Archive for October, 2020

10-29-2020 – Job growth seen moving slowly

Posted on: October 29th, 2020 by admin


October 29, 2020



  • By Guy Lucas
  • Oct 28, 2020 Updated 13 hrs ago


The latest local unemployment numbers paint a picture of an economy in slow recovery mode, both in this region and statewide.


Caldwell County’s unemployment rate creeped up 0.2 percentage point to 7.5% in September, mirroring a statewide trend of small job gains against lingering losses from the COVID-19-related shutdowns in the spring, the N.C. Labor and Economic Analysis Division report showed.


Deborah Murray, the executive director of the Caldwell County Economic Development Commission, said it is hard to draw conclusions about the local economy from the unemployment reports since the pandemic struck.


“It is very encouraging to see the increase in the number of people working, in fact, it is the largest number of people working since March. It is tempting to read success into improving numbers, but not all numbers are heading in the right direction,” she said.


Local unemployment rates rose in 95 of the state’s 100 counties as fewer than 100,000 people gained jobs and a similar number of jobless people rejoined the labor force, the report showed.


In Caldwell County, the number of residents with jobs rose by about 800, but the number rejoining the labor force rose by about 900.


The good news from that is that because those who are not seeking work are not counted as part of the labor force, a growing labor force generally is seen as a sign of confidence in the economy as the long-term unemployed resume trying to find work.


But according to a breakdown of employment by sectors of the economy, by far the largest number of job gains both locally and statewide were in government — in the Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton metropolitan statistical area, government employment increased by more than 1,000 from the August report. Since the report covers the period from mid-August to mid-September, those gains probably are largely related to the new school year starting.


Most employment sectors saw little change.


Manufacturing and leisure/hospitality were the strongest in the Hickory region, each gaining about 300 jobs from August to September, while four of the 10 sectors in the report had no significant change.


Murray said she knows that “families have been forced to make tough decisions to navigate COVID waters” and many are struggling, but against that backdrop she also knows from job listings that the EDC receives that there are many jobs available in Caldwell and surrounding counties.


“Employers are starved for workers to meet the increases in demand for their products. It is truly a different time,” she said.


Neighboring Burke and Catawba counties had similar numbers as Caldwell, with the unemployment rate rising by 0.3 points in both, to 6.6% in Burke and 7.2% in Catawba.


10-15-2020 – State grant helps new furniture plant

Posted on: October 16th, 2020 by admin


October 15, 2020






A state grant will help pay for renovations of the former Broyhill upholstery complex in Lenoir, where a Taylorsville-based company recently began production.


The North Carolina Rural Infrastructure Authority announced Thursday a $500,000 building reuse grant to the city of Lenoir to support Craftmaster Furniture’s renovation of a 412,554-square-foot building.


Roy R. Calcagne, president and CEO of Craftmaster, reiterated in a prepared statement the company’s plans to have more than 100 employees there by mid-2021.


“We are excited to be expanding our business into Caldwell County, where furniture manufacturing has been providing local families with great paying jobs for more than a century,” he said. “We will be adding experienced upholsterers, sewers and frame builders over the next several months.”


The upholstery complex was purchased by Craftmaster’s parent company, Samson Holdings, in 2018 for $4.75 million after the bankruptcy of Heritage Home Group. It includes warehouses used by Baker Furniture, Lega- cy Classic Furniture and Grand Manor, which are sister companies to Craftmaster.

10-14-2020 – Grant could fund fast internet

Posted on: October 14th, 2020 by admin


October 14, 2020



By Kara Fohner

Oct 13, 2020 6:16 PM


Blue Ridge Energy has applied for a grant to help pay for bringing high-speed internet to parts of northern Caldwell County.


The Caldwell County Board of Commissioners approved $100,000 in matching funds for the North Carolina Growing Rural Economies with Access to Technology Grant application, money that would be used only if Blue Ridge Energy is awarded the grant.


If the grant is awarded, communities near N.C. 268 from Indian Grave Road east towards Ferguson could receive the high-speed internet service, Renee Whitener, director of public relations for Blue Ridge Energy, said in an email.


The infrastructure would affect 412 places on multiple roads including Indian Grave Road, Buffalo Cove Road, Yadkin Lane, Laytown Road and Nubbin Creek Road, among others, Whitener said.


If the grant is awarded, Blue Ridge Energy intends to build the “fiber-optic backbone infrastructure” and to partner with SkyBest Communications, a telecommunications cooperative based in West Jefferson, to provide the internet access.


Construction would take about two years. The work would be done in sections, “so service will become available community by community,” Whitener said.


The N.C. GREAT Grant Program was established by the N.C. Department of Information Technology’s Broadband Infrastructure Office to help bring high-speed internet to economically distressed counties in North Carolina that do not have access to adequate internet service.


Blue Ridge Energy intends to continue working with SkyBest Communications to pursue additional state or federal grants for other parts of northern Caldwell County that do not have broadband service.


“This may take some years to achieve, because it all depends on being selected to receive a grant in a very competitive process,” Whitener said. “This is very rugged terrain with sparse population, and the cost of delivering high-quality internet service to this area is extremely expensive, which is why we must have state or federal grant assistance to make the economics work.”


In other business, Deborah Murray, the executive director of the Economic Development Commission, asked the commissioners to approve offering incentives to several companies considering expanding their operations in Caldwell County.


One company, which Murray did not identify except as Project Drumstick, was approved a year ago for local jobs incentives and has since doubled in size. It now plans to move to a larger facility and create 15 new jobs.


Murray said that the EDC is in the process of working with the company on an application for a state building reuse grant.


The incentives requested for two companies are related because the two intend to share a facility, Murray said.


One, identified publicly only as Project M&M, is an Ohio company that manufactures textiles. Murray said the company expects to create 12 jobs.


“They want to be here because they believe we have a rich textile history and they can bring some modernization to that process as well as bring new jobs to Caldwell County,” Murray said.


The other, identified only as Project Toucan, is an industrial printer that prints designs, labels and insignias on many products, including some of those created by Project M&M. The company expects to create eight new jobs.


The commissioners approved job-creation incentives of $2,000 for each new job created. The incentives would be paid to the companies only after the companies provided documentation of jobs being filled and maintained for a specified period.

10-01-2020 – MDI announces major Caldwell expansion

Posted on: October 1st, 2020 by admin


October 1, 2020



Sep 30, 2020 5:08 PM


Caldwell County’s largest private employer announced a $120 million expansion project Wednesday that could create 111 new jobs.


Merchants Distributors Inc. plans to expand its facilities by adding a 200,000-square-foot building to its grocery distribution complex just east of U.S. 321 in a portion of southern Caldwell County that is within the Hickory city limits. The project will include the installation of sophisticated logistics technology and automation, according to a press release from Gov. Roy Cooper’s office.


The state’s Economic Investment Committee approved on Wednesday a Job Development Investment Grant that could reimburse MDI up to $1.344 million of its investment over 12 years, based on the new tax revenues generated by the new jobs the project creates.


The Caldwell County Board of Commissioners voted in May to offer job-creation incentives of $2,000 for each job created up to 111 jobs, as well as for each job retained up to 120, for a total of $462,000.


At the time the commissioners voted on incentives, the company was not identified as MDI but only as Project Jorgai because North Carolina was competing with South Carolina and Georgia to land the project. Competitive state grants call for the confidentiality of a project until a final decision is made.


The commissioners also approved a 75 percent tax grant for 10 years, which will give back to the company 75 percent of the property taxes it pays on the new value created by its investment.


The new jobs will have an average annual salary of $51,634, higher than the county’s overall average of $40,124, according to the press release.


Over the course of 12 years, the project is estimated to grow the state’s economy by $305.5 million, the governor’s office said.


Brian George, chairman and CEO of MDI, said that the company’s local roots helped make the decision on where to expand.


“We are excited to continue to grow in Hickory where we were founded nearly 90 years ago,” he said.


Randy Church, chairman of the Caldwell County Board of Commissioners, said that Hickory also offering incentives was important to securing the expansion, though a final vote has not been taken.


The Hickory City Council will vote in October on a $500,000 infrastructure grant related to the new construction project. City Manager Warren Wood said that city officials wanted to match the incentives offered by Caldwell County.


Wood said that the city council will also vote on an investment grant that could provide $3.9 million over eight years.


The MDI expansion will be second only to Google’s $600 million data center expansion in its size and impact on the Caldwell County economy, said Deborah Murray, the executive director of the Caldwell County Economic Development Commission. She said that it provides a sense of encouragement and relief during a period of economic uncertainty caused by the coronavirus pandemic.


“It’s exciting that even in these times you have this kind of investment and growth and vision,” she said. “This is our largest private employer, and their value to us has been well-illustrated. It couldn’t be better timed.”


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


10-01-2020 – Job gains stalled in August

Posted on: October 1st, 2020 by admin


October 1, 2020


By Guy Lucas

Sep 30, 2020 11:10 AM


The start of the new school year in August helped drive local unemployment rates down across the state, but locally employment in other sectors of the economy held even overall, according to a new state report.


Caldwell County’s unemployment rate dropped 2.3 percentage points to 7.3% in August, the N.C. Labor and Economic Analysis Division reported.


Neighboring counties showed similar drops – 1.9 points to 6.3% in Burke and 2.2 points to 7.0% in Catawba – but across the Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton metropolitan statistical area that was almost entirely driven by government job gains, the report said. Government employment across the region climbed by almost 2,000 from mid-July to mid-August as schools prepared for the beginning of the new school year on Aug. 17.


Overall employment remained about 16,000 jobs lower across the region than it was in August 2019, and even government employment was about 800 jobs lower, the report said.


Deborah Murray, the executive director of the Caldwell County Economic Development Commission, said it is difficult to interpret employment reports with any degree of certainty because of the pandemic-related shutdowns, some of which are now in their fifth month. But she said that Caldwell’s unemployment rate improved relative to other counties, moving up from 83rd to 78th out of 100 counties.


Also, reversing a trend from recent months, the local labor force – the combined number of those who have jobs and those actively searching for jobs – dropped sharply from July to August, declining by more than 1,200 to just under 34,000 in Caldwell, by a similar number to just under 39,000 in Burke, and by about 2,500 to just over 73,000 in Catawba.


A declining labor force often is seen as a sign of discouragement among the unemployed because some have stopped looking for work and no longer are counted in the labor force.


Murray said it was unclear how to interpret that decline this time.


“This report is typical for August in that the number unemployed always decreases from July to August. (But) While the number unemployed month over month reduced substantially, so did the labor force,” she said. “The significance of those numbers will be seen more clearly as we receive the September and October reports.”

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