upstart market in Las Vegas that tried to challenge its prominence.
The decline of the home furnishings industry in North Carolina.
The rising profile of China in furniture manufacturing.
Yet it still stands. And it will remain standing until this, too, has passed.