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Furniture manufacturers close due to competition from China. The new job are with...

Old 03-15-07, 05:13 PM
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Furniture manufacturers close due to competition from China. The new job are with...



Google Is Reviving Hopes for Ex-Furniture Makers



By SHAILA DEWAN
Published: March 15, 2007

LENOIR, N.C. — Almost 40 years ago, when Irene Marsh was a young woman, she took a few months of computer science courses. But when Ms. Marsh realized that would not help her find a job in this Appalachian furniture region, she dropped out and went to work in a factory making tabletops.


Irene Marsh, a former furniture
maker, is brushing up her computer skills at
Caldwell Community College.


Then, like thousands of other furniture makers here in the last five years, she lost her job to workers overseas, after 37 years at one company. But Ms. Marsh, who recently sat with a mouse and keyboard in a basic-skills classroom at Caldwell Community College a few miles south of here, may yet have her chance at a computer job.

Last month, the Internet search giant Google announced that it would take advantage of the area’s underused electric power grid, cheap land and robust water supply to build a “server farm” — a building full of computers that will become part of the company’s worldwide network.

Google says it hopes laid-off furniture workers, most of whom never graduated from high school, will be among the 250 employees at two facilities on the 215-acre site, much of which was once a lumberyard.


Ms. Marsh, 58, intends to apply. “Of course, you know, it’s come a long way,” she said cheerfully. “Back then you used to have punch cards and all that. They needed a whole room for one big gigantic computer.”

That Google chose Lenoir, a town that still uses some 18th-century techniques to make its signature products, may seem odd: Server farms require relatively little human labor, and they do not produce anything, not even baby computers.

But the choice of Lenoir, in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, bodes well for other struggling manufacturing economies in the South, as Google is already considering two sites in South Carolina for similar facilities. Google will not reveal how many server farms it has or intends to build, but they are important components in its race to stay ahead of competitors like Microsoft and Yahoo.

Since the deal in Lenoir (pronounced leh-NORE) was announced in February, city and county officials have found themselves on the defensive, criticized for the secrecy of the negotiations and the package of incentives, potentially worth $260 million, that Google will receive.

At Google’s request, the state legislature passed a law exempting some high-tech businesses from paying sales tax on electricity — a tax the company says it would not pay in many other states. And as long as the server farm is operational, the city and county will forgive 100 percent of the company’s personal property taxes and 80 percent of its real estate taxes for up to 30 years.

The deal’s critics point out that although Google said it would invest $600 million and create 250 jobs at an average salary of $48,000, it made no minimum guarantees, often considered an important part of shielding economic development deals from accusations that they are corporate giveaways. The incentive package is one of the largest ever in the state, and when it is broken down per job, it is as much as $1.24 million each.

“I agree that jobs are what we need,” said T. J. Rohr, the only city councilman to vote against the incentives (on principle, he said; he is a Libertarian). “But what’s the limit that you’re willing to pay for a job?”

Local officials argue that the company will pay hundreds of thousands in franchise fees, sales taxes and payroll taxes and that it has filled local hotels with construction workers, bought tons of stone and concrete and hired security guards. Since the deal was announced, a former Winn-Dixie store, on the market for more than a year, has sold, and the town mall is under contract, officials said.

“Here’s what I’ve asked people, too: What’s the disadvantage?” said David Barlow, the mayor. “What if they weren’t coming? Then we’d have 100 percent of nothing.”

Most of the criticism has come not from locals but from the state’s two biggest newspapers, The Charlotte Observer and The News & Observer of Raleigh, which have, among other things, questioned the secrecy employed in negotiating the deal.

At times, things have gotten personal. “God bless them if they can learn how to run a server farm,” a Charlotte Observer columnist wrote of Lenoir’s work force. “A lot of folks in Charlotte and Atlanta and D.C. already know how.”

Tim Sanders, a county commissioner during the bulk of the negotiations, said officials simply researched competing sites and tried to make a better offer. He said Google had already paid $4 million to the city and county to offset some infrastructure costs, while the local governments have lost nothing.

“We’re being criticized like we’re a bunch of country hicks out here and we can’t count,” Mr. Sanders said.

Mr. Barlow and Mr. Sanders considered the deal so important that they went door to door to ask some 35 homeowners to sell their land to amass a tract of the size Google wanted to buy. “I dreaded living here if Google did not choose that site,” Mr. Barlow said.

Still, local residents have wondered how many of them will be qualified for the jobs Google has to offer. (The company says contractors will employ landscapers, janitors and security workers in addition to the 250 jobs.)

Kyle Kiziak, 22, who works for a welding supply company, said his stepfather was recently laid off from his job as a truck driver. “He sits there and thinks, ‘Will they hire someone like me?’ ” Mr. Kiziak said.

Lloyd Taylor, Google’s director of global operations, said there was a false assumption that the data center would have “a team of rocket scientists holed up in a room.” Many of the company’s computers, he said, can self-diagnose problems and be repaired by trained workers. Google is already helping the community college develop a technology training program. And, he said, the company believes that furniture makers have “a great work ethic.”

The need for jobs, economic diversification and good news is dire. Lenoir’s furniture industry has been decimated by overseas competition, and the transformation has been swift. The unemployment rate went from one of the state’s lowest, 2.4 percent, in 2000, to 6.9 percent last year, after peaking at 9.8 percent in 2003. Some 5,000 furniture jobs have been lost. Many workers in their 40s and 50s, who raised families and paid mortgages on factory salaries, have had to go back to school.

G. Alex Bernhardt Sr., chairman and chief executive of the Bernhardt Furniture Company, said the industry had collapsed so quickly because a depression after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks coincided with a substantial increase in China’s capacity to handle furniture manufacturing jobs, leading to a series of difficult announcements to Lenoir’s workers.

“I usually say to them, ‘I shop at Wal-Mart, I think most of you shop at Wal-Mart — we can’t have it both ways,’ ” Mr. Bernhardt said during an interview in his office.


Even though his company is a major taxpayer that does not get the same breaks promised to Google, Mr. Bernhardt said, he is enthusiastic about the center.

“They’re bringing something new and fresh to the community that we need,” he said. “People who have to pay for those incentives, like Bernhardt, are not complaining about it.”

Then Mr. Bernhardt began to muse about the county’s transition from agrarian to industrial and now, he hopes, to a knowledge-based economy. “My grandfather started the first furniture factory in Lenoir,” he said.

“I wonder how long that took them,” he said. “It certainly didn’t take only five years.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/03/15/us...pagewanted=all

<hr>

This story somewhat illustratres one of the major pro-globalization points. If we had tariffed the Chinese furniture to protect worker's jobs, we'd all be paying higher costs for furniture and the town residents would have no incentive to gain better, more competitive skills.

Still, an interesting article. I'm not sure if I like the idea of the tax breaks so much, but I guess that's what needs to be done to be competitive with other areas.
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Old 03-15-07, 05:27 PM
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The decision on what to tariff and what not to tariff is tricky and generally just about politics rather than jobs. And it doesn't lead to progress, just stasis, and not forever.
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Old 03-15-07, 05:34 PM
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Soon we will all work for Google, buy our goods from Walmart, and our coffee at Starbucks while browsing the Internet via our Dell laptops running Windows Vista.
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Old 03-15-07, 05:44 PM
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And then someone will open up some trendy little thing with overpriced goods, and we will add Starbucks, who will grow.....oh, you already mentioned them.
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Old 03-15-07, 06:00 PM
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I worked at a furniture store while in college (small operation: partnership with about a dozen employees).

I recently visited only to find out that they were going out of business. Largely due to the lower prices that products manufactured in China offered (and to a lesser extent, Ikea )
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Old 03-15-07, 06:05 PM
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The markup on furniture is so ridiculous that I don't think China is the only one to blame for the loss of jobs.
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Old 03-15-07, 06:10 PM
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Isn't every furniture store perpetually "going out of business"?
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Old 03-15-07, 07:11 PM
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Originally Posted by Groucho
Soon we will all work for Google, buy our goods from Walmart, and our coffee at Starbucks while browsing the Internet via our Dell laptops running Windows Vista.
One could only hope.
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Old 03-15-07, 07:16 PM
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Isn't viacom now suing google over youtube? haven't seen any threads about it.
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Old 03-15-07, 08:16 PM
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I'm going to be laughing pretty hard when they reprint this story next year except she loses her computer job to India. Welcome to the global village
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Old 03-15-07, 10:06 PM
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Originally Posted by Groucho
Isn't every furniture store perpetually "going out of business"?

Just like there is a always a mattress sale going on.
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Old 03-15-07, 11:11 PM
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Originally Posted by Groucho
Soon we will all work for Google, buy our goods from Walmart, and our coffee at Starbucks while browsing the Internet via our Dell laptops running Windows Vista.
You say that as if it's a bad thing.
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Old 03-15-07, 11:12 PM
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Originally Posted by IMRICKJAMES
I'm going to be laughing pretty hard when they reprint this story next year except she loses her computer job to India. Welcome to the global village
It's hard to relocate a server farm once you plant it. The whole point of it was cheap access to power. But I know what you're getting at.
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Old 03-15-07, 11:31 PM
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Originally Posted by The Bus
This story somewhat illustratres one of the major pro-globalization points. If we had tariffed the Chinese furniture to protect worker's jobs, we'd all be paying higher costs for furniture and the town residents would have no incentive to gain better, more competitive skills.
What??!?? One of the great things about 70,000 textile workers losing their jobs in the state of North Carolina is that a few of the workers can use their community college experience to work for Google??? Are you seriously trumpeting this is a "major pro-globilization point"???

"One of the major pro-Holocaust points is that it freed up a lot of working capital for the Nazis..."
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Old 03-15-07, 11:36 PM
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Originally Posted by NCMojo
What??!?? One of the great things about 70,000 textile workers losing their jobs in the state of North Carolina is that a few of the workers can use their community college experience to work for Google??? Are you seriously trumpeting this is a "major pro-globilization point"???

"One of the major pro-Holocaust points is that it freed up a lot of working capital for the Nazis..."
Ever heard of Godwin's Law?


Your point is well-taken though.
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Old 03-16-07, 10:28 AM
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Originally Posted by The Bus
This story somewhat illustratres one of the major pro-globalization points. If we had tariffed the Chinese furniture to protect worker's jobs, we'd all be paying higher costs for furniture and the town residents would have no incentive to gain better, more competitive skills.

Still, an interesting article. I'm not sure if I like the idea of the tax breaks so much, but I guess that's what needs to be done to be competitive with other areas.
Although I'm for free trade, I don't object to some short-term tariffing to reduce the short term impact to people. I'd rather see jobs being phased out over a few years than a bunch of people all lose their jobs at once and dump an area into an economic depression.
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Old 03-16-07, 10:35 AM
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the influx of new workers into the job market is expected to decline dramatically next decade and baby boomers will start to retire. no reason to increase tariffs.

i've even read an interesting theory from someone with very good credentials that this will result in a depression to rival the great depression because the same demographic trends are coming together.

i'm skeptical of the depression theory, but this guy predicted the 1990's boom in the early 1990's when everyone was predicting doom and he's been lecturing to CEO's and government officials for almost 20 years. My theory is that clinton listened to him and gave MFN to China just in case his theory came true.
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Old 03-16-07, 10:56 AM
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Originally Posted by NCMojo
What??!?? One of the great things about 70,000 textile workers losing their jobs in the state of North Carolina is that a few of the workers can use their community college experience to work for Google??? Are you seriously trumpeting this is a "major pro-globilization point"???

"One of the major pro-Holocaust points is that it freed up a lot of working capital for the Nazis..."
I think you could have used a more appropriate example then the Holocaust.

Actually, I agree with The Bus. Everyone should have a "plan B". The "few" that worked hard and got a community college degree have options. Good for them. And while I feel bad for those that don't have as many options, it is not to late.

Another example, I have been with my company 18 years. There are much smarter people then me at my work. Some are older and wiser, while some are young and more energy. Yet have been more successful then many of them. Why? Whenever there is a "reorganization" they see it at a possibility to lose their job. I see it as an opportunity for advancement. I always jump up and volunteer to do whatever. While I have worked with my company for 18 years, I have held maybe 10-11 different roles/titles. And even though I have been with my company 18 years and plan to stay and retire from them in another 20+ years, I have a "plan B". Should something happen tomorrow on their end or my end, I know exactly what I would do, who I would call and likely would no be out a single pay check. While I have loyalty to my company and love them, I also have a family to feed and think about.

Is it so hard to understand that nothing, I mean nothing, in the business world stays the same? That you have to be ready for a change even if you don't see a change coming?
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Old 03-16-07, 10:57 AM
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Originally Posted by IMRICKJAMES
I'm going to be laughing pretty hard when they reprint this story next year except she loses her computer job to India. Welcome to the global village
The growing problem with that is the infrastructure costs in India are going up. Bandwidth to/from India is getting more expensive. It could very well be that in 10 years those costs offset the cheap labor.
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Old 03-16-07, 11:10 AM
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Originally Posted by al_bundy
the influx of new workers into the job market is expected to decline dramatically next decade and baby boomers will start to retire. no reason to increase tariffs.

i've even read an interesting theory from someone with very good credentials that this will result in a depression to rival the great depression because the same demographic trends are coming together.

i'm skeptical of the depression theory, but this guy predicted the 1990's boom in the early 1990's when everyone was predicting doom and he's been lecturing to CEO's and government officials for almost 20 years. My theory is that clinton listened to him and gave MFN to China just in case his theory came true.

The only "depression" scenario I've heard wrt baby boomers involves the fact that we need to pay their social security, which will be astronomical. So the question becomes do we increase the age for when you can receive benefits, or do we increase the limit on which we collect social security, or both?

I do think we have a bunch of trouble coming when all the baby boomers suddenly get on the medical prescription plan. That won't be cheap.

But on the bright side, we can all move back in with our parents.
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Old 03-16-07, 11:19 AM
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under his theory the baby boomers which is a huge generation is about to go past their peak spending age under historic demographic trends. this will cause consumer spending to plummet and everything that goes with it.

he said the same thing happened in 1929 when another large generation went past it's peak spending age.

i think there are a lot of problems with the theory because he doesn't take any other factors into account like bank failures and there are enough differences between now and 80 years ago to write a book about.

but he does have some interesting things like charts correlating the inflation of the 1970's to the baby boomers entering the job market and as soon as they all went in, the inflation stopped.
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Old 03-16-07, 11:36 AM
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Originally Posted by kvrdave
The only "depression" scenario I've heard wrt baby boomers involves the fact that we need to pay their social security, which will be astronomical. So the question becomes do we increase the age for when you can receive benefits, or do we increase the limit on which we collect social security, or both?
I believe that Germany has just increased the age for when you can receive benefits from 65 to 67 y/o. Also, we'll have to re-evaluate how, as societies, we view older people. In many nations, you're actually seeing a movement towards reintegrating the elderly into the work force instead of simply viweing them as a burden.

But on the bright side, we can all move back in with our parents.
My parents are dead so my plan 'B' involves moving in with you.
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Old 03-16-07, 11:38 AM
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Old 03-16-07, 11:40 AM
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This article shows that it is possible for U.S. furniture manufacturers to survive, even desite the foreign competition. I bolded some of it:


http://www.dynamist.com/articles-spe...amleather.html

A Nimble Newcomer in the Staid Old Furniture Industry

American Leather reinvents furniture manufacturing.

By Virginia Postrel

The New York Times, February 22, 2005

Slide show with audio commentary from American Leather CEO Bob Duncan

DALLAS--When Bob Duncan was studying engineering management at the University of Texas, back in the mid-1980s, Japanese competition had American businesses terrified. "There was great concern that Japan would eliminate the U.S. manufacturing base just totally," he recalls.

To the confident young engineer, however, Japanese manufacturing was not a threat but an inspiration. After graduation, Mr. Duncan went to work for Andersen Consulting (now Accenture), teaching clients lean-manufacturing techniques originally developed in Japan.

Within a couple of years, he had an idea for his own company. He decided to do for leather furniture what Japanese companies had done for cars, steel, and shipbuilding--shake up a staid, complacent industry by rethinking the manufacturing process.

Instead of making sofas in big batches, with each step handling a week's worth of material at a time, he'd treat each order as a single batch and make it in a few days. Rather than segregating cutting, sewing, and upholstering, he'd organize the plant in smaller teams, called "cells" or "mini-factories," making it easier to spot quality problems and to track a single sofa from start to finish. He'd apply just-in-time techniques and keep the backlog to a week and a half, compared to the industry's normal six to eight weeks.

With this modern manufacturing process, Mr. Duncan figured, he could give customers quicker turnaround and more choice. If they wanted a sofa or chair in something other than standard black, brown, or burgundy, they'd no longer have to wait months for container ships from Italy. They'd be able to pick from dozens of colors and count on delivery within 30 days.


With another Andersen consultant, Sanjay Chandra, as his partner, in 1990 Mr. Duncan set out to turn this concept into a business, Dallas-based American Leather. Raising funds and selling furniture proved a lot harder than the two young engineers expected. "At 26, you just don't know," says Mr. Duncan, now 41 and the company's chief executive. "You assume, Why couldn't you? It just seemed so obvious."

The fledging American Leather took more than a decade to hit $30 million in sales, not the projected three to five years. But the business was profitable by its second year, and today it is flourishing. "American Leather has literally come from nowhere to be one of the most popular leather companies in the United States," says Jerry Epperson, a veteran furniture analyst with Mann, Armistead, & Epperson in Richmond, Virginia.

The company employs 390 people, up from 300 in mid-2003. It expects sales of about $68 million this year, up 15 percent from $59 million in 2004. (Mr. Duncan, always the optimist, says $75 million isn't out of the question.) Last year's sales marked a 17 percent increase over 2003. After a slight dip in 2004, because of expanding operations, profit margins are as high as ever, says Mr. Chandra, the chief financial officer. The company's strong balance sheet has improved each year, he says, and it has financed most of its growth with retained earnings.

"No plans are ever laid out that say, 'We're going to very slowly, over time, build it,'" says Mr. Chandra. "We thought we would go public in three to five years. Here we are at 14 or 15 years, and we don't plan to go public." Even if the partners wanted to issue public stock, he notes, the Sarbanes-Oxley regulations passed after the Enron scandal are too expensive for a small company. "Being a public company in our industry and of this size is not a healthy thing," he says, noting that many companies American Leather's size are trying to go private.

In January 2004, American Leather opened a $12 million factory and headquarters in the open countryside about 15 miles southwest of downtown Dallas. The plant's current footprint can handle about $100 million in annual production, and it's built for easy expansion to the open acreage behind it. Mr. Chandra expects to need the extra space by 2007 or 2008.

The company's continuing success comes as the once-complacent industry struggles to survive the shock of low-cost competition from huge new plants in China. Three years ago, a standard leather sofa sold for around $1,299 at a mid-range retailer like Rooms To Go. Today, that sofa would sell for $999, while discounters like Wal-Mart and Costco offer even cheaper ones. "There is no bottom" to the prices, says Mr. Chandra.

Although American Leather's founders never expected furniture prices to drop so far, the company's nimble manufacturing systems--and its dedication to continuous innovation--have given it a sustained competitive edge. An American Leather sofa still commands a premium price of $2,499.

No domestic manufacturer can beat the Chinese on price, but no Chinese furniture maker can deliver a sofa in four weeks. "The fact that you're across the ocean is adding a month to your lead time almost by definition," says Mr. Duncan. Nor do low-cost competitors offer as much choice. Like traditional U.S. operations, Chinese plants run large batches with sizable backlogs. That maximizes economies of scale but adds additional weeks to delivery time. Plus, Chinese manufacturers tend to limit each container load to no more than a couple of models in a couple of different colors, gaining efficiencies by giving up variety.

American Leather feels the pressure too, but its strategy has never been to compete on price. Rather, it wants to offer enough additional value--in choice, turnaround time, construction quality, and innovative design--to justify a more expensive ticket. The complexity of that mission has grown exponentially. "What I'm most proud of is the fact that we still do ship in two to three weeks," says Mr. Duncan, who looks a bit like a young Kevin Costner. "In 1992, we had 10 models in the whole company. Every model had the same plastic leg on it. We had virtually no options. We had probably 25 different colors. And we shipped in two to three weeks."

Today, by contrast, the company offers 140 different collections, each of which includes several different furniture pieces--a sofa, loveseat, chair, and ottoman, for example. Customers can choose from 70 colors of leather and 90 colors of Ultrasuede, and on some models they can combine two different colors or even two different materials. Depending on the piece's design, they may also adjust up to eight different variables--how tall the cushions are, what they're filled with, how they're trimmed, what kind of legs are used, whether a sofa includes a sleeper, and so forth.

Those variables create some 700,000 different possible combinations, not including all those color alternatives. Not all those options are equally likely, but the manufacturing system has to be prepared to create and track any possible choice. It also needs to minimize the number of different components it takes to assemble all those choices--to find ways to use the same bolts, for instance, or to standardize patterns without losing design quality. "If we overload this very delicate and sophisticated process," says Mr. Duncan, "then all of a sudden the stuff you were doing really well a month ago you can no longer do well."

Visitors to the factory are often wowed by the laser-based "nesting" system that expert workers use to lay out patterns around the irregularities of cowhides or by the automated cutting systems that mean every piece is precise and no employee's hands come close to a blade. What's most important about the plant's technology, however, is its ability to keep all those possible combinations straight--to make sure that the right pieces get assembled into exactly the piece of furniture that customer has specified, using a minimum of time and material.

As central as production engineering is to the company's culture and success, technical excellence isn't enough. "At the end of the day, you have to sell the stuff," says Mr. Duncan. "You can have the coolest products. You can build it in 20 minutes and deliver anything you want. But if nobody buys it, it's irrelevant. As an engineer, the biggest thing I've learned in the whole process is how hard it is to sell things."

In 1997, he and Mr. Chandra brought on Cary Benson, now the company's chief marketing officer, as a third partner. That year marked a takeoff point. American Leather made the Inc. 500 list of the nation's fastest growing privately held companies, and marketing innovations became as central to its competitive identity as its manufacturing process.

The company began talking directly to customers, rather than retailers, in its advertising. It adopted the tag line "Seventy styles. Seventy colors. In your home in four weeks." It hired star furniture designers Vladimir Kagan (famed for his mid-century boomerang and kidney designs) and Rick Lee to create signature models. It went looking for functional innovations, like unique recliner mechanisms, to add to its newly fashionable line.

And it built relations with retailers by providing sales tools and training. To give its selection an eye-catching permanent display in stores, it created a "leather wall." The display's leather samples are big--14 inches by 12 inches--and hang face-out on removable dowels. Three-inch-square swatches are stored in the back, giving customers samples to take home. The company broke industry custom and arranged the leather not by grade but by color. That makes the display both more aesthetically appealing and more useful to shoppers, who tend to care first and foremost about getting just the right hue.

"The retailers love them," says Mr. Epperson, the analyst. Each quarter, the company brings 50 to 70 store owners and retail sales people to Dallas for two days of training called American Leather University, begun 1999. Participants see how the furniture is built and learn about the company and its products. They also get a day of general retail sales training, valuable for selling any line of products.

"There are so many manufacturers that don't think about partnering as far as marketing education, and they do," says Connie Stevenson, who with her husband Gary owns Elan Contemporary Furnishings in Omaha. The store started carrying American Leather products in the company's early days. Within the past five years, it has become Elan's number one vendor.

For all its operational and marketing savvy, what really distinguishes American Leather is its enthusiastic embrace of continuous improvement. Managers combine enthusiasm with analysis and self-criticism, and they're open to people and ideas, regardless of where they come from. The company's new operations manager, Martin Gibson, used to work for a semiconductor-manufacturing equipment company. Its new industrial designer, Andrew Nelson, used to design bottles.

This openness contrasts sharply with the traditions of the U.S. home furnishing business. Furniture designer Barbara Tiffany remembers a North Carolina furniture maker who actually said to her, "Well, if it was good enough for my daddy, it's good enough for me."

By contrast, Ms. Tiffany remembers the first time she met Mr. Duncan. She and her husband and business partner Robert had just finished a series of demoralizing meetings with executives from major furniture companies at the furniture market in High Point, North Carolina. The couple was trying to license Mr. Tiffany's patented design for a sleeper sofa modeled on a platform bed. The "Tiffany 24/7" avoided the sags, gaps, and bars that make sofa beds notoriously uncomfortable.

This was their second time making the rounds, and, Ms. Tiffany recalls, "We were treated shamefully, embarrassingly." They only kept their last appointment because they were already in North Carolina with their sample in tow.

They knew as soon as they met Mr. Duncan that the "handsome young man" wasn't from the furniture business--at least not the stodgy, insular one they'd always known. He looked at the sleeper and said, "OK, we'll do it." Ms. Tiffany, expecting yet another rejection, kept talking. Only when he repeated himself did she realize they'd made the sale. "He got it. He got it the minute we showed it to him. He understood the whole thing. He understood the value of it. He's been wonderful to work with," she says.

Renamed and re-engineered for the mass market, the Comfort Sleeper now accounts for nearly 20 percent of American Leather's sales. Last April, the company started a new division, American Upholstery, or AU, largely to sell the sleeper in less-expensive microfiber. The Tiffanys' once-scorned design makes up two-thirds of AU's sales. "It's huge," says Mr. Duncan.

Virginia Postrel (www.dynamist.com) is author of The Substance of Style: How the Rise of Aesthetic Value Is Remaking Commerce, Culture, and Consciousness (HarperCollins). A condensed version of this article appeared in The New York Times on February 22, 2005.
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Old 03-16-07, 11:44 AM
  #25  
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i say we show the old geezers the finger and tell them to cyberbeg

back around 2004 the WSJ did a nice interview with the former head of Medicare. It was his idea to get Part D passed and he lobbied for it for a year before the media started talking about it.

He said that drugs are a lot cheaper than sending people to doctors and hospitals for treatment. you can give someone years of drug therapy and have it cost less than one or two surgeries. His theory was that Part D would slow the growth of Medicare and save it. Not sure what all the other studies base their numbers on
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