Archive for July, 2018

7/31/2018 – Blue Ridge Energy plans to build new headquarters in Lenoir

Posted on: July 31st, 2018 by admin


July 31, 2018


By Guy Lucas
(Lenoir) News-Topic


The regional electric cooperative that is based in Lenoir plans to build a new corporate office to replace its current headquarters building.


Blue Ridge Energy plans a brief groundbreaking ceremony for the $18 million project on Aug. 15 on the company’s campus at the northwest corner of Nuway Circle and Blowing Rock Boulevard, a press release said. Construction is expected to be completed in early 2020.


Headquarters operations space will increase from the current 32,000 square feet to 48,000 square feet in the new building.


The old building, which was built about 50 years ago, will be torn down to make way for a new parking area for employees.


The new Blue Ridge Energy headquarters building will signify a new era for the electric cooperative, which first brought electricity to Caldwell County in 1936, CEO Doug Johnson said in the press release.


“Blue Ridge Energy’s corporate office is the hub for member and customer operations for all three of our companies and the services we provide,” Johnson said. “We’re excited that the new facility will have the latest technology and capacity to meet the needs of a growing member and customer base for the next 50 years or longer.”


Blue Ridge Energy’s management and board of directors decided to build a new headquarters rather than renovate the old one after estimates for renovation came in close to the cost for a new building. Other considerations included that new construction would pose minimal disruption and be complete in approximately 18 months.


The cost of the new building will not affect electricity rates because costs have been carefully planned and spread out over the next 30 years, requiring no debt for the new facility, the press release said.


One of the features of the new office touted in the press release is a weather-hardened dispatch and operations center, which is the hub for monitoring electricity flow, from power delivery in the foothills and high-voltage transmission to mountain districts serving distribution substations and power lines to reach homes and communities. This area also serves as dispatch and coordination with line technicians and other technical personnel in the field.


Engineering, technology, system communications, safety, human resources, community and public relations, innovative energy solutions and accounting teams are also housed in the corporate office, as well as much of the technology infrastructure for the cooperative and its two subsidiaries.


The project will be the final part of a company-wide building modernization effort. The district offices in Caldwell, Watauga, Ashe and Alleghany counties have all been rebuilt or renovated in the past decade — the Caldwell district office was completed in June 2017 — to incorporate safer and more efficient operations and customer service, and sufficient space for warehouses and showrooms for both the electric cooperative and the propane and fuels subsidiary. All district offices also now include community meeting rooms that can accommodate up to 50 people for community-based organizations to use at no cost when scheduled through the local district manager.


The cooperative serves 76,000 electric members across seven counties in northwest North Carolina. The cooperative began expanding in 1998, when it formed its propane and fuels subsidiary, which now serves 29,000 customers in the cooperative’s service area as well as Catawba and Burke counties and parts of Virginia. The cooperative further expanded in 2009 with its telecommunications subsidiary, RidgeLink LLC, which provides dark fiber network and co-location services to businesses such as cellular providers, municipalities, health care and education institutions in North Carolina and Tennessee.


7/29/2018 – Sawmills ranks 9th most affordable place in North Carolina

Posted on: July 30th, 2018 by admin


July 29, 2018


By Virginia Annable
(Lenoir) News-Topic


Living in Sawmills is objectively inexpensive.


A studying of affordable places ranks Sawmills as the ninth most affordable place to live in North Carolina.


The study by Smart Asset, a financial technology company that provides financial advice online, considered house closing costs, property tax rates, homeowners insurance, average mortgage payments and median income to rank 150 towns and cities in the state. Stokesdale, near Greensboro, ranked as most affordable.


Sawmills Town Administrator Christopher Todd said the ranking didn’t come as a surprise since keeping costs low is something the town council is always considering, especially during budget season.


“It’s part of the ongoing conversation we have with every decision we make,” Todd said.


He also attributed the town’s affordability to the jobs available in the area. While jobs in Sawmills and Caldwell County on average don’t pay as much as those in the other cities and towns ranked in the top 10 most affordable places, the ratio of the income to living costs is what makes the difference, Todd said. Sawmills’ average income is about $37,000, $15,000 less than any other median income on the top 10 list, but Sawmills’ average mortgage payment is only about $4,300, $2,000 less than any other in the top 10.


Todd said the town prides itself on being a place where people can come to settle down and be able to afford it.


“We want ownership to be accomplishable,” Todd said. “And you are able to support a family here, you can do things and have a life and pursue things.”


Todd said he hopes the recognition as the ninth most affordable place in the state draws more people to the town, but that’s not the only thing affordability can bring. Cost of living plays a big roll when companies are looking to come to Caldwell, said Deborah Murray, the executive director of the Caldwell County Economic Development Commission.


When she’s pitching Caldwell County to businesses thinking about coming to Caldwell County she emphasizes the area’s low cost of living — just 84.4 percent of the national average.


“Affordability does make a huge difference, whether we’re talking to a very large company, like a Google, or a medium or a small company, it’s one of the things we tout in our marketing,” Murray said. “It’s a significant factor.”


7/25/2018 – Caldwell EDC announces expansions that will create 35 new, full-time jobs

Posted on: July 25th, 2018 by admin


July 25, 2018


By Virginia Annable
(Lenoir) News-Topic


Two Caldwell County businesses plan expansions that they expect will create a total of 35 new jobs.


The Caldwell County Board of Commissioners approved job-creation incentives for Automated Solutions LLC and Bruex Inc. of $2,000 for each of the full-time jobs created, documented and maintained.


Automated Solutions, a packaging materials manufacturer with a plants in Lenoir and Sawmills, grew over 30 percent in 2017 and expects similar growth this year, said Deborah Murray, executive director of the Caldwell Economic Development Commission.


Last year, the company created 17 new full-time jobs. The company now has about 75 full-time employees and hopes to add up to 20 this year while adding more equipment, Murray said.


Bruex, a Lenoir manufacturer of curved wood for furniture, has growing at an even faster rate and plans to build a new 2,000-square-foot warehouse and a new loading dock and invest $600,000 in new equipment over the next two years, Murray said. The company currently has 17 full-time employees and hopes to add up to 15 over the next two years, she said.


Bruex is also applying to the N.C. Department of Commerce for a building reuse grant to help pay for renovations. The county agreed to provide a local match equal to 5 percent of the grant.


In other business, the commissioners agreed to provide a $5 million match for a $15 million state loan that the Caldwell County Board of Education is applying for to help pay for the renovation and expansion of Granite Falls Middle School. The entire cost is projected to be about $24 million, the consulting firm hired to plan the school said at a July 9 school board meeting.


The commissioners also approved changes to the county’s rules on cellphone tower rules. The biggest of the changes is an increase in the height limit from 110 feet to 200 feet, which should greatly improve cellphone service in areas with a lot of trees or hills, County Planning Director Shelley Stevens said.




7/23/2018 – 80 Acres Farms CEO Zelkind speaks at TEDx forum

Posted on: July 23rd, 2018 by admin


July 23, 2018


80 Acres Farms CEO Mike Zelkind spoke recently at a TEDx Forum regarding vertical farming and its ability to help feed the world. Click on the link to see the video.


80 Acres Farms CEO Zelkind at TEDx Forum

7/12/2018 – Furniture store fills up space at Hudson shopping center

Posted on: July 12th, 2018 by admin


July 12, 2018


By Virginia Annable
(Lenoir) News-Topic


Farmers Home Furniture may be a multi-state company with over 200 stores, but store manage Bryan Pope wants the new Hudson branch to be a community store.


“We’re trying to make it a hometown place,” Pope said.


The store, which opened in June, carries mainly home furniture but also stocks outdoor appliances and TVs, and the showroom is stocked full.


Rows of plus red, green and gray recliners face the front. Various couches and sectionals are scattered throughout the entire room, some with electronic adjustment systems, others with foldable tables hidden behind the cushions and each with different textures, shapes and colors.


On one end of the expansive showroom, TVs line the wall and speakers are stacked high on shelves. Customers are often surprised to see electronics in a furniture store, Pope said, but he thinks it makes perfect sense because that’s what you face your couch toward.


“We’ve got a mixture of things here,” Pope said. “We have everything you need to make a home.”


Farmers Home Furniture started in 1949 in Georgia and has grown to 220 stores, Pope said. The company expects to open about 20 stores this year. Hudson was chosen because of Caldwell County’s furniture ties, Pope said.


“We did our research and learned about the history here,” he said.


The space the store moved into in the Hudson Crossing Shopping Center on U.S. 321 at Pine Mountain Road has been vacant for eight years.


“We feel like we can put life back into the building,” Pope said.


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