Archive for July, 2020

7-30-2020 – Region’s rebound in jobs continues

Posted on: July 30th, 2020 by admin


July 29, 2020



By Guy Lucas

Jul 29, 2020 11:14 AM


Local unemployment rates dropped sharply in most of North Carolina from May to June as the economy continued recovering from coronavirus-related business closures in the spring, and Caldwell County’s drop was among the largest.


Caldwell’s unemployment rate dropped 5.9 percentage points to 8.5%, with a drop of more than 2,000 in the number of unemployed county residents, the N.C. Labor and Economic Analysis Division reported.


Those numbers back up May’s unemployment report as evidence that temporary layoffs related to the coronavirus are steadily coming back, said Deborah Murray, the executive director of the Caldwell County Economic Development Commission.


“Caldwell is keeping pace with other counties in reducing its unemployment and assisting companies with reopening,” she said.


But she said that another number is harder to interpret: From March to June of 2020, Caldwell showed a 3,700-person drop in the labor force, which is the combination of those with jobs and the unemployed who are actively searching for jobs.


Normally a drop like that could indicate discouragement among the unemployed, but the labor force normally drops in June because the county’s largest employer is the Caldwell County Schools, and many of those employees are on nine- or 10-month contracts and take the summer off.


“In 2020 it simply adds to hazy numbers that cannot be compared to any other time in recent history,” Murray said. “We continue to hear that some companies have had to incur layoffs even in recent weeks, while others are aggressively hiring and business is booming. There are still companies, large and small, opening new ventures in Caldwell. And unfortunately, some former businesses are choosing to sell or close, choosing to walk away during these tough times. This COVID event will have a permanent effect on the landscape of Caldwell business, some good and some bad.”


The unemployment rate dropped in all 100 counties in the state, but only 15 saw a greater decline than Caldwell – and three were neighboring counties: Catawba’s rate dropped 7.1 points to 8.6%; Burke’s dropped 6.3 points to 7.3%; and Alexander’s dropped 6.1 points to 7.7%.


That significant regional improvement added up to a 6.6-point drop in the overall Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton metropolitan statistical area’s unemployment rate to 8.2%, the second biggest drop among the state’s 15 metro areas. Only the Asheville area had a larger decrease, 6.7 points to 8.9%.


But the Hickory region still has not recovered its standing as having among the lowest unemployment rates in the state. Currently it has the fifth highest.


The Hickory region was among the hardest hit in spring job losses because of its concentration of manufacturing jobs involving durable goods, such as furniture, textiles and motor vehicle-related products, but that sector has been recovering faster than most.


Across the Hickory region, manufacturing regained about 900 jobs from May to June, the Labor and Economic Analysis Division reported – but there were still about 7,600 fewer manufacturing jobs than there were in June 2019. That means the region is still missing almost one-fifth of the manufacturing jobs it had before the pandemic, and it’s a greater number of lost jobs than was seen in any other sector of the economy.


More than 6,500 Caldwell residents lost jobs from March to April, but more than 1,000 had regained job by mid-May and about 1,800 more had by mid-June.


That still leaves the county’s number of employed workers more than 2,000 below the range that it had been for many months before the pandemic began, let alone the post-recession highs it had reached in early 2020.


Murray said that anyone looking for a job can look at the Caldwell Is Hiring page that the EDC maintains on Facebook, where it posts job openings it has been notified about throughout the Hickory region.


“The EDC is expanding this feature and will soon be maintaining a full 30 days of job postings on its website ( beginning early August in addition to continuing to post daily on social media,” she said.

7-24-2020 – HUB Station continues with expansion

Posted on: July 27th, 2020 by admin


July 23, 2020



By Garrett Stell

Jul 23, 2020 8:52 PM


The coronavirus pandemic might be keeping most visitors out of the HUB Station in Hudson, but organizers there say that it has provided an opportunity to accelerate renovations, paving the way for more studios, shops, classrooms and a museum dedicated to the works of one of Hudson’s most famous natives.


Three former classrooms in the east wing of the HUB Station building have been roped off as the future home of the Mitford Museum, a 1,300-foot space dedicated to the life and writings of Hudson native and bestselling author of the Mitford series of novels. Karon attended Hudson Elementary School, in the same building that now houses the HUB Station on Cedar Valley Road.


Kathy Carroll, chair of the HUB Station Steering Committee, said that the new museum will double as a way to recognize Karon in her hometown and also amplify the HUB Station’s mission as a regional center for connecting the arts and business.


“Her museum is going to transform the life in this place,” Carroll said as she gave a tour of the newly-renovated east wing. “(Karon) has such an amazing fan base and we are thrilled to have her back home. We believe it will attract large groups of people who will want to see those things that were important to her in her life and career.”


And while Carroll expects visitors to come for the Mitford Museum, she hopes that the host of other features at the HUB will provide more reasons for them to stay. The former school building currently serves as the home for the Hudson Dinner Theater, as well as the Red Awning Gallery, a retail outlet for local artists. Renovations during the spring and summer have opened up the east wing and second floor of the building, thanks entirely to fundraising from the steering committee and private and corporate donations.


“This is all from fundraising money,” Carroll said. “No tax dollars whatsoever have been used for this. We receive donations from businesses that have ties to Hudson as well as residents both in and out of town.”


Ann Smith, a member of the Hudson Board of Commissioners, said that none of the work in the HUB Station would have been possible without the work of the steering committee, in terms of fundraising and providing guidance during the ongoing renovations.


The first floor of the building will focus on retail and the Mitford Museum, Smith said, adding that the spaces are now fully-booked and new small shops are planning to move in: a jewelry, crafts and clothing store run by Bill and Angie Warren of The Gold Mine Fine Jewelry & Gifts, an art supply store and even a massage therapy practice.


The official opening dates for the new shops are still undecided due to delays caused by COVID-19, but a tentative grand opening for the Mitford Museum is scheduled for late June 2021. But Janice Woodie, who manages the HUB building, said that the unexpected blessing of an empty building has allowed construction to carry on unimpeded.


“There would be no way to get it all done if everything had still been going on inside,” she said, referring to the regular art shows, theater performances and other events held at the HUB.


While downstairs rooms will be largely geared towards general visitors, the second floor is being prepared as a have for artists of all kinds — whether already secure in their trade or still in training. There are studios for rent in many of the old classrooms upstairs, while a suite of rooms has been reserved for a future arts academy that Carroll hopes will combine theater, performing arts and music of all kinds.


“We hope this becomes an artist’s Mecca!” she said, pointing to wall-length mirrors that are to be hung in an open space to serve ballet, theater and music instructors.


Smith said that part of the importance of restoring the HUB and filling the rooms with new life is a desire to carry on the heritage of the old school and the memories of those who attended, which shows through the number of donors who have purchased naming rights to classrooms.


“Every classroom on this floor has been sold to people who have a direct connection to this building or that particular classroom,” she said. “The work of the steering committee has just shown the love for this building, what it has meant and continues to mean to so many people.”


Reporter Garrett Stell can be reached at 828-610-8723.

7-15-2020 – Wide array of symptoms seen with coronavirus

Posted on: July 15th, 2020 by admin


July 15, 2020






As the number of coronavirus cases has grown in Caldwell County, health care officials have seen a broaden­ing in the symptoms that those who become sick display, the county health director said.


Fever, coughing and difficulty breathing were once seen as the call­ing signs of COVID-19, but that has changed, Caldwell County Health Director Anna Martin told the Cald­well County Economic Development Commission’s board of directors on Tuesday.


“What we are seeing now is a lot of sinus infection-type symptoms. That’s a lot different than in the beginning,” she said. “Some people have fevers, some people have sinus infections, some people have stomach problems ”and “horrible diarrhea.”


And “some people have every­thing,” she said.


But the most prevalent symptom of the disease is a loss of the senses of smell and taste, she said.


The CDC also has said that chills, repeated shaking with chills, muscle pain, headache, congestion, runny nose, nausea and sore throat have been common symptoms.


The virus is spreading through the community, and health officials continue to be surprised by what they are

seeing related to the spread, Martin said. For instance, when one member of a family has been infected, sometimes officials find that no one else in the household tests positive for the virus, or many members of a household may test positive, but one member does not.


“The virus is so new is so new that nobody knows how it’s working,” she said.


Alan Merck, senior vice president and chief operating officer of Blue Ridge Energy, expressed uncertainty about what employers should do when employees go on vacation to places such as Myrtle Beach, which has been a hotspot of virus spread.


“To quarantine for 14 days, your business takes a hit,” he said.


Martin suggested that returning employees should be encouraged to be tested for the virus but asking employees to self-quarantine for a week rather than 14 days may be sufficient.


“If someone has coronavirus, they should see some symptoms within five days,” she said.


Merck said he was concerned about the majority of young adults who become infected and show no symptoms but can still infect others.


The Johns Hopkins School of Public Health and the American College of Physicians reported in March that five

days was the median incubation time for symptoms to show, but it could take as long as 12.

7-13-2020 – Billion-dollar business has roots in Lenoir

Posted on: July 14th, 2020 by admin


July 13, 2020



By Garrett Stell

Jul 10, 2020 7:07 PM


For Fielding Miller, the secret to success was a change in perspective, sparked by memories and supporters from his hometown.


Miller, a Lenoir native and alumnus of Lenoir High School and West Caldwell High School, is the chairman and CEO of CAPTRUST Financial Advisors, a firm he co-founded in 1997 that was valued last month at $1.25 billion. CAPTRUST has offices in 21 states, more than 700 employees and clients across the nation.


Recently, when discussing the company’s relatively humble origins, he recalled a time when $1 billion counted among the least likely achievements in his future.


“We started CAPTRUST 22 years ago with a little bit of revenue and few employees,” and it was worth about $2 million, Miller said. Building that company to $1.25 billion was a “massive run. And for a C-student from Caldwell County, that’s pretty good!”


That type of statement — at once recognizing a colossal achievement while acknowledging less laudable origins — is typical from Miller. He doesn’t shy away from the fact that he wasn’t always the best student at East Harper Elementary School, Lenoir High or West Caldwell. But Miller said that there were teachers throughout his career who believed in him. His father and his mother, Betty Lou, who still lives in the family home on Highland Avenue, also always had time for him. That belief helped him find success.


He and his wife, Kim, are involved in multiple charitable efforts, including their endowment of The Miller School of Entrepreneurship at East Carolina University, their alma mater, and Hope Reins, a ranch in Raleigh that offers free equine therapy sessions to children experiencing crises.


But Miller’s success didn’t happen overnight, and it took a change in mindset that was triggered during his last days in Lenoir. When he left for ECU in 1979, he took a piece of his hometown with him in the form of a book — “Think and Grow Rich” by Napoleon Hill — that family friend Ira Triplett gave him as a graduation present. He said the book changed his perspective entirely.


“It changed my attitude about what I could be, who I could be and what I could accomplish,” he said. “So I started building this confidence and I just started trying things.”


One of those things he tried was the newspaper business. Miller said that while he was an undergraduate, the campus newspaper, The East Carolinian, was struggling for money and in danger of going under. So Miller said he took the job as editor-in-chief, just like any business major with no journalism training or experience but a newfound self-confidence would have done.


An innovative advertising campaign gave the paper new life, and when Miller’s term in charge was over, he and a friend started their first business distributing an advertising booklet — the Greenville ADvantage — to more than 30,000 people. But when the local paper caught wind of the ADvantage, they were quick to move against the competition and gave Miller a taste of another important lesson in business: failure.


“We made really good money for a while, and then we got completely shut out,” he said. “Overnight we went from successful to out of business.”


But Miller sees every speed bump as a potential lesson. Now with the benefit of hindsight, he also recognizes his upbringing in Caldwell County as a critical piece of his story.


Going to school with the children of factory executives, middle-class families like his own and factory workers taught him how to find common ground with everyone. In his current business world, largely homogenous and dominated by white-collar types, he considers his upbringing to be invaluable.


“It can be a little stuffy, but I’ve got this experience of just being a regular guy and I know where I came from,” he said. “Towns like Lenoir make up the fabric of our nation. Just regular people raising families and working hard. It helps you relate to people and have compassion for people who maybe don’t have the same leg up as others.”

7-13-2020 – Psychiatric hospital to open soon

Posted on: July 13th, 2020 by admin


July 10, 2020


By Kara Fohner

Jul 10, 2020 5:31 PM


Caldwell UNC Health Care’s new 27-bed psychiatric facility is scheduled to open on July 20, the culmination of years of planning the almost $10.1 million project.


Alicia Stanislaw, the service line director of psychiatry, women and children, said that the Jonas Hill Hospital and Clinic will have close to two dozen staff, including psychiatrists, fulfilling a need that the county has had for years.


There are 20 patient rooms. Seven will be shared and 13 private, Stanislaw said.


While there was a ceremonial groundbreaking in January 2019, construction truly started in March 2019.


Hospital officials wanted a place that was innovative in design, with natural light and state-of-the-art technology that will help keep patients safe, especially those who might want to harm themselves, Stanislaw said.


While they initially considered renovating part of the hospital to create a psychiatric unit, “it was smarter to start new than try to renovate something that was old,” Stanislaw said.


While the inpatient part is complete, starting in 2021 Jonas Hill will offer outpatient psychiatric services as well. Caldwell UNC Health Care will take a year to stabilize the inpatient operations and recruit a team to work in the outpatient clinic.


Last year, close to 1,100 people sought psychiatric care in the hospital’s emergency department. There are only a handful of places that offer mental health care in the area — RHA Health Services in Lenoir offers outpatient care and a crisis and detox facility.


“I’ve never known a psychiatrist to practice in Caldwell County that’s actually providing day-to-day care,” Stanislaw said.


Jonas Hill also has an spacious outdoor area with a meditative labyrinth circle and a basketball court, as well as seating, and the space will be used for outdoor recreational therapy and pet therapy, among other things.


Caldwell UNC Health Care has hired a psychiatrist and two other care providers, but also is contracting with Atrium Health, which has 15 other providers who may help, Stanislaw said.


Rooms are specially designed to be both safe and soothing — murals of mountainscapes by artist David Horn decorate walls, and some rooms have special features, such as a removable, magnetic, padded door for bathrooms that will help provide privacy but also can be used as a shield if a patient becomes aggressive.


There are censors above doors that will go off if a patient puts anything over the door, and there are no sharp edges where patients could cut themselves. Beds will have sheets, but they will not have elastic in them. At least one room where patients may congregate has glass walls that have technology in them that allows the glass to become opaque when activated, giving patients more privacy.


The nurses’ station is set up in an area where patients may approach, making the nurses more accessible, a design that is modern in comparison to the way psychiatric facilities used to be organized, Stanislaw said.


There is space for support groups to meet, as well as for staff to relax.


A high-tech security system has more than 65 cameras that monitor most of the building, except for patient rooms.


The grand opening will be July 17 at 12:15, and they hope to begin accepting patients July 20.

7-10-2020 – Broyhill building up to big opening

Posted on: July 10th, 2020 by admin


July 10, 2020


7-10-2020 – Caldwell boasts above-average response to census

Posted on: July 10th, 2020 by admin


July 10, 2020


By Garrett Stell


Jul 09, 2020 3:12 PM


Caldwell County’s 2020 Census response rates continue to be slightly higher than the state average, and the U.S. Census Bureau is slowly reopening more regional offices for in-person interviewers with members of households that have yet to respond.


According to the Response Rate Map at, 62.6 percent of households in the county have responded to the 2020 Census so far. That’s a little over 4 percentage points higher than the statewide response rate of 58.2. The majority of the responses in Caldwell County have come via the internet, but households can also respond by phone or mail.


The better-than-average trend is present in all Caldwell County municipalities as well, with the village of Cedar Rock leading the way with an 80.4 percent rate. All other municipalities have returned responses from at least 61 percent of households: Cajah’s Mountain (69.3); Gamewell (63.3); Granite Falls (68.1); Hudson (67.2); Lenoir (61); Sawmills (63).


Statistics from the rate map are up to date as of July 7.


On Wednesday, the Census Bureau announced in a press conference that in-person operations to interview those who have not yet filled out a census form will resume in parts of Idaho, Louisiana, Maine, Oklahoma and West Virginia on July 16, followed by more field operations in Connecticut, Kansas, Pennsylvania and Ohio on July 20.


No announcement has been made about when field operations will resume in North Carolina offices, but a bureau press release said that the majority of remaining offices would reopen and resume in-person interviews by Aug. 11 and that work must be concluded by Oct. 31.


In addition to playing a part in determining federal funding for each region, statistics from this year’s census will also contribute to experimental tools that the Census Bureau is using to assess the impact of COVID-19 and help communities prepare for disasters, such as the bureau’s new Community Resilience Estimates tool.


The CRE tool combines data from two national surveys – the 2018 American Communities Survey, which gathers data on household income, poverty, health insurance and education, and the 2018 National Health Interview Survey – to identify regions, states and countries that have a high concentration of selected risk factors.


Although the bureau’s website says that the CRE is relevant for all disaster types, the current estimates are based on COVID-19 risk factors: age 65 or older; low-income household; single-caregiver household; employment or disability status; preexisting conditions; and lack of health insurance.


Individuals with at least three risk factors are considered by the study to be at high-risk during a pandemic, and counties are put in that category if 30 percent of residents or more are high-risk. The tool estimates that 47 percent of Caldwell County residents have one or two risk factors. Twenty-seven percent have zero risk factors, and 26 percent have more than three.

According to the estimation tool, which can be viewed online at, the largest concentrations of high-risk residents in Caldwell County are around Lenoir, Gamewell and the Little River area.


Reporter Garrett Stell can be reached at 828-610-8723.

7-2-2020 – Region sees jobs start to rebound

Posted on: July 6th, 2020 by admin


July 2, 2020



By Guy Lucas

Jul 01, 2020 5:46 PM


The good news about Caldwell County’s unemployment rate in May is that it didn’t get more terrible.


Caldwell and neighboring Catawba, Burke and Alexander counties all were among the two-thirds of North Carolina counties that saw their local unemployment rates decrease in May.


Caldwell’s dropped by 1.4 points to 14.6%, but no one’s dropped by as much as Alexander’s: 6.1 points, improving from the worst unemployment rate in the state to merely the 24th worst.


The size of the job losses from the coronavirus-related business shutdowns in March and April caught many officials by surprise, and many weren’t sure things wouldn’t get worse in May.


But while a number of business restrictions remain in place, the early pace of recovery is encouraging, said Deborah Murray, the executive director of the Caldwell County Economic Commission. That’s because employment report data is taken from the 10th to 12th day of each month, and North Carolina’s shutdown was in full effect at the time the May numbers were taken, but improvement in employment had already begun.


Caldwell lost 6,555 jobs from March to April but had regained 1,064 by mid-May.


“The June report should show further signs or rebounding across Caldwell’s economy and the … (Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton metropolitan statistical area,” she said.


The Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton area had been hard hit because of its concentration of manufacturing jobs involving durable goods, such as furniture, textiles and motor vehicle-related products. And according to the Western Piedmont Council of Governments, the heftiest job growth for May was in durable goods production, Murray said.


The improvements in the Hickory region’s counties dropped the region’s overall unemployment rate to 15.0%, leaving the Asheville metro area with the state’s worst unemployment rate at 16.1%. Fayetteville was just behind with 15.4%.


Murray said she hopes the state avoids any further shutdown due to COVID-19 measures so the retail and hospitality sectors — which are the hardest hit statewide — begin to recover as well.


She said the EDC’s “Caldwell Is Hiring” page on Facebook, where the EDC has been posting job openings from around the region, has become more active. In May, 67 companies posted more than 110 positions.


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