Archive for November, 2018

11/30/18 – Employment hits post-recession high

Posted on: November 30th, 2018 by admin


November 30, 2018


By Guy Lucas


Caldwell County hit post-recession highs again in October for the number of county residents who had jobs and the number of people in the labor force, according to a new state report.


Seasonal factors caused local unemployment rates to rise in every county in the state, including in Caldwell an increase of 0.4 percentage points to 3.3 percent, the N.C. Labor and Economic Analysis Division reported.


But the number of county residents with jobs rose to nearly 35,800, the highest since April 2008. The previous post-recession high was this past May. The October number is about 150 higher and brings Caldwell closer to an elusive mark: The number of residents with jobs has not topped 36,000 since 2006.


And the number of people in Caldwell County’s labor force, which is those who have jobs plus those who are actively looking for jobs, surpassed 37,000 for the first time since October 2012, according to statistics maintained by the Federal Reserve. A rising labor force is generally a sign of rising confidence among workers, especially the long-term unemployed.


The numbers reflect what employers across the region have been saying for months, including at the recent Caldwell Is Hiring job fair on Oct. 25, said Deborah Murray, the executive director of the Caldwell County Economic Development Commission.


“It isn’t surprising to me, especially about the number working and the size of the workforce,” she said.


Because this unemployment report covers October, it may not reflect the effects of Heritage Home Group’s closure of its two Lenoir plants on Nov. 2. Those plants employed more than 700 in August when the company announced it planned to close them, but many took other jobs in the following two months.


The increase in Caldwell County’s unemployment rate from September to October was in line with the increases seen across the state and matched the change in Catawba County, where the rate rose 0.4 points to 3.1 percent. The rate in Burke County rose 0.3 points to 3.1.


Caldwell County also is tied for the third-best improvement in the unemployment rate since October 2017, when it was 4.7 percent. Caldwell has now seen 101 consecutive unemployment reports – covering almost eight and a half years – where the rate was lower than in the same month of the previous year.


“I’m very pleased with our continuous improvement and consistency,” Murray said.


The combined unemployment rate of the Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton metropolitan statistical area was 3.1 percent, the fourth-lowest among the state’s 15 metropolitan areas, behind only those of Asheville (2.8 percent), Raleigh (2.9) and Durham/Chapel Hill (3.0).

11/21/08 – Danish business expanding in Caldwell

Posted on: November 21st, 2018 by admin


November 21, 2018


By Vrginia Annable



A Danish business that put down roots in Caldwell County last year is rapidly growing and received a job-creation grant from the county to help it.


Roblon US Inc., a manufacturing equipment and textiles manufacturer that bought the NEPTCO Fiber Optic Cable Components business from Chase Corp. in April 2017, is expanding its operations in Granite Falls with an expected 100 new full-time employees in the next year.


The company operates out of part of the Chase Corp./NEPTCO plant in Caldwell County and is planning to grow operations with $1 million in new equipment and renovations. In the next year, the plant may be operated 24 hours a day, seven days a week, said Vice President of Sales in the U.S. Jamie Little. Right now, the company manufactures fiber optic cables 24 hours a day, six days a week.


Little said the biggest hurdle the company has encountered in its expansion is the workforce, but they have brought on 66 new employees since April 2017.


“Right now we are at full capacity,” Little said. “We’re looking for expansion, we’re looking for investment. … We’re in a good spot but at the same time it can be a problem. We need more people.”


The commissioners approved a jobs incentive grant of $2,000 jer full-time position added for up to 100 jobs over the next year.


In other business, Caldwell County may finally reap the benefits of landfill gas if an agreement to sell methane to be made into renewable energy pans out.


Three years ago, Caldwell County approved an agreement between Republic Services of North Carolina and third party to sell the methane that comes from the Caldwell County landfill and rent some land at the landfill as well, but the project never moved forward. The agreement stipulated that the county and Republic would share ownership of the gas and would split profits from any gas sales 50-50.


Monday, the Caldwell County Board of Commissioners approved another agreement with the same unnamed third party, with all the same terms, except instead of turning the gas escaping from the landfill into energy, it would be turned into renewable natural gas.

11/16/18 – 80 Acres Agriculture wins award for performance

Posted on: November 19th, 2018 by admin


November 16, 2018


By Guy Lucas



For the third year in a row, a Caldwell County company has been recognized for outstanding performance in manufacturing, and a Valdese company also won a manufacturing award.


80 Acres Farms in Granite Falls, which converts old international shipping containers into hydroponic units for growing produce, won a Manufacturing Leadership Award from the North Carolina Manufacturing Extension Partnership in the category of Manufacturing Excellence.


“The company has reduced the grow cycle times of leafy greens and herbs by more than 30 percent as compared to conventional growth methods,” NCMEP noted in its press release on the award winners. “In addition, by optimizing nutrient management, 80 Acres Farms can control the grow zone environment that allows the company to double the yields realized by traditional farming methods. … This innovation is made possible by the company’s engineering department working directly with the farm operations team to design, build and deploy grow zone equipment that is both user-friendly and able to meet product standards. Just recently, the engineering unit redesigned a pump system to reduce electricity usage by 15 percent. In fact, each generation of grow zone designs has seen a 5 to 28 percent reduction in electricity usage.”


80 Acres, which is based in Ohio, opened its Granite Falls facility in 2016. 80 Acres officials want to create a national network of hydroponic farming operations, and it manufacturers all of its equipment in Granite Falls. The company has grown from two employees in Granite Falls to 17 employees and is sending shipments of produce and herbs to Whole Foods twice a week, a demand so high the company has said it plans to add 50 more employees over the next 18 months.


NCMEP is part of the MEP National Network, a public-private partnership that provides services to help manufacturers enhance productivity and technological performance.


Exela Pharma Sciences, a pharmaceutical manufacturer in Lenoir, won a Manufacturing Leadership Award in 2017, and Associated Hardwoods, a wood products manufacturer in Granite Falls, won in 2016. Both won in the category of Developing Markets.


Meridian Specialty Yarn Group in Valdese won a 2018 award in the category of Innovation. The company has a 270,000-square-foot plant in Valdese and is working on an expansion adding 116,000 square feet, along with an extensive modernization that will make the facility one of the most modern yarn and fiber dyeing facilities in the world, NCMEP said in its press release.

11/07/18 – Unemployment hits 18-year low

Posted on: November 7th, 2018 by admin


November 7, 2018


By Guy Lucas


Caldwell County’s unemployment rate crashed through another significant milestone in September, dropping lower than it has been in more than 18 years.


The unemployment rate dropped a full percentage point from August to 2.9 percent, the N.C. Labor and Economic Analysis Division reported.


The last time the rate was lower than 3 percent was June 2000, when it was 2.7 percent.


The numbers confirm what local employers have been saying about the difficulty of finding workers, said Deborah Murray, executive director of the Caldwell County Economic Development Commission.


“It is so amazing to me to even say the words — Caldwell’s unemployment is 2.9 percent. Hard to believe,” she said. “And when I shared those numbers with a local plant manager, quite emphatically he said, ‘We feel it!'”


The number of Caldwell residents with jobs also passed 35,500 for the first time since July 2008, when the Great Recession was hitting.


However, this unemployment report covers a period before the closure of Heritage Home Group’s operations in Lenoir last week. It’s not clear how many of those workers will remain unemployed for long. They were given a special period to meet with local employers at Caldwell is Hiring on Oct. 25, and other furniture companies had been advertising job openings in the News-Topic and elsewhere during the months since Heritage Home Group filed for bankruptcy protection.


Murray said that Caldwell’s unemployment rate might be even lower, and the number of residents with jobs higher, if not for the county’s shortage of housing, especially apartments, that meets what the current market demands are.


“We truly are at full employment. And not only are we at our lowest unemployment, we have been adding to the jobs available in the county,” she said. “Employment at Caldwell companies has increased faster than employment of Caldwell residents because of the lack of available housing. We continue to have an increasing number of workers coming in from other counties.”


Seasonal factors helped drive unemployment down in all 100 of the state’s counties in September, but only 22 counties saw a larger drop from August than Caldwell.


Catawba County’s unemployment rate dropped 0.9 percentage points to 2.7 percent, and Burke’s dropped 0.8 points to 2.8 percent.


Caldwell’s rate was tied for 32nd lowest in the state. The lowest rate was found in Buncombe County, 2.4 percent.


Caldwell’s rate could drop quite a bit further without setting a record. For much of 1999, the unemployment rate was below 2 percent, hitting its lowest point that May at 1.5 percent.


The Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton metropolitan statistical area’s overall unemployment rate of 2.8 percent is the fourth lowest among the state’s 15 metropolitan areas, behind only Asheville’s 2.5 percent and both Durham-Chapel Hill and Raleigh’s 2.7 percent.

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