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HIGH POINT - With about $70 million in business property added to the tax base last year, High Point officials say 1989's growth will be hard to top. But they expect steady growth through 1990 despite discouraging projections for growth in the furniture industry.

``You have to say it was a super year,' said George Erath, who was chairman of the High Point Chamber of Commerce in 1989.Twenty-two companies moved to High Point, bringing about 1,500 new jobs, and most are not in the city's traditionally dominant furniture and hosiery industries.

Piedmont Centre, the 1,100-acre commercial development off N.C. 68, accounted for more than half of the 1.2 million square feet of industrial space absorbed by businesses during the year.

Deep River Joint Venture, a partnership between Easter & Eisenman and Westminster Co., is developing the complex, which will eventually include residential development. The development is in north High Point and has easy access to Greensboro and the airport.

Piedmont Centre has brought regional distribution centers to High Point. Polo Ralph Lauren Corp. and Capitol-EMI Music have opened distribution facilities in the north High Point area.

``The strength of any local economy is diversity, although we're glad that the furniture industry has been stable,' said Daniel A. Lynch, director of the High Point Economic Development Commission.

Downtown High Point and the area around Business 85 in south High Point have grown steadily, too. For example:

The product services division of Sears, Roebuck and Co. started building a telemarketing center that will employ 700 people, most of them part-time, at Brentwood Business Park near Business 85.

Market Square Partners added a 15-story tower to its furniture showroom complex on High Street. The building contains six floors of showrooms, five floors of offices and four top floors of condominiums.

NCNB National Bank and Forsyth Partners announced they will build a five-story office building in the 500 block of N. Main Street, several blocks north of NCNB's existing building. The bank will use 20,000 square feet of the 75,000 square foot building.

Several other furniture showrooms and additions are set for downtown. Phil Phillips is developing Showplace on the Park on the site of the old Biltmore Hotel. The International Home Furnishings Center will build an 11-story, 620,000-square foot building on the site of the old Guilford County Courthouse.

``You have to have that balance to keep downtown vital, and I think that's happening,' Erath said.

High Point's growth in 1990 depends partly on the national economy, Lynch said. If the Federal Reserve Bank continues to respond quickly to slowdowns in the economy, High Point's furniture and hosiery industries will feel more comfortable about expanding, Lynch said.

``Sales growth has been flat for 12 months, and we've continued to see the furniture industry consolidate in High Point,' he said. ``The furniture industry in High Point is unique. It really grows because of itself.'

Having some empty buildings and sites helped High Point win developments, Lynch said, although there's a fine line between available sites and a vacancy rate high enough to make a town look overbuilt.

``If you don't have available land and buildings when a company comes to look, they say, 'Yeah, it's a great place, but where am I going to put my business?' ' he said. ``High Point has been very, very conservative over the years.'

With Piedmont Centre and the new office centers on Eastchester Drive, developers can find a site they can move to or build on quickly in north High Point.

But in south High Point - traditionally the city's industrial center - there isn't as much land available for development. Hardly any is ready for heavy industrial use.

The city and the Chamber of Commerce have a committee at work finding industrial sites in the southern half of the city. The committee was formed when High Point created a watershed-critical area limiting development around Oak Hollow and City lakes - both located in the northern part of the city.

With southeastern High Point part of the watershed of the proposed Randleman Reservoir, Lynch hopes to spur development in southwestern High Point by attracting a developer and using the city's reimbursement policy to get water and sewer lines extended to the area.

The city reimburses developers for 50 percent of their cost of installing water and sewer lines. The city included $1 million for reimbursements in its 1989-90 budget.


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