Archive for June, 2020

6-24-2020 – Kincaid remembered as ‘a quiet leader’

Posted on: June 24th, 2020 by admin

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June 24, 2020

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By Guy Lucas
guylucas@newstopicnews.com

Jun 23, 2020 5:41 PM

 

When the fledgling High Point Market Authority needed to educate state legislators about how Market worked and all that went into it, Steve Kincaid opened up his company’s showroom for tours.

 

Kincaid’s help was critical to winning the first state support in 2002 for the annual furniture industry trade shows at a time when shows in other parts of the country threatened to take business away from North Carolina, said Judy Mendenhall, who was the authority’s first president

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“Market is a very busy time for exhibitors, and he would allow us to troop in with visitors at such a busy time,” she said. “He was so gracious.”

 

Kincaid, who died Saturday at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas, was remembered in multiple interviews Tuesday as a quiet but highly influential leader in the industry and a “real gentleman” who remembered the lessons of his upbringing in Hudson.

 

Kincaid started his career in 1970 as a sales representative for Kincaid Furniture, which was founded by his father in 1946. He became company president in 1983. After La-Z-Boy Inc. bought the company in 1987, Kincaid was appointed senior vice president for La-Z-Boy and president of La-Z-Boy Casegoods. He stepped down in 2015.

 

During his career, Kincaid wielded his influence outside of the spotlight, said Tammy Nagem, chief operating officer of the High Point Market Authority. She called him “a thoughtful leader and a quiet leader.”

 

“He was not going to be the one fighting for the podium. He was the one making calls in the background,” she said. “He never wanted to be recognized for that. … When Steve called, people answered the phone.”

 

Kincaid was a critical part of many industry projects, said Kevin O’Connor, former president of Samson Marketing.

 

“He was one of those people who are respected as a person, not just as an industry leader and astute businessman,” O’Connor said. “He is someone we’re going to miss in the industry.”

 

Bob Lemons, a retired senior vice president of sales and marketing for Kincaid Furniture, said Kincaid had the trust of his employees because he took the time to get to know them and looked after their welfare, just as his father had. Lemons recalled morning trips with Kincaid through the company’s plants.

 

“We would speak to just about everyone in the plant, and the Kincaid family knew all the employees by their first names,” he said. In turn, the employees generally greeted Kincaid as Steve.

 

Boyd Wilson, former chief financial officer, said Kincaid always sought his employees’ input and opinions, and he was always there to encourage them.

 

“I wouldn’t say he was a boss, he was more like a coach,” he said.

 

Kurt L. Darrow, the chairman, president and CEO of La-Z-Boy, said in a prepared statement that Kincaid’s most significant contribution to La-Z-Boy was navigating the case goods group through its transition from a domestic manufacturing model to an import model as the overall wood furniture industry moved work offshore.

 

But Lemons said that Kincaid’s concern for his employees made that one of the hardest periods of his career.

 

“That was not by choice,” he said. “Steve was in misery because of that.”

 

Sheila Triplett-Brady, who had known Kincaid since high school, said that Kincaid felt deeply for his community, which was reflected in his involvement with many philanthropic efforts, including the Caldwell Memorial Hospital Foundation, Smart Start and Communities in Schools of Caldwell County.

 

“He’s somebody that didn’t stand back, he just stepped forward and got involved,” she said.

 

Lemons said Kincaid also encouraged all of his company’s managers to get involved in any community efforts that interested them.

 

Lemons said he has been fielding phone calls from numerous former Kincaid employees saddened by news of Kincaid’s death. They reminisced and shared fond memories.

 

Reflecting on all of those discussions, Lemons paused, then said, “There’s nothing negative anyone will ever say about him.”

6-10-2020 – Despite slump, industrial development continues

Posted on: June 10th, 2020 by admin

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June 10, 2020

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By Guy Lucas
guylucas@newstopicnews.com

Jun 09, 2020 5:32 PM

 

Although nearly 30,000 people across the Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton region lost their jobs in March and April, the economic damage is uneven, local business officials said Tuesday.

 

Some employers continue to grow and are still hiring new workers, said Deborah Murray, the executive director of the Caldwell County Economic Development Commission. The EDC posts notices of new jobs every day on the “Caldwell Is Hiring” page on Facebook.

 

“The strange thing is we see new businesses wanting to come in,” she told the EDC’s board of directors Tuesday.

 

In just the past week, the EDC developed three new leads for potential industrial recruitment, she said.

 

Although the coronavirus-related economic slowdown hit the Hickory region harder than the rest of the state — the region’s unemployment rate of 17.6% in April was the highest among the state’s 15 metropolitan statistical areas — the area is benefitting from “a transformational change” in industrial site selection, Murray said. Companies are increasingly considering sites in smaller communities rather than only considering sites near large cities.

 

The EDC is set to launch an ad promoting Caldwell County to business leaders. It uses the headline “Biotech in the Blue Ridge Mountains” and points to businesses such as Exela Pharma Sciences, Stallargenes Greer and Adhezion Biomedical, but it then says that a lot more kinds of industries have chosen Caldwell, and it lists the area’s major employers, running the gamut from meat processor JBS to Google.

 

“It’s really up to us to capitalize on this change,” Murray said.

 

At the end of Tuesday’s meeting, Murray promised there would be a good local economic announcement soon, but she provided no details.

6-4-2020 – Joblessness nears 2010 level

Posted on: June 4th, 2020 by admin

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June 4, 2020

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Jun 03, 2020 3:13 PM

 

The business effects of COVID-19 threw nearly 4,000 Caldwell County residents into unemployment in April, according to a new state report.

 

The number of Caldwell residents counted as unemployed swelled from about 1,500 in March to 5,370 in April, the N.C. Labor and Economic Analysis Division reported, and the county’s unemployment rate rocketed up by 11.9 percentage points from March to 16.1 percent. That was the sixth-highest rate among the state’s 100 counties.

 

That’s also the third-highest Caldwell County has seen in recent history, after the 17 percent recorded in February 2010 and 16.3 percent in March 2010 after the Great Recession struck.

 

But the really bad news is that the unemployment picture probably got worse in May, said Deborah Murray, the executive director of the Caldwell County Economic Development Commission. That’s because each month’s unemployment report reflects the jobs picture around the middle of the month.

 

“The April report shows dramatic increases in unemployment as expected. However, the report was a snapshot still early in the response to COVID, and May will likely be higher,” she said.

 

Labor participation and actual employment dropped to historic lows in April. Caldwell’s labor force – those with jobs combined with those seeking work – dropped from 36,056 in March to 33,291 in April, the lowest of any month since well before 2000, Murray said.

 

The number of people counted as working dropped even more: from 34,544 in March to 27,989 in April, a decline of 6,555, or just under 19 percent.

 

The low labor force number indicates a large number of those no longer working were not actively seeking work. Whether that means those workers were temporarily laid off and expected to be called back to work will not be clear until more unemployment data is reported, Murray said.

 

“May, June and July reports will determine the long-term severity of the pandemic’s affects,” she said. “Initially I was hopeful that the high unemployment would be brief because the layoffs would be temporary. After talking to a number of employers I am concerned that there have been more permanent job losses than anticipated.”

 

Residents of neighboring Alexander, Burke and Catawba counties actually were hit harder by layoffs than Caldwell workers were, according to Wednesday’s report.

 

Alexander County had the state’s second-highest percentage increase in unemployment as well as the second-highest overall unemployment rate, rising 16.6 points to 20.1 percent.

 

Catawba County had the third-highest increase and third-highest rate, rising 14.8 points to 18.8 percent. About 14,000 of Catawba’s labor force of 75,000 were unemployed in April.

 

Burke County’s rate increased by 11.4 points to 15.5 percent.

 

Not surprisingly, then, the Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton metropolitan statistical area had the greatest percentage increase in unemployment among the state’s 15 metro areas, rising 13.6 points to 17.6 percent, the highest in the state.

 

Not far behind, though was the Asheville metro area, which went from the lowest unemployment rate in the state in March, 3.6 percent, to the second-highest in April, 16.0 percent.

 

Murray said the EDC is ramping up employment efforts through partnerships with the Employment Security Commission, NCWorks, Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute, and businesses throughout the region.

 

“We want the unemployed to be aware of every new employment possibility,” she said. “We encourage those looking for permanent or temporary work to view the Caldwell Is Hiring Facebook postings each day, go to NCWorks.gov or contact the Career Center at CCC&TI.”

 

Gov. Roy Cooper declared a state of emergency on March 10 due to COVID-19 and in the following weeks issued several orders closing or curtailing businesses in hopes of slowing the spread of the coronavirus that causes it.

 

Statewide in April, the N.C. Department of Commerce’s Division of Employment Security received 494,728 initial claims for unemployment benefits, with 395,794 of these claims — or 80% — citing the coronavirus pandemic as the reason for the job loss, the Commerce Department reported last week. In March, 282,947 of 339,885 initial claims, 83%, cited COVID-19.

 

In Caldwell County a total of 2,532 filed initial unemployment claims related to COVID-19 in March, and another 4,282 filed in April, the Department of Commerce reported.

 

But special provisions by the state and federal governments extended unemployment benefits to many categories of workers who would not normally be eligible, including workers who were still employed but whose hours had been reduced.

 

Also, some employers laid off workers for a few weeks, then brought some or all back, and it could take a few months to get a clear picture of how many workers are suffering extended joblessness.

6-2-2020 – Blue Ridge Energy Named to Business North Carolina’s Best Employer’s List

Posted on: June 2nd, 2020 by admin

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June 2, 2020

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For Immediate Release

Contact: Renee Whitener, Director of Public Relations, Blue Ridge Energy, (828) 758-2383 ext. 3213, or rwhitener@blueridgeenergy.com.

 

Lenoir, North Carolina (June 1, 2020) – Blue Ridge Energy has been named to Business North Carolina magazine’s Best Employers list for 2020.

 

The electric cooperative and propane and heating fuels provider serving northwest North Carolina and parts of Virginia was ranked number 6 on the list of companies with up to 249 employees.

 

The ranking and list are based on evaluations measuring workplace policies, business philosophy, systems and employee culture. Business North Carolina found that best employer practices to recruit and retain top talent include wellness programs and opportunities to volunteer in local communities among other benefits.

 

The list of the Best Employers in North Carolina was created by Business North Carolina magazine, the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), and NC State Council and Best Companies Group.

 

With corporate offices in Lenoir, Blue Ridge Energy employees some 223 electric and propane and fuels employees in six offices with home and hearth showrooms in Lenoir, Boone, West Jefferson, Sparta and Morganton. The electric cooperative serves some 76,000 members in NC and the propane and fuels business serves over 27,000 customers in NC and Virginia. 

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