Archive for April, 2018

4/27/2018 – N.C. Department of Commerce Deputy Secretary Will Miller visits Lenoir

Posted on: April 27th, 2018 by admin


April 27, 2018



North Carolina Department of Commerce Deputy Secretary Will Miller visited Lenoir this week. Miller heard a report from Caldwell UNC Health Care President and CEO Laura Easton about the hospital’s plans to add a mental health unit. Miller also met with Exela Pharma Sciences President and CEO Phanesh Koneru and toured the company’s Lenoir facilities. Participants in the meeting included Caldwell County Commission Chairman Randy Church, Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute President Dr. Mark Porach, Caldwell County Emergency Services Director Dino DiBernardi, Caldwell County Economic Development Commission Executive Director Deborah Murray, and Caldwell EDC Board of Directors Chairman Ann Smith.

4/24/2018 – Oxford Economics study reveals Google’s positive impacts on Caldwell County

Posted on: April 26th, 2018 by admin


April 24, 2018


By Virginia Annable
(Lenoir) News-Topic


Google’s data centers, including the one in Lenoir, boost both their local and state economies and have effects beyond just jobs at the centers, a recent study commissioned by Google found.


The Oxford Economics study looked at the impact of Google’s six data centers in the states and counties they inhabit. The study holds up Caldwell County as a poster child for a data center helping a community gain greater economic diversity.


The Lenoir data center opened in 2008, when the unemployment rate was rising sharply from a combination of furniture industry contraction and the national Great Recession.


Deborah Murray, the executive director of the Caldwell County Economic Development Commission, said Google changed how industrial recruitment targets viewed Caldwell.


“Google put us on the map in term of proving we could host such a giant,” Murray said.


When potential companies consider moving to Caldwell County, they meet with Google representatives, she said.


“They want to know how Google did it … because if Google can be here (in Lenoir), then they can too,” Murray said.


In North Carolina, Google has invested $1.2 billion in the Lenoir data center, which employs 250 people at the data center and also, through ongoing construction projects, created the equivalent of 143 full-time construction jobs. The data center has directly and indirectly added 1,024 jobs and $61.3 million in income to the state, the report found.


The effects of Google on the county can also be seen in the makeup of Caldwell’s population, the report said.


Because Google came to Lenoir, more people with four-year degrees are moving to Caldwell, the study found.


Based on comparisons to similar counties without a data center, there are 1 percent more people — 620 more people— who hold four-year college degrees here that there would be had the data center not been built. The report found similar effects in Berkeley County, South Carolina, and Douglas County, Georgia, which gained 1,234 and 895 more people with four-year degrees, respectively.


“This finding suggests that for whatever reason, the counties hosting a Google data center quickly became more attractive locations for college-educated workers to buy homes or take up residence,” the report said.


Lenoir Mayor Joe Gibbons said having Google here shows Caldwell County’s younger generation there are high-level jobs right at home.


“It shows them there’s a reason to stick around, that there are all types of jobs, and jobs that have bigger salaries,” he said. “And it encourages them to get as high of an education as they want.”


Google is the biggest taxpayer in Lenoir and Caldwell County. Although the incentives package that was used to bring Google here greatly reduces the company’s property taxes, the company still paid about $6 million in property taxes to the city and county last year, and has paid a total of over $35 million since 2008.


Having that tax base allows the local governments to keep taxes lower and have more funding for improvement projects, Gibbons said.


“That’s something we’re excited about,” he said. “It’s a huge thing for the city.”


Google’s partnerships with the community have also played a big role in the company’s contributions, Gibbons said.


Since 2008, Google has started the Gravity Games, brought Wi-Fi to downtown Lenoir, paid for part of the Lenoir Greenway to expand, donated computer equipment to various schools, community centers and charities and brought Wi-Fi to school buses.


“It’s absolutely outstanding,” Gibbons said. “I think (having Google) has been even more than we could have imagined.”


4/24/2018 – Caldwell County tracts included in Gov. Cooper’s Opportunity Zone request

Posted on: April 26th, 2018 by admin


April 24, 2018


By Guy Lucas
(Lenoir) News-Topic


North Carolina has asked the federal government to include 252 census tracts, including four that cover a significant portion of Caldwell County, in a new program intended to spur business investment, Gov. Roy Cooper’s office announced.


The federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (H.R.1) created the Opportunity Zone program. It would provide a tax break for some business investments in areas chosen for the program, which is intended to target census tracts where the poverty rate is 20 percent or greater or where family income is less than 80 percent of the area’s median income.


The census tracts in Caldwell County recommended by the state are:


  • 301, 303 and 308, which together cover a large part of Lenoir, including all of downtown, and southeast Caldwell County. From the intersection of Main Street and U.S. 321 in the Valmead area, the western boundary of this area follows Creekway Drive to Morganton Boulevard and then follows Morganton Boulevard all the way to the Burke County line, and on the east the boundary follows U.S. 321 to McLean Drive, to Norwood Street and then to Connelly Springs Road, which it follows all the way to the county line.


  • 311, which takes in most of the area between N.C. 268 and Wilkesboro Boulevard (the Lower Creek area is part of census tract 305).


North Carolina evaluated more than 450 of the state’s more than 1,000 low-income census tracts before settling on the 252, based in part on local officials’ recommendations and local development goals.


The Caldwell County Economic Development Commission Executive Director Deborah Murray recommended areas based on known investment projects under consideration and which areas had investment potential.


“We believe that this will help us further recruit and expand industry as well as encourage other supporting private investment, maybe even (new) housing, which is a high priority today,” Murray said. “We were quite diligent and insistent to recommend four census tracts that we believed had the greatest benefit as … (Opportunity Zones) based on current activity.”


Final certification from the federal government of areas chosen for the program is expected later this year, N.C. Commerce Secretary Anthony M. Copeland said.


“We’re optimistic that the Opportunity Zones program will attract new investments for our most distressed rural and urban areas,” Copeland said in the press release. “These investments will lead to new jobs, development of more affordable housing, and other economic benefits.”


4/20/2018 – Exela’s Koneru reflects about interview of former President George W. Bush

Posted on: April 20th, 2018 by admin


April 20, 2018


By Virginia Annable
(Lenoir) News-Topic


Exela Pharma Sciences CEO Phanesh Koneru went from Lenoir to Chicago with the daunting assignment of interviewing former President George W. Bush at a health care conference, but Bush flipped the roles.


“How great is it that someone who grew up in a small village in India can come to the U.S., be successful and be interviewing the president of the United States of America. How great a country is this?” Bush said, then rose to his feet in applause, prompting all 4,000 in the audience to their feet, applauding Koneru.


Koneru said, “It was overwhelming. I was floored. That really speaks to his character.”


Koneru started Exela in Lenoir in 2008 with a handful of employees in a 5,000-square-foot building, and it has been one of the area’s fastest-growing companies. It manufactures 19 high-quality, sterile, injectable pharmaceutical products in its state-of-the-art laboratories. Its products include medicines to control blood pressure during surgery, to seal heart valve defects in neonatal premature babies, and to fight infection in patients with severely compromised immune systems.


Koneru interviewed Bush for an hour at the ninth annual Becker’s Hospital Review conference — which brings together hospital business and strategy leaders to discuss how to improve hospital operations — as part of Exela’s sponsorship of the event. The pair spoke about health care and international trade, as well as leadership and even painting, but what Koneru remembers most is Bush’s candor.


“He’s very personable, he’s got a great energy, very positive. I mean, he looks at you as a person,” Koneru said. “And he’s very witty.”


In big easy chairs with a coffee table between them, the interview was more like a late night talk show than a news segment, and that made it a great experience, Koneru said.


“I was a little nervous, but once we were on stage and started talking, he made me feel very comfortable,” he said.


The interview bounced back and forth, with plenty of conversation, quick wit and in-depth answers. Bush was up-to-date on news — trade with China, war in Syria and tensions with North Korea — but was relaxed and personable.


“He was very on-point with current events and on top of things, but, I mean, the most striking thing was his candor,” Koneru said.


Bush said during the interview that the two qualities a leader needs to have are humility and honesty, which made Koneru wonder what working for the president must have been like.


“When I was sitting there listening to him speak, all I was thinking was what it would have been like to work for him, report to him — with his candor and honesty, his wanting to do everything right — and I thought how enriched my life would have been,” Koneru said.


Koneru said the chance to interview a U.S. president was unexpected, but it lines up with much of what he’s done: When an opportunity arises, he grabs it.


“I started in a small village in India, and I took things as they came, that’s how I ended up in the U.S., starting Exela, and how I ended up in Lenoir,” Koneru said. “I take things as they come.”


04/17/2018 – Exela Pharma Science’s Koneru interviews former President George W. Bush

Posted on: April 17th, 2018 by admin


April 17, 2018



On April 13, Exela Pharma Sciences President and CEO Dr. Phanesh Koneru interviewed former President George W. Bush at the 9th Annual Becker’s Hospital Review conference in front of 4,000 attendees.


The conference is attended by the nation’s leading healthcare CEOs, CFOs and hospital personnel responsible for decision making in America’s hospital networks.


President Bush was the keynote speaker at the meeting. During an hour of entertaining and informative interview, Koneru explored many aspects of the Bush Presidency – including 9/11, the financial bailout of Wall Street, and the current events affecting this country, including hotspots such as Syria, China, Russia and North Korea.


It was clear that President Bush was impressed with Koneru’s immigrant background, having grown up in India in a village of 80 people with no running water or electricity, and then to have emigrated to the U.S., get an Ivy League education, become a U.S. citizen and rise to the level of a Founder/CEO of a pharmaceutical company.


President Bush stated, “How great it is that someone who grew up in a small village in India can come to the U.S., be successful and be interviewing a President of the United States of America. How great a country is this?”


Koneru then received a standing ovation from the overflow crowd and President Bush.


Over the course of the interview, President Bush entertained the group with his insights into today’s political environment, his past successes and failures, and his new passion of painting. He spoke of the values of the Presidency and that the Office of the President is much bigger than the person who occupies the spot.


His candor and honesty were evident in his discussions on leadership, where he not only spoke about his successes, but also some of his failures and what decision making was involved in each. He offered advice to those in the audience that will strengthen them as leaders in the healthcare field and ensure America continues to improve its healthcare leadership role in the world.


Exela Pharma Sciences is proud to have sponsored President Bush’s keynote address. It was truly a memorable experience for all who attended, and a special occasion for those of us that work at and continue to build this great company we call Exela.

4/17/2018 – Caldwell EDC April 2018 Trends and Updates Newsletter

Posted on: April 17th, 2018 by admin


April 17, 2018



April 2018 Newsletter – Page 1


April 2018 Newsletter – Page 2


With winter finally (hopefully) out of the way, it’s time to enjoy spring and all of the promise for the rest of the year ahead. The Caldwell EDC is pleased to release its April 2018 Trends and Updates Newsletter.


Thanks again for all of your support to the Caldwell EDC!

4/17/2018 – Continental Structural Plastics recognized by PACCAR for excellence

Posted on: April 17th, 2018 by admin


April 17, 2018


The Continental Structural Plastics facility in Lenoir has received the 2017 Quality Achievement Award from PACCAR – one or the largest manufacturers of light-, medium-, and heavy-duty trucks in the world under the Kenworth, Peterbilt, and DAF nameplates.


The award is in recognition of the Lenoir manufacturing site meeting or exceeding PACCAR’s rigorous quality standards for the year. The CSP Lenoir facility supplies engine covers and wiper recess covers to PACCAR.


To be recognized, a supplier must operate near perfection – 10 or fewer defective parts for every 1 million parts shipped to PACCAR. These suppliers must also meet performance criteria for on-time delivery and support of PACCAR’s operating divisions and their customers.


PACCAR prides itself on a reputation of providing the marketplace with high-quality vehicles. Much of the credit for this goes to suppliers such as CSP for its ability to meet or exceed the OEMs quality expectations.


4/11/2018 – Push for new housing is a prime focus for Caldwell EDC

Posted on: April 11th, 2018 by admin


April 11, 2018


By Guy Lucas
(Lenoir) News-Topic


The law of supply and demand isn’t working when it comes to housing in Caldwell County, economic development officials say.


More than 50 new industries have opened here since 2008, about 1,000 jobs have been added each of the past four years – including many higher-paying jobs in high-skilled industries – and the median income is rising, but the housing here remains stagnant, said Deborah Murray, the executive director of the Caldwell County Economic Development Commission.


Murray told the EDC’s board of directors Tuesday that she had gathered housing and income statistics to help developers make the case to lenders for the need for new housing, especially multi-family housing. Lenders have been skeptical in the past, she said.


“The comment has been, ‘If you needed it, it would already be here,’” she said.


Nearly 85 percent of existing housing here is already occupied, and much of what is vacant is either delapidated or older and in need of renovation, she said: More than half of local housing units are more than 40 years old, and nearly 90 percent were built before 2000.


The problem is the worst for people wishing to move into an apartment. Less than 12 percent of the housing in Caldwell County is in multi-family developments.


Annual surveys of major local employers by the EDC have found that an increasing number of new hires live outside Caldwell County: 30 percent in 2015, 34 percent in 2016, and 40 percent in 2017, Murray said.


Those surveys are backed up by the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, which found in 2014 that about 6,600 people commuted from outside Caldwell to jobs here, and in 2015 that number grew to 8,700.


“This is the reason why we are really pressing and needing this type of growth,” she said.


4/8/2018 – Caldwell furniture industry bounces back from Great Recession

Posted on: April 9th, 2018 by admin


April 8, 2018


By Virginia Annable
(Lenoir) News-Topic


The furniture industry, both nationally and in Caldwell County, has rebounded since the recession, industry leaders say.


Since 2010 local furniture companies had been recovering from the Great Recession, but in the last five years growth has kicked up a notch, said Bernhardt president and CEO Alex Bernhardt Jr., whose company had its highest sales numbers ever last year.


“We’re not the only ones who’ve done well in this. The other Caldwell County manufacturers have done very well in the last five years as well,” he said.


McCreary Modern has had record years the past few year as well, president Rick Coffey said.


Over the past five years, Bernhardt Furniture’s employment has gone up 32 percent.


“Other people try to have the lowest headcount they can have, we’re trying to have the highest,” he said.


Other area companies have been adding workers as well, and that demand has shown in Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute’s furniture training program, said Ben Willis, the program coordinator.


“We’ve seen a large number of people wanting to come in to the training program,” Willis said. “We’ve seen our enrollment numbers increase in the last five years.”


The program helps furniture companies with a problem faced by many other industries — difficulty filling jobs, Bernhardt said.


“The biggest challenge we have now is to get young people to move here,” he said. “It’s hard to find folks to come work, and that’s a good problem to have.”


The types of jobs in the furniture business have changed, requiring more training for new and current employees.


“While we probably have less manufacturing jobs than we did 20 years ago, we have many more design, computer jobs, programming jobs, just a lot more high-tech jobs,” Bernhardt said.


Coffey said the technology is always changing.


“We’ve invested heavily in technology, automation and cross-training our employees,” he said.


But some parts of the industry have not changed much, such as upholstery and sewing, Willis said.


“That’s a craft where those skills are never going to change,” he said. “You can get faster sewing machines, but it’s essentially the same.”


Bernhardt feels that’s what will keep furniture in Lenoir.


“I think one reason we stay here is the tradition of craftsmanship,” he said. “There’s certain crafts that go along with furniture that are not easily learned, and many of these crafts are handed down from generation to generation. The labor base, the knowledge of how to finish a piece of furniture.”


Richard Bennington, a High Point University instructor in home furnishings, said the custom side of furniture is another aspect that keeps companies around.


“What is here in our area and will continue to be here is the custom part of the industry,” Bennington said. “That’s what you can’t import, … specific fabrics, finishes and more.”


Going forward, both Coffey and Bernhardt say online sales are the key to success in the future, and the next big challenge.


“That’s really where the market has shifted,” Coffey said. “You’ve got to have a combination of online and in-store.”


Coffey said finding a way people can see, feel and test the furniture, then buy it online is at the forefront of furniture companies’ mission.


4/6/2018 – Google’s Caldwell Wi-Fi program goes national

Posted on: April 6th, 2018 by admin


April 6, 2018


By Virginia Annable
(Lenoir) News-Topic


An idea that started in Caldwell County is spreading across the nation to bridge the gap for children who live in areas with less internet access.


Adding Wi-Fi to school buses was the brainchild of Lilyn Hester, Google’s Southeast head of external affairs, who said she came up the idea two years ago while talking to Pat Triplett of the Education Foundation of Caldwell County.


“We started brainstorming and she explained to me that kids have really long commutes, and I thought that was interesting and I thought, ‘What if we turn that time into to learning time?’” Hester said.


Together Google and the foundation launched the program, called Rolling Study Halls, in 2016 on 10 buses at Gamewell Middle School.


When Wi-Fi was added to the buses at Gamewell Middle School, test scores went up and discipline on the buses changed overnight, Hester said.


“Before, the kids on the bus were sleepy, angry, loud,” she said. “After, bus drivers said they were shocked that their kids were so calm.”


Along with Wi-Fi on the buses, Google also provides computers for students to use on the bus. At Gamewell Middle School, the company gave sixth- and seventh-grade students used laptops, and provided some for students to check out.


The program was expanded in 2017 to William Lenoir Middle School, and plans are to continue adding Wi-Fi to more Caldwell County buses.


Google tested the program in a South Carolina school district last year, and this week the program launched in Deer Tail, Colorado. Google now plans to take the program to 70 buses in 16 other school districts.


Now that the initiative is a full-blown program led by a partner nonprofit, the Consortium for School Networking, Hester said she is happy to see her idea have such an effect.


“It is completely humbling,” she said. “It is so surreal for an idea that was birthed in the foothills of Caldwell County to be embraced nationwide.”


Hester hopes to see positive effects nationwide as the program expands. The program especially benefits children from low-income homes who don’t have access to the internet and technology that they need for their homework.


“When I first started looking into this, I learned about the homework gap,” Hester said. “It’s when kids who live in impoverished areas are disadvantaged compared from kids that don’t.”

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