Archive for October, 2019

10-31-2019 – Local employment surges, report says

Posted on: October 31st, 2019 by admin


October 30, 2019



By Guy Lucas



Oct 30, 2019 11:31 AM

The number of Caldwell County residents without jobs dropped in September to its lowest level of the year while the number of those with jobs jumped by more than 500 to a post-recession high, the state Labor and Economic Analysis Division reported.


That helped the county’s unemployment drop nearly a full percentage point, going from 4.6 percent in August to 3.7 percent in September. Only 38 of the state’s 100 counties had larger drops.


The gain in the number of those with jobs, which brings the employment total to an estimated 35,760, was hailed by Deborah Murray, the executive director of the Caldwell County Economic Development Commission.


“The most positive news is that Caldwell showed the largest number employed for a September report than it has since well before the recession – 2006 to be exact,” she said.


Murray noted that the positive news coincides with Caldwell Is Hiring at the J.E. Broyhill Civic Center, where about 50 employers from around the region will be looking for workers for a wide range of jobs.


“There remains great capacity for growth in our companies, as evidenced by the more than 3,300 jobs available at Caldwell Is Hiring today (Oct. 31),” she said.


The county’s labor force, the combination of those with jobs and those actively looking for jobs, had dropped below 37,000 in August for the first time since December but climbed back above that number again in September.


The number of county residents without jobs dropped by more than 300 from August to September, to an estimated 1,360.


Local unemployment rates traditionally drop in September because school employees who are not on year-round contracts are back to work, and that was the case across the state. All 100 counties saw a decrease in unemployment rates.


In neighboring Catawba County, the unemployment rate dropped by 0.8 points to 3.3 percent, and Burke matched Caldwell’s 0.9 point drop, hitting 3.4 percent.


The overall Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton metropolitan statistical area had an unemployment rate of 3.3 percent in September, tied with Winston-Salem for the sixth lowest among the state’s 15 metro areas.


When speaking about the county’s unemployment rate, Murray often reminds people that the report reflects only the people who live in Caldwell County. Jobs that are created here but filled by people who find housing in neighboring counties aren’t reflected, and many local employers say the area doesn’t have enough housing, particularly apartments, for the workers they are hiring.


“It reinforces the case for much needed multi-family and single-family, market-rate housing. More jobs would be filled if more housing opportunities existed,” she said. “And yes, we are very determined to meet this need. It will have long-lasting and dramatic effects on Caldwell’s tax base and economy.”


But she said Caldwell County is not alone in trying to attract more workers. On Wednesday she attended the fall conference of the North Carolina Economic Development Association, where “Commerce Secretary Tony Copeland said North Carolina has the highest percentage of unfilled positions in the country” but said officials should look at that as a positive.


“He interprets that as enormous capacity for growth,” she said. “So do I.”

10-29-2019 – County job fair brings more jobs than ever

Posted on: October 29th, 2019 by admin


October 29, 2019


By Virginia Annable



Oct 29, 2019 12:00 AM


The number of jobs in Caldwell County is still growing, as shown by the more than 3,000 jobs available at the biannual job fair coming up on Thursday.


This is the first time in all 19 Caldwell is Hiring events that there are more than 3,000 positions posted for the job fair, said Deborah Murray, the executive director of the Caldwell County Economic Development Commission, which organizes the event. Those jobs aren’t the same ones offered at the last job fair, either, she said.


“We’ve added jobs every year,” Murray said. “They’re filling those jobs and opening new ones.”


Murray said the number of jobs businesses in the county are offering keeps growing.


“If they see they can fill jobs quickly, they’d be opening even more,” she said. “There are far more jobs available than what we see here.”


That’s why the essence of Caldwell is Hiring has changed, Murray said. When it first started, unemployment was at its height, and the EDC was looking for a way to help people find jobs. Now, the focus is finding more people for jobs, and finding people better jobs.


“The difference between when we started and now — it’s every bit as important, but before it was all about finding work for people when we started,” Murray said “Now it’s all about finding people for work.”


For people looking for jobs, now is a perfect time, she said. There is a wide variety to choose from — from furniture and manufacturing to advanced technology positions, health care, retail and office jobs. The pay is rising, too, Murray said.


“When you look at average wages, I can guarantee the average wages at this (job fair) are better than any of the ones we had in the past,” Murray said. “(Companies) are in growth mode, and they’re willing to pay for talent.”


The wide variety of industries with jobs available at Thursday’s job fair makes it an easy way to take advantage of the market, she said. About 50 employers will be there, including longtime local companies, temporary work agencies, several businesses in surrounding counties and new faces like the U.S. Census Bureau hiring for the 2020 census, the U.S. National Guard hiring for local positions and BioNutra Inc., a new pharmaceutical company that announced this month that it would open a plant in Lenoir.


Murray expects about 300-500 job seekers to show up, which is fewer than in the past, but gives locals a better chance at local jobs, she said.


“We want the folks who are here (in Caldwell) to get first crack at these opportunities,” Murray said.


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

10-28-2019 – Pharmaceutical manufacturer to locate in Lenoir

Posted on: October 28th, 2019 by admin


October 27, 2019



Hickory Daily Record


LENOIR — A new pharmaceutical manufacturer plans to begin operations at its first U.S. facility in Caldwell County in 2020.


The company, BioNutra Inc., closed on the purchase of the former Hammary/Kincaid furniture factory on Norwood Street in Lenoir on Sept. 30. The 150,000-square-foot facility, located on nearly 12 acres, has been vacant for more than eight years, with the exception of a brief period when it was used as warehouse space for furniture sales.


BioNutra will manufacture probiotics, medicinal foods and dietary supplements. Its products will come from a range of formulations like tablets, gelatin capsules, gummies, liquids and ointments.


The company plans to hire 35-45 people a year as it grows, reaching about 200 by year four or five. The company’s initial investment will be approximately $8 million.


Founder Dr. Murali Tummuru came to the U.S. looking for an American manufacturing site in early summer 2019.


Tummuru considered sites in Baltimore, Dallas, Charlotte and several in the Catawba Valley area, but selected the Lenoir site for several reasons.


Most important to Tummuru was that his new company deliver immediate and positive impact from its investment and new jobs. Tummuru liked Caldwell County for that reason. He has watched over the years the dramatic positive impact of Exela and other similar companies on the local economy.


Tummuru also wanted a great real estate value. He purchased a long-abandoned property more known for what it lacked than what it offered. With the assistance of the Caldwell EDC, BioNutra applied for a building reuse grant through the North Carolina Department of Commerce Rural Infrastructure Authority. The company was awarded a $500,000 building reuse grant Oct. 17 to help with the renovation of the former furniture factory.


Tummuru said he was humbled and honored to receive the grant. “We will work hard and see that BioNutra will be a success and make a difference.” Dr. Rajesh R. Tummuru will be the company’s CEO. Chris Money, Lenoir businessman, will handle the day-to-day operations of the project as it develops.


EDC Executive Director Deborah Murray is excited about the addition of a fourth pharmaceutical manufacturer in Caldwell County. “Caldwell is growing a biotech cluster that will offer higher wages and dramatically different career options,” she said. “This latest addition gives us the opportunity to expand our training programs and develop a hefty pipeline of talent for these 21st- century careers.” She added that BioNutra’s investment will continue the transformation of the local economy with the revitalization of yet one more old factory to a productive, modern facility.


Parent company Virchow Biotech Pvt. Ltd., is in Hyderabad, India, and has been in operation for 18 years. The company exports to more than 40 countries and has more than 1,300 employees.

10-23-2019 Bernhardt wins design honors

Posted on: October 23rd, 2019 by admin


October 23, 2019



From Staff Reports


Oct 22, 2019 9:58 AM


Furniture designed for Bernhardt Furniture won four awards Monday night in the International Society of Furniture Designers’ 24th Annual Pinnacle Awards, the industry publication Furniture Today reported.


The four were:


*In the category of leather upholstery-broad appeal: Marco Chair by Bernhardt Upholstery Design Team.


*Occasional tables: Barclay by D. Scott Coley for Bernhardt.


*Stationary upholstery-broad appeal: Kylie Chair by Bernhardt Upholstery Design Team.


*Major collections: Loft collection by Otto & Moore Design Team and Bernhardt Design Team.


Also of local interest, the Student Pinnacle Award went to “Stool Samples,” a set of whimsically designed stools, by Emily Miller of Appalachian State University.

10-21-2019 India-based BioNutra Inc. opening plant in Lenoir

Posted on: October 21st, 2019 by admin


October 21, 2019



By Virginia Annable


Oct 20, 2019 12:00 AM


A company based in India that makes probiotics, vitamins, medicinal foods and dietary supplements has announced its plans to open a manufacturing plant in Lenoir.


BioNutra Inc. plans to renovate the 150,000-square-foot former Hammary/Kincaid Furniture at 2464 Norwood St. and make it the company’s first U.S. manufacturing facility, according to a press release from the Caldwell County Economic Development Commission. The company plans to invest nearly $8 million and to open in 2020.


The North Carolina Rural Infrastructure Authority has approved a $500,000 grant to help renovate the building, the N.C. Department of Commerce announced.


The company expects to hire about 35-45 people each year as it grows, up to a total of about 200, the EDC said.


Caldwell County offered BioNutra — then identified by the EDC only as Project Vanderbilt — job-creation incentives of $2,000 for each new full time job created over four years up to 200 jobs, a total of up to $400,000. Job-creation incentives are paid only after the company documents that it has created the jobs and kept them filled for a specified amount of time.


BioNutra is a subsidiary of Virchow Biotech Pvt. Ltd, in Hyderabad, India. Dr. Murali Tummuru founded Virchow Biotech in 1998, and the company now has 1,300 employees.


Early this summer, Tummuru came to the U.S. to look at potential sites and considered buildings in Baltimore, Dallas, Charlotte and several places near Caldwell County but ultimately chose Lenoir because it offered good real estate value and a chance to “deliver immediate and positive impact from its investment and new jobs,” the EDC’s press release said.


Tummuru also was drawn to the area by the growth he saw in other pharmaceutical companies in Caldwell, including Exela Pharma Sciences, the release said.


BioNutra bought the former Hammary/Kincaid building at the end of September from Martin Webb Investments LLC for $300,000, according to county property records. The property has a tax-assessed value of $847,200.


Tummuru said in the press release he hopes BioNutra will have a big impact in Lenoir.


“We will work hard and see that BioNutra will be a success and make a difference,” he said.


Before creating Virchow Biotech, Tummuru worked at Vanderbilt University’s Division of Infectious Disease. Virchow Biotech products are exported to 40 countries from India, and BioNutra products will also be exported.


Dr. Rajesh R. Tummuru will be CEO of BioNutra, and Chris Money of Lenoir will handle the day to day operations.


Caldwell EDC Executive Director Deborah Murray said the impact of BioNutra’s opening will go beyond new jobs and investment.


“Caldwell is growing a biotech cluster that will offer higher wages and dramatically different career options,” she said. “This latest addition gives us the opportunity to expand our training programs and develop a hefty pipeline of talent for these 21st century careers.”


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

10-9-2019 Trade war felt in Caldwell

Posted on: October 9th, 2019 by admin


October 9, 2019



By Guy Lucas


Oct 08, 2019 11:37 AM

The trade war is hitting some Caldwell County companies, an economic development official said Tuesday.


Tariffs imposed by President Donald Trump have increased the cost of importing some materials that local manufacturers use, and retaliatory tariffs also have hurt exports, executive director Deborah Murray of the Caldwell County Economic Development Commission told the EDC’s board of directors.


In recent years “a number of our companies have moved into a strong export position,” she said.


She did not identify any specific companies that have been affected.


Currently an extra tax of 25 percent is assessed on an estimated $200 billion worth of goods from China. The tax is paid by the U.S. companies importing the items, not by the Chinese producers.


Caldwell County is part of a Charlotte-based “free trade zone” that allows participating manufacturers to avoid some duties on imports, but the zone has no affect on these tariffs, she said.


Manufacturers have tried to find sources outside of China for materials hit with tariffs, and where that isn’t possible they have joined others in their industries to seek relief from tariffs on specific materials.


The EDC has been asked by a few companies to help make the case for relief, she said.


“For the most part, they (manufacturers) are sucking it up,” she said.


On the export side, “the lumber industry has been hit as hard as anyone” by tariffs on U.S. goods imposed by China in retaliation for the U.S. tariffs, she said.


According to the Appalachian Hardwood Manufacturers Inc., an industry advocacy group, exports of lumber to China accounted for about 26% of grade lumber produced in the U.S. in 2018, exceeding the amount exported to the entire rest of the world. A little more than half of the lumber produced remained in the U.S. for domestic use.


Murray said she raised the issue to make the board members aware of the situation because she has fielded some questions about the local effects of the tariffs.


“I think it’s going to be around a while,” she said.

10-9-2019 Fairfield Chair to expand

Posted on: October 9th, 2019 by admin


October 9, 2019


By Virginia Annable


Oct 07, 2019 7:20 PM

A longtime furniture manufacturer in Caldwell County is expanding its facility, and the county is offering incentives for it to create jobs with the expansion.


Fairfield Chair is planning an expansion of about $770,000 to its facility, which could come with the creation of 32 new full time jobs, Caldwell County Economic Development Commission Executive Director Deborah Murray said at a Caldwell County Board of Commissioners meeting Monday.


“We’re excited that they are doing this,” Murray said.


The board of commissioners voted to give Fairfield $2,000 per job created for up to 32 new full time jobs over a two year period, a total of $64,000. The jobs would have an average wage over $39,000, Murray said.


The county also endorsed the company’s application for a building reuse grant from the N.C. Department of Commerce.


In other business, the county is buying the former Flick Video building on Main Street in Granite Falls for a new library location to replace the current branch location closer to the heart of downtown Granite Falls.


The new building will cost $250,000, an offer that was approved by the building owner, Luther Stamey.


In other business, the commissioners approved a permit for a 159-foot Verizon Wireless cell tower off Fowler Road just north of the Five Points intersection. A quasi-judicial hearing on the conditional use permit in July for the tower brought arguments and comments from nearby residents and ultimately ending in the commissioners tabling the hearing to wait for all information in the permit application to be up to date. When the hearing reopened at Monday’s meeting, no residents spoke at the hearing.


The commissioners decided to approve the conditional use permit for the tower at Monday’s meeting.


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

10-3-2019 Job numbers hold steady

Posted on: October 3rd, 2019 by admin


September 22, 2019



By Guy Lucas


Oct 02, 2019 3:19 PM

Caldwell County’s employment figures changed just slightly from July to August, and the unemployment remained unchanged at 4.6 percent, the N.C. Labor and Economic Analysis Division reported.


About a third of the state’s counties – 34 out of 100 – had no change in their unemployment rate, including Catawba County, where the rate remained at 4.1 percent, according to the report. Burke County was among the 26 where the rate increased; Burke’s increase was 0.1 points to 4.3 percent.


August is the last month of summer vacation for public school employees who are not on a year-round contract, and there typically are not large changes in the unemployment reports for August.


The size of Caldwell County’s labor force and the numbers of those both with jobs and looking for jobs all declined slightly from July, which follows historical patterns for August, said Deborah Murray, the executive director of the Caldwell County Economic Development Commission.


“August is historically the month that shows the lowest employment of the year. It is a direct response to seasonal fluctuations of the workforce. I had fully expected Caldwell’s employment to drop as it usually does and had expected the workforce to drop as well,” she said.


Murray noted that there has been “significant growth” in employment each year for nearly 10 years.


“Our projections are that employment will now grow from August, and we would like to see employment crest the 36,000 mark,” she said. That would surpass a 12-year high.


The unemployment rate for the overall Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton metropolitan statistical area in August also remained unchanged at 4.2 percent, tied with Winston-Salem for the sixth-lowest rate among the state’s 15 metro areas.

©2011-2014 Economic Development Commission of Caldwell County • Site Mapinfo@caldwelledc.orgWebsite by Market Force