Archive for April, 2019

04/26/19 – High-tech furniture training unveiled

Posted on: April 26th, 2019 by admin


April 26, 2019


By: Garrett Stell


With a snip from a pair of gilt-edged scissors, a yellow ribbon fell away and Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute President Dr. Mark Poarch welcomed a crowd of guests to what he hopes will help usher in the next generation of furniture manufacturing and education in the county.


The CCC&TI Furniture Factory Lab will simulate a factory floor, complete with sophisticated, modern equipment for sewing, upholstering and now cutting, thanks to a state-of-the-art Lectra IX Mosaic automated cutting machine.


The lab has been over two years in the making, he said.


“This is the ultimate collaboration between business, industry, and education,” Poarch announced to a crowd that had gathered for the ribbon cutting ceremony Thursday afternoon.


Lectra, a multinational corporation that develops equipment and technologies for the fashion and furniture industries, is the college’s newest partner and supplied the school with the new machine, which is capable of cutting through foam up to 1 inch thick and recreating intricate patterns in detail.


In an interview ahead of Thursday’s ceremony, Heather Corrigan, Lectra’s furniture marketing manager, emphasized the need to keep pushing towards the future when training workers for the furniture industry.


“Manufacturing is no longer purely manual,” she said. “As companies grow and progress, many manual tasks become automated, and those workers can be moved to higher-skilled and higher-paying jobs.”


Bernhardt Furniture, McCreary Modern and Fairfield Chair are founding partners of the new furniture lab. They worked with college staff to design the layout of the lab and tailor training to meet their needs and drive workers toward available jobs, Poarch said.


Susan Deal, who leads CCC&TI’s Mechanical Engineering Technology department, said she always emphasizes new technology when she teaches her students about the furniture industry, and the Lectra machine and its wide-ranging capabilities for cutting intricate designs is a prime example.


“I ask my students all the time, ‘Do you like video games? Drawing? Computers? Then you might like a job in furniture,'” Deal said. “When they talk about how they have been steered away from furniture by the older generation, I tell them, ‘This is not your grandma’s furniture industry.'”


When Poarch began working on the idea for the furniture lab in 2017, he was motivated by a lack of interest in furniture jobs among young people as well as deficiencies at the college in terms of facilities and equipment.


“Our employers simply deserved better,” Poarch said.


Edouard Macquin, president of Lectra Americas, said that research at Lectra has identified trends in manufacturing that he hopes to take advantage of through his company’s new partnership with CCC&TI.


For instance, the industry is changing to meet changing consumer demands, including a preference for products that are custom-made and made closer to their home. These consumers are younger and they tend not to compromise when it comes to style or timely delivery of goods, Macquin said.


He also talked about the fact that the geography of the industry has changed from the early 2000s, when so many furniture jobs were shipped overseas. During that time, the furniture industry was understood to be driven by unskilled manual labor, but Macquin said that is now an antiquated view.


“The area for competition has to become technology,” he said. “If the focus stays on unskilled labor, then there will always be another country that is cheaper.”


But shifting to more sophisticated technology does not mean future job loss.


“A shift in skills is required, but not in people,” he said. “Technology maintains workers by creating a competitive industry that can grow and improve and open the way for more jobs.”


In his public remarks at Thursday’s ceremony, he said that education is the way to keep workers ready to work with new technology.


“Calling this the furniture ‘lab’ is the right name because a lab is not standing still in time. A lab is something that evolves,” he said.


04/22/19 – Starbucks coming to Lenoir

Posted on: April 26th, 2019 by admin


April 22, 2019


By: Virginia Annable


Lenoir will get a Starbucks coffee shop sometime in 2020, a spokesperson said.


Starbucks plans to build the new 2,500-square-foot location on Blowing Rock Boulevard next to Dairy Queen in the parking lot in front of Bargain Hunt and Belk.


The coffee shop will have a drive-thru and will employ 25 people, the spokesperson said.


Starbucks plans to open the new location in “winter 2020,” the announcement said, but Starbucks officials could not be reached for clarification about what that means.


The project has been in the works for several years, said Deborah Murray, executive director of the Caldwell County Economic Development Commission. She worked with Starbucks to show them the benefits of doing business in Lenoir and help with location scouting, and she has been following the project since, she said.


“Once they decide it’s a good area, they hand it off to (be developed),” Murray said. “We’re excited about it.”


Lenoir Mayor Joe Gibbons said the company was one of “those businesses … you’d like to see come here.”


“It’s very exciting to have any new industry or business coming into our community and certainly a name like Starbucks is exciting to have,” Gibbons said. “We look forward to it — it’s another nice piece to be a part of our community.”

4/21/19 – A mix of jobs being offered

Posted on: April 15th, 2019 by admin


April 21, 2019


By: Virginia Annable


Caldwell County is still hiring, and representatives of about 50 companies seeking to fill almost 2,000 jobs will be at the J.E. Broyhill Civic Center on Wednesday.


But this time, among the job-seekers at Caldwell Is Hiring there also will be high school students getting ready to enter the workforce.


For the first time, high school seniors are allowed to miss class on Wednesday morning to go to the hiring event, said Deborah Murray, the executive director of the Caldwell County Economic Development Commission. It is a step in introducing high schoolers to the opportunities available in their home county and encouraging them to stay and work in Caldwell.


Murray said young people entering the workforce are crucial to sustaining Caldwell’s business growth. Every month, employers are adding more jobs, but the county workforce can’t keep up, so people are coming in from outside the county.


“Our companies are growing so fast, … and we obviously know we don’t have enough people,” Murray said. “That’s why doing a good job with high school seniors is so important.”


By introducing students to their local options, they can find part-time or summer jobs to see what career path they might like, Murray said.


“They can even spend a summer doing a full-time job and figure out their next steps,” Murray said. “This is exposure you can get paid to go do.”


Murray said in the next year she plans to hold an event similar to Caldwell Is Hiring but only for high school students so they can learn more about the opportunities in the area.


Caldwell Is Hiring will still cater to anyone looking for a job or looking for a better job, Murray said. About 50 companies with almost 2,000 open positions are coming to the job fair, including employers from Caldwell’s core industries will be there, such as furniture companies, wood planing, plastics and pharmaceuticals, as well as companies with retail and food service jobs and health care positions. Temporary employment agencies also will be there.


One of the dominating fields is health care. As Caldwell’s population rises, the need for home care nurses and nursing home employees does too. That, along with Caldwell Memorial Hospital’s expansion, is quickly growing the health care field.


“I never ceased to be amazed at the number of health care positions,” Murray said, “There are so many (jobs) in home care, nursing homes — not just the hospital.”


Job seekers can also expect to see a lot of temporary and seasonal positions, she said.


“There’s a lot of different jobs this time around with all the seasonal positions for spring and summer,” Murray said. “This is a good smattering of positions.”


04/04/19 – Job numbers resume positive trends

Posted on: April 5th, 2019 by admin


April 3, 2019


By: Guy Lucas


After increasing for two months, Caldwell County’s unemployment rate dropped in February as the number of those who were unemployed declined and the size of the labor force climbed.


The local unemployment rate fell by 0.3 percentage points to 4.5 percent, the N.C. Labor and Economic Analysis Division reported. The unemployment rate dropped in 99 of the state’s 100 counties, but only 44 had larger drops than Caldwell.


Perhaps as important, the size of the labor force – the number of those with jobs plus those actively seeking jobs – has climbed for three of the past four months, with each increase hitting a level that hasn’t been seen since 2012. In February the labor force was approaching 37,300, according to the report.


A growing labor force is seen as a sign of workers’ confidence in the local economy.


The combination of positive numbers buoyed the mood of Deborah Murray, the executive director of the Caldwell County Economic Development Commission.


“Things are once again heading in the right direction. Our labor force numbers are up. Confidence in the local economy is very strong. The number employed is going up again. And the number unemployed is once again shrinking,” she said.


After hitting an 18-year low of 2.9 percent last September, Caldwell’s unemployment rate had climbed each month until hitting 4.8 percent in January.


The largest factor in that increase was thought to be the bankruptcy of Heritage Home Group, which announced in August that it would close its two remaining furniture plants in Lenoir, eliminating more than 700 jobs. The plants closed Nov. 2.


Following the closures, the county’s labor force dropped below 37,000 in December, but it resumed growing again the following month.


This unemployment report came just two weeks before Caldwell Is Hiring, where about 50 employers will gather at the J.E. Civic Center on April 17 seeking to fill well more than 2,000 jobs. Murray has said that in recent years that there has been a shift in those who attend, and in addition to those looking for a job now there are many who are looking for a better job than the one they have.


“The variety of jobs and the sheer number of them is remarkable. It is a great time to explore new employment opportunities,” she said.


Both Burke and Catawba counties both saw their unemployment rates drop by 0.2 percentage points in February. Burke’s fell to 3.9 percent, and Catawba’s fell to 3.8 percent.


The overall Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton metropolitan statistical area’s unemployment rate dropped 0.2 points to 4.0 percent, tied for sixth-lowest among the state’s 15 metro areas.

04/03/19 – Local plant may add 125 jobs

Posted on: April 3rd, 2019 by admin


April 3, 2019


By: Guy Lucas


A manufacturer is considering a major expansion that could bring up to 125 new jobs to Caldwell County over three years.


The company has been publicly identified only as Project Revolution because it is applying for a type of state grant for which the governor’s office requires confidentiality until it announces the grant recipients, said Deborah Murray, the executive director of the Caldwell County Economic Development Commission. Information provided to the Caldwell County Board of Commissioners said the company “has operations in other parts of the state and in other states across the country.”


“This company is long-established in Caldwell County,” Murray said.


Corporate officials are considering how much to expand and where in the country to expand operations, and incentives offers will be a factor, Murray said. The company could invest up to $8 million in the expansion, she said.


The county commissioners approved offering job-creation incentives of $2,000 per job created, up to a total of $250,000. Job-creation incentives are not paid until after documentation that a job has been filled and maintained for a certain period.


The company also is applying for a second state grant to help pay for renovations to its existing facilities.

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