Archive for July, 2022

7-15-2022 – WPCOG launches new app

Posted on: July 15th, 2022 by admin No Comments


July 15, 2022




Jul 14, 2022


LENOIR — After two years of development, hundreds of drone flights, and extensive work with community partners, the Western Piedmont Council of Governments (WPCOG) announced the launch of the N.C. Foothills Experience Web App. It’s a comprehensive program highlighting the rich collection of adventures, experiences, amenities, and food destinations across the four-county region, which consists of Alexander, Burke, Caldwell, and Catawba counties.


“The more amenities a place has, the more attractive it becomes to employers and employees,” said Duncan Cavanaugh, WPCOG transportation planner and data technician. “This tool will promote economic development. It goes hand-in-hand with living the kind of lifestyle that’s not just about work, but other things to do as well, because those are equally important.”


The project, which was made possible through funding from the EDA CARES Act, is a first-of-its-kind application designed to demonstrate to prospective residents and businesses — as well as current residents — that by relocating to or staying in this region, they can experience a high quality of life that offers an ideal work-life balance.


“We are excited to launch the N.C. Foothills Experience,” said Anthony Starr, WPCOG executive director. “Our region possesses so many great assets and things to do. This tool helps our residents and visitors easily access information, and it demonstrates how this area is the best of North Carolina.”


On Wednesday, July 13, the WPCOG hosted a launch event at its offices in Hickory. The launch event revealed the new N.C. Foothills Experience logo and a short demonstration of the app’s many capabilities.


With nearly 100 immersive drone videos, hundreds of photos, and several user-friendly maps, this one-of-a-kind web app celebrates the region’s quality of life by highlighting the many destinations and activities that make this area so special.


“Job seekers and current residents really want to live where there’s lots of fun and culture,” Cavanaugh said. “Businesses looking for new places to locate know a region with a high quality of life is key for recruiting and retaining employees.”


The web app, which can be found at, focuses on four key categories that contribute significantly to the region’s high quality of life. In Caldwell County, that includes:


  • Outdoor Adventures, featuring nearly 40 locations including local, state, and national parks, hiking/biking trails, boat access areas, greenways, and bicycle routes.
  • Fun Places, featuring about 25 locations including cultural amenities such as museums, libraries, festivals such as the Sawmills Fall Festival and the Blackberry Festival, and downtown.
  • Farm Fresh, featuring three local food sources such as farmers markets, U-Pick farms, roadside stands, and butchers.
  • Cool Spaces, featuring 10 locations including local breweries, wineries like the Twisted Vine Winery, distilleries, coffee shops, bike shops, skateboard shops, and outdoor outfitters.


Each location and event included within these four categories are represented by icons on maps, which users can click on to see immersive high-definition drone videos, photos, and engaging descriptions. Users can then click on another category to build their own personalized experiences. For example, after selecting a historic destination to visit, a user can click on the other categories to create a multi-destination experience, including a bite to eat at a local brew pub, a bike ride on a greenway, and a visit to downtown.


“We took the drone out to where people want to be,” Cavanaugh said. “We tried to make those drone videos and produce them in a way that makes people feel like they’re there. The drone is not flying super high, it’s flying at head level, so people can experience what it would be like to take a walk or hike along the greenway, for instance. The videos are high quality, high resolution videos.”


Visitors and prospective new neighbors will find a treasure trove of experiences to explore, while even long-term residents are likely to discover something new to try.


WPCOG expressed an appreciation to the many project partners and stakeholders who worked together to make this vision a reality. Project partners included 28 local government members, the U.S. Economic Development Administration, local tourism promotion and visitors bureaus, Main Street and downtown development programs, chambers of commerce and EDCs, local extension offices, and the hundreds of people across the region that assisted by providing photos of their locations and events.


To check out the app, visit


“Even now, gas prices are going up and local residents might be looking for places to go and fun things to do that they’ve never even heard about,” said Cavanaugh. “With this app, they can save their money and not have to drive so far.”

7-13-2022 -MDI announces 250,000-square-foot, $35 million expansion

Posted on: July 13th, 2022 by admin No Comments


July 13, 2022



Virginia Annable


Merchants Distributors LLC, a grocery wholesale distributor, is investing $35 million to expand its Caldwell County location. The expansion is expected to create 125 new jobs.


The company plans a 250,000- square-foot expansion to its perishable goods capacity, a release from North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said. The state and Caldwell County offered incentives for the expansion. City of Hickory are considering incentives.


The expansion will convert space in the Caldwell County facility that can be chilled to 34 degrees for perishable goods, the release said. The expansion will create jobs with an average salary of about $59,000.

“As our business continues to grow, demand for perishable products has increased the need for chilled warehouse space to service our customers and communities,” Brian George, chairman and CEO of MDI, said in the release. “North Carolina continues to support business growth and invest in workforce development which makes expanding at this location possible.”


The state of North Carolina offered MDI a Job Development Investment Grant of $1.08 million over 12 years. The grant is based on an estimate that the expansion will grow the state’s economy by $323.4 million, according to the release.


Caldwell County offered MDI a tax grant of 75% of taxes paid on new assessed value from the project over 10 years, Caldwell County Economic Development Commission Executive Director Deborah Murray said. The county also offered to pay MDI $2,000 for retaining 50 jobs that would have been lost had the expansion been done at a different distribution center, and $2,000 per each of the 125 jobs created.


MDI is Caldwell County’s largest employer, Murray said in a release. “Their success is so important to our region,” she said.


The city of Hickory was involved in bringing the expansion to the area, a release from Caldwell County said. The Hickory City Council will consider an incentive package soon, Hickory Communications Specialist Sarah Killian said.


“This significant investment and expansion benefits the region by preserving and creating high-quality jobs that provide security and stability for families in the Hickory metro,” Hickory Mayor Hank Guess said in the MDI release.


The expansion is expected to be complete in late 2023, said Kimberly George, the president of communications and corporate citizenship for the company.


The distribution operation, located in Caldwell County off U.S. 321, is still undergoing a $120 million expansion to its dry goods distribution area, Murray said. The expansion was announced in 2020. Once complete in early 2023, it is expected to create 111 new jobs, separate from the latest expansion.


The 2020 investment also received a JDIG grant from the state and incentives from Caldwell County and Hickory.

7-11-2022 – CCC&TI Small Business Center offers free workshops

Posted on: July 11th, 2022 by admin No Comments


July 11, 2022




Jul 8, 2022


LENOIR – CCC&TI’s SBC (SBC) offers free workshops, one-on-one assistance and many more services to help local small businesses. To reserve a seat at one of the free workshops, call 828-726-3065 or visit to register.


Upcoming free online and in-person workshops:


Creating Your First Employee Handbook – CCC&TI’s SBC will offer a free online workshop titled “Creating Your First Employee Handbook” from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 3. Regardless of whether a business has two employees or 20, there are workplace policies, procedures and expectations that are essential for employees to know and understand for a more effective organization. This session will teach participants the basics of creating an employee handbook, including understanding the “why,” provide a list of items that should be included and outline common mistakes to avoid.


Stabilizing Business Cash Flow Through Unstable Times – CCC&TI’s SBC will offer a free online workshop titled “Stabilizing Business Cash Flow Through Unstable Times” from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 7. Developing a financial strategy is important to survive a short-term cash crunch without putting long-term profitability at a disadvantage. Participants will learn to think creatively and positively to keep cash flowing, find ways to preserve and evaluate inventory.


Strategic Planning: Getting Started – CCC&TI’s SBC will offer a free in-person workshop at the HUB Station titled “Strategic Planning: Getting Started” from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 21. Statistics confirm that implementing a strategic plan nearly doubles a business’s chance of success. This session is designed to simplify the planning process and provide participants with actionable steps at all stages of strategic plan development. Experts will highlight key components of a successful plan and share a variety of strategies to effectively capture the voices of the board, staff and community in the final product. This workshop also offers a roadmap for non-profits who want an overview of strategic planning from start to finish as well as some practical tools to use along the way. The HUB Station Business Center is located at 143 Cedar Valley Road in Hudson.


Strategic Plan in Action: How to Keep it Current and Relevant –  CCC&TI’s SBC will offer a free in-person workshop at the HUB Station titled “Strategic Plan in Action: How to Keep it Current and Relevant” from 10:15 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 21. A strategic plan is only successful if an organization knows how to keep it current and relevant. This session is designed to help nonprofit leaders plan beyond the document creation process. Participants will learn to identify and overcome common barriers that stall strategic actions, implement practical strategies to keep the team engaged, and position the organization for on-going success. Experts will deliver action-focused tips and tools to ensure planning and resources do not go to waste. This workshop is ideal for organizations needing to take an existing plan off the shelf and organizations ready to implement a new strategic plan. The HUB Station Business Center is located at 143 Cedar Valley Road in Hudson.


Grant Writing 101: What the Pros Know – CCC&TI’s SBC will offer a free online workshop titled “Grant Writing 101: What the Pros Know” from 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 27. This webinar provides a comprehensive introduction to grant writing, outlines what should be included in each grant component, and how to steer clear of the most common pitfalls. This is a fast-paced online event that will help participants with the building blocks of a strong grant proposal. As funding becomes more difficult to secure, nonprofit organizations face significant challenges to fulfill their missions. This webinar reviews the questions nonprofits need to answer prior to searching and applying for grant funds, outlines the seven basic elements of most proposals, and shows participants how to match their needs to funder priorities. Participants focus on the major questions that need to be answered prior to writing a proposal and incorporating these answers into research, and ultimately a competitive proposal. Participants will leave this webinar with the tools required to determine the need for and content of strategy sessions, the elements of effective plans, implementation methods, and where to begin.


Show Me the Money: Effective Grant Research – CCC&TI’s SBC will offer a free online workshop titled “Show Me the Money: Effective Grant Research” from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 27. This webinar will explore the details needed to conduct successful grant research and expedite the grant writing process. Participants will learn the details needed to begin prospect research, how to locate available grants, how to navigate organizational websites to locate funding opportunities, and identify pitfalls to avoid that will save time and expedite research and writing processes.

7-8-2022 – CCC&TI promotes ‘Better Skills. Better Jobs’ campaign

Posted on: July 8th, 2022 by admin No Comments


July 8, 2022




14 hrs ago


LENOIR – Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute is inviting adult learners to explore opportunities for better skills, better jobs, and a brighter future at Cobra Family Fest Thursday, July 14 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. on the Caldwell Campus at 2855 Hickory Blvd., Hudson. The event is free and open to the public.


Cobra Family Fest provides the opportunity for new, current and prospective students to tour the Caldwell Campus with their families and learn about the programs offered. In addition to CCC&TI program and resources information, the event will include music, food, prizes, games and kid-friendly activities.


“From nursing and biopharmaceutical technology to information technology and truck driving training, and many more, our programs offer a direct pipeline to many of this area’s top employers,” said Dr. Mark Poarch, president of Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute.


“After a couple of years with challenges like no other, we know many adults are re-examining their work situations and area employers are searching for skilled talent,” Poarch said. “That’s why we are making an extra push this summer and fall to connect adults to a variety of fast, flexible and affordable programs at CCC&TI that can directly lead to jobs in our region.”


The Better Skills Better Jobs campaign is part of a project first launched in 2021 with five North Carolina community colleges to proactively reach out to and attract more adults back to college. The effort expanded to five additional colleges in 2022, the second year of the initiative. Funded by the John M. Belk Endowment, other key partners in the initiative include myFutureNC, the North Carolina Community College System, the Belk Center for Community College Research and Leadership at North Carolina State University, and many others.


The campaign will include direct outreach and support to reconnect with adults in the area who previously earned some college credits but left without completing a degree or certification; special events and presentations on campus and in the community to showcase the college’s many programs and opportunities; and a robust digital marketing and advertising campaign designed to reach and connect with more adult learners.


“The John M. Belk Endowment is pleased to partner with Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute and these outstanding community college leaders to catalyze and supercharge their efforts to recruit and support adult students,” said MC Belk Pilon, president and board chair of the John M. Belk Endowment.


“We know that many North Carolinians are looking for new challenges or a fresh start, and we believe our community colleges are a great place for their journey to begin. Our goal is for all residents of our state to have access to an education that will lead to skills, credentials, and degrees, and ultimately the opportunities to achieve their dreams and to help meet the workforce needs across our state,” Pilon continued.


“At myFutureNC, we are dedicated to ensuring that 2 million North Carolinians between the ages of 25 and 44 have a high-quality credential or a postsecondary degree by the year 2030. The vast majority of higher-wage jobs today require more than a high school diploma, but that is something that less than half of North Carolinians in this age range currently have,” said Cecilia Holden, president and CEO of myFutureNC. “Better skills lead to better jobs and to a stronger and more economically vibrant North Carolina. We are very pleased to be partnering on this important initiative.”


The John M. Belk Endowment is a private family foundation committed to transforming postsecondary educational opportunities to meet North Carolina’s evolving workforce needs. Its mission is aligned with the vision of its founder, the late John M. Belk, who served four terms as mayor of Charlotte and was CEO of the department store company Belk, Inc. Now led by Mr. Belk’s daughter, MC Belk Pilon, the John M. Belk Endowment continues to partner with innovative, results-oriented programs in North Carolina to further Mr. Belk’s values, legacy, and focus on the value of education as a means to personal fulfillment and community vitality. For more information, visit

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