Archive for December, 2018

12/20/18 – Dula to lead Roblon US

Posted on: December 21st, 2018 by admin


December 20, 2018


By News-Topic Staff Reports


Roblon US Inc. has is appointing Randy Dula, who has been director of operations at NEPTCO in Granite Falls, to general manager of Roblon US. He will start in his new position Jan. 1.


Roblon, a Danish-owned equipment and textile manufacturer, bought the NEPTCO Fiber Optic Cable Components in Granite Falls in April 2017. The company said last month that it is expanding in Granite Falls and expects to hire 100 more full-time employees in the next year.


Dula, together with Jamey Little, vice president of sales and deputy general manager, will take the overall responsibility for the operations of Roblon US.


Dula has worked for NEPTCO for 37 years and said in a press release that he feels fortunate to work with two such strong companies.


“Roblon has a growth agenda for the U.S., and I feel I can be an important part of their future,” he said.

12/20/18 – CCC&TI creates pipeline to ASU

Posted on: December 21st, 2018 by admin


December 20, 2018


By Virginia Annable


Students at Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute can now get ensured transfer admission to Appalachian State University under a new program that strengthens the pipeline from the community college to the four-year university.


A new agreement between the schools allows students to apply for a program called Aspire Appalachian, and if accepted they will be able to transfer to Appalachian State after completing their associate’s degree at CCC&TI in three years or less with at least a 2.5 GPA, according to the memorandum of understanding signed by the schools’ leaders.


The program not only gives students ensured admission, it also eliminates the application fee when applying for transfer and gives students access to student services at ASU, CCC&TI President Dr. Mark Poarch said.


“It’s a big, big step,” Poarch said. “It’s a monumental step because it paves the way to Appalachian for our students and it removes barriers.”


Many students who come to CCC&TI hoping to transfer to ASU after earning their associate’s degree aren’t always confident they’ll be accepted to ASU, Poarch said. With the agreement, if they’re accepted into Aspire Appalachian and maintain a good GPA, students don’t have to worry.


The agreement is also a good option for students who were not accepted to ASU right out of high school or who can’t afford to attend ASU for all four years.


“It gives us the opportunity to talk to students who don’t have the grades, money or confidence to go (to ASU) right away,” Poarch said.


There are similar programs between a few community colleges and universities in the eastern part of the state, but this is the first of its kind in western North Carolina, Poarch said. ASU does not have similar agreements with other community colleges. CCC&TI already provides the largest percentage of transfer students to ASU — about 100 students each year.


Poarch thinks the new agreement will bring more students to CCC&TI because it’s a clear path to ASU.


“I think there will be students all over who come to us with aspirations of going to Appalachian,” he said.


If students in the Caldwell County Schools want to go to ASU, this is another path to take, said Dr. Don Phipps, superintendent of the Caldwell County Schools.


“It is a wonderful opportunity for students,” Phipps said.


The agreement is also a step in strengthening CCC&TI’s relationship with ASU, Poarch said. The agreement has started other discussions of more collaboration between the schools, he said.


“I think for me the most exciting thing it speaks to … is the collaboration and partnership between CCC&TI and ASU,” Poarch said. “There’s strong collaboration and working relationship with an existing goal of assisting students.”

12/16/18 – Merck promoted at Blue Ridge Energy

Posted on: December 17th, 2018 by admin


December 16, 2018


By Virginia Annable


Alan Merck has been named senior vice president and chief operating officer for Blue Ridge Energy.


Merck had been the company’s director of innovative energy solutions. In October he was named interim COO following the resignation of John Coffey. Merck joined Blue Ridge Energy in 2012 as director of key accounts/business development.


As COO of Blue Ridge Energy, Merck oversees system engineering and distribution and transmission operations, electric plant, reliability, engineering, power supply planning and coordination, customer service, economic development, and member relations.


Chief Executive Officer Doug Johnson praised Merck’s performance with Blue Ridge Energy.


“Alan has a proven track record in expertly managing a wide range of critical areas that benefit our members with the most reliable, affordable electricity possible delivered with the personal touch care, service and commitment to improving local communities that sets apart cooperatives,” Johnson said. “This is especially critical during this period of system upgrades to meet the power demands of our members in northwest North Carolina now and for the future.”


Before joining Blue Ridge Energy, Merck spent 29 years with Duke Energy in various roles. He has a bachelor’s degree in business management and an associate’s degree in electrical engineering technology.


Merck and his wife, Kelly, along with daughter Lydia live in Granite Falls. Their daughter Lindy and her husband, Jacob Lail, also live nearby.


Blue Ridge Energy is a member-owned electric cooperative serving about 76,000 consumers in Caldwell, Watauga, Ashe and Alleghany counties and parts of Alexander, Avery and Wilkes counties. Its corporate headquarters are in Lenoir.


Merck currently serves as Vice-Chairman for the EDC Board of Directors.

12/16/18 – Housing sees subtle improvement

Posted on: December 17th, 2018 by admin


December 16, 2018


By Virginia Annable


Caldwell County is starting to see the number of vacant houses decline after years of growing numbers, and local officials are turning their focus to filling in the gaps with new development.


Recently released numbers show that the amount of vacant houses in Lenoir, where a quarter of the county’s vacant houses are, has dropped to 16 percent, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2017 American Community Survey results. In 2010, the number was 18 percent, and in 2014 it peaked at 21 percent.


The countywide vacant housing numbers have stayed relatively constant, at about 15 percent, down from 16 percent in 2014 and 2010.


Lenoir Planning Director Jenny Wheelock said the decrease in Lenoir may be the result of the city’s crackdown on dilapidated housing. There are 1,392 vacant houses; about 25 percent are seasonal properties, and another 25 percent are for rent or for sale.


The city and county both have started using tax foreclosures as a way to tear down vacant homes or put vacant homes in new hands.


An improved real estate market has also helped, Wheelock said.


“Properties have begun to change hands, and new owners are renovating and restoring homes,” she said.


Vacant housing can discourage new development and affect the strength of a neighborhood, Wheelock said. As people begin to fill in those formerly empty homes, neighborhoods become more welcoming and can see more investment.


“Communities find their strength in the individual residents who live in them — strong neighborhoods consist of residents who invest in their properties, know each other and look out for the common welfare of the neighborhood,” Wheelock said. “When houses sit vacant, it weakens the cohesion of the neighborhood.”


The Lenoir Planning Board is considering changes to the city’s building rules that could make new development easier, including apartments, Wheelock said.


Wheelock hopes the changes will encourage projects that will hopefully start to address the “missing middle” in the housing options currently available in Lenoir,” meaning housing attractive to middle-income people.


The county is joining in on the effort by hiring the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill School of Government to assess the county’s housing needs, which may be used to encourage developers and help them make the case to lenders that new housing is needed here.


Wheelock said since Caldwell County have seen little new multi-family housing, she’s excited about the prospect that the study could usher in more rental properties.


“I am hopeful that the housing study will illustrate to developers, especially local builders, that a market for these housing types exists in Lenoir,” she said.


New residential and commercial construction is on the rise in Caldwell County, though not for multi-family residential construction, according to building permit data from the Western Piedmont Council of Governments. The number of building permits this year is about the same as 2017 — about 500 at the end of November — but the monetary investment has increased: Building permits for new residential, commercial and industrial construction through November totaled $61 million, up from $47.2 million in 2017.


While the numbers are up, they still haven’t reached pre-recession levels, said Taylor Dellinger, a data analyst with the WPCOG.


“The number is higher than it has been the last few years but it’s still not up to the number of 2006 and 2007,” he said. “But the trend is certainly up.”


Posted on: December 7th, 2018 by admin


December 7, 2018



The EDC has consulted all of the weather experts and it appears that we are in for a “once in a lifetime snow event.” At least that is the weather forecasters’ term for what could happen.


We have decided to err on the side of caution and cancel the breakfast. It is more important that people be safe with this weekend’s predicted snow accumulation and potential power outages along with melting and re-freezing in the early morning hours.


I apologize for the cancellation and truly hope that the storm is a big miss.


We look forward to seeing you all at the January 15 Economic Development Celebration Luncheon.  

12/05/18 – Caldwell studying housing

Posted on: December 6th, 2018 by admin


December 5, 2018



By Virginia Annable


In an attempt to bring in more housing development, Caldwell County will commission a study to show exactly what the unmet demand here is.


Local business leaders have been saying for the past several years that although the local economy is growing jobs — more than 50 new industries have opened here since 2008, and about 1,000 jobs have been added each of the past four years, including many higher-paying jobs in high-skilled industries – a significant number of new hires struggle to find a place they want to live inside Caldwell County.


Despite that, the Caldwell County Economic Development Commission has struggled to lure developers to build new market-rate, multi-family apartment projects, something that the area has not seen in over 30 years.


The Caldwell County Board of Commissioners has approved hiring the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Government’s Development Finance Initiative to study the current housing market, point out what it lacks and lay out solutions to make new development work in the area, according to DFI’s proposal.


The School of Government says on its website that DFI partners with local governments to attract private investment for transformative projects by providing specialized finance and development expertise.


The study will cost the county just under $24,000 and take about six months to complete, according to the proposal.


After the study, the county could again hire the School of Government to create specific development plans for particular sites in hopes of enticing developers to build there.


EDC Executive Director Deborah Murray said earlier this year that the housing and income statistics that are available have not been enough for developers to make the case to their lenders that there is a need here for new multi-family housing.


Nearly 85 percent of existing housing here is already occupied, and much of what is vacant is either dilapidated or older and in need of renovation, she said: More than half of local housing units are more than 40 years old, and nearly 90 percent were built before 2000.


Annual surveys of major local employers by the EDC have found that an increasing number of new hires live outside Caldwell County: 30 percent in 2015, 34 percent in 2016, and 40 percent in 2017, Murray said.


The Caldwell Memorial Hospital Foundation bought two properties in 2017 — a house on Tremont Circle and a condominium on College Avenue – because of the difficulty professionals being recruited by the hospital had in finding a place to stay when considering a move to Caldwell County.

12/05/18 – Printer picks Lenoir as 2nd location

Posted on: December 6th, 2018 by admin


December 5, 2018


By Virginia Annable


A publishing company that distributes its products across the country is buying a building in Lenoir to use as its base for the eastern United States and Midwest, and it expects to create up to 15 jobs, county officials said.


The Caldwell County Board of Commissioners approved a job-creation incentive of $2,000 per job created over two years up to $30,000 for ICON Publishing, a national manufacturer of printed products including business cards, banners and brochures. Online the company does business as


ICON is based in Bakersfield, California. Company officials expect to complete the purchase this month of a building previously used by a printer in Lenoir — county officials did not identify the building — and begin operations immediately, according to a memo to the commissioners from County Manager Stan Kiser.


The commissioners also approved endorsing the company’s application for a building reuse grant from the state to help pay for renovating the building.

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