Archive for November, 2019

11-26-2019 – Job numbers approach a benchmark

Posted on: November 26th, 2019 by admin


November 26, 2019



By Guy Lucas



Nov 25, 2019 3:43 PM


The number of Caldwell County residents who have jobs came tantalizing close to breaking a 12-year high in October, according to a state report.


Though the monthly unemployment report officially is an estimate based on surveys and statistical analysis, not a precise count, the report released Monday by the N.C. Labor and Economic Analysis Division placed the number of employed at 35,994.


That’s just six short of a benchmark that Deborah Murray, the executive director of the Caldwell County Economic Development Commission, has been looking forward to breaking.


“Just as we had anticipated, Caldwell County’s unemployment reached a new year-long low while the labor force and the number employed have continued to grow, surpassing all of this year as well as many years before it,” she said. “We are no longer focused on the unemployment rate but very keenly focused on the number of residents working. The next mile marker to pass on this historic comeback is 36,000 employed — and we were within six people of hitting that mark.”


The county’s unemployment rate, meanwhile, inched up slightly to 3.8 percent in October from 3.7 percent in September as both the labor force – the combined total of those with jobs and those who are actively looking for a job – and the number of those who are unemployed rose slightly.


The labor force, at just over 37,400, was the largest of the year, and it has been over 37,000, an eight-year-high, every month but one since January. A growing labor force is generally seen as a sign of growing confidence by workers.


“The environment is particularly good for those folks looking for improved opportunity — it is there,” Murray said. “We have the most diversified economy we have ever had, and with it comes incredible diversity in employment opportunities. I am reminded constantly by Caldwell employers that they are also willing to train and up-skill existing and potentially new employees.”


Due to seasonal factors, the local unemployment rate rose in 86 of the state’s 100 counties in September. It did not drop in any counties. Burke and Catawba counties saw the same 0.1-point increases that Caldwell did – with the rate in Burke going to 3.8 percent and in Catawba to 3.4 percent.


The overall unemployment rate in the entire Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton metropolitan statistical area was 3.5 percent, tied with Burlington for the seventh lowest rate among the state’s 15 metro areas.

11-21-2019 – CCC&TI gets budget boost

Posted on: November 21st, 2019 by admin


November 21, 2019



By Garrett Stell


Nov 21, 2019 12:00 AM


A recent partial budget passed by the North Carolina General Assembly included almost $300,000 in funding for Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute, and the college also has received a $480,000 grant from a foundation for a new project to expand workforce development and training programs in pharmaceuticals, the college’s president said.


The budget bill signed into law Nov. 1 did not include the salary increases or capital project funding that college officials hopes to receive, but it did include a provision that allows students enrolled in short-term training and workforce development courses — which include CCC&TI’s popular truck driver and electrical lineman training programs — to count toward state funding equally with students enrolled in curriculum courses, such as English, math and nursing, Dr. Mark Poarch said.


There are 3,721 curriculum students enrolled at CCC&TI this fall, including high school students who take classes at the college and students enrolled at the Watauga campus.


By contrast, the college typically enrolls up to 9,000 students a year in workforce development classes, according to statistics provided by the college. Some of these courses can be completed in as little as seven weeks, allowing the college to graduate multiple classes each semester.


Enrollment numbers are important for CCC&TI because the total number of students enrolled affects the amount allocated by the state each year.


The short-term training and workforce development students represent roughly $277,000 in state funding, Poarch said.


Overall enrollment is also trending up for the college. For the third year in a row, CCC&TI’s summer enrollment has increased, and fall enrollment is at a five-year high.


In other news, the Golden LEAF Foundation awarded a grant for training programs in pharmaceuticals as part of the process that brought BioNutra Inc., an India-based maker of probiotics, vitamins, medicinal foods and dietary supplements, to Lenoir. That grant is awaiting proper documentation from the company before the money can be sent.


BioNutra has said it 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. 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, and Caldwell County has offered 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.


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

11-20-2019 – Dairi-O buys site in Lenoir

Posted on: November 20th, 2019 by admin


November 20, 2019



Guy Lucas



Nov 19, 2019 2:17 PM


A Winston-Salem-based chain of “fast-casual” restaurants known for their hot dogs and ice cream has bought a high-visibility property in Lenoir.


Dairi-O bought the 1.4-acre lot occupied by the former Rite Aid building at the northwest corner of Smith Crossroads for $1.325 million earlier this month, according to Caldwell County property records. The property has a listed tax-assessed value of $1.64 million.


A company spokeswoman declined to comment on the company’s plans.


Dairi-O has seven locations, with an eigth under construction, but only one so far – in Mooresville in the Lake Norman area north of Charlotte – isn’t in the greater Triad region, which centers on Winston-Salem and Greensboro.


Dairi-O opened its first restaurant in King, just northwest of Winston-Salem, in 1947.


Dairi-O’s won awards in the 2014 “Best of the Triad” from Yes! Weekly, a weekly entertainment-oriented paper in the Triad, for Best Hot Dog and Best Milkshake.

11-12-2019 – Local company wins award for excellence

Posted on: November 12th, 2019 by admin


November 8, 2019



By Guy Lucas



Nov 08, 2019 11:23 AM


For the fourth year in a row, a company with a presence in Caldwell County has been recognized for outstanding performance in manufacturing.


McCreary Modern Inc. won a Manufacturing Leadership Award from the North Carolina Manufacturing Extension Partnership in the category of Manufacturing Excellence.


McCreary Modern makes private label upholstery, occasional, dining and bedroom furniture. It is based in Newton, but two of its six factories are in Caldwell County – an upholstery plant and a woodworking plant in Gamewell – and the founder, Bob McCreary, is a Caldwell native.


A press release from NCMEP calls McCreary Modern a “family owned, Made in America manufacturing company, utilizing locally sourced materials. They focus on supporting area suppliers and machinery manufacturers, creating jobs and reducing the carbon footprint of the company.”


“Their culture embraces continuous improvement and has embraced change management often referred to as ‘The Handwriting on the Wall’ methodology for over 20 years. They incorporate numerous visual management techniques, from dying their assembly glues to color coded production tickets,” the press release said. “A strong social conscience, along with reasonable business stewardship, has guided their decision-making process. Long before sustainability was used as a marketing tactic, McCreary Modern understood the multiple benefits of valuing social and natural capital for both moral and economic reasons.”


NCMEP also noted that McCreary Modern was an early adopter of radio-frequency identification, which uses electromagnetic fields to identify and track tags attached to the company’s materials and products, and now has technology that allows production and specification data to be accessed on an iPhone.


In 2018, 80 Acres Farms in Granite Falls, which makes equipment for hydroponic farming, won the Manufacturing Excellence award from NCMEP. Exela Pharma Sciences, a pharmaceutical manufacturer in Lenoir, won in 2017 in the category of Developing Markets, and Associated Hardwoods, a wood products manufacturer in Granite Falls, won in 2016 in Developing Markets.


The other 2019 winners:


*Eviva in Northampton County in the category of Sustainable Manufacturing. Enviva is the world’s largest producer of industrial wood pellets, a renewable and sustainable energy source used to generate electricity and heat. It exports the wood pellets primarily to power plants in Europe and Asia. Enviva’s pellets are made using sustainable practices that protect Southern forests.


*Alotech in Chatham County in the category of Innovation. Alotech providing contract manufacturing services to small businesses. In addition to re-manufacturing prototyping and product development services, it makes investments in companies seeking to expand and improve their processes.


*3M in Chatham County in the category of Workforce Development. The company’s workforce maintenance strategy includes maintenance apprenticeships, which allow the technicians to better understand the theory behind maintenance techniques while applying them on the job and using them to further their career. The company also often hires talented individuals who might not know exactly what career path they want to take, and partners them with experienced, tenured technicians to expose them to a variety of career options.


*Altec Industries in Yancey County in the category of Economic Development/Developing Markets. Altec provides products and services to the electric utility, telecommunications, tree care, lights and signs, and contractor markets. The Burnsville plant specializes in manufacturing custom aluminum, fiberglass and steel body options for multiple industries.


*Equilibar in Henderson County in the category of Continuous Improvement. Since 2007, Equilibar has grown from a basement start-up with one part-time employee to a employer of 25 designing and manufacturing specialty fluid control valves. Equilibar’s continuous improvement process asks for the entire team to participate and provide feedback, with quarterly management review.


11-8-2019 – Work begins on new retirement option

Posted on: November 8th, 2019 by admin


November 8, 2019



By Virginia Annable



Nov 08, 2019 12:00 AM


For the first time in 20 years, Caldwell County is getting a new assisted living facility, and it is expected to be completed by the end of next year.


Thursday, about 100 people came out to the groundbreaking ceremony for Grace Village, off Riverbend Drive behind the Walmart in Granite Falls. The developers have outlined plans for the facility to be the first step toward developing a full retirement community, including “independent living” apartments and a gated housing development.


Caldwell County Commissioner Randy Church called the moment “historic.”


“This group of investors had a vision,” he said. “This vision is becoming a reality.”


The $12 million, 78-bed assisted living facility and memory care unit is being developed by Spartan Holdings and managed by Tullock Management Company. This first phase is expected to take a year to build. After that, there are plans to build apartments and condomiums for more independent seniors, developer Jim Martin said. The final investment could be around $60 million over about five years.


Martin said the project has been in development for years, since Brett Waters, one of the developers who is from Caldwell County, urged partners Hamilton Ward and Rodney Worley, another Caldwell native, to consider the area, which has an aging population and is in need of housing.


The project not only brings in new investment but also new construction, which will bring hundreds of construction jobs, said Deborah Murray, the executive director of the Caldwell County Economic Development Commission.


The eventual development of an entire retirement community would be spread across a scenic 62-acres of tall trees — a picture-perfect location, Granite Falls Mayor Barry Hayes said.


“To sort of paraphrase Mr. Rogers, it’s a beautiful place for a neighborhood,” he said.


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

11-7-2019 – New credit union to open in December

Posted on: November 7th, 2019 by admin


November 6, 2019



By Virginia Annable



Nov 07, 2019 12:00 AM

An Asheville-based credit union is opening a branch in Lenoir in December.


Telco Community Credit Union, which started in 1935 as a credit union for Southern Bell Telephone System employees and since expanded, is opening its 10th branch in Lenoir on Wilkesboro Boulevard, with a soft opening in early December, Marketing Specialist Carol Griffith said.


The bank has locations in Hickory and Morganton already, so expanding to Lenoir will help serve existing customers and grow the overall customer base, she said.


“By expanding our footprint we’re serving and opening our membership in as many counties as possible so we can serve the community,” Griffith said.


The bank bought the former Bank of America building at 141 Wilkesboro Blvd. on Oct. 31 for $700,000.


It only needs a minor interior facelift and Telco branding to make it ready for business, Griffith said.


Anyone who works, lives or goes to school in one of the 13 counties Telco serves can be a member, Griffith said.


“We’re community-based membership which sets us apart from others,” Griffith said.


For more information on Telco Community Credit Union, visit


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

11-6-2019 – Fairfield Chair expansion grows

Posted on: November 6th, 2019 by admin


November 6, 2019



By Virginia Annable



Nov 06, 2019 12:00 AM

Fairfield Chair Company is expanding its plans to invest more in construction and add jobs.


Monday night the Caldwell County Board of Commissioners approved the addition of eight more jobs to a job-creation incentives package. Originally, the commissioners approved offering $2,000 for each new full-time job created up to 32 positions over two years, but the number now is 40.


The company also increased its projected expansion investment from $770,000 to about $1.2 million. The commissioners approved an application Monday for a state building reuse grant


The company has not released which of its sites will be involved in the expansion.


In other business, the county plans to hire a firm to help with engineering, designing and planning of buildings at a property the county may buy in Cajah’s Mountain on Connelly Springs Road for a recycling and trash convenience site and emergency services base. A firm will also be hired to help plan moving the Granite Falls branch of the Caldwell County Public Library into the former Flick Video property on North Main Street, which the commissioners approved buying last month. The library branch currently is in a building at 24 S. Main St.


The commissioners voted to exempt the planning projects from state requirements for hiring based on qualifications because the overall cost will be less than $50,000.


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

11-5-2019 – Telco Community Credit Union has purchased the former Bank of America Building

Posted on: November 5th, 2019 by admin


November 5, 2019



Telco Community Credit Union has purchased the former Bank of America Building at 141 Wilkesboro Rd. NE in Lenoir.


“Telco Community Credit Union (based in Asheville, NC) has been providing financial services to communities in the Western North Carolina Area for 80 years. We were organized in 1935 to serve the employees of the Southern Bell Telephone System. Today, we are a community chartered credit union serving the citizens in Alexander, Buncombe, Burke, Caldwell, Catawba, Haywood, Henderson, Madison, McDowell, Rutherford, Polk, or Transylvania Counties. They currently have an office in Hickory and Morganton.”

11-1-2019 Public Invitation to Grace Village Groundbreaking Ceremony

Posted on: November 1st, 2019 by admin


November 1, 2019



GRANITE FALLS, NC – November 1, 2019 – Spartan Holdings, LLC, developers of Grace Village assisted living community, invites the public to attend its official groundbreaking ceremony at 10am, Thursday, November 7th at 501 River Bend Drive in Granite Falls for the first phase of the development. This $12 million 78-bed, 57,000 sq ft assisted living facility will be located on a 62-acre tract along Riverbend Road behind the Walmart Supercenter in Granite Falls.



“Grace Village is a welcome addition to the area. This will help meet a particular housing and healthcare niche for the area’s senior population as well as offering an attractive option for residents throughout the country looking for retirement options in North Carolina’s beautiful foothills,” said Deborah Murray, Executive Director of Caldwell County’s Economic Development Commission. “The location is less than a mile from shopping and dining and boasts a variety of recreational options in the immediate area. This will also be a great addition to local employment and our tax base.”



At Thursday’s groundbreaking, developers Brett Waters, Jim Martin, Rodney Worley and Hamilton Ward will present detailed plans for the first phase of development. Grace Village is the first new assisted living facility built in Caldwell County in 20 years with the vast majority of residential floorplans offering private rooms. Target completion date for this first phase is late 2020. For more information about Grace Village Assisted Living, please contact Rodney Worley at or (336) 998-5001 x204

11-1-2019 – Despite rain, hundreds come for jobs

Posted on: November 1st, 2019 by admin


November 1, 2019


By Virginia Annable


Nov 01, 2019 12:00 AM

Despite heavy rain and wind, Julie Rook and several hundred other people made their way to the J.E. Broyhill Civic Center in Lenoir Thursday morning to hunt for a job.


In a bright red raincoat still damp with rain, Hook meandered a maze of tables where 50 employers were set up in the ballroom of the civic center. She came from Hickory in search of permanent employment, and she thought the annual Caldwell is Hiring job fair seemed like her best chance to find it.


“I’ve been in temp services for years, and they’re just that — temporary,” Hook said.


It was her first time at a job fair, and the number of employers all in one place was more than convenient, she said. With so many companies in one place, she learned about jobs she had no idea were available, she said.


“There’s a lot of opportunities I wasn’t even aware of until I came here,” Hook said.


Deborah Murray, the executive director of the Caldwell County Economic Development Commission, encourages the job seekers who come to the fair to take advantage of the wealth of employers in one place. When they come in, she speaks with small groups of applicants and encourages them to approach as many companies as they can.


“Be adventurous today,” she said to one group. “How long would it take you to see 50 employers on your own? Months. So go talk to them today.”


The employers represent thousands of available jobs, she said.


While only about 370 people came to Caldwell is Hiring, it was more than Murray expected because of the poor weather and the low unemployment rate – 3.7 percent in Caldwell County as of September and 3.3 percent in the larger Hickory region.


“It’s been a good day,” Murray said. “People just keep trickling in.”


That there were fewer people than in past Caldwell is Hiring events talking to the employers gave people like Caroline Cardwell of Granite Falls time to give a good impression to potential employers, she said.


“It’s a good way to put a face to yourself so you’re more than just a piece of paper,” she said.


Cardwell, in search of an administrative position, spoke with several employers and said she was able to take the time to learn about the companies and find which ones fit her best.


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


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