Archive for February, 2018

2/22/2018 – Students take a tour of the modern furniture industry

Posted on: February 23rd, 2018 by admin


February 22, 2018


By Jordan Davis
(Lenoir) News-Topic


A group of educators, counselors and administrators from the Caldwell County Schools toured two Fairfield Chair Company plants Wednesday to help them learn how modern furniture plants are unlike the ones where their parents and grandparents may have worked.


The group marveled as the workers used computer-controlled machines that were able to detect patterns in fabric and use the information to guide where it was cut. Such sophisticated machinery and software drastically cuts production time.


Keith Hindman, the middle school coordinator for Caldwell County Schools, said the purpose of this tour was to show educators and counselors how much the production industry has changed in the past five years and how many opportunities are available for their students.


“It is vital for our students to understand the wonderful opportunities for employment here in Caldwell County,” he said. “Production such as this is not only coming back but flourishing now.”


There are still many entry-level positions available, but many of the jobs have evolved with technology and require new sets of skills — particularly computer skills.


Greg Davis, instructional management coordinator for the school system’s Career and Technical Education Department, said his department is teaching computer skills to middle and high school students every day.


“The amount of skills needed and the technology here, compared to my father’s generation, is tremendous,” he said. “You have to have some technical skills to do this, which is what we teach in CTE. … I see all levels of employment here for students – two-year, four-year degrees or high school education – it is all available to them.”


Davis said that it is now educators’ job to let Caldwell County students know about the high-paying jobs available in the area.


“One of the best-kept secrets today are these opportunities,” he said.


Laura Brinkley, CTE coordinator, said that counselors and teachers were invited on this tour because they are face-to-face with students every day and can convey how much the industry is changing.


“There is a new type of work for these kids, but I think a lot of people have a bad taste in their mouth about the furniture industry. I think they see it as dirty and old-fashioned, but it’s changing,” she said. “A lot of kids are interested in this computerized equipment that has been brought into the industry.”

2/20/2018 – State, local officials meet with NCDOT reps to discuss Connelly Springs Road/Castle Bridge closure

Posted on: February 20th, 2018 by admin


February 20, 2018



By Virginia Annable

(Lenoir) News-Topic


No one’s happy with plans in a few months to close Castle Bridge, which carries Connelly Spring Road over the Catawba River, but local officials aren’t sure what they can do about it.


A group of county and municipal officials and three state legislators met Monday at Cajah’s Mountain Town Hall with four N.C. Department of Transportation representatives to learn more about closure, which is scheduled to start in June so crews can begin work to replace the entire top portion of the bridge, a project that could take 18 months.


The NCDOT announced the closure in January, and several local officials who attended Monday’s meeting said that didn’t leave much time for anyone to absorb the implications, including how it will affect businesses on both sides of the Catawba River.


Mike LaBrose, one of three Caldwell County commissioners who attended, said he went to the meeting to learn what he could.


“I still have great concerns with the project, but now I know it needs to be replaced,” he said. “I just wish DOT would do a better job in communicating. … Even the DOT guy said, ‘We need to do a better job of informing people.’ … The bridge is getting replaced this summer and we’re still learning things.”


Commissioner Jeff Branch agreed.


“We’re still trying to work out all the kinks as to the best way to do this without hurting as many businesses … and commuters,” he said.


Officials at Monday’s meeting discussed whether there was a way to leave one lane open on the bridge during construction — NCDOT officials previously have said the bridge is too narrow for the equipment, lane dividers and a lane of traffic — or whether more money could be found to pay for building a new bridge while the existing bridge stays open.


State Rep. Destin Hall, R-Caldwell, said he hopes NCDOT officials gained appreciation for local concerns about the proposed closure.


“We made it very very clear that if it can safely be kept at least partially open, they should do that. … They said they would go back to the drawing board and look at ways to mitigate the impact,” Hall said.


The meeting also included two other state legislators: Sen. Warren Daniel, R-Burke, who represents the district that Caldwell County is part of for the 2018 election, and state Rep. Hugh Blackwell, R-Burke.


The NCDOT plans to host a public meeting about the project likely in May, Hall said.


2/18/2018 – Companies reaching out to CCC&TI, schools to prepare students for skills-based jobs

Posted on: February 19th, 2018 by admin


February 18, 2018


By Virginia Annable
(Lenoir) News-Topic


Every day, Nikki Kapetanis works with robots.


The 18-year-old is a mechanical engineering student at Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute, but a year before her scheduled graduation, she landed a job working with advanced machines and engineering design software at Timber Wolf Forest Products in Hudson, while still going to school.


That’s because local companies are clamoring for workers like Kapetanis, who have advanced technical skills needed to run the equipment used in modern manufacturing.


Bemis Manufacturing Co. in Lenoir is one of those companies. Over the next seven years, nearly half of the technical workers at Bemis will reach retirement age, which could open about 30 jobs.


To prepare, Bemis is hunting for fresh faces, but there simply aren’t enough people with the electrical and mechanical background needed for the high-tech plastics manufacturing plant, said Scott Adams, the plant’s head process technician.


“We have a technical need at this plant that we have a hard time finding the technical skills for,” Adams said.


The situation here reflects a national problem. Companies all over the county use advanced technology and are trying to grow while many of their current workers are heading toward retirement, said Deborah Murray, executive director of the Caldwell County Economic Development Commission.


“These manufacturing jobs we have are a different caliber than they used to be,” Murray said. “It makes it difficult to replace the retiring workforce and find young people to join their companies.”


Bemis’ plant uses robots to make custom plastic pieces, and those robots need human hands to help. Adams looks for people with an interest and some training in science, technology, problem-solving and, if he gets so lucky, plastics.


“The process (we do here) is a technical process,” Adams said. “Our technicians are required to know not only the fundamentals of plastics and polymers but also robotics. … That’s where we’re having a hard time finding the skill set.”


Companies including Bemis, Exela Pharma Sciences and Sealed Air Corp. are coming together with the EDC and CCC&TI to combat the problem.


That involvement is what got Kapetanis,18, to where she is today.


In her freshman year at South Caldwell High School, Kapetanis took a drafting class and quickly found her calling in design and mechanics. She kept taking engineering-related classes in high school but didn’t know what was next until a tour of CCC&TI’s mechanical engineering training room.


Bemis and Exela donated advanced equipment for students to learn with, so they come out of programs with skills related to what the companies do. Kapetanis was in awe. Now working with those robots on a daily basis, she said they’re essential for her training.


“It changes everything,” she said. “You’re getting your hands on machines you’ll be using all through your career.”


Companies also let the EDC and college know what they’re looking for in a worker, and CCC&TI is listening, college President Mark Poarch said.


“We want to know the training they need for their incumbent workers and need for jobs they can’t fill,” Poarch said. “For example, if they have a certain need for a machine operator, we can develop short-term programs designed for a company.”


A job listing in a CCC&TI newsletter is how Kapetanis landed her job at Timber Wolf, one she plans to keep after graduation. Through the college she has learned about opportunities in Caldwell County she didn’t expect.


“I didn’t actually know about the industry here. … It turned out there were jobs in Caldwell County that needed my skills,” she said.


Input from local companies has pushed the college to create a career center, where students can learn about careers and job openings in Caldwell County, Poarch said.


It’s all about creating a pipeline for young people in Caldwell County to jump into jobs, Poarch, Murray and Adams agree. If kids in high school have an interest, there is a path for them to take, whether that’s a four-year degree, a 90-day training program, the Caldwell Career Center Middle College or an apprenticeship in a company.


To get that process started in schools, Adams and Krista Bridgwood, human resources manager for Bemis, began speaking to public school classes about what the comapny does, hoping to pique students’ interests, Bridgwood said.


“Some people have that hands-on technical aptitude that they can go to a community college and develop. … We’re working with them to say these are the skills we need for someone to come in and be successful,” Bridgwood said.


The EDC is also going into schools, spreading that word that manufacturing in Caldwell is different than it used to be, Murray said. She wants to let students know they can make good money in safe, clean, advanced manufacturing environments that are different than where their parents worked. Caldwell went from a focus almost entirely on furniture and textiles to a diversified economy with a wide range of manufacturers, Murray said.


The opportunities for manufacturing work are far different now than even just 10 years ago, she said.


“Kids now should and can expect to do as well or better than their parent in Caldwell County … because of the transformation in industry,” Murray said, provided they set out to learn the skills they need.


The technology that manufacturers use is constantly changing, Murray said, which can make it difficult to train people for specific positions. Businesses, schools and local government are trying to fill positions that may be using completely different technology in five years.


“Technology puts us in a place where we have to respond in a nanosecond, while technology is changing even faster,” Murray said.


2/14/2018 – Caldwell is Hiring scheduled for Monday, May 7 at J.E. Broyhill Civic Center in Lenoir

Posted on: February 14th, 2018 by admin


February 14, 2018



Since 2010, Caldwell is Hiring has given thousands of people the chance to meet one-on-one with employers looking to fill immediate or future needs. The 16th Caldwell is Hiring has been scheduled for Monday, May 7 from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. at the J.E. Broyhill Civic Center in Lenoir.


Sponsored by the Caldwell County Economic Development Commission and Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute, Caldwell is Hiring is regarded as one of the best events in the region. The October 2017 Caldwell is Hiring attracted a record number of companies, and employer interest is expected to remain at peak levels for the May 7 event.


Caldwell is Hiring offers a wide array of employment possibilities as well as information on how job-seekers can enhance their skills. Participants will be able to meet with a diverse group of companies and industries in areas such as manufacturing, health care, transportation, and retail.


“The reason Caldwell is Hiring has earned such a stellar reputation is because of the quality of the people attending and all of the outstanding companies that participate,” Caldwell County EDC Executive Director Deborah Murray said. “With the area economy in a strong state, along with employer needs to meet the increasing demand, we believe this Caldwell is Hiring presents the best opportunity ever for an individual to find a job or advance into a better job.”




Registration forms can be requested by emailing Murray at and filling out the required information. The number of jobs and the types of positions available, along with a contact person, must be submitted on the employer form. The past several Caldwell is Hiring events have reached capacity, so employers are encouraged to request and return their forms once the registration window opens.


Information regarding available jobs will be posted on the Caldwell EDC website – – and on the Caldwell is Hiring page on Facebook.


2/13/2018 – Caldwell Transportation Update

Posted on: February 13th, 2018 by admin


February 13, 2018


In an effort to provide information regarding transportation projects affecting Caldwell County and its businesses and industries, the Caldwell EDC has formed a Transportation Committee.


The aim of the committee is to provide timely information regarding planned or ongoing projects, including scheduled meetings or informational sessions offered by the N.C. Department of Transportation.


The committee also will seek to provide suggested alternate routes during transportation projects.


Caldwell Transportation Update

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