Archive for January, 2021

1-27-2021 – New round of aid available for small businesses

Posted on: January 28th, 2021 by admin


January 27, 2021




Jan 27, 2021 Updated 12 hrs ago


Small business owners can apply for new funding from the federal Paycheck Protection Program, and borrowers who were approved last year can return for a second round of funding provided they meet more restrictive criteria.


Congress brought back the lending program in a Dec. 27 bill that allocated another $284.5 billion in forgivable coronavirus relief loans. That amount includes $137 billion for “second-draw” loans for businesses that already received loans in the first round of PPP last year.


The loan offers up to 2.5 times a company’s monthly payroll, up to $2 million for most eligible businesses. But businesses that are classified in the hospitality industry can receive loans at 3.5 times their average monthly payroll.


Sharon Harvey, senior area manager of the Asheville region with the U.S. Small Business Administration, spoke to business owners in Western North Carolina on Wednesday and said that the loans are fully forgivable as long as business owners spend the money only on acceptable expenses, which include payroll, operations expenses, property damage suffered during civil unrest and purchases of personal protective equipment for customers and employees.


But “PPP is designed for your employees to stay on the payroll, and of the money that is disbursed to you, 60% of that is for employees,” she said, and no more than 40% of a loan can be spent on other eligible expenses.


That means that the 1-% fixed interest rate associated with all PPP loans will take effect if business owners fall below that 60% threshold. Otherwise, the loan can be entirely forgiven.


Harvey reminded business owners that applying for a PPP loan is free and that no one should enter a deal to pay someone to submit an application on their behalf. The deadline to apply is March 31.


The new round of PPP loans will be offered to first-time borrowers with 500 or fewer employees who can show that they have experienced at least a 25% revenue reduction in any comparable quarter from 2019 to 2020 and meet the other guidelines.


Businesses that received funding from a PPP loan in 2020 can apply for another round if they have fewer than 300 employees.


Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute’s Small Business Center and the Caldwell Chamber of Commerce shared information Wednesday to help local small business owners understand the opportunities that are available with the new round of PPP funding. PPP loans are not taxable income and expenses paid with PPP funds are tax-deductible.


CCC&TI Small Business Center Director Carmela Tomlinson encouraged business owners to work with their existing lender to submit a PPP loan application. The SBA also offers a lender matching program at to help connect business owners to eligible lenders if they do not have one already.


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

1-27-2021 – Region’s housing market surging

Posted on: January 28th, 2021 by admin


January 27, 2021




By Guy Lucas

Jan 27, 2021 Updated 13 hrs ago


Despite the pandemic, the residential real estate market in the Hickory region, including Caldwell County, saw growth in home sales and prices in 2020, according to a company that gathers real estate data.


Home sales in the Catawba Valley region — Catawba, Caldwell, Burke and Alexander counties — had a strong end to 2020, with December sales up 14.2% over December 2019, according to Canopy MLS. That helped sales for all of 2020 top 2019’s sales by 3.4%.


Caldwell County had mixed numbers in December: Just 58 home sales closed during the month, down 9.4% compared to December 2019, but pending contract activity, which indicates buyer demand and possible January-February sales, soared by 84.4% compared to December 2019, Canopy reported.


For the year overall, Caldwell sales grew 2%, with 782 homes sold, Canopy reported.


The demand for houses in Caldwell County exceeds the supply, the report said.

“Inventory is low and fell 57.4% year-over-year, leaving 1.2 months of supply and a tight market that will impact prices,” the report said.


Caldwell’s average sale price in 2020 was $200,630, up 17.2% from 2019, the report said.


The average was skewed upward by sales of more expensive houses, but the median price — the point where half of all sales were for more and half were for less — was $171,000, a 15.2% increase from 2019’s median.


On average, sellers in 2020 received 96.5% of their asking price, and houses sold in an average of 44 days.


The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in the spring hurt the real estate market, but it rebounded as the year went on, helped by low interest rates, Cory Klassett, president of Catawba Valley Association of Realtors, said in a press release.


“Without a doubt, the pandemic presented challenges last year just as the spring selling season was getting underway. However, agents within the region were able to quickly adjust to showing homes safely and virtually, and residential sales last year still managed to outpace 2019,” he said.


New listings for the full year across the Catawba Valley region were down 2.3% compared to 2019 because of the pandemic’s effects, but seller confidence grew late in the year, with new listings in December 35% higher than in December 2019.

1-16-2021 – Before coronavirus, county’s growth was steady

Posted on: January 19th, 2021 by admin


January 16, 2021






Yet another report documents that Caldwell County’s economy was humming in the months before the coronavirus-related shutdowns last spring.


Caldwell County’s gross domestic product — the total monetary value of all goods and services produced in the county — during 2019 grew a healthy 2.3% from the previous year, to a total of about $2.37 billion, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis’ annual county-by-county report.


That’s the sixth straight year of growth since 2013, when the county’s GDP dropped to about $1.87 billion after the Great Recession. The overall growth since 2013 amounts to 26.8%.


Figures showing each county’s total GDP for 2020 won’t be available until late 2021.


One thing that stands out over the three most recent years of growth is how steady Caldwell’s growth was com-pared to its neighbors: between 2.3 and 2.8% each year for Caldwell, while Burke County’s highest rate during those years was 2.2% from 2018 to 2019 and its lowest was -1.5% from 2016 to 2017; Wilkes County’s highest was 0.4% from 2016 to 2017 and its GDP shrank the next two years; and Catawba County, by far the region’s largest economy, saw its GDP  growth slow from 2.5% to 1.0% over the same period.


Deborah Murray, the executive director of the Caldwell County Economic Development Commission, said that the long-term improvement is particularly encouraging.


“I tend not to get excited about a single report or a single measurement of anything, good or bad,” she said. “I do, however, look at numbers over time when we can see year-over-year comparisons.”


The data adds to other evidence, such as annual measures of the average private-sector wage in each county, showing Caldwell gaining ground relative to its immediate neighbors.


In December the N.C. Labor and Economic Analysis Division reported that the average private sector wage — the average annual pay of all non-government full-time jobs — in Caldwell County from mid-2019 to mid-2020 was $41,157, up 28.9% from 2015. Catawba County’s average 2020 wage was $43,920, up 19.5% since 2015, and Burke’s average 2020 wage was $37,414, up 13.6% since 2015.


“GDP, average private-sector wages, residential housing starts — we look to affect all of those and others in a positive way and to see measured growth over time,” Murray said.


Caldwell’s annual gross domestic product is closing in on Burke’s, which was $2.52 billion, just a little more than $150,000 more than Caldwell’s.


Catawba’s GDP of $8.4 billion in 2019 ranked 10th in the state, so even though it saw only 1% growth from 2018, that still amounted to a gain of more than $840,000, far more than Caldwell’s growth in monetary value.

1-12-2021 – Local housing industry flexing muscle

Posted on: January 12th, 2021 by admin


January 12, 2021



By Guy Lucas


Despite the pandemic-related economic crisis, Caldwell County’s residential construction industry hit milestones in 2020 that it hadn’t come close to for a dozen years.


Both in terms of the number of permits and total construction value, it was the industry’s best year since 2007, said Deborah Murray, the executive director of the Caldwell County Economic Development Commission. Murray reviewed the permit numbers along with other 2020 data with the EDC’s board of directors on Tuesday.


In 2020 there was an average of 35 permits a month, the highest since 2007’s 45 a month and nearly double the low mark of 20 a month in 2012.


More importantly, the total value of the houses being built in 2020 surpassed 2007’s approximately $60 million.


“We’re going to see, I hope, a lot more of this,” she said.


Residential construction in the county from the 2008 onset of the Great Recession, which brought most residential construction in the county to a screeching halt, until 2020 was essentially all custom homes, but now there are two more traditional housing developments underway and another is expected to begin in 2021, Murray said.


And she again highlighted the renovation of historic industrial buildings near downtown Lenoir, anchored by the former Blue Bell building, into market-rate apartments. That development will be called Lenoir Mills, and the first apartments are expected to open in late September, Murray said.

1-5-2021 – Job numbers show stagnation

Posted on: January 5th, 2021 by admin


January 5, 2021



By Guy Lucas

Jan 5, 2021 Updated 21 min ago


Caldwell County’s unemployment rate in November was unchanged from the previous month as hiring appeared to stall, a situation also reflected in statewide numbers.


Caldwell’s rate stayed at 6.6%, and both the size of the county’s labor force and the number of those unemployed barely changed from October, the N.C. Labor and Economic Analysis Division reported.


But that put Caldwell in a better position than most of the rest of the state. The local unemployment rate rose in 76 of the 100 counties, including neighboring Burke and Catawba counties.


In most of the counties seeing an increase, however, the unemployment rate rose more than in Burke and Catawba. Both Burke and Catawba saw their rate rise by 0.1 of a percentage point, to 5.8% in Burke and 6.2% in Catawba, while in two-thirds of the other counties with an increase it went up by 0.2 to 0.4 of a point.


The lack of movement in the local unemployment rate was no surprise, said Deborah Murray, the executive director of the Caldwell County Economic Development Commission.


“We were not expecting improvement in the November or December employment numbers, given the continued hold of the coronavirus and the comments from employers,” she said.


Although November normally does not see significant change in unemployment numbers, there remains a large gap between employment before the COVID-19-related shutdowns last spring and current employment. Nearly 3,000 fewer Caldwell County residents were employed in November than last February, according to the N.C. Budget and Tax Center, citing an analysis by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That is a gap of 8.3%.


Only five counties still had a larger percentage decline in employment as of November – and two were Catawba and Alexander, at 8.4%. Burke was tied with Caldwell at 8.3%. The overall Hickory region’s 8.3% decline was second only to the Asheville area’s 8.4%.


Those percentages of lost jobs are higher than the unemployment rate, indicating that some of those who lost jobs in the spring may not be actively looking for a job. Some of those may not be looking for work – some may have retired or are staying home to watch after children who are learning remotely, for instance.


Local employers consistently report they have difficulty finding workers to fill jobs, Murray said.


“More and more employers are incorporating signing bonuses, employee referrals and increased wages among other strategies to attract new employees. Orders are strong and the backlog for orders seems to be increasing in a number of manufacturing plants,” she said. “Our employers are doing a lot with a strained employee base given the scheduling challenges that quarantines and isolations have added to the mix. When you add in the supply chain and logistics issues you have a truly challenging scenario. We have a lot of heroes in our midst these days, not the least of which are our employers and their management teams still successfully battling on their own front lines.”


In terms of the unemployment rate, metro areas in Eastern North Carolina fared the worst from October to November: Fayetteville remained with the state’s highest unemployment rate, going up 0.1 point to 8.4%, and Rocky Mount still had the second-highest, going up 0.1 point to 8.3%. Goldsboro and Jacksonville increased 0.2 to 6.1%, and Greenville went up 0.1 to 6.1%.


The Hickory metro area’s rate was unchanged at 6.1%.

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