Archive for July, 2017

07/26/17 – Granite Falls gains medical options

Posted on: July 27th, 2017 by admin


July 26, 2017


The opening of Caldwell UNC Health Care’s new medical park in Granite Falls allowed room to double the number of doctors the Caldwell UNC system has in Granite Falls, and that already is having an impact.


Ginessa Morales, a practice manager with Caldwell UNC Health Care, said that the new RiverCrest Medical Park has six doctors, up from three at Falls Medical Park, and is taking on new patients.


“With less and less providers taking new patients, we get anywhere from 10-20 new patients a week,” she said. “It is great to be able to provide care from birth and on.”


RiverCrest opened July 10, but Caldwell UNC waited until Tuesday for a ceremonial ribbon-cutting to show it off to some local officials. An open house for the public is being planned for sometime in the fall.


The new facility, near the Granite Falls Walmart, houses family medicine and internal medicine providers and a PLUS Urgent Care clinic that were all previously at the Falls Medical Park a little bit north on U.S. 321.


Laura Easton, president and CEO of Caldwell UNC, said this is just the first phase of expansion in Granite Falls. More services will open in the building in early 2018, and she hopes to hold a ground-breaking early next year for an adjacent building that will be a free-standing surgery center specializing in orthopedic ans spinal surgeries.


“So, this is just a start, but day one we doubled. I think a year down the road we will have an even greater depth of services,” she said.


The new building is 24,000 square feet, of which Caldwell UNC will use only about 15,000 square feet. Flagship Healthcare Properties out of Charlotte will recruit other medical businesses to fill the rest.


Caldwell UNC will now use Falls Medical Park to focus on women’s and children’s services, similar to Laurel Park Women’s Health in Lenoir, Easton said.


“We’ve been at the Falls Medical Park in Granite Falls for about 15 years. We have a big pediatric practice there and women’s services is growing there, so we were running out of space,” she said.


By Jordan Davis, (Lenoir) News-Topic

07/27/17 – MDI plugs in to new charging stations

Posted on: July 27th, 2017 by admin


July 27, 2017


In an effort to lower costs and pollution emissions, one of Caldwell County’s largest private employers is getting electrical outlets to power the refrigeration units on parked trucks at its distribution warehouse.


Duke Energy will install 36 outlets where the trucks park at Merchants Distributors Inc.’s warehouse, which is south of the Granite Falls Walmart, so the refrigerated trailers can plug in to stay cold between trips instead of keeping the trucks’ diesel engines idling, Duke and MDI announced Wednesday.


MDI, a wholesale grocery distributor that has more than 2,200 employees at the distribution center, ships products to about 600 stores, including refrigerated and frozen products.


The project is being funded by Duke as part of a $320,000 electrification project in North Carolina stemming from a 2015 settlement between Duke and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency after the EPA accused the company of violating the Clean Air Act at some coal power stations in North Carolina, a Duke press release said. A similar project to install 24 outlets at Big Boy’s Truck Stop in Kenly, which is in Johnston County southeast of Raleigh, is expected to be running in August.


MDI projects that the electrical outlets will reduce its fuel use by 31,000 gallons a year, the press release said.


Kimberly George, the vice president of communications and corporate citizenship at MDI parent Alex Lee Inc., said she didn’t know the projected cost of the electricity but said is should be much less than the cost of diesel fuel it will replace.


Some of MDI’s trucks already have equipment to plug in to outlets, George said, while others will have to be modified.


Construction and installation, done by Shorepower Technologies, has already started and is expected to be complete in the fall.


By Virginia Annable, (Lenoir) News-Topic


7/21/2017 – Bargain Hunt construction moving along in Lenoir

Posted on: July 21st, 2017 by admin


July 21, 2017


Construction on the new Bargain Hunt store, located in the former Bi-Lo space in Lenoir, continues to make progress.

7/19/2017 – Local twins growing high-tech crystals for Granite Falls company

Posted on: July 19th, 2017 by admin


July 19, 2017


In a quiet building in Granite Falls, a pair of twins spend their days together growing high-tech crystals.


Isaac and Zachary Brown have been inseparable their entire lives. They attended the same schools and took the same classes from middle school through years of graduate school to earn their doctorate degrees. They both got married in 2012, just a few months apart; Isaac married a woman who is a triplet, and Zachary married a twin. And then each couple had their first child four months apart – in both cases it was a daughter.


From birth until Zachary was married, Zachary and Isaac shared a room their entire lives. Now they live in nearby apartments in Hickory and are in search of land to build two houses next to each other.


They even have the same job, putting their material science degrees to use at Hoffman Materials LLC in Granite Falls, a short drive from their hometown in Maiden, just south of Hickory.


Throughout their lives people have encouraged the twins to be more independent of each other, Isaac said, but they “just always enjoyed being around each other.”


“I know a lot of people that hang out with their best friends more than their siblings,” he said. “It just so happens (Zachary’s) my best friend.”


Their upbringing is not what most might expect of research scientists using advanced technology to grow crystals that are used in such things as cellphones and defense technology. No one in their family previously had a college degree, and no one encouraged higher education. But their father taught them how to fix cars, lawn mowers, and “anything with an engine in it” from a young age, Isaac said, which got them interested in material science and electronics.


“Our dad did all sorts of things. He was sort of the master of all trades,” Isaac said. “He was conservative with his money, so we had to learn how to do a lot of things.”


The idea of going to college was never something that crossed their minds, Isaac said, until their high school teachers encouraged them, Zachary said.


“No one in our family went to university, so the whole idea of going to a four-year university wasn’t something our parents told us not to do, but it just wasn’t anything anyone in our family ever did,” Zachary said. “Everybody we grew up around, all the people we lived around weren’t really interested in going to college.”


The twins both dual-enrolled at Catawba Valley Community College while in high school, then went to Lenoir-Rhyne University for a year. Both played the trumpet in high school and earned music and academic scholarships for college. Without the scholarships, Isaac said they never would have gone to school.


From Lenoir-Rhyne the twins transferred to Appalachian State University together, majoring in both math and physics with a minor in music. After graduating in 2011, the idea of further education in graduate school was not a thought until an academic adviser encouraged them to apply.


Once an offer came for both of them to attend N.C. State University, they stopped applying anywhere else, Zachary said. Staying close to home and together has always been a priority.


After graduating in 2015 with their master’s and doctorates in material science, they began fielding job offers from as far as Germany and the U.S. West Coast but never expected to be hired together, let alone so close to home and in their area of research, Isaac said.


Hoffman Materials, formerly known as Krystal Engineering, announced in February 2016 it would move its crystal-growing operations to Granite Falls from Florida and eventually also bring processing operations there. The Bryans immediately called the phone number on the press release – the cellphone of CEO Mark Rauchfuss, who hired them right away.


“We thought coming home we were taking a step back in our careers … But this job is not a step back,” Isaac said.


Zachary agreed.


“That’s why we’re building houses next to each other, even though there’s potential of not working together, we can still spend time together,” Zachary said.


By Virginia Annable, (Lenoir) News-Topic



7/12/2017 – Hired Education program for Caldwell teachers looks to expand reach

Posted on: July 12th, 2017 by admin


July 12, 2017


A program that takes educators for  a series of tours to local industries and discussions with employers needs to be expanded, according to economic development officials.


The Hired Education program each year introduces approximately 30 teachers and administrators from Caldwell County Schools and Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute to the kinds of advanced manufacturing and high-skilled jobs that are growing in Caldwell County even though many people don’t seem to know they exist. Each year, those who have gone through the program have expressed astonishment at the variety of skilled jobs to be found here, involving such things as computers, chemistry, and robotics.


The intent of the program is to get teachers to spread the word to students and parents, and it’s working – but it’s not nearly fast enough, said Caldwell County Economic Development Commission Executive Director Deborah Murray.


“We need to blow this up and make it bigger and have more reach,” Murray told members of the Caldwell EDC’s Board of Directors. “We have cool jobs (in this county) and they (the teachers) don’t know it until they go through this.”


Members of the board agreed.


Marty Waters, president of Marlin Chemical, said the program has the intended effect on teachers, parents, and students.


William Howard, vice president of human resources for Bernhardt Furniture, said educating 30 teachers a year isn’t enough.


“It’s a very small percentage,” of the teachers in the school system, Howard said. “The challenge I think is to put it on steroids.”


Murray said one of the drawbacks to the way the program currently is structured is it calls on teachers to give up some of their first days of their summer break for the tours.


Discussions have begun on reworking the program.


“We need to figure out how to do it, and I hope do it next year,” Murray said.


By Guy Lucas, (Lenoir) News-Topic


7/12/2017 – Crystal manufacturer expanding to second building in Granite Falls

Posted on: July 12th, 2017 by admin


July 12, 2017


A high-tech crystal-manufacturing plant in Granite Falls is living up to promises of expansion, if a few months behind schedule.


The facility opened in mid-2016 and now Hoffman Materials LLC, originally called Krystal Engineering, is expanding its operation into a building next door, off Timberbrook Lane, company CEO Mark Rauchfuss said. The company was originally based in Titusville, Fla., and Carlisle, Penn., but moved its base to Granite Falls, in part because of the much lower cost of electricity that is vital to the work.


The expansion means the Granite Falls facility will not only grow the crystals, but also process them to end products used for cellphones and communications in defense devices and lasers, among other applications.


The current building will continue to be used for the growing of the crystals, run by physicist brothers Isaac and Zachary Bryan, while the new building is where the crystals are “post-growth processed.”


The company will begin hiring for the new work in the fourth quarter of this year, Rauchfuss said. The number of workers will grow from the current five to about 30 over the next 18 months.


The processing of the crystals currently is done at the Pennsylvania plant, but by the end of the first quarter of 2018 all of the crystals grown in Granite Falls will be processed next door, Rauchfuss said.


After a slow start, with the first crystals grown in January, Rauchfuss said he expects sales revenue to double by the end of 2017, and nearly double that by then end of 2018.


“We’re doubling our crystal growth capacity. We already basically doubled it,” Zachary Bryan said.


In March 2016, the company was recommended for $10 million in industrial development revenue bonds to help pay for expansion, but the bonds have not been issued yet.


“There are certain conditions you have to fulfill,” Rauchfuss said. “And we’re running about six months to a year behind our schedule.”


While the product may be high-tech, Rauchfuss and the Bryans compare the process to that of a furniture factory, with cutting, edging, polishing, and finishing.


“It’s really just a glorified machine shop,” Isaac Bryan said.


“It’s the same concept. It’s just on a different scale,” Zachary Bryan added.


By Virginia Annable, (Lenoir) News-Topic



7/11/2017 – 80 Acres Farms expanding space, equipment for high-tech operation

Posted on: July 11th, 2017 by admin


July 11, 2017


Mike Zelkind imagines paradise – a beach, sand, palm trees, sun, maybe even a Mai Tai – then forgets everything, because he’s building a paradise for plants.


“Plants ‘see’ things … very differently than people do,” Zelkind said. “You gotta think like a plant.”


At 80 Acres Farms in Granite Falls, Zelkind and Tisha Livingston are creating perfectly controlled environments to grow crops in former shipping containers. The company opened its Granite Falls facility last fall, and this fall the company will expand.


The company just bought the 20,000-square-foot building behind its current facility, in the former Hollin Gate building on York View Court, so it can add more equipment and construction space.


Right now the team builds about one crop-ready container every five weeks, chief engineer Tracy Canipe said. With the extra space, parts for 10 to 15 containers can be built at one time, which will allow the team to assemble about two containers every three weeks.


The company takes ownership of the new space in September and will start using the added room immediately.


The facility makes small, hydroponic farming operations, most of them based in converted, 40-foot shipping containers. The goal is to allow consumers everywhere, particularly in urban areas, to have access to fresh, locally-grown produce year-round.


The company builds the containers for the five 80 Acres growers in Cincinnati, Ohio; Daphne, Ala.; and Springdale, Ark. The company’s long-term plans call for expanding to more growers in more states.


While there is no “grow zone” locally making use of 80 Acres’ products, Zelkind said if an interested grower and a partnership with a local produce buyer in Caldwell County came along, the company would be open to start growing in the area.


“You have to have an interest in the community first,” Livingston said.


Before opening its facility, 80 Acres bought assembled, plant-ready growing containers from a company in Holland.


The expansion also will allow 80 Acres to do more experimenting and research on what set-ups work best for different plants.


Canipe and his team work to design the right mix of airflow, lighting, carbon dioxide, humidity, water, nutrients, and temperature. Soon the team will test grow in the containers, Zelkind said, to learn more about the growers’ side of the operation, such as how different plans grow and what systems are easiest for growers.


“To us, the combination of a company that is successful is to have engineers that understand growing, and growers that appreciate engineering,” Zelkind said.


By Virginia Annable, (Lenoir) News-Topic




7/7/2017 – Caseworx uses high-tech factory to speed up cabinet-making process

Posted on: July 7th, 2017 by admin


July 7, 2017


Over the years, contractors John Moore and John Bostian felt the need for cabinets built more quickly than what they could get.


The pair worked together at Brushy Mountain Builders, a contracting business Moore owns in Lenoir, and often had to delay jobs to wait for cabinets to be built.


“What we were having trouble with was getting cabinets in a timely manner,” Moore said. “And that’s what was really hurting us with our jobs, was waiting on cabinets to come in.”


In 2015, they started Caldwell Cabinets of N.C. and opened a $500,000 facility in Sawmills to build custom cabinetry, branded as Caseworx, with advanced machinery that cuts built time by weeks.


“On the construction side, scheduling is everything,” Bostian said.


After careful, computerized cabinet design by engineers, a software program turns the design into code, which is sent to the machines on the shop floor.


“We have as much time and effort on this side of the wall than we do on the shop side of the wall, as far as the engineering and design and software,” Moore said. “Th equipment makes almost the entire process mechanized, except putting the final pieces together.


Three advanced “computer numerical controlled” machines cut, label, side, and drill wood to make cabinets.


Each piece of wood is labeled with a barcode, which when scanned by a machine tells exactly where to cut or drill based on the coding done by the engineers, Bostian said.


The technology makes a process that would take three to four weeks in a normal cabinetry shop only three to four hours.


Originally, Moore and Bostian considered manufacturing cabinets only for their own contracting work and hiring about six workers. Instead, the company now builds for approximately 20 different contractors and has 28 employees, Bostian said.


Caseworx cabinets have made it to many different buildings in Caldwell, including all the cabinets in the new Blue Ridge Energy district office and some in Google’s data center, Moore said.


Right now, there are no plans to expand, but one day, the company might invest in more machines, Moore said.



By Virginia Annable, (Lenoir) News-Topic


7/5/2017 – Construction moving along at Caldwell UNC Health Care, White Tire Center

Posted on: July 5th, 2017 by admin


July 5, 2017







Construction is moving along for two building projects in Lenoir.


Caldwell UNC Health Care is in the midst of reshaping the look of its hospital along Mulberry Street, while White Tire Center is remodeling a former News-Topic building at the corner of Harper and Pennton Avenues.


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