Archive for August, 2019

8-29-2019 Jobs, labor force still strong

Posted on: August 29th, 2019 by admin


August 29, 2019



By Guy Lucas


Aug 28, 2019 1:35 PM

The local unemployment rate in Caldwell County improved along with rates in most of the rest of the state in July, and it improved more than it did in the rest of the Hickory region.


The local unemployment rate dropped 0.2 percentage points to 4.6 percent in July, the N.C. Labor and Economic Analysis Division reported.


A total of 70 of the state’s 100 counties saw their unemployment rate drop from June to July, but only 13 had a larger drop than Caldwell.


Deborah Murray, the executive director of the Caldwell County Economic Development Commission, noted that the drop was due to an increase in the number of county residents with jobs because the size of the labor force – the number of those with jobs plus those who are actively trying to find jobs – did not change much from June, standing at more than 37,300.


“In a summer month, this only serves to confirm the stability and health of our local economy,” she said. “We are hoping to see the growth with more significant numbers extend through the fall months as teachers go back to work and new employees settle on jobs after high school and college graduations.”


For many months now the number of Caldwell residents with jobs has remained at or near a 12-year high, nearly 36,000. The labor force has been over 37,000, an eight-year high, since January.


The unemployment rate in Burke County remained unchanged from June at 4.3 percent.


In Catawba County the unemployment rate dropped by 0.1 percentage point to 4.1 percent.


The rate for the overall Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton metropolitan statistical area also dropped by 0.1 point to 4.2 percent, leaving the region with the sixth lowest unemployment rate among the state’s 15 metro regions.

8-16-2019 Survey: Caldwell gaining population

Posted on: August 16th, 2019 by admin


August 16, 2019


By Virginia Annable


Jul 28, 2019 12:00 AM


More people have moved to Caldwell County than left in recent data released by the U.S. Census Bureau, a turnaround from the previous similar set of numbers.


From 2012 to 2016, 3,619 people left Caldwell County and 4,075 moved in, giving Caldwell a net in-migration of more than 450 people, according to information from the American Community Survey that was analyzed by the Western Piedmont Council of Governments for its recent Economic Indicators Newsletter


In the five-year period before that, 2007 to 2011, the numbers were flipped — Caldwell had a net out-migration of 726, according to the ACS.


Alexander and Burke counties both also went from having more people moving out in 2007-11 to having more people moving in in 2012-16, but Caldwell by far had the largest turnaround, said Taylor Dellinger, senior data analyst at the WPCOG.


“What occurred in most of the other counties in the region is we had a turnaround with more people coming in, but especially in Caldwell,” he said.


The change is a good sign for the area, Dellinger said.


“I think it’s a variety of reasons,” he said. “I think the improving economy is definitely a factor, we know there’s a variety of jobs coming into the county.”


A breakdown of the migration estimates for 2012-16 show 1,166 people moving to Caldwell from out of state and 2,677 moving here from other parts of North Carolina, including 192 from Mecklenburg County. Dellinger said it could be people wanting to leave the hustle and bustle of a city.


“It’s the smaller county quality of life sort of thing — the amenities the county has of natural beauty and hiking and biking and more,” Dellinger said.


About 950 people moved from Caldwell to a different state, and 2,669 moved to other parts of North Carolina.


The top destination for people leaving was Pinellas County, Florida, where St. Petersburg is, according to the data.


Overall, the numbers are a strong indicator for Caldwell and the entire region, Dellinger said.


“It’s a good sign,” he said.


Reporter Virginia Annable can be reached at 828-610-8724.

8-16-2019 New car wash coming to Lenoir

Posted on: August 16th, 2019 by admin


August 16, 2019


By Virginia Annable


Aug 06, 2019 12:00 AM


A new express car wash will be built in Lenoir and is expected to be open by the end of this year.


A Tidal Wave Auto Spa, a chain based out of Georgia, is opening a location on Wilkesboro Boulevard next to Pizza Hut. The site is where the Red Roof Inn was until several months ago, when Tidal Wave tore down the building.


The location was chosen because of the area’s population and the site’s proximity to U.S. 321, said Martie Murphy, a project manager with SHJ Construction, which is owned by the same people as Tidal Wave.


Tidal Wave started in 2004 in Georgia and has recently been expanding into North Carolina, Murphy said. There are about 10 other locations in the state. The company expects to open 60 new operations nationwide in the next two years, he said.


About a year ago the company bought a different piece of land to build on, but once Martie visited Lenoir and saw the Red Roof Inn property, the company changed directions and bought it. The new car wash will start going up soon.


The car wash will have a main automatic car wash that cars will enter after being prepared by workers, then afterward people are welcome to vacuum their car at the vacuum station.


The building will be state of the art and well kept, he said.


“It’ll be extremely nice, we hope to have the nicest looking business in town, that’s our goal,” Murphy said.


Construction is expected to be done mid-November and the car wash open several weeks later.


The car wash will occupy only part of the property, and Tidal Wave plans to sell the rest of the land for another business to build on, Murphy said.

A new access road off Wilkesboro Boulevard will have an entrance to both properties.


Reporter Virginia Annable can be reached at 828-610-8724.

8-13-2019 Signposts of economic progress reviewed

Posted on: August 14th, 2019 by admin


August 13, 2019


By Guy Lucas


Aug 13, 2019 11:40 AM

After the loss of thousands of jobs to offshoring in the furniture industry 10 years ago, even before the full effects of the Great Recession were felt local business and government officials saw the need to try to diversify the economy.


They were spurred in part by a commissioned study of “competitive realities” — essentially the local area’s strengths and weaknesses.


Those efforts can be seen paying off now in a number of statistical measures used in that study, said Deborah Murray, the executive director of the Caldwell County Economic Development Commission. Murray showed the EDC’s board of directors comparisons in a number of areas on Tuesday.


One of areas with the most notable change is education. In 2006, nearly one-third of county residents didn’t even have a high school diploma, but by 2017 that had dropped to slightly more than one-fifth.


And the proportion with two-year college degrees or better rose across the board: In 2006, only 18.4 percent had at least a two-year degree, and in 2017 that had risen to 24.5 percent.


That reflects the more advanced skills required for many of the jobs Caldwell has been able to add, which will continue, Murray said.


“You’re going to see these numbers really start to move and start to change,” she said.


That also is seen in the average private-sector wage paid by jobs in Caldwell, which over the past four years climbed by 27 percent, or $6,940 a year, to $38,957, a the largest increase among counties in the Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton metropolitan statistical area.


Murray asked the board members to give some thought to what might be needed to continue the growth over the coming years.


“What is it we should be thinking about going forward?” she said. “We need to be focused now on next things, next steps.”


For instance, among the things businesses are struggling with now is a critical shortage of workers in many fields, but also a critical shortage of housing for new workers coming here for those jobs.


She said the board will have more discussions later on the challenges the county faces.

8-5-2019 Numbers show local economy steady

Posted on: August 5th, 2019 by admin


August 5, 2019


By Guy Lucas


Aug 01, 2019 11:04 AM

Seasonal factors related to the end of the school year pushed the unemployment rate higher in June, but Caldwell County’s labor force and number of residents with jobs remained at healthy levels.


The county’s unemployment rate climbed 0.5 percentage points to 4.8 percent, the N.C. Labor and Economic Analysis Division reported.

The county’s change matched the median change statewide – the local unemployment rate increased in 97 of the state’s 100 counties – and was in line with previous years. For instance, in June 2018 Caldwell’s rate increased by 0.6 percentage points.


Unemployment normally rises in June because of how school systems operate, said Deborah Murray, the executive director of the Caldwell County Economic Development Commission.


“Summer months typically show declines in employment due to the numbers of teachers who are not 12 month employees. Caldwell’s largest employer is the school system, so those numbers will be seen June through August. That should not be seen as job losses,” she said. “We continue to maintain very strong growth in workforce numbers, which reflects the number of both employed and those looking. We are pleased with these numbers and see strength and confidence in the local economy.”


The number of Caldwell residents with jobs has remained at or near a 12-year high, and the labor force continues near an eight-year high.


The number of people with jobs dropped by fewer than 100 to just under 35,600, and the labor force – those with jobs plus those actively looking for one – grew by 100 to close to 37,400. The labor force has been over 37,000 since January.


Comparing the numbers for June with the same month last year, the county’s unemployment rate in June 2018 was 4.1 percent, 0.7 points lower than in June 2019, but the number of county residents with jobs was more than 400 lower than in June 2019, and the labor force was still well under 37,000.

8-5-2019 New venture may spur local growth

Posted on: August 5th, 2019 by admin


August 5, 2019


By Guy Lucas


Aug 02, 2019 12:00 AM


A plant in Granite Falls that makes hydroponic farming units soon may be supplying equipment for automated, indoor farms in urban areas around the world.


80 Acres Farms, which is based in Ohio but has its manufacturing plant in Granite Falls, has entered a partnership called Infinite Acres with two international companies to sell and install automated hydroponic farming systems — growing plants without soil — and to offer related services, including marketing or even operating the farms for the customers, 80 Acres spokeswoman Rebecca Haders said.


80 Acres recently built the world’s first fully automated, warehouse-sized farm in Hamilton, Ohio, with equipment manufactured in Granite Falls,

Haders said. That plant also converts old shipping containers into enclosed, automated “vertical farming” units.


Haders said it is too early to tell what the partnership will mean for growth of the Granite Falls operation. Infinite Acres has a list of both U.S. and international customers who have expressed interest.


“We just don’t have a timeline for any specific project yet,” she said.


80 Acres grows a variety of produce, including tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, leafy greens and fruits such as strawberries, according to a press release.


“Infinite Acres’ mission is to provide the best technology available to grow the highest quality produce near population centers throughout the world — including in places where year-round nutritious produce is in short supply due to climate and growing conditions or must be transported considerably long distances,” the press release said.


The other partners are Ocado Group, a company based in the United Kingdom that the press release said is known for software and hardware systems, robotics, automation and artificial intelligence, and Priva Holding BV, a company based in the Netherlands that provides technology, services and automation systems to horticultural and other industries. Haders said Priva is particularly known for its airflow, waterflow and other technology for greenhouses.


Mike Zelkind, chief executive of 80 Acres, said in the press release: “Priva and 80 Acres Farms provide extensive horticulture, engineering, operational, and food industry expertise. Along with Ocado’s predictive analytics, automation and comprehensive system development, the partnership will provide its customers with everything from state of the art facilities with uniquely developed crop recipes and the right unit economics to an option for facility management with yield guarantees, product packaging, branding, marketing, and distribution.”


Tisha Livingston, chief executive officer of Infinite Acres, said that collaboration by the partners will make hydroponic farming more efficient and profitable.


“Infinite Acres believes its integrated solutions will have a considerable impact on the profitability, and competitiveness of food service industry customers everywhere — growers, distributors, retailers, and governments — who seek the cleanest, healthy, pesticide-free produce for consumers,” she said.


Tim Steiner, chief executive officer of Ocado, said the goal is to be able to place enough vertical farming units in cities to offer “the very freshest and most sustainable produce that could be delivered to a customers’ kitchen within an hour of it being picked.”

8-5-2019 Program aims where jobs are

Posted on: August 5th, 2019 by admin


August 5, 2019


By Garrett Stell


Aug 02, 2019 12:00 AM


Anyone who completes a basic level of plumbing training stands a good chance of getting a job right away, industry officials say, and federal statistics project faster-than-average growth in those jobs.


Which is why Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute announced Thursday that plumbing courses will be available in the evening, beginning Aug. 19 with Introduction to Plumbing. Intermediate Plumbing will begin in the spring, and Advanced Plumbing will be added as a summer course in 2020.


The program will be run through the college’s Continuing Education Department. This means students can sign up to take each course by

itself without enrolling in any other CCC&TI classes. It will cost $181 per semester.


Brandy Dunlap, CCC&TI’s Dean of Continuing Education and Workforce Development, said that offering the classes at night provides an opportunity for a variety of students.


“Some people who are already working in the industry simply want to increase their knowledge,” she said. “But others want to switch and start a brand new career. This course lets students keep their day jobs.”


Dunlap even said that students who complete the introductory course will have a good chance to find work right away. Then they can return and take the next level of training while employed.


“Lots of times, the employer will pay for them to continue their training,” she said.


Information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics published in April show that the employment of plumbers, pipefitters and steamfitters by 2026 is expected to have grown by 16 percent from 2016 — over twice the average growth rate.


The median annual salary in these professions in 2018 was $53,910, about $15,00 above the overall national average across.


Median salary statistics include veteran plumbers who earn higher wages or may operate their own licensed company, but Dunlap said that beginning wages for just a plumber’s assistant average $13 to $15 per hour.


Jennifer Ellis, executive officer at the Caldwell County Home Builders Association, said that educational opportunities like CCC&TI’s plumbing program are critical to revitalizing industries that are in need of workers.


“There is a misconception that you have to go to a four-year school in order to ever have hope for a high-paying job,” she said. “But we need to expose children starting at a young age that there are other opportunities for them to have good careers.”


She said that many experienced laborers are beginning to retire, and companies need young workers to take their place. Knowledge and hands-on experience are critical for someone hoping to stand out in the applicant pool.


“I could hire 10 plumber’s helpers with no training today,” she said. “But what we really need are plumbers — motivated young people who know what they’re doing.”


Reporter Garrett Stell can be reached at 828-610-8723.

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