Archive for October, 2018

10/28/18 – BROYHILL – What a great company it was

Posted on: October 29th, 2018 by admin


October 28, 2018


By Virginia Annable


When Melissa Bolick was 18, she was proud to tell people where she worked.


She was just starting in the wood sanding room at a Broyhill Furniture plant in 1989. The name carried the weight of decades of dominance in the furniture industry and heavy influence on Lenoir’s economy and the lives of hundreds of Caldwell County families.


“When I was young it was exciting,” Bolick said.


But over the years, the brand, once powerful and prestigious, saw turmoil. Over the 29 years Bolick worked day in, day out making Broyhill furniture, she watched the name dwindle to what it is about to become — just a name to be licensed, not a manufacturer or employer.


Bolick was there when Interco, which bought Broyhill Furniture in 1980, entered bankruptcy protection in the early 1990s to fend off a takeover and emerged as Furniture Brands International. She watched as plant after plant closed in the early 2000s as furniture operations moved overseas, and later as the Great Recession hammered not only Broyhill but furniture manufacturing all through Caldwell County and Lenoir.


When Furniture Brands International declared bankruptcy in 2013 and its assets were bought by a private-equity firm, which organized them as Heritage Home Group, there was some hope that the elegant furniture brand’s outlook would turn around, but in July HHG declared bankruptcy. Last week Bolick found out that the HHG Lenoir Casegoods plant on Elizabeth Street where she works would close Nov. 2 because no company bought the plant during bankruptcy auction.


“I had hope (it wouldn’t close),” Bolick said. “But they didn’t do anything for us.”


The Broyhill name, along with Thomasville, Drexel and Henredon, was bought by Authentic Brands Group. ABG executives have said they will license the right for a manufacturer to make furniture bearing those brands, but so far no agreements have been announced.


Lenoir Mayor Joe Gibbons still has hope that the Broyhill name will stick around in local manufacturing. He hopes the new owner of the Lenoir Upholstery plant, Samson Furniture, will license the Broyhill brand and continue producing Broyhill in Lenoir.


Even if that doesn’t happen, Broyhill has a lasting impact beyond jobs. There are parks named for the Broyhills, the Broyhill Family Foundation contributes to charities, events and scholarships and, most of all, families still recall Broyhill’s roll in their lives, Gibbons said.


“You mention Broyhill Furniture and everyone in the world knows what you’re talking about,” he said. “I don’t feel like it’s gone.”


At its peak atop the furniture industry in the late 1970s, near the end of Paul Broyhill’s tenure leading the company, Broyhill Furniture had 20 factories and employed about 7,500 people — about 4,500 of whom were in Caldwell County. Not only were those families kept afloat by Broyhill wages, so were many industries that worked with Broyhill, like electrical companies, construction companies, diners frequented by the workers, and more.


Paul Broyhill, whose father, J.E. Broyhill, and uncle T.H. Broyhill started the company, said that is the legacy he wants Broyhill to be remembered for.


“We had good people and were good to people — that combination made the company stand out,” he said.


Now 94, Broyhill still exudes the confidence of a leader of a powerful company. Sitting in a tall, brown leather chair in a large study lined with bookshelves, he can easily recount the story of Broyhill, a company he put his heart into.


In 1905, with just $1,000, T.H. Broyhill bought a furniture company in Lenoir and began running it. In 1927, J.E. Broyhill bought his own factory. Over the years, the pair worked together to buy other furniture companies and defunct factories, continuing to grow even during the Great Depression, when other companies were closing their doors.


After serving in World War II, Paul Broyhill attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. In 1947, he joined his father’s company and rose through the ranks, eventually becoming chairman of the company. When he first started, Broyhill had 1,000 employees in the factories and 25 salespeople. By 1979 those numbers had grown markedly, and Broyhill employed about 300 salespeople. The point was to build relationships with buyers, Paul Broyhill said. He would hire people and train them extensively to grow relationships.


“Furniture is about people,” he said. “My dad and I both believed in hiring and training — that was big for us, training people.”


In 1980 Paul Broyhill sold the company to Interco, which acted as a holding company, leaving Paul Broyhill free to continue running to business. For five years, business went uninterrupted, but when Interco started making cuts Paul Broyhill didn’t agree with, he stepped down as CEO in 1985.


“They looked at it and figured out how to make more of a profit by cutting costs, … including cutting management,” Paul Broyhill said.


But management was what made the company work, he said. In its heyday, good management of people and good management practices made everything run smoothly. That, plus hard work is what made the company great, he said.


“We got to our peak the old-fashioned way — hard work and good people,” Paul Broyhill said.


As he watched the company devolve, he tried to advise the new leaders that management was key, and cuts wouldn’t always work, but no one listened, he said.


Still, even now, Paul Broyhill can’t go out to lunch or grocery shopping with someone stopping to say they worked for him and loved it, or their father worked for him and was so proud to call Broyhill home.


Broyhill was a cornerstone of the local economy, said Jerry Church, former chief financial officer and longtime employee.


“They put a lot of food on a lot tables,” Church said.


Church, now the town manager of Granite Falls, started working at Broyhill when he was in high school in 1973, with a second-shift job unloading trucks and preparing fabric to be cut. He loved the company, so when he came back from college in 1989 and found an accounting position with Broyhill, he jumped at the opportunity. Over the years he worked his way up through the ranks, and even though the company had been sold, it still had a tight-knit feel among co-workers and management.


“It was a great place to work,” Church said. “The people, from the management down to the staff, were great — it was a family-type atmosphere.”


Melissa Bolick agrees. In plants she worked at, she has made friendships that felt more like family, but changes in the early 2000s changed that.

The parent company, then Furniture Brands International, got more involved in operations. As production moved overseas in pursuit of lower costs, factory after factory closed, and Bolick had to watch as friends who were more like family lost their jobs.


Church, then CFO, felt the losses too, he said.


“We started closing factories down,” Church said. “That wasn’t a lot of fun for anybody. Even for people who kept their jobs, because for us, in Lenoir, we were seeing co-workers and friends and family lose their jobs. The folks who were making the decisions (at company headquarters in St. Louis), they didn’t know the guy shipping inventory who lost his job. It was difficult.”


In 2008, Church was cut from his position, but those times aren’t what he wants people to remember Broyhill for.


“What’s disturbing is the legacy,” Church said. “The legacy should come from people like me who remember what a great company it was, what a great company it was to work for, but instead it’s all focused on the company leaving. It was a great place to work — the people set it apart… At its prime — that should be what people remember about the company.”

10/26/18 – Hiring event sees more attendees

Posted on: October 29th, 2018 by admin


October 26, 2018


By Virginia Annable


Caldwell County’s biannual job fair was flooded with people Thursday, matching crowds from years past when unemployment numbers were much higher than they are now.


After the announcement that Heritage Home Group would close its Lenoir Casegoods factory on Nov. 2 after no buyer appeared for the plant, employees were left to hunt for a new job, and employees of the company’s upholstery plant are uncertain whether their plant’s new owner, Samson Furniture, will keep them. Many, like Sandra Millsaps, who has worked at the Lenoir Casegoods plant for 39 years, headed to Caldwell is Hiring — a job fair that brought 50 employers and 2,300 job openings to the J.E. Broyhill Civic Center Thursday.


The timing couldn’t have been better, Millsaps said, standing among a crowd of other HHG employees who were given an hour to meet with employers before the event opened to the public.


“I was glad to hear they were giving us this opportunity to come early,” she said.


Millsaps headed for companies including Williams-Sonoma, Bernhardt Furniture and Century Furniture, all of which had winding lines of people waiting to learn about open positions and apply for jobs.


While Heritage Home Group’s situation is sad, with so many losing their jobs, the event worked exactly as it’s meant to, said Deborah Murray, the executive director of the Caldwell County Economic Development Commission. It was originally started eight years ago when unemployment was high. This year, it’s again bringing jobs to people who need them.


“The good part of this is, if there’s a place to look for a job, this is it,” Murray said.


While many, like Millsaps, don’t want to retrain for a new job, Murray said many employers are willing to train people for jobs because there are so few job candidates out there. Getting a new job after working in one place for decades, as some HHG employees have, is daunting, but Murray encouraged them.


“This is the first day of the rest of their life,” she said.


HHG employees weren’t the only ones at Caldwell is Hiring. Hundreds of others looking for better opportunity showed up to talk to local employers.


Russell Annas, a young recent graduate, searched for a finance or accounting job. He heard about the job fair and headed to the civic center. Though slightly nervous, he approached tables to see if he could find a new position.


“I already have a job, but I’m looking for something better,” he said. “Looking to elevate my socioeconomic status.”


The hiring event offers opportunities across the board, Murray said. Even if a company doesn’t specialize in a field, they may have financial, human resources or administrative jobs people may be interested in. The fair is a place for people to find a better opportunity, she said.


“We have better jobs available now, better-paying jobs now and more diverse jobs,” Murray said.


Murray estimated that around 650-700 people come to the fair. From HHG, about 350 people came, 145 people pre-registered and at least 200 other people came unregistered.

10/25/18 – Coffee roasters land in Lenoir

Posted on: October 25th, 2018 by admin


October 25, 2018


By Virginia Annable



Jason Campbell sipped from a hot glass of light brown coffee and tasted the finished product of his painstaking work.


“It’s a medium body with a stellar-clean finish,” he said, slurping the still-scalding brew.


The coffee has flavors you might not expect in your morning joe — chocolate milk and rhubarb pie, as Campbell describes them. Those notes come out during the roasting process, when he turns green coffee beans grown at micro farms around the world to the brown, fragrant beans used to brew a pot of coffee, Campbell said.


Campbell and his wife, Amanda, have been roasting and selling their coffee since 2010 as Camp Coffee Roasters. They have a cafe in Blowing Rock, a seasonal cafe on Beech Mountain and an online store, but the couple recently moved their roasting to Lenoir.


Now, on Mondays, the thick, sweet smell of roasting coffee envelops the southern end of Mulberry Street, just north of Pennton Avenue. For now, the couple is only roasting their coffee beans in Lenoir, but in the spring they plan to open a small cafe too.


Campbell started learning to roast coffee in 2003. It’s where he picked up a love of perfectly roasted coffee under coffee mentors in Boone, where his wife went to school. When Campbell, a member of the U.S. Army, returned from a long and tough deployment to Iraq in 2010, he was ready to do something different to support his family — they have two sons — and pursue a passion.


A few months after returning from Iraq, he opened the cafe in Blowing Rock.


For years, the couple has been eyeing Lenoir as a possible home and a place to expand the business. The city’s welcoming citizens and blossoming business environment seemed to call to them, and earlier this year they finally bought a building to roast in and moved to Lenoir.


Recently, Amanda was able to quit her job as a social worker to make Camp Coffee a full-time job for her as well, Campbell said.


“I know the coffee, and she knows a lot about the business side,” he said.


Over the years, the business has grown and expanded, but Campbell thinks it’s gotten as big as he’d like it to be. With soon-to-be two year-round cafes, a seasonal one and plenty of online orders from small businesses and individuals, he’s happy with the size. In roasting, it lets Campbell focus on what’s most important to him: the quality of the coffee.


“Our focus is coffee, and the emphasis is on the taste,” he said.


The roasting process is precise and high-tech. Next to a bright red-and-gold coffee roaster, which heats and cools the coffee beans until they’re perfectly flavored, sits a laptop computer with charts filled with colorful lines pulled up on the screen. Various thermometers in the roaster send signals to the computer to track how hot the beans are getting and for how long, Campbell said. Each type of coffee bean has a set roasting schedule of various heats and time, which brings out flavors like dark chocolate, strawberry and smoke.


“A lot of what we focus on is the characteristics of the coffee,” he said.


Campbell describes his coffee as “craft coffee,” like craft beer. It’s an acquired taste with complex flavors.


“Some people like craft beer and some people like Budweiser. Some people like craft coffee and some people like just your typical coffee,” he said.


This spring, after the busy winter season dies down when they close up the Beech Mountain cafe for the season, Campbell plans to open a small cafe in Lenoir. It won’t be a place to sit down for hours and work or talk — it’ll be all about getting a cup of coffee.


“I think we’ll be able to find a niche with what we have without stepping on anyone’s (other businesses’) toes,” Campbell said.


Camp Coffee also works with other food service businesses to set up coffee service, like at a restaurant or cafe.



10/24/18 – Job fair has more furniture positions

Posted on: October 25th, 2018 by admin


October 24, 2018


By Virginia Annable


Caldwell is Hiring may be a little busier this year because of the Heritage Home Group employees who will be out of a job after Nov. 2, but other employers are ready to hire them.


With the announcement that HHG’s Lenoir Casegoods plant will close and the upholstery plant will be sold, local employers hurting for skilled workers are eager to recruit those workers, no matter their age, said Deborah Murray, the executive director of the Caldwell County Economic Development Commission. This Thursday’s Caldwell is Hiring, the biannual job fair organized by the EDC is the perfect opportunity.


“There is just a very high level of interest in all of those highly skilled people,” Murray said. “They’re a proven, experienced workforce. There’s excitement.”


That labor pool, combined with another several hundred people who typically show up to the hiring event, has the nearly 50 employers excited to fill positions that are difficult to fill because the local unemployment rate is so low — 3.9 percent in August, the most recent numbers, she said.


“From that standpoint, there is a little nervousness,” Murray said. “What if people don’t come out — there just aren’t people out there.”


That’s why this year the EDC marketed the event beyond Caldwell County, reaching farther for job seekers to fill the nearly 2,000 jobs available at the event. The EDC has posted every job on the Caldwell is Hiring Facebook page to let job seekers know in advance what positions are available, Murray said.


“We’re just trying to do those things that allow someone to understand that there’s reason to go to this event because there’s going to be not one but multiple opportunities,” Murray said.


There will be employers such as Merchants Distributors Inc., Google, Sealed Air, Timber Wolf and a large number of furniture manufacturers, including Hickory Chair, Williams-Sonoma, Bruex Inc. and Kellex Seating.


The high number of furniture companies is an indication of the industry’s strength, Murray said.


“I think furniture is growing as an industry,” she said. “They are expanding and doing incredibly well. … All of our industries are — I can’t name any that aren’t.”


This year is the eighth year of the event, but Murray said she still gets excited at the prospect of connecting employers to employees.


“It’s the same every year,” she said. “I have this almost Christmas-like anticipation.”


10/20/18 – Lenoir/Caldwell UNC Health Care Receives $500,000 Rural Hope Grant

Posted on: October 22nd, 2018 by admin


October 20, 2018


By Edward Terry


A $500,000 North Carolina Rural Hope Grant has been awarded to a Caldwell UNC Health Care project that will create 50 new jobs in Caldwell County with an average salary of more than $54,000 per job.


The North Carolina Department of Commerce’s Rural Division announced the grant on Oct. 18. Assisted by the Caldwell EDC and awarded to the City of Lenoir on behalf of Caldwell UNC Health Care, the funding will help in completion of the $7.2 million Behavioral Health Pavilion project.


“These are excellent jobs with excellent pay, and it’s a significant investment by Caldwell UNC Health Care to provide a much-needed service to the region,” said Deborah Murray, Executive Director of the Caldwell Economic Development Commission. “Caldwell UNC Health Care’s project will have a major impact on the local economy as well as improving the quality of health care for this area.”


The Rural Hope Grant will help fund the construction of the 17,200-square-foot facility, which will provide a 27-bed adult in-patient unit, an outpatient clinic and an outdoor “Healing Commons” area. The facility will be located adjacent to Caldwell UNC Health Care’s main facility on Mulberry Street in Lenoir.


In addition to the grant, the project funding will be matched by contributions from the Caldwell Hospital Foundation, the Cannon Foundation and $4 million in funding from the North Carolina General Assembly.


“The fact that we have so many interested partners with open ears and willing hearts, it demonstrates the need,” Caldwell UNC Health Care President and CEO Laura Easton said. “If we can address mental health issues, we can improve the overall health and quality of life in Caldwell County.”


Among the 50 new jobs that are scheduled for creation by 2020 are: a medical doctor, a psychologist, nurses, medical assistants, security officers and support staff. The total annual wages generated by the 50 new jobs will total more than $2.7 million.


In addition to the economic impact of the new jobs, the project will address a growing health care need for Caldwell County and the surrounding areas that Caldwell UNC Health Care serves. Easton said the Behavioral Health Pavilion will help Caldwell UNC Health Care in achieving its mission as a health care provider.


“It’s transformational for the care we can deliver,” said Easton, who considers the Behavioral Health project a capstone for her career. “Our suicide rate is one of the highest in the state. I have long wanted to intervene, but have lacked the resources to do that. One in five people are personally affected by a mental health crisis in their lifetime. We need to be here addressing the issue in a more preventative manner.”


In addition to various government and non-profit partnerships that will build the facility, Easton said that she looks forward to working with Caldwell County Schools, Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute and other regional health care providers on developing the future workforce that will serve this facility as well as others in the region.


The anticipated start date for construction of the facility is late Fall of 2018. Construction is scheduled to be completed by September of 2019 with service offerings beginning in November of 2019.


For more information, please contact:


Deborah Murray
Executive Director
Caldwell County Economic Development Commission

10/14/18 – New Google leader feels community connection

Posted on: October 18th, 2018 by admin


October 14, 2018


By Virginia Annable


Jorge Gutierrez grew up spending much of his time in a carpenter’s workshop in Miami, Florida.


A lot of his family, all Cuban immigrants who left after Fidel Castro came to power, were carpenters, so Gutierrez found a love of wood.


Now, as the new site operations manager at Google’s Lenoir data center, a technology-focused job, Gutierrez uses woodworking as a way to decompress, and a way to connect to Lenoir, the place he now calls home.


“The fact that woodworking and furniture-making is such a big part of this area’s history,… it really helps me connect,” he said.


In June, Gutierrez took over from Enoch Moeller, who was the public face of Google in Lenoir as site operation manager for 10½ years. Gutierrez has been settling into the position and is eager to continue Moeller’s work, he said.


While hand-making furniture, including his family’s patio set, is his weekend pastime, technology is his passion, and his interest in it started when he was a young teenager.


When Gutierrez was in middle school, his class took a trip to Miami-Dade County Public Schools’ data center, and he found himself in awe of what technology could do.


“It would be disingenuous to not say that it changed my life completely. … I remember running home and asking my parents for a computer,” he said.


His family scraped money together to buy him an IBM computer, and the rest was history. While he studied education in school, technology remained his passion. He tinkered with computers and continued to explore new technology, so when a data center job in Miami opened, he jumped at the opportunity.


“I was like, ‘I’d do this for free, so let’s go,’ and I was off and running,” Gutierrez said.


Gutierrez worked with that data center until about three years ago, when he got a call from a Google recruiter who had seen Gutierrez’s work and wanted him to join Google’s team in Lenoir.


“I was really surprised by the call. I thought it was a prank — I almost hung on them,” Gutierrez said.


But after a long talk with his wife about what a move from hot and bustling Miami to calm and rural Lenoir would mean, he decided to take the plunge and became hardware operations manager at the data center. Gutierrez handled much of the technical side of operations.


In the past year, as he trained under Moeller to learn about the site operations and being a public face to the data center, he worked on some projects such as the Gravity Games, a derby-style car race sponsored by Google to foster interest in engineering among students, and Students@Work, an event where Google employees teach students how to build a computer and also some about coding, but now he’s the one running the show.


Gutierrez said he’s going to continue to grow Google’s presence in the community by working with the school system, nonprofits and local government.


“My main goal is to continue to support the community and try to make it better,” he said.


Gutierrez said when he moved to Lenoir he felt an instant connection. Within weeks, the community was welcoming him with open arms — inviting him to go fishing, go to barbecues, go on hikes. The people in Caldwell County are what made him fall in love, and what keep him motivated to make a difference in the community he now calls home — though he’s still getting used to the winter snow.


When he’s not hiking Rough Ridge or Grandfather Mountain, Gutierrez is spending time in Caldwell County, he said. Lenoir already holds a place in his heart, he said, and he hopes to grow his connection with the area and the people in it.


“I’m approachable, I’m in this community, I’m here for the long haul,” Gutierrez said. “It’s important to me that this community does well. My team lives here, we work here, we go out to eat here. I want to make sure I’m doing my part to make this community a better place to live and work and succeed.”

©2011-2014 Economic Development Commission of Caldwell County • Site Mapinfo@caldwelledc.orgWebsite by Market Force