Archive for January, 2019

01/29/19 – Behavioral health pavilion moves forward

Posted on: January 30th, 2019 by admin


January 29, 2019


By Kara Fohner

kfohner@newstopicnews.comBy Guy Lucas


Although Caldwell UNC Health Care officials held a ceremonial groundbreaking on Monday for the hospital’s new behavioral health pavilion, construction probably will not begin until at least April, hospital officials said.

Jim Smith, director of facilities services, said that there is work to do before construction workers can even demolish the Jonas House, a historic house next to the hospital that stands where the new facility will be built. The house previously belonged to Bly and A.G. Jonas Sr. Bly Jonas’ estate donated the house to the hospital after her death in April 2008.


Workers must set up environmental silt fencing and create retention ponds to keep muddy stormwater from running off of the site.


That work probably will begin in March, weather permitting, and demolition is expected to begin in April.


Laura Easton, president and chief executive officer of Caldwell UNC Health Care, said Monday that the approximately $10 million facility, which will have 27 inpatient beds for people needing psychiatric care, would not be possible without the generosity of the Caldwell County community. She also thanked state Rep. Destin Hall, R-Caldwell, who worked with other elected officials to help secure $4 million in state funding for the facility.


“He is really the spark that helped us get this ignited,” Easton said.


Easton also highlighted a $500,000 North Carolina Rural Hope Grant from the N.C. Department of Commerce that will help pay for it.


Additional contributions will come from the Caldwell Hospital Foundation and the Cannon Foundation.


Rick Coffey, president of the board of directors for the Caldwell Memorial Hospital Foundation, said that hospital officials recognized the need for the facility because there is not one licensed, practicing psychiatrist in Caldwell County, and local residents were traveling far, sometimes out of the region entirely, for mental health care. He said that often, 30 percent of the patients in the hospital’s emergency room are being treated for behavioral health issues.


Easton also thanked the Jonas family for their continued support. The new facility will be named “The Jonas Hill Hospital and Clinic” in the family’s honor.


The facility is targeted to open in the spring of 2020, said Alicia Stanislaw, service line director of psychiatry, women and children.

01/16/19 – Local innovators, leaders honored

Posted on: January 16th, 2019 by admin


January 16, 2019


By Guy Lucas


Two companies involved with innovative manufacturing technology received top awards at the annual Caldwell Economic Development Celebration on Tuesday, and two longtime business and community leaders also were honored for their work improving Caldwell County.



Automated Solutions, which is based in Sawmills and also has a plant in Lenoir, received the Industry of the Year Award.


Originally focused on producing custom-built machines for the furniture industry, the company increasingly has focused more on direct-to-market products, such as vacuum conveyor belts for fabric-cutting machines, and a machine that can roll sheets of foam into retail-sized rolls without requiring a cardboard core at the center of the roll.


Guest speaker Christopher Chung of the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina cited the comments of others who attributed much of the company’s success to its managing partner, Bob Campbell. Richard Boyd, the company’s engineering manager, calls Campbell “a true visionary,” Chung said.


Aiken Controls, which is based in downtown Lenoir, received the Economic Development Celebration’s first-ever Industry Innovation Award.


Since 2012 Aiken has provided manufacturers with a variety of automation products and controls, particularly for wood-products businesses, but has expanded into products involving artificial intelligence, vision systems and robotics. A product introduced in 2018 analyzes individual pieces of wood to recognize each one’s qualities in order to reduce waste during cutting.


Owner Chris Aiken said he’s lucky to have workers who are constantly innovating.



“It’s something that’s in our blood,” he said. “We’ve got a group brave enough to do things that maybe other people wouldn’t try.”


Laura Easton, president and CEO of Caldwell UNC Health Care, received the Herman Anderson Award for her work to expand health services and facilities in Caldwell County, said Deborah Murray, the executive director of the Caldwell County Economic Development Commission, which organizes the annual celebration.



Easton’s work over the past 20 years has led to “many millions of dollars in new investment” while she has “boldly expanded and grown” health services for local residents, Murray said.


Alvin Daughtridge, a vice president of Fairfield Chair, received the Legacy Award for over 50 years of contributions in business and educational endeavors and public service. Randy Church, chairman of the Caldwell County Board of Commissioners, read a long list of Daughtridge’s accomplishments, appointments to business and community boards, and awards, including in 1991 receiving a Points of Light Award from President George H.W. Bush related to his role as founding chairman of Communities in Schools of Caldwell County.


“When it comes to Alvin, he has been a point of light in Caldwell County, and he has been in 1,000 places doing it,” Church said.


01/08/19 – NC Dept of Commerce Wage Report Press Release

Posted on: January 8th, 2019 by admin


January 8, 2019



Each year, the NC Department of Commerce, Labor and Economic Analysis Division releases its Annual Private Sector Wages report for all 100 counties.


Last week the 2019 report was released.


Of note, Caldwell was one of the highest percentage growth counties for year-over-year wage growth.  Caldwell’s wages grew by 3.5% from 2018 to 2019.


Of North Carolina’s 100 counties, only 24 counties have higher average private sector wages than Caldwell.


Caldwell has been very fortunate to have diversified its private sector industries as well as attract new industry and grow existing industry in recent years.  This has made Caldwell’s local economy very competitive in terms of workforce and wages.  The support of our local workforce development partners has also been key.  Providing recruiting and training resources has led to significant as well as incremental growth among employers.


EDC Executive Director Deborah Murray said, “We track employment and wage statistics at the local level to be certain how new companies and jobs affect the overall economy and community.  We have seen seven years of steady growth of jobs and wages.  It has been the kind of growth that is sustainable over the long term and builds on all levels for improvement of quality of life and opportunity.”


Murray is very pleased to provide the following comparative analysis for wages in our region.


County                                  2019 Wage              2018 Wage              %+/-               State Ranking


Caldwell County                $38,957                    $37,614                    +3.5%            25th highest


Burke                                     $35,759                    $34,954                    +2.3%


Catawba                               $42,068                    $41,531                    +1.29%


Wilkes                                   $35,331                    $34,599                    +2.1%


McDowell                            $35,905                    $35,503                    +1.1%


Cleveland                             $38,751                    $37,910                    +2.2%


Rutherford                          $34,115                    $33,810                    +0.9%


Buncombe                           $41,229                    $40,572                    +1.6%


Ashe                                      $34,855                    $33,153                    +5.1%


Gaston                                  $39,852                    $38,780                    +2.7%


Alexander                            $32,263                    $32,070                    +0.6%


Cabarrus                               $38,695                    $39,244                    -1.4%


Guilford                                $47,955                    $46,744                    +2.5%            5th highest


Watauga                               $32,136                    $31,788                    +1.09%

12/25/18 – Magazine notes Lenoir company’s success

Posted on: January 2nd, 2019 by admin


December 25, 2018


By Virginia Annabel




Locally, Exela Pharma Sciences has been seen as a standout example of the growth and diversification of Caldwell County’s economy. In 10 years the pharmaceutical company went from a handful of employees to 300 employees, putting it on the crest of growing life sciences and biotechnology industry in the region.


Now, the company and county have been recognized statewide in an economic development magazine, much to the pleasure of Phanesh Koneru, the CEO of Exela.


Being presented on the front page of the North Carolina 2019 Economic Development Guide as a prime example of business growth was an honor, Koneru said.


“We take a lot of pride in this,” he said. “It also humbled us in a way — it’s a lot of responsibility.”


The cover article touts Exela as a success that has been part of the 25 percent growth in biotechnology jobs in western North Carolina since 2013, and told Koneru’s success story — from being raised in a small town in India with no running water or electricity to becoming the founder of a successful American company. This story only marks a step in his journey, though, he said.


“We are not looking for this attention, … it just happens,” he said. “We take this all in stride, but we need to keep focused on the goals. We need to keep going.”


When Koneru started Exela in Lenoir in 2008, the economy still leaned heavily toward furniture, Koneru said. He didn’t expect as much diversification as Caldwell County has seen since then, but local and state government has helped his and other businesses start up and succeed, as the magazine article detailed.


The article mentioned other Caldwell County biotech companies, including Stallergenes Greer, a maker of allergy-related pharmaceuticals that has been in Lenoir for decades, and Adhezion Biomedical, which came to Hudson iin 2002 and makes medical skin adhesives used in surgery and other medical applications.


Deborah Murray, the executive director of the Caldwell County Economic Development Commission, said seeing Caldwell County displayed as an example of biotechnology industry growth was gratifying.


“We’ve known for a long time, but this is a feather in our cap,” Murray said.


Local entities like the EDC have been working to grow the biotech and life sciences field in Caldwell, she said. Local governments have provided incentives and grants to these companies, including Exela, and Exela is a prime example of those incentives’ success as well as Caldwell County’s ability to foster companies like Exela, Murray said.


“It’s a litmus test,” she said. “It proves that we can bring to the table the kind of workforce … and everything he’s needed.”


Exela has long been a company Murray is happy to show off, or present to companies interested in establishing in Lenoir. Now, it’s been used for the purpose statewide, but not without a lot of hard work, elbow grease and investments, Koneru said.


“All this reflects on our work,” he said.


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