Familial Networks and Regional Entrepreneurs in Northeast Mississippi's Upholstered Furniture Industry

By Nylander, Albert B.,, III; Brown, Ralph B. | Journal of the Community Development Society, October 2004 | Go to article overview

Familial Networks and Regional Entrepreneurs in Northeast Mississippi's Upholstered Furniture Industry


Nylander, Albert B.,, III, Brown, Ralph B., Journal of the Community Development Society


ABSTRACT

Using a sample of 75 owners, we examine the role of familial networks in the establishment and proliferation of the upholstered furniture industry in Northeast Mississippi. Our data show that strong familial and associational ties are linked to the original furniture plant and its owner--approximately 70 percent of our sample. Owners have used these strong-ties typical of rural regions to facilitate a regional development outcome where owners do not see each other as competitors, but they share in knowledge resources. There is a general feeling that, "There is plenty to go around, just let me get my fair share." When local competition represents one's friends and/or family, competition moves to a more distant, less intimate focus thus facilitating even more local entrepreneurial opportunities.

Keywords: familial networks; inertia; nepotism; Northeast Mississippi; strong ties; upholstered furniture industry

INTRODUCTION

Manufacture of upholstered furniture is the largest industry in rural Northeast Mississippi, producing more upholstered furniture in this ten-county region than in any other part of the nation (Bullard & West, 2002; Community Development Foundation, 1993). By 1991, an estimated $1.2 billion, representing 6 percent of the nation's $19.4 billion in upholstered furniture manufacturing, was generated in Northeast Mississippi's 194 plants. The plants employed 20,687 people and accounted for 11.2 percent of all manufacturing jobs and 9.7 percent of manufacturing payrolls in the state (Community Development Foundation, 1993). Today, the industry accounts for $1.3 billion in wages, and $1.9 million in value of shipments (Bullard & West, 2002).

We explore how the manufacture of upholstered furniture became so prominent in rural Northeast Mississippi and how tapping into the overtly rural characteristics of the region specifically strong family ties facilitated its success.

Industry Siting Decisions and Northeast Mississippi

While lists of factors predicting why businesses locate in one place over another are common (see Carroll & Hannan, 1995; Hannan & Freeman, 1989; Schmenner, 1982), Blair (1991) argues that the most important factor in location decisions is "inertia." Once an initial industry has been established in an area (for whatever reason), if successful, it creates a supporting infrastructure by developing ties to other producers, buyers, and employees in the region making it easier for others to move in (Scott & Meyer, 1994; Powell & DiMaggio, 1991; Brinton & Nee, 1998; see also Carroll & Hannan, 1995 on the concept of "organizational ecology"). Thus regions can, over time, create reputations for attracting certain types of business. Inertia has clearly played a role in the upholstered furniture industry in rural Northeast Mississippi. The first plant was established in 1948. By 1953, only four years later, there were forty-three. In 1992, this had increased to one hundred and ninety-four.

Supportive ties across organizations are the critical element in organizational inertia. Community researchers have consistently shown that rural places have a higher concentration of "strong ties"--social connections that are characterized by primary relationships across close associates and family (Granovetter, 1973)--than do urban areas (see also Beggs, Haines, & Hurlbert, 1996). Additionally, recent scholarship on "nepotism" (see Bellow, 2003) has argued that family networks facilitate capitalistic enterprises.

   [N]epotistic concern for the welfare of children is the engine of
   the capitalist system: take that away and you destroy the main
   incentives for innovation and the creation of wealth...
   [M]eritocracy unleavened by personal ties is inhumane, as ample
   evidence will show. Finally, on the individual level, nepotism
   is a profoundly moral relationship, one that transmits social and
   cultural values and forms a healthy bond between generations
   (Bellow, 2003: 25 emphasis in original). 

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Familial Networks and Regional Entrepreneurs in Northeast Mississippi's Upholstered Furniture Industry
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.