Edited by John R. Bryson, Jennifer Clark and Vida Vanchan
Chapter 13: Finding a future for the U.S. furniture industry
Don’t write us off! We’re very passionate about our work. Cut us open and we bleed sawdust. (North Carolina furniture worker 2010). Attrition in the ranks of the U.S. furniture industry preceded the national economic downturn by two decades, providing companies in this field a foretaste of the winnowing effects to come on a larger scale. Companies that survived the ensuing creative destruction found competitive niches in targeted custom markets, updated methods and utilized a variety of strategic choices by managers aware of the necessity for change (Schumpeter 1942; Drayse 2008). If the second decade of the 21st century is witnessing a manufacturing moment characterized by re-shoring of formerly outsourced production, it is a long-awaited one for the furniture industry (Helper et al. 2012a,b). This examination of the ongoing industry transition focuses on North Carolina, as a case study of the complex arrangements involved in managing change in response to both exogenous and endogenous shocks. By the end of 2010 the Southeastern region produced 27 percent of U.S.-made furniture, with North Carolina the third largest producer in the U.S. at 7.6 percent, preceded by Michigan (8.2 percent) and California (9.6 percent) (IBISWorld 2011).
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