With more than 150 textile mills and about 100 outlet stores in and around Dalton, Ga., the city has laid a legitimate claim to being the carpet capital of the world while helping the local community sustain itself through trying times, such as the Great Depression.
But the recent recession and changing market conditions brought economic challenges, which resulted in high unemployment and the loss of thousands of jobs. Still, Dalton remains a focal point of the flooring industry. The annual FloorTek Expo put on by the Dalton-based American Floorcovering Alliance (AFA) is scheduled Oct. 22-24 in the Northwest Georgia Trade and Convention Center and highlights why Dalton remains the world’s carpet capital.
“In this changing business environment and with the rebound of the flooring industry, it is important for every AFA member to attend the event in 2013 as we plan for the industry’s future,” said Wanda Ellis, executive director, AFA. “The tradeshow is very important and valuable to our members because it highlights best in practice tools and services of the flooring industry, new state-of-the-art evelopments, and innovative business growth strategies.”
The exposition is billed as the only international manufacturing tradeshow dedicated to the production and materials of the industry. FloorTek Expo will be the largest tradeshow to keep abreast of current trends and innovations in soft and hard surface floor coverings manufacturing and technology. And with Dalton being situated in the center of the world’s top carpet-producing region, the show stands as an example of why Dalton won’t give up its crown anytime soon.
Located in the middle of the South’s cotton industry and reaping the benefits of the industrial revolution during the late 19th century, Dalton was primed for success early on. Cotton mills of the day needed swiftly flowing water to power them. And the topography of northern Georgia is situated along a fall line running roughly from the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains down to the coastal plain, according to the New Georgia Encyclopedia. The region’s many fast-flowing rivers and streams combined with abundant cotton supplies created a textile industry that endures today but has fallen on recent hard times.
The recent recession and various market factors have colluded to make Dalton the fastest-shrinking metropolitan area in the United States, according a New York Times report published Aug. 20, 2012. Carpet mills and outlet stores in the region shed 6.9 percent of its labor force from June 2011 to June 2012 for a loss of some 4,600 jobs in the carpet industry. Unemployment in Dalton hit 12.8 percent in January 2011 and dropped slightly to 12.4 percent by February 2012, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Unemployment has dropped slightly since, but the world’s carpet capital is struggling.
Internet sales, new production techniques that reduce the need for labor and big box retailers selling inexpensive carpeting have contributed to the downturn, but the carpet capital remains king and is making a comeback, as evidenced by the FloorTek Expo.