Archive for December, 2016

12/30/2016 – October revision gives Caldwell best jobless rate since 2001

Posted on: December 30th, 2016 by admin


December 30, 2016


Caldwell County officials have been hoping for months to see the local unemployment rate drop below 5 percent.


Turns out it already did, and we missed it.


In figures released by the N.C. Labor and Economic Analysis Division, the October unemployment rate was revised downward from 5 percent to 4 .9 percent, making October the first time the rate had been lower than 5 percent since April 2001, when it was 4.8 percent.


Unfortunately, the rate crept back up to 5 percent for November, the same rate as it was in September.


The Labor and Economic Analysis Division did a lot of downward revision of October’s rate: It went down in 64 of the state’s 100 counties.


In 33 of those 64 counties – including Caldwell and neighboring Catawba, Burke, Alexander, and Wilkes – the rate for November went back up by the same amount as the October revision went down.


Caldwell County Economic Development Commission Executive Director Deborah Murray said last month that breaking the 5 percent barrier would be of mostly psychological importance since the county has been seeing sustained improvement in both the size of the labor force and the number of the people with jobs.


In November, the number of people reporting they had jobs and the size of the labor force both went up by a small amount. The labor force grew just a bit more than the number of those with jobs, though, accounting for the increase in the unemployment rate.


Since May, Caldwell County’s unemployment rate has gone up and down by only small amounts. It’s a full percentage point lower than in January and February, when it was 6 percent.


By Guy Lucas, (Lenoir) News-Topic



12/30/2016 – Woodgrain Millwork announces $4M planned pellet mill expansion

Posted on: December 30th, 2016 by admin


December 30, 2016


Wood products manufacturer Woodgrain Millwork, Inc. announced it is building a $4-million pellet mill at its Lenoir manufacturing site along Complex Street that will create 15 new full-time jobs.


The 15,000-square-foot project, which is expected to be completed this spring, will manufacture and package wood fiber pellets to be used for animal bedding and fuel products. Woodgrain Millwork will sell its products to retail outlets and distribution centers.


“We are really excited to continue to grow on site,” Woodgrain Millwork Eastern Regional Manager Robb Hitch said. “From an environmental standpoint, this will allow us to use 100 percent of the (wood) fiber that is on site at all times.”


Based in Fruitland, Idaho, Woodgrain Millwork currently manufactures wood moulding products at its Lenoir facility and employs approximately 150 people. Founded in 1954, Woodgrain Millwork is the largest wood moulding products supplier to Home Depot.


“Woodgrain Millwork was the first large post-recession job creation project for the EDC,” Caldwell County Economic Development Commission Executive Director Deborah Murray said. “This is even better news that they continue to build and strengthen on a site that for so many years was the hub for industry in Lenoir.”


In August, Caldwell County approved a local jobs incentive of $2,000 per job for up to 30 new jobs to be created in Lenoir. Payments will be made only after the jobs have been created and maintained for one year. In addition, Woodgrain Millwork was approved for a five-year tax grant that is based on the increased property tax value from the new project.


Woodgrain Millwork formally located its manufacturing business in Lenoir in 2014 through an $8 million investment at the former Blue Ridge Panels site.


12/29/2016 – Dairy Queen coming to former Jack in the Box site in Lenoir

Posted on: December 29th, 2016 by admin


December 29, 2016


A Blizzard is coming to Lenoir.


Make that a Dairy Queen Blizzard.


Officials from Bloomington, Minn.-based Fourteen Foods, a Dairy Queen franchisee that operates nearly 200 stores throughout the country, have confirmed that the restaurant will be locating in the former Jack in the Box at 344 Blowing Rock Boulevard.


Work currently is under way to renovate the building into a Dairy Queen site, and the new eatery is expected to open in March. The building has been vacant since Jack in the Box closed in March 2015.


Along with its signature Blizzards, Dairy Queen features burgers, chicken, soft serve ice cream, and ice cream cakes. First opened in 1940 in Joliet, Ill., Dairy Queen has nearly 5,000 restaurants across the U.S.


Dairy Queen is the latest national franchise to locate in Lenoir. Earlier this year, Zaxby’s opened in the North Hill Plaza shopping center. In addition, Chick-fil-A currently is building a restaurant in the Lenoir Crossing shopping center that is expected to open in early February.

12/21/2016 – State report shows improvement in Caldwell County economy

Posted on: December 21st, 2016 by admin


December 21, 2016


Caldwell County will remain designated as one of the state’s 40 most economically distressed counties for another year, but the economic statistics the state uses to evaluate counties for that status indicate that Caldwell’s economy may be in its best shape in years.


In the areas measured by the state for determining each county’s economic health, Caldwell had the greatest improvement in median household income, which rose about 11 percent from $34,811 in 2013, the 19th lowest in the state to $38,653 in 2014, the 40th lowest in the state, according to figures from the N.C. Labor and Economic Analysis Division.


The growth stood out the most to Caldwell County Economic Development Commission Executive Director Deborah Murray because only 42 of the state’s 100 counties had any improvement in household income. In 49 counties, that number declined.


“Once I started looking into it, I was really pleased with the county’s progress during the past year,” Murray said. “It’s nice to see the needle move on some of these items.”


The average unemployment rate in Caldwell County also dropped from 6.32 percent in the period of October 2014 to September 2015, 39th highest in the state, to 5.51 percent in September 2016, 49th highest in the state.


The property tax base per capita – which is the total taxable value of the property divided by the population – rose from $73,463 in fiscal 2015-16 to $77,580 in fiscal 2016-17. That’s a slight improvement, going from the 34th lowest to the 37th lowest.


The one dark spot in the statistics for Caldwell was the five-year poverty rate, which increased from 19.5 percent in 2009-13 to 20.5 percent in 2010-2014. Many counties saw an increase in the five-year poverty rate.


Each December the N.C. Department of Commerce divides the state’s 100 counties into three tiers. The 40 designated as Tier 1 are considered the most in need of economic help, and the designation can help them get certain grants and other aid. Another 40 are Tier 2, and the 20 counties that are the best are Tier 3.


Counties economic factors alone, Caldwell ranked as the 36th most distressed of North Carolina’s counties in the 2017 County Development Tier Rankings released this month by the N.C. Labor and Economic Analysis Division.


That’s a large jump in one year, from 20th in the 2016 listing.


That also ties Caldwell with neighboring Burke County, which is designated as a Tier 2 county.


The economic factors alone do not determine tier status, though. The state makes adjustments based on population size and poverty level. A county with fewer than 12,000 people is automatically Tier 1 regardless of its economy, and a county with fewer than 50,000 people is Tier 1 if it has a povery rate of at least 19 percent.


The state first designated Caldwell as Tier 1 in 2005 following waves of layoffs in the furniture industry, and Caldwell remained Tier 1 until 2014, when Caldwell County barely inched out of the Tier 1 status despite ranking as the 22nd most economically distressed. Last year, it ranked 20th, just barely bad enough to regain Tier 1 status.


The county now has far better numbers than it did two years ago, but the state requires that a county remain at Tier 1 for two years before it can change tiers.


By Guy Lucas, (Lenoir) News-Topic







12/8/2016 – Honda motorcycle, ATV dealership coming to Granite Falls

Posted on: December 8th, 2016 by admin


December 8, 2016


Honda of North Carolina

An exclusive Honda motorcycle and ATV dealership is coming to Granite Falls and is expected to be open by the beginning of 2018, according to a franchise representative.


Honda of North Carolina, Inc. plans to build a 20,000-square-foot sales and service facility at 4625 Hickory Boulevard along U.S. 321 South and adjacent to Lake Hickory Veterinary Hospital.


Construction is expected to begin in February or March, with a scheduled opening planned for January 2018. Initially, the company plans to have approximately 15 employees, growing to up to 30 within two years.


The Honda Powerhouse dealership – one of only 50 in the United States with the exclusive Honda brand – will offer sales and service of motorcycles, ATVs, side by sides, and power equipment.


The overall investment, not including inventory, has been projected at $3 million.


Representatives from the franchise first contacted the Caldwell EDC and the Town of Granite Falls in the summer of 2015.


“This will be a great retail and tourism draw,” Caldwell County Economic Development Commission Executive Director Deborah Murray said. “We are very pleased to have the Honda brand in Caldwell County and believe this will continue to enhance our growing retail base.


“The EDC and the Town of Granite Falls Planning Department have worked together to facilitate the opening of this new establishment,” Murray said. “We are very appreciative of the work Granite Falls Town Manager Jerry Church, Town Planner Greg Wilson, Mayor Barry Hayes, the town council, and staff have done to make this project a reality.”


12/5/2016 – Healthy Home Market unveils logos, store plan

Posted on: December 5th, 2016 by admin


December 5, 2016


Farm 2 Family Full LogoFarm 2 Family Just WordsHHM Lenoir Footprint 01p v3


A discount grocery store in Lenoir will be replaced next month by a more upscale grocery with a large area emphasizing organic foods, vitamins, and foods sold by the pound in a style similar to Whole Foods.

Healthy Home Market, which operates three stores in the Charlotte area, has signed a lease with Alex Lee Inc. for the building at 1208 Hickory Boulevard on McLean Drive across U.S. 321 from Lowe’s Home Improvement where a Just$ave currently operates.


Just$ave will close sometime in mid-January and re-open about five days later at Farm to Family Foods, said Richard Cashion, the vice president of operations for Healthy Home Market. The tenative target date for the opening is Jan. 20.


The new store will differ from Healthy Home Market stores. which are similar to Whole Foods and Fresh Market, in that about 60 percent of the store will be like a traditional, service-oriented upscale grocery such as Publix, Cashion said, “but not overpriced like Publix.”


Lenoir’s Farm to Family Foods will be the first store that Healthy Home Market has designed for a more rural market, and the company hopes eventually to open more in other areas of the state, Cashion said. The store’s concept is similar to one called Fields Foods that Cashion opened in St. Louis with a previous company.


Fields Foods’ website, echoing much of what Cashion said about Farm to Family, says that the store specializes in “products that are pesticide-free, organic, non-GMO, gluten-free, and natural in order to provide healthier, fresher, better-tasting choices for our customers” but that it also carries “many traditional options from popular name brands.”


Chad Hartman, director of marketing for Healthy Home Market, said the company had been looking in a number of small cities for a place to try the Farm to Family concept, and while in discussions about a possible partnership with Merchants Distributors, Inc. – a major grocery distributor that like Just $ave is owned by Alex Lee Inc. – learned that the Lenoir location of Just$ave was available.


“We’ve been looking everywhere,” Hartman said. “This just happened to be one that became available and we closed a deal with it.”


Healthy Home Market was not among the grocery companies that the Caldwell County Economic Development Commission has been trying to recruit to Caldwell County, but Caldwell EDC Executive Director Deborah Murray said the upscale options of the new store will be exactly the kind of amenity that the county needs to get more residential development.


“It’s going to be something that will take off like wildfire,” Murray said.


Cashion said all of the 44 current Just$ave employees were offered jobs, and “actually some of them got raises.” The company expects to hire “at least 10 to 14” more people, with entry-level wages starting at $9 an hour, he said.


By Guy Lucas, (Lenoir) News-Topic



12/2/2016 – Healthy Home Market coming to Lenoir in January

Posted on: December 2nd, 2016 by admin


December 2, 2016


A Charlotte-based grocer that promotes health and specialty foods is coming to Lenoir and will be open for business early next year.


Healthy Home Market is going to operate in the building currently occupied by Just$ave Foods at 1208 Hickory Boulevard. According to Healthy Home Market Vice President of Operations Richard Cashion, the company expects to open its store on Jan. 20, a week after Just$ave closes its doors.


Founded in 1979 by Jerry and Betty York, Healthy Home Market currently has three locations in Charlotte. The store has been compared to a cross between Whole Foods and Publix with affordable prices.


Healthy Home Market – – offers bulk foods, organic and local produce, gluten-free foods, vitamins, craft beer and wine, and all-natural meat and dairy products.


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