Archive for September, 2021

9-29-2021 – Commissioners announce new county manager

Posted on: September 29th, 2021 by admin


September 29, 2021




Sep 28, 2021



LENOIR — During Monday night’s Caldwell County Board of Commissioners meeting at the City-County Chambers in Lenoir, Donald Duncan, the current manager of Conover in Catawba County, was formally hired in a unanimous vote.


Duncan has led the city of Conover for the past 15 years, where he oversees a $32 million budget, and all city operations with 153 employees. A graduate of Appalachian State University, Duncan earned his Bachelor of Science degree in political science with a concentration in town, city, and county management. He also earned his Master of Public Administration degree from Appalachian State, which has one of the top-ranked local government programs in the United States, according to a press release issued by the county.


Duncan will be paid $170,000 per year, and receive an additional $27,596 in annual stipends and reimbursements for job related expenses such as memberships, phone payment, car payment, and professional development, his contract states.


County Commission Chairman Randy Church said the extensive search started in June of this year with around 20 applicants for the position.


“We had a candidate that came to the top as the cream of the crop, and we feel very fortunate to announce his acceptance,” Church said.


Duncan said, “My family and I look forward to making Caldwell County our home. The commissioners and staff work hard to create opportunities and a wonderful quality of life for all residents. I am excited at the chance to continue to build upon their success.”


Duncan will replace interim County Manager Tony Helton, the county finance officer, who was appointed as interim in May following the firing of Stan Kiser.


Kiser, who began working as county manager on Oct. 1, 2009, was terminated for his “substantial failure to perform the duties as manager as assigned to him by the statute and by the board of commissioners,” Commissioner Donnie Potter said in the meeting when the commissioners made the announcement last May.


In hiring the replacement, Potter said, “There were a lot of hours, conversations, and many interviews, and quite frankly, I think hiring Mr. Duncan will be the legacy of this board that we leave behind.”


According to the contract, Duncan will begin his duties as Caldwell County manager starting Nov. 1, and will move to Caldwell County no later than Oct. 31.

9-22-2021 – Council congratulates Fairfield Chair Co. on 100 year anniversary

Posted on: September 22nd, 2021 by admin


September 22, 2021



The City of Lenoir City Council recognized and congratulated Fairfield Chair Company on its 100 Year Anniversary Tuesday night.


Mayor Joe Gibbons read and presented a resolution to Mr. John Beall, Chairman of the Fairfield Chair Company Board of Directors, and Board Member Mr. Stewart Beall during the Sept. 21, 2021, City Council meeting. The resolution thanks the company for its many contributions to Lenoir and congratulates the Beall family on the 100 year anniversary of the company. The full resolution is included below. Mayor Gibbons also gave the Bealls a framed City of Lenoir City flag.


“I want to thank you on behalf of Stewart and myself,” Mr. John Beall said. “Our success has been our ability to recognize talent and to hire employees, thousands of them over the 100 years, and treat them well. We’re grateful to the City for the infrastructure they provide, and the fine fire department that is really important and holds down our insurance rates. We get a lot of support from the City of Lenoir and we’re very appreciative.”


Fairfield Chair Company was incorporated in the City of Lenoir in 1921and all of the company’s manufacturing, warehousing, and trucking facilities are still located in the City and Caldwell County. In 1970, Fairfield Chair built the iconic civic center building on 321 to serve as the company showroom. Today, the company operates more than 500,000 square feet of production, warehousing, and display space, and Fairfield Chair is the ninth largest employer in Caldwell County.


Beall said he was also proud of what the company has accomplished, and he added that family and staff are working on their second 100 years.

9-15-2021 – 1841 Cafe’s pandemic success story

Posted on: September 16th, 2021 by admin


September 15, 2021




Sep 14, 2021


Vickie Setzer was just months away from having to close one of Lenoir’s most beloved local restaurants due to the COVID-19 pandemic.


“I was going to close 1841 Cafe in March of 2020,” Setzer said. “I was two, going on three months behind on rent, power, everything.”


Despite more than 550 five-star reviews on Google, the restaurant appeared ready to succumb to pandemic-related restrictions and economic hardships.


Carmela Tomlinson, the director of the Small Business Center at Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute, was in the process of advertising a new grant when she and Setzer connected. The “Reboot, Recover, and Rebuild,” or R3, grant program was initiated through small business centers across the state to provide resources and assistance to local businesses struggling to navigate the added pressures of a global pandemic.


North Carolina’s General Assembly provided the finances to back the grants.


“If it hadn’t been for the Small Business Center, we would have never made it, Setzer said.


Through the grant, 1841 was able to add two employees and retain 10 through the COVID-19 pandemic.


Setzer received 30 hours of consultation and training on everything from managing finances, reviewing expenses, marketing, policies, employee retention and training, pricing, menu analysis and more.


While Setzer was only granted consultation and training through the R3 grant, the center also worked to ensure Setzer was signed up for every other grant and loan available through pandemic recovery plans.


“The loans got me enough money to get up on my feet, and once that happened, we got to start to-go orders,” Setzer said.


“And let me tell you what this town did. They would go to Taste of Havana and get an entree, they would go down to Fercott (Fermentables) and get their craft beer and wine, they come here and got entrees, they went to Shake-N-Dog and got for the kids, went to Piccolo’s for pasta and pizza and the (Side Street) Pour House, and everybody came together to make it work,” she said. “They weren’t going to the chains. They came here. They helped us survive.”


A little over a year since the Small Business Center stepped in to guide Setzer, she said her biggest problem now is needing more staff.


“We need servers desperately, we need a prep cook desperately, I need a fry cook, I need an expo and a hostess,” she said.


Tomlinson said the Small Business Center was so successful in using the grant funds within the county, it received some leftover money from other North Carolina small business centers to further aid in economic recovery.


“What’s really cool is we took these grants and we helped businesses, but I was able to hire other local businesses to help them, so we spread the love to all these companies. I loved that part about the grant,” Tomlinson said. “It’s important that local businesses are aware of the resources and help that is available to them during difficult times.”


The small business center is at the HUB Station, 143 Cedar Valley Road in Hudson, and can be reached at 828-726-3065.


Reporter Candice Simmons can be reached at (828)610-8721

9-15-2021 – Small Business Week runs through Sunday

Posted on: September 15th, 2021 by admin


September 15, 2021





RALEIGH – Thanks to a proclamation by Gov. Roy Cooper, this week marks Small Business Week.


Governor Roy Cooper proclaimed Sept. 12-19, 2021, as Small Business Week to highlight the importance of small, independent businesses and entrepreneurship to North Carolina’s economy.


“As the backbone of our economy, small business owners and entrepreneurs are crucial pillars to North Carolina’s success,” Cooper said. “With much dedication even before the pandemic, the small business community has been the center of our economic prosperity from the mountains to the coast.”


Small Business Week celebrates the remarkable entrepreneurial spirit of North Carolina small businesses as they navigate the unprecedented challenges of a global pandemic while continuing to support their employees and local communities. Pre-pandemic, the state’s 934,000 small businesses accounted for 99 percent of all North Carolina employers with the pandemic spurring a record-breaking number of business formations.


“North Carolina’s diverse small businesses and innovative startups are the heart and soul of their communities as job creators and community builders,” N.C. Commerce Secretary Machelle Baker Sanders said. “Beyond our local communities, small businesses are significant contributors to North Carolina’s trade industry and global manufacturing reputation as they generate more than $29 billion in total exports. We are grateful for their enthusiasm and resilience and we remain committed to supporting their growth and success.”


Collaboratively, public agencies, education institutions and private-sector organizations assist small businesses with growth strategies and job creation by providing workforce training, business mentoring, financial assistance, research, technical assistance, and export services.


North Carolina provides many services to small businesses through NCWorks, community college small business centers, the N.C. Small Business and Technology Development Center, SCORE, the Veterans Business Outreach Center, the Rural Center and a toll-free information and referral service known as the Small Business Advisors hotline.

9-10-2021 – NCDOT planning to repair 321 southbound bridge

Posted on: September 10th, 2021 by admin


September 10, 2021




Sep 9, 2021


Drivers who regularly travel from Caldwell County into Hickory will face a daily, long-running headache next spring as work begins to make structural repairs to the bridge that carries the southbound lanes of U.S. 321 over Lake Hickory.


Plans to widen U.S. 321 between Hickory and Lenoir call for eventually replacing the bridge entirely, but before that will happen repairs are needed to keep the bridge operating safely, the N.C. Department of Transportation said.


The bridge, built in 1962, was last inspected in April and was deemed structurally deficient due to excessive corrosion to the steel support beams and because of potholes, and it was deemed functionally obsolete due to the narrowness of the bridge.


Tim Sherrill, a preservation and repair engineer with the NCDOT Structures Management Unit, said the repairs include mending excessive corrosion of the steel metal beams due to years of water, salt and brine, and repairing asphalt corrosions and potholes along the deck of the bridge.


“I know ‘structurally deficient’ and ‘functionally obsolete’ sounds very scary. Those are just terms based on federal guidelines. It does not mean that the bridge is not safe, we just need improvements,” Sherrill said.


The project is being designed to contract out in December, Sherrill said.


Plans on how to direct traffic are still in development, he said.


“It’s not final but we’re trying to see about doing some of the work at night,” he said. “At times, we may shift all traffic to a two-lane road on the northbound bridge, and at times we may close down just one lane on the southbound side.”


The NCDOT anticipates completing the repairs next summer.


Reporter Candice Simmons can be reached at (828)610-8721

9-7-2021 – COVID-19 surge feeds furniture headache

Posted on: September 7th, 2021 by admin


September 7, 2021



By Guy Lucas

Sep 6, 2021


Just as furniture manufacturers began to make some inroads in reducing backlogged orders, surges in COVID-19 overseas, particularly in Asia, have further restricted some already tight supply chains, an industry observer reports.


New orders continue a year-long boom, with orders in June up 7% over June 2020 — which itself was a big boom month when consumers began a spending spree after the spring 2020 business lockdowns, according to the latest Furniture Insights report from the Smith Leonard consulting and accounting firm in High Point.


“We had thought that we would probably see some declines starting in June, which would not be bad, but might ‘feel’ not so good, but the results were positive instead,” the report said. “The results were not up for all, but some 66% of the participants reported increases over June 2020.”


That said, business was up so much in the second half of 2020 that Smith Leonard expects it will be hard to beat every month for the rest of the year.


Backlogged orders in June were 153% above June 2020’s levels, but shipments showed signs of picking up — before the highly contagious COVID-19 delta variant surged, the report said.


“As we write this, COVID cases are on the rise again and some countries have either shut down or have severely restricted production and shipping,” the report said. “Several of the Asian countries have seen significantly more cases, with Vietnam hit very hard. Ho Chi Minh City has significantly tightened their restriction, which has yielded significant reductions in production.”


The increase in COVID-19 cases in the U.S. also appeared to weaken consumer confidence, at least in the short term, the report said.


“Spending intentions for homes, autos, and major appliances all cooled somewhat; however, the percentage of consumers intending to take a vacation in the next six months continued to climb,” it said. “While the resurgence of COVID-19 and inflation concerns have dampened confidence, it is too soon to conclude this decline will result in consumers significantly curtailing their spending in the months ahead.”


9-1-2021 – Local economy humming along

Posted on: September 1st, 2021 by admin


September 1, 2021



By Guy Lucas

Sep 1, 2021


Caldwell County’s economy continued improving in July with one of the largest drops in unemployment in the state as the number of residents with jobs closes in on pre-pandemic levels.


The local unemployment rate dropped by a half a percentage point to 4.6%, according to the N.C. Labor and Economic Analysis Division. Although 99 of the state’s 100 counties saw their unemployment rate drop in July, only 11 others had a drop of a half percentage point or more.


That helped Caldwell move to the very middle, tied with Franklin and Mecklenburg counties for the 51st lowest unemployment rate.


But in terms of the percentage rate, Caldwell is much closer to the best than the worst: Avery County, Caldwell’s northwestern neighbor, had the state’s lowest unemployment rate at 3.5%, while Scotland County in the southeastern part of the state had the highest at 9.1%.


The number of Caldwell residents with jobs in July was about 2,100 higher than in July 2020, when the county was still early in its recovery from the COVID-19 shutdowns, and about 500 short of the number in July 2019, said Taylor Dellinger, a data analyst with the Western Piedmont Council of Governments. That’s about the same as the difference in the workforce from July 2019 to July 2021.


The question is whether most of those are staying out of work because of federally enhanced unemployment benefits, which will expire this month, or because of other reasons, he said.


Burke and Catawba counties both saw a drop of 0.4 percentage points in their unemployment rate, to 4.2% in Burke and 4.3% in Catawba.


The overall Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton metropolitan statistical area’s unemployment rate of 4.3% remained fifth lowest among the state’s 15 metro areas.


In other good news for the region’s economy, the Catawba Economic Development Commission announced Wednesday that Everything Attachments, a manufacturer of farm implements and tractor attachments, plans to spend at least $20 million to expand its manufacturing facility in Conover, creating nearly 150 new jobs over the next five years. Salaries for the new employees will vary by position and experience, but the company offers a minimum wage of $30 an hour, the announcement said.


Also, the Catawba Valley Association of Realtors reported Wednesday that demand for housing across the Hickory region, including Caldwell County, continues to exceed supply. The average selling price for a house in Caldwell in July was $226,434, up 10.6 percent from July 2020, though sales of higher-priced houses accounted for a big part of the jump. The median sales price, which is the point where half of all the houses sold are higher and half are lower, was $188,000, 3.4% higher than in July 2020.

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