Winter Las Vegas Market: It's Showtime Again - Monday 6th of February 2006

As some 40,000 to 50,000 furniture industry representatives scanned showrooms Monday on the first day of the weeklong Winter Las Vegas Market, World Market Center officials were already planning next year's show.

Flanked by Gov. Kenny Guinn and Mayor Oscar Goodman, World Market Center General Manager Dave Palmer said phase two of the complex a 16-story, 1.6 million-square-foot showroom is fully leased and will be ready for occupancy in a year.

Combined with the original 10-story, 1.3 million-square-foot building, retailers housed in 350,000 square feet of temporary tents on the northern portion of the World Market Center's 57 acres southeast of the Interstate 15-U.S. Highway 95 interchange will gain a permanent home.

But that doesn't mean the tents will come down. World Market Center spokeswoman Dana Pretner said continued growth in the twice-a-year furniture markets will require some exhibitors to continue using tents as well as off-site locations, such as the Mandalay Bay Events Center or the Las Vegas Convention Center.

Eventually, World Market Center will encompass eight buildings and 12 million square feet of furniture and home products showrooms.

This week's show is the second event at the World Market Center, following July's initial Las Vegas Market.

Palmer said the 62,000 attendees in July were 50 to 60 percent higher than expected. Pre-registration for the current market, he said, includes 10,000 who did not attend the summer event.

That drew comparisons with the world's largest furniture and furnishings shows, held in April and October in High Point, N.C., in the heart of the nation's furniture manufacturing region. It typically draws more than 70,000 people and 1,200 exhibitors from all 50 states and more than 100 foreign countries.

"They have a little over 1 million square feet, with another building going up," said Judy Mendenhall, High Point International Home Furnishings Market Authority president. "We have close to 12 million square feet."

The High Point show president said she was unwilling to attribute an 8 percent drop in attendance at her October show to the first Las Vegas show which also is seen as a challenge to regional markets in San Francisco, Dallas, Chicago and Tupelo, Miss.

"Retail sales were soft, energy prices were high and the disasters affected people in the Southeast," Mendenhall said of hurricanes Katrina and Rita, which hit the Gulf Coast in August and September.

Officials at both ends of the country called competition healthy for business, and Mendenhall noted that a top High Point executive was attending the Las Vegas show, which runs through Friday.

"You take it, you understand it, you learn from it and you pay attention to your own show," Mendenhall said.

The talk of growing attendance figures and increased exhibitors brought a smile to Guinn, who made a sales pitch to furniture company representatives attending an afternoon news conference about the financial benefits of doing business in Nevada.

"There is no inventory tax, so you can leave your wares here without any worry of taxation," Guinn said. "There are probably 25 to 30 taxes that our neighboring states have that we don't have. So, we welcome your business."

Guinn lauded the World Market Center and the development and business opportunities it brings to the state. Some 1,200 companies are tenants and exhibitors at the World Market Center.

The second phase of the center will house 300 exhibitors and will be similar in design to the first building. Sky bridges will connect the various categories of exhibitors from building to building on each level. The new building will also feature a year-round design center on the first and second floors.

The biannual markets at the World Market Center attract buyers, retailers and manufacturers from around the world, but are closed to the public. But the events generate sales for the various companies.

World Market Center officials said that according to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, this week's show would have a nongaming economic impact of $91 million.

"World Market Center has created thousands of new jobs, both at the center itself and indirectly through business that will support the market's needs," Guinn said.

Construction on each building creates more than 2,800 construction jobs, according to World Market Center officials. In addition, 1,500 permanent and temporary jobs will be created at the World Market Center as the project builds out.

The first building cost $225 million. The second will cost $360 million, officials said. A third, expected to open in late 2008, is expected to be 18 stories, 2 million square feet and cost $500 million.

Center officials said an independent study by the University of Nevada, Las Vegas suggests the World Market Center will generate $60 million in additional local and state tax revenues when the project is completed.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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