Archive for June, 2018

6/28/2018 – Honda of North Carolina in Granite Falls celebrates with ribbon-cutting ceremony

Posted on: June 28th, 2018 by admin


June 28, 2018


By Virginia Annable

(Lenoir) News-Topic


The new dealership in Caldwell County selling motorcycles and all-terrain vehicles just opened last week, but it already has a loyal customer in the Town of Granite Falls, Mayor Pro Tem Caryl Burns said at a ceremonial ribbon-cutting.


“We’ve already purchased a utility vehicle. … It’s got the town logo on it already,” Burns said.


The Honda Powerhouse dealership’s showroom, off Hickory Boulevard in Granite Falls, is filled with shiny, bright red, yellow and blue bikes and ATVs. The dealership also sells power and boating equipment.


The dealership is one of a few Powerhouse dealerships in the U.S., said owner Jeff Carr, who is from Chicago. On its website Honda says that the Powerhouse designation means that a dealership has “the most complete inventory of Honda motorcycles, ATVs/SxSs (side-by-sides) available.”


Carr said he was deciding between Hickory and Granite Falls for the showroom and is happy he landed in Caldwell County.


“We’re so glad to be here in Caldwell County, near the mountains, in the outdoors. … It’s fabulous,” Carr said.


The area was chosen because of the proximity to natural attractions where people could use ATVs or dirt bikes.


“It’s about fun, it’s about the great outdoors, it’s about life,” Carr said.


Carr first approached Granite Falls about the dealership three years ago, and its coming was announced by the Caldwell County Economic Development Commission in December 2016. Construction of the 20,000-square-foot building began shortly after.


The finished showroom has exceeded expectations, Burns said.


“We had no idea it was going to be such a beautiful and wonderful place,” she said.


Burns said she hopes the Powerhouse designation draws more people to Caldwell County and Granite Falls.


“We hope they come back again and again and again,” she said.


The ribbon-cutting brought about 50 local business and government officials eager to look at a shiny new toy, and that’s what it’s all about, Carr said. To him, the dealership isn’t about what you need, but what you want.


“It’s about having fun, finding something you love,” he said.


6/28/2018 – Caldwell employment hits 10-year high in May

Posted on: June 28th, 2018 by admin


June 28, 2018


By Guy Lucas
(Lenoir) News-Topic


Caldwell County continued its steady progress on jobs in May, with the number of residents who have jobs hitting its highest point since April 2008, the N.C. Labor and Economic Analysis reported.


The local unemployment rate dropped by 0.1 percentage point to 3.5 percent, but as has been the case in recent months the larger news in the state’s report was the number of those who are employed, which grew by about 200 to 35,645.


It was another in what has become a string of consecutive months of strong employment growth, said Deborah Murray, the executive director of the Caldwell County Economic Development Commission.


“I am most impressed that Caldwell County has added nearly 1,000 to the ranks of the employed since December 2017, 945 to be exact. We are fast approaching 36,000 employed, a number we haven’t seen since 2006,” she said.


The size of the county’s labor force – the number of those with jobs plus the number actively seeking jobs – also nearly topped 37,000. The May number of 36,939 is the highest since October 2012, when it was 37,095, according to statistics maintained by the Federal Reserve.


Murray also noted that Caldwell has now had 96 consecutive months – or eight unbroken years – of monthly unemployment reports in which that month’s unemployment rate was lower than it was in the same month the previous year.


That continuous improvement has Caldwell now tied for the 32nd-best unemployment rate among North Carolina’s 100 counties.


Neighboring Burke County’s unemployment rate also dropped by 0.1 percentage point, to 3.3 percent. Catawba County’s rate held steady at 3.3 percent.


The Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton metropolitan statistical area’s overall unemployment rate of 3.3 percent is tied with Durham-Chapel Hill’s for third-lowest among the state’s 15 metro areas, behind Asheville’s 2.9 percent and Raleigh’s 3.2.

6/27/2018 – Caldwell County EDC June 2018 Trends and Updates Newsletter

Posted on: June 27th, 2018 by admin


June 27, 2018


The calendar is closing in on July, and Caldwell County’s economic activity remains hot, hot, hot! In the June 2018 Caldwell EDC Trends and Updates Newsletter, we focus on a successful Hired Education event, the awarding of a state grant to Chase Corp. in order to expand at its NEPTCO division in Lenoir, and an employment report that continues to set fresh milestones. Thanks to all of you for your support!


June 2018 Newsletter

6/22/2018 – Chase Corp. receives N.C. Commerce grant to expand Lenoir NEPTCO facility

Posted on: June 22nd, 2018 by admin


June 22, 2018


By Guy Lucas
(Lenoir) News-Topic


A state grant will help pay for renovation of a plant in Lenoir for an expansion that is expected to lead to more jobs, the N.C. Department of Commerce announced.


The North Carolina Rural Infrastructure Authority has awarded a $172,500 building reuse grant to Chase Corp. to renovate the 110,717-square-foot NEPTCO building in Lenoir. The company will invest another $172,500 in the project, according to a press release.


NEPTCO, which employs about 100 people at the Lenoir plant, expects to add about 25 jobs as a result of the project.


The Caldwell County Board of Commissioners voted in May to offer job-creation incentives of $2,000 per job, up to a total of $50,000, for the NEPTCO project. At the time, it was publicly identified only as “Project Patrol.” County officials said the company was considering other sites for the expansion.


NEPTCO’s other operations include plants in New England and China. Chase Corp., based in Massachusetts, bought NEPTCO in 2012.


6/21/2018 – Hired Education allows teachers, administrators to learn about local manufacturing

Posted on: June 21st, 2018 by admin


June 21, 2018


Virginia Annable
(Lenoir) News-Topic


Joshua Smith plans to change the way he teaches and talks to his students about their careers.


After three days touring six companies around Caldwelll County with a group of 31 other educators, Smith decided he needed to help his students see the good opportunities available to them, and get rid of the mindset that manufacturing jobs are bad.


“We can flip the script and show them there is a path to great jobs in the county,” he said.


The educators visited these businesses as part of the Hired Education program run by the Caldwell County Economic Development Commission and the Caldwell County Schools. The annual program aims to open the eyes of teachers who are molding the minds of the next generation, said Caldwell County EDC Executive Director Deborah Murray.


“We need to … inform our educators about our business community,” Murray said. “Our educators are the ones who inspire our youth.”


Teachers from high schools, middle schools and the community college visited McCreary Modern Inc., a furniture manufacturer; Exela Pharma Sciences, a pharmaceutical company; NEPTCO, a plastics and adhesives manufacturer; Caseworx, which uses computer design and machinery to build custom cabinets; Bemis Manufacturing, which makes plastics; and RPM Wood Finishes Group. The three-day program concluded with a luncheon where the teachers talked about what they learned.


The point is to show teachers how the local economy has changed, the new types of jobs that are available and the various opportunities out there for their students, and help them know how to better prepare students for the workforce.


Smith said one of his biggest takeaways was how well workers are trained and paid at companies so close to home.


“We were all a bit floored and impressed that high school graduates can be employed so well,” he said.


To prepare his students for manufacturing jobs, he plans to emphasize the importance of math and communication skills.


For Misty Key, who has been at Hudson Middle School since 1996, seeing all the advanced manufacturing so close to home was shocking.


“I saw things I’ve never seen around here,” Key said. “This is something that’ll have an impact on me for the rest of my career.”


Key said she realized it’s part of her job to help students and parents who are still in a “2010 mindset,” stuck thinking that manufacturing jobs were unreliable and not well paid, as many thought after the Great Recession.


Key said she wants to focus on teaching students people skills, letting them know about mentorship programs and increasing communication with local industry.


Ethan Ostwalt, a math teacher at Caldwell Career Center Middle College, said he plans to add a unit on the practical math that people use in manufacturing jobs. He hopes if his students are prepared, they’ll be more open to the jobs local companies are offering.


“The fact is that this is a great place to live and work,” Ostwalt said. “They really can have the job they’re dreaming of close to home.”

6/20/2018 – Senior housing development coming to Granite Falls

Posted on: June 20th, 2018 by admin


June 20, 2018


By James Branch
(Lenoir) News-Topic


A business plans to build a housing complex targeting seniors on 47 acres behind the Walmart in Granite Falls.


The Granite Falls Town Council unanimously approved rezoning the currently vacant tract Monday evening from a highway business designation to medium-to high-density residential.


The property is owned by Watson Place LLC, but Spartan Holdings LLC plans to buy it, said Hamilton Ward, a partner in Spartan. The company has about 80 years of experience in the assisted living business and plans to build a mix of patio homes, apartments and assisted living that would house about 600 seniors, he said.


“The senior apartments would be something like those in Pinecrest in Hickory,” Ward said, referring to a retirement community in northeastern Hickory.


About 20 people came to the hearing before the council’s vote, and those who spoke on it approved of the rezoning.


River Bend homeowner Deborah Chernesky said she was excited about it.


“I think it’s an exciting opportunity not only for River Bend but also for the town of Granite Falls. I can see people building and buying in River Bend knowing that Mom and Dad are right down the road in a safe facility,” she said.


6/14/2018 – Google Operations Manager, EDC Board Member Moeller leaving for Clarksville, Tenn.

Posted on: June 14th, 2018 by admin


June 14, 2018


By Virginia Annable
(Lenoir) News-Topic


Enoch Moeller, the public face of Google in Lenoir, is leaving to run one of Google’s newest data centers, according to a Google spokesperson.


Moeller has been with the Lenoir data center for 10 1/2 years as the site operations manager. At the end of this month, he is moving to the new data center in Clarksville, Tennessee, said Greg Behr, a Google spokesman with GBW Strategies. Construction on the Clarksville data center began in March.


Taking over for Moeller will be Jorge Gutierrez, who has worked at the data center as a hardware operations manager for more than three years, Behr said. Gutierrez, a member of the Education Foundation of Caldwell County’s board of directors, begins his new job June 29.


Moeller started at Google in Lenoir just before the data center opened in 2008. He was heavily involved in building partnerships with local governments and working to inform the public about what exactly a data center is, he said earlier this month in an interview.


“There was a lot of excitement, there was a lot of guessing because there wasn’t a lot of info on what a data center was, and what it would do,” he said.


Over the years, he has been involved in community outreach and events like Students@Work, Googlefest, and various grant projects with schools and local non-profits.


Each year, he led students as they built their own computers as Google’s contribution to Student@WorkWeek, a statewide initiative aimed at teaching kids more about technology. Moeller taught middle school students about computer hardware, networking and installing operating system software, bringing part of Google to schools.


He has said his favorite achievement, though, was his involvement in the start of the N.C. Gravity Games, an annual event that began eight years ago in which students build and race their own soapbox-derby-style cars, but with more advanced engineering.


“It went from a few ‘Googlers’ on a cold October morning to … a big event with partnerships,” he said.


Moeller also has been a member of the Caldwell County Economic Development Commission’s board of directors since 2009 and has worked closing with executive director Deborah Murray, who said that having Moeller on the board has been an asset for the EDC.


“Prospective industries always ask what Google’s experience here has been, both in building their facility and in hiring employees. They get a candid answer and they get a first-hand and pretty impressive testimonial from Enoch for our community and our economic development efforts,” Murray said.


6/10/2018 – Ten years later, Google maintains strong presence in Caldwell community

Posted on: June 11th, 2018 by admin


June 10, 2018


By Virginia Annable
(Lenoir) News-Topic


Ten years ago, Lenoir was on the brink of change. A new company opened its doors, and local officials hoped it would be the start of new industry and growth, while residents were wary about what was to come.


Google’s Lenoir data center opened in May 2008 after much anticipation. It is the most prominent fruit of efforts to diversity the local economy, and it was a big step for Lenoir and Caldwell County, Lenoir Mayor Joe Gibbons said.


“We were thrilled and excited and honored that Google has selected us and brought diversity in our industry, this was a totally different concept for us to have,” he said.


However, after negotiations shrouded in secrecy, the December 2006 announcement that Google would be the company buying a large amount of land off Harrisburg Drive, there was confusion, Gibbons said. The technology sector was still developing. What exactly a data center was, what kind of jobs it would bring, and how it would benefit Caldwell County were all up for debate.


“It was a new and upcoming, growing industry then. Now, everyone knows about Google and what they do,” Gibbons said.


Enoch Moeller, manager of the Lenoir data center, agreed.


“I think there was a lot of uncertainty about what it would be like to have a Google data center in the community,” he said.


But not only was Google a first for Lenoir, Lenoir was a first for Google: It was the first place where the company planned to participate in the community — to partner with local organizations, and even to have a sign outside the building, Moeller said. For the first time, Google made an effort to reach out and inform people about their data center. There was a public ribbon-cutting and a community picnic — the first time Google let the public behind the gates of a data center.


Google employees volunteer in the community, and the company donated a computer lab to Lenoir’s Martin Luther King Jr. Center, brought free Wi-Fi to downtown Lenoir, and each year awards grants — so far totalling $5.5 million — to local organizations, said Lilyn Hester, Google’s Southeast head of external affairs.


Caldwell County had an influence on Google, Moeller said. The Lenoir data center hosted many firsts for the company that later spread to other data centers.


Google partnered with Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute to create a training program, the first time the company had partnered with a community college in that way, and it is now common practice at other data centers, Moeller said.


Eight years ago Google started the North Carolina Gravity Games, a soap-box-derby-style competition that has grown into an annual festival, and that has led to similar annual events in towns where other data centers are, Moeller said.


Caldwell County was also the first place where Google put Wi-Fi on school buses, which started in 2016, and just this April the program went national.


Getting Google here involved a large package of incentives.


Lenoir and Caldwelll County spent $3 million to close 5.2 miles of the Caldwell County Railroad so the train vibrations wouldn’t affect the data center. Because the railroad served some local industries, that also meant setting up a transload station, with trucks running between there and the industries.


The county also agreed to help the city pay for any water and sewer expansion needed for the site, and the city offered Google its lowest industrial water rate.


The state provided a $4.7 million Jobs Development Incentive Grant as long as Google invested $600 million and created 200 jobs.


But the biggest incentives on the part of the county and city involved property taxes. Both agreed that for 30 years, Google would get back 80 percent of the taxes assessed on development on its real estate and 100 percent of the taxes assessed on any new business property, which includes the technology and computers inside the data center.


Since 2008, the county has assessed nearly $30 million in taxes on Google from 2008 to 2017, but returned all but $4.7 million, according to records provided by Cadlwell County Finance Officer Tony Helton. Lenoir has assessed a little over $27 million but returned all but about $3.7 million, according to information from Lenoir Finance Director Donna Bean.


Google pays the equivalent of about 6 cents per $100 of appraised value on its property to the county, which has a property tax of 63 cents per $100 of appraised value, and 5 cents per $100 in the city, which has a property tax of 58 cents per $100.


Despite that, Google is the top taxpayer in the county and the city, which netted a combined total of about $1 million in 2017 after the incentives. Before Google came along, the property tax paid to Lenoir for the land Google now has was $20,000, according to tax records, well behind what the city and county take in each year now.


And as Google has expanded, that has increased its property tax value and the amount of revenue the county and city keep.


While the company doesn’t employ as many people as some had hoped — 250 full-time “Googlers,” according to a recent study commissioned by Google — it has had a significant economic contribution, Gibbons said. It also gives Lenoir bragging rights to claim itself as the start of the “North Carolina Data Corridor,” the name given to what is now a geographic stretch of the state with numerous data centers, including one Apple started in Maiden in 2012 and one Facebook started in Forest City, also in 2012.


“People said ‘Google is going to bring this, Google is going to bring that,’ but it wasn’t about the jobs, it was about the industry,” Gibbons said.


In 2013, Google announced a $600 million expansion, which Gibbons took as a renewal of commitment to the area.


“All we ever knew they were going to do was build one data center. Then in a year or so they started building and expanding — now there’s so much up there on the hill,” Gibbons said.


Overall, Google has been a positive addition for the county, said Deborah Murray, director of the Caldwell Economic Development Commission.


In 10 years’ time, Google and Caldwell County’s relationship has gotten stronger and more transparent, she said. Both sides have helped one another in various ways, and will continue to for another decade, she said.


“They recognize being a part of the community means having more of a two-way relationship,” she said. “They participate and are active and are proud of where they are, and we’re proud to have them.”


6/7/2018 – Gravel section of N.C. 90 between Mortimer and Globe to be closed next week

Posted on: June 7th, 2018 by admin


June 7, 2018


A gravel section of N.C. 90 between Mortimer and Globe will be closed, beginning at 8 a.m. on Monday, June 11. The portion of the road is expected to re-open at 3 p.m. on Friday, June 15.


EDC Transportation Update – June 7 2018


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