When I walk through downtown Dalton, I don’t see just three pawn shops and an espresso bar.
Apparently, that’s about all Kim Severson from the New York Times took away from her recent trip to Dalton. If you haven’t read her article, dated Aug. 20, and decide you want to, please be aware that it is filled with a number of untruths and exaggerations.
Someone must have said to her at some point, “Never let the truth get in the way of a good story.” Because the “good news story” is that Dalton is recovering from the recent economic downturn. But good news stories don’t sell papers. So, obviously, that wasn’t her intent.
Along with many other Daltonians, I did read her article, and her short-sighted observations made me almost apoplectic. Several of our most respected citizens, including Bob Jenkins, Jeff Carrier, and Mayor David Pennington, have written eloquent and powerful letters to our local news outlets, voicing their concerns about her assumptions, but I’d like to add a few more, from the industry’s point of view.
Her article starts out on a sour note. She writes, “It’s lemonade time here in a town that calls itself the carpet capital of the world.” Severson, who is actually a food editor with the Times, not a business reporter, makes the case that Dalton is no longer the carpet capital of the world.
She’s dead wrong.
We are still the carpet capital of the world, and probably always will be.
The statistics bear this out. Sixty-five percent of the carpet produced in the United States is made within a 30-mile radius of Dalton. And 85 percent of carpet made in America is produced in Georgia. And that percentage has not changed during the recent recession.
When the recession reared its ugly head back in 2008, the Carpet and Rug Institute (CRI) had 25 carpet mills among its membership. And since then, we’ve lost only one mill. It seems to me that that fact alone flies in the face of everything Severson said in her piece.
In fact, our industry is on the upswing. Last year we actually grew in the commercial sector by about 10 percent, and even residential sales rose between 1 and 2 percent.
I would argue that it might be more accurate for Dalton to be called the “flooring capital” of the world. That’s because many of the chiefs of our industry have had the foresight to diversify into other types of flooring, including hard surface floors and tile.
Even though Dalton is coming back, that’s not to say that there aren’t people out of work, and there are those who are suffering financially. But our hardships are not nearly as extreme, desperate, and hopeless as Severson made them out to be.
When I walk down our main street, I see a very healthy downtown, brimming with good restaurants, many of which were opened over the past two-and-a-half years. I see charming gift shops, jewelry stores, book stores, banks, small companies and much more. If she had actually taken the time to walk down Hamilton Street, I don’t see how she could have come to the conclusion that we are a town that can be defined by “three pawn shops and an espresso bar.”
Come back, Ms. Severson, and take another look at Dalton.
Or better yet, let the New York Times send a business reporter the next time, and let Ms. Severson continue to write about food and drink, including “lemonade,” in “The Big Apple.”
Werner Braun is president of the Dalton-based Carpet and Rug Institute.