Archive for the ‘News section’ Category

6-8-2021- Industrial park could make room for growth

Posted on: June 8th, 2021 by admin


June 8, 2021



By Kara Fohner


A new industrial park county officials hope to begin would be the first of its kind in decades, filling a void by providing a site for projects that the county currently does not have the property to accommodate, a county leader said.


The development of the property, around 30 acres near Nuway Circle in Lenoir, is particularly significant to the county’s industrial growth, said Deborah Murray, executive director of the Economic Development Commission.


Currently, she said, “there are a lot of requests for great projects that we can’t respond to because we don’t have the place, and this would give us one more place.”


The only industrial park in the county, on Industrial Court in southwestern Lenoir, was established by the city of Lenoir in the 1980s, Murray said.


“This is a first for the county,” Murray said.


The site the county is considering has readily available infrastructure and is close to U.S. 321, Murray said.


The Caldwell County Board of Commissioners recently voted to pay $374,000 to purchase the property, but before that can happen engineers must assess the property to determine what kind of facility could be placed there.


While the county once had many empty buildings that could be repurposed to suit new or expanding companies, there is little left today that could be readily used, Murray said. That has blunted one of the county’s most frequently used recruitment tools, building reuse grants from the N.C. Department of Commerce to help companies renovate existing buildings.


“Unfortunately, when you are out of old buildings to repurpose, a building reuse grant can’t help you if you don’t have a building. So what we’ve got to do is create the opportunity where a company can come in and see themselves building their own building in our county,” Murray said.


The county will not construct buildings, but the property is intended to be “shovel-ready” for a company to build there.


“A number of the companies that we have in our county have looked for additional space because they’ve maxed out where they are, and so one of our first options would be to make certain that our existing companies know what would be available there so that their own expansions could be local,” she said.


Reporter Kara Fohner can be reached at 828-610-8721.

6-3-2021 – Caldwell makes small progress on jobs

Posted on: June 3rd, 2021 by admin


June 3, 2021



By Guy Lucas

Jun 2, 2021


In Caldwell County and most counties across the state, small drops in the number of people without jobs helped local unemployment rates edge down in April.


The number of Caldwell residents with jobs climbed close to what it was just before the COVID-19-related shutdowns of last spring, but the number of filled jobs in the hard-hit manufacturing sector of the overall Hickory region still lags behind pre-pandemic levels.


Caldwell’s unemployment rate declined 0.2 percentage points to 4.5%, barely higher than the statewide median rate of 4.3%, the N.C. Labor and Economic Analysis Division reported. The division also revised down the county’s March unemployment rate to 4.7% from the originally reported 4.8%.


A little more than 6,500 Caldwell residents lost jobs last spring. With the April report, the number of employed is just a few dozen shy of what it had been before the shutodwns, and there are still plenty of job openings, said Deborah Murray, the executive director of the Caldwell County Economic Development Commission.


“The good news is that we are back to pre-pandemic employment,” she said. “On the flip side, any employer will tell you it is difficult to find new workers. We have launched several efforts during the last month to encourage those who aren’t working to consider coming back.”


The labor force — the number of people counted as either working or looking for a job — has been slower to recover than the number of people with jobs. Statewide, the labor force dropped in April, but the number counted as unemployed dropped even more, and that was reflected in most counties, including Catawba County.


In Caldwell and Burke counties, the labor force ticked up just slightly while the number of unemployed dropped by more than 100 each.


“There truly never has been a better time to be looking for a job than today,” Murray said. “Employers have recognized that to land the best employee, especially in certain wage ranges, the competition is fierce — it is an employee’s market. Those looking for work can leverage the things most important to them in landing their next job. Wages have increased, benefits have been modified, schedules in some cases have become more flexible, and certainly signing bonuses and incentives have become more common.”


The EDC post all jobs its staff is aware of throughout the Hickory region on the Caldwell Is Hiring Virtual Job Fair page on Facebook, and the last 30 days of job postings is available on the EDC website,, she said. Hoping to lure more young adults into the labor market, the EDC is trying to encourage new high school graduates to look at the postings and also has created a summer jobs section on its website that will post new jobs through mid-June.


In the Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton metropolitan statistical region, the economic sector with the most job gains from March to April was leisure and hospitality, where jobs increased by about 600. Manufacturing was second with about 300 added jobs.


Although the leisure sector had been the hardest hit statewide by the pandemic and had the most room to rebound, in the Hickory region manufacturing was hit harder.


In March, the number of manufacturing jobs in the Hickory region still was more than 2,000 behind the number that existed before the pandemic-related shutdowns of late March and April 2020, so with April’s gains the number of jobs was still about 1,700 below where it was in early March 2020.


By comparison, in the leisure sector the number of jobs this past March in the region was only about 600 behind the number in early March 2020, so April’s gains put the number close to even.


Murray said manufacturers in particular are eager to find workers to fill vacancies.


“Manufacturers have continued to grow through the pandemic and are anxious to add to their workforce,” she said.

5-24-2021 – CCC&TI lineworker building completed

Posted on: May 24th, 2021 by admin


May 24, 2021



By Carmen Boone

May 20, 2021 Updated May 21, 2021


Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute has completed a new building for indoor training classes for its Electrical Lineworker Institute.


The college has been working with Garanco General Construction on the construction since July, said Justin Harris, the director of energy and construction trades at the college. The building includes two classrooms and two offices, bathrooms, a fenced area to store equipment in. Its indoor field of utility poles will be installed next week, said Josh Kaufhold, superintendent of Garanco.


Harris said Duke Energy donated $100,000 and Blue Ridge Energy donated $150,000 toward the $2 million cost.


“Almost half of the linemen that work for Blue Ridge Energy come from here,” he said. “They help us fund this, and we train their workers.”


It takes 14 weeks to complete the program. Instructor Marty Walker said the first level of classes happen indoors with videos, testing and paperwork.


“After that we can take them directly outside to apply their training,” he said, teaching them how to climb poles and do the electrical work.


Because the program runs throughout the year, that means sometimes the weather conditions outside can be hostile. The indoor pole field will allow training to go on no matter the weather.


“They [students] leave with 16 industry-recognized credentials once they graduate,” he said. “Usually about two weeks before they graduate, companies will come out here to recruit.”


Harris said that 90% of students have jobs lined up by the time they graduate.


The first class to be taught in the new building will begin on June 7.


Reporter Carmen Boone can be reached at 828-610-8723

5-19-2021 – Award named for Paul Broyhill

Posted on: May 19th, 2021 by admin


May 19, 2021




May 18, 2021


The American Home Furnishings Hall of Fame has renamed its annual awards for emerging leaders for Paul Broyhill.


The Paul Broyhill Future Leaders Award, underwritten by a gift from the Broyhill Family Foundation, will be given annually to five people selected for leadership, potential for personal growth, communications skills and their commitment to the industry, the hall of fame announced to Furniture Today, an industry trade publication.


Karen McNeill Pond, CEO of the hall of fame, said that under Paul Broyhill’s leadership, Broyhill Furniture Industries and was noted for its executive training.


“The standards set by the Broyhill family through three generations — James Edgar Broyhill, Paul Hunt Broyhill and now his son, M. Hunt Broyhill — will forever be preserved as giants that greatly influenced our industry,” she told Furniture Today.


Broyhill is the son of J.E. Broyhill, who in with his brother T.H. Broyhill started a furniture company that grew to become a worldwide leader in the industry. At its peak in the 1970s, Broyhill Furniture Industries had 20 factories and employed about 7,500 people, about 4,500 of them in Caldwell County.


Paul Broyhill, 95, served in the Army in World War II and returned after the war to complete his bachelor’s degree at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He joined the then-family-owned company in 1947 and rose through the ranks to become chairman and chief executive officer.

5-14-2021 – Housing market in Caldwell heats up

Posted on: May 14th, 2021 by admin


May 12, 2021



By Guy Lucas

May 13, 2021


The residential construction market ramped up last year to a level not seen in over a dozen years, and it appears to be continuing into 2021.


Builders in Caldwell County applied for permits for construction valued at a total of nearly $70 million in 2020, by far the highest value since the 2008 recession, according to figures presented this week to the Caldwell County Economic Development Commission’s board of directors.


So far, 2021 is continuing on that pace, with permits totaling more than $20 million in the first four months of the year, noted Deborah Murray, the executive director of the EDC.


The high water mark for residential building permits previously was 2007, with a total value of just under $60 million.


“Now we’re getting back to that,” Murray said, and at the current pace 2021’s permits could top 2020’s total value.


After the 2008 recession, residential construction in the county plummeted, and permits hit a low of under $20 million in 2011. Since then they had gradually rebounded to more than $50 million in 2019.


The surge in building should help Caldwell County employers recruit people to move here for hard-to-fill jobs, Murray said. Employers have often said in recent years that they had lost some potential workers because they couldn’t find housing here that they wanted.


It also has implications for attracting more diverse retailers because more new housing means a larger and still growing population, which makes the area more attractive to retailers, she said.


The Catawba Valley Association of Realtors and Canopy MLS, which collects information on listings, contracts and sales, have been saying for months that the supply of housing in Caldwell County — as in the Hickory region overall — falls far short of the demand, which has driven sales prices up sharply over the past year.


Data from Canopy MLS shows that the median sales price of a house in Caldwell County in March, the most recent data available, was almost $189,000, up nearly 22% from March 2020.


Sellers in the first three months of 2021 also got on average 97.3% of their asking price for their houses, a high percentage indicating the market is tight, Canopy said in a press release.


“Low supply creates a highly favorable market for sellers, as indicated by the original list price to sales price ratio … , showing sellers are getting most of their asking prices,” the press release said.

5-12-2021 – Google getting new face in Lenoir

Posted on: May 12th, 2021 by admin


May 12, 2021



By Guy Lucas

May 11, 2021


The man who had been the public face of Google in Lenoir for almost three years has transferred to a job out of state.


Jorge Gutierrez became site operations manager in June 2018, and his last day at work in Lenoir was Friday, according to conversation Tuesday among members of the Caldwell County Economic Development Commission’s board of directors.


Google, which is based in California, did not answer requests before the News-Topic’s deadline Tuesday for information about Gutierrez’s successor.


EDC board members had words of high praise for Gutierrez’s contributions to Caldwell County’s economic development efforts. He served as the board’s treasurer and also was a member of the EDC’s executive committee.


As site operations manager, Gutierrez was perhaps the most visible of Google’s local employees, representing Google at events and coordinating its work with local organizations, including the EDC, Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute, and the Caldwell County Schools.


Gutierrez was just the second site operations manager the Lenoir data center has had. He succeeded Enoch Moeller, who came to Lenoir shortly before the data center opened in 2008.


Gutierrez worked at the Lenoir data center for more than three years as a hardware operations manager before replacing Moeller.

5-12-2021 – Solar housing coming to Granite Falls

Posted on: May 12th, 2021 by admin


May 12, 2021



By Guy Lucas

May 11, 2021


A small housing development planned near downtown Granite Falls will be the first in Caldwell County incorporating renewable energy sources intended to virtually wipe out homeowners’ electric bills.


The Duke Street Cottages, on Duke Street across from Granite Falls Brewing, is intended to be a “net zero energy” project, Rob Howard of Howard Building Science Inc. told the Caldwell County Economic Development Commission’s board of directors on Tuesday.


Net zero energy means the total energy the 11 houses in the 1-acre development use in a year will be about equal to the amount of renewable energy generated on-site.


The neighborhood will have 212 solar panels, and energy will be stored in batteries, Howard said.


“The idea is if the grid goes down due to a storm or a squirrel, these homes will still have power,” he said.


Howard said he has worked on net zero energy projects before, starting in 2005, when he built the first net zero house in North Carolina for Habitat for Humanity.


The development is planned as a “pocket neighborhood,” which means they will have large front porches facing a shared greenspace down the middle, and a property owners association will manage landscaping and exterior maintenance, Howard said.


The neighborhood also will include charging stations for electric cars.


Howard said he intends to target middle-class buyers with annual incomes of $48,000 to $72,000 a year. The houses will cost from around $150,000 for a 2-bedroom unit of about 800 square feet to around $235,000 for a larger 3-bedroom.


Work on the development should begin next month, but Howard said he intends to list the houses for pre-sale as soon as next week.


Howard, a Caldwell County native who grew up in Hudson and lives in Granite Falls, said he hopes do work on more housing projects like this in Caldwell County.


“I see this as the first of many. This is what I want to do in the next phase of my career,” he said.

5-12-2021 – Workers are in high demand

Posted on: May 12th, 2021 by admin


May 12, 2021



By Guy Lucas

May 11, 2021


People who have been reluctant to return to the workforce, no matter the reason, may not realize how much opportunity they are missing now, a local economic development official said.


All kinds of businesses are desperately seeking workers, and that has shifted conditions in favor of workers in terms of pay, benefits and future prospects, said Deborah Murray, the executive director of the Caldwell County Economic Development Commission.


“One employer told us last week, … ‘I could double the size of my business if I could find more workers,’ ” she said.


An EDC survey of local employers found that many have increased starting wages and benefits, are offering earlier raises and promotions or other incentives, and allow more flexibility in workers’ schedules, she told the EDC’s board of directors on Tuesday. Employers are also more likely to try to improve workplace conditions, she said, citing one who added free Wi-Fi to employee break rooms.


“Without question, our employers have looked at their wages and are increasing them, not just thinking about it,” she said. “Employers are very serious about attracting the best talent they can, about growing and retaining the best employees.”


Employers nationwide in a variety of industries have reported difficulty finding employees even though the economy has still not regained all of the jobs lost during the pandemic-related shutdowns in early 2020.


Although some blame continued federal enhancement of unemployment benefits, saying it gives people as much or more money as a job would, surveys also have shown some workers have remained out because of a lack of child care or fear of COVID-19, among other reasons. Paul Krugman of the New York Times cited data last week showing that thousands of jobs paying more than $35 an hour are going unfilled, and unemployment benefits can’t come close to matching that.


Regardless of any individual’s reason for sitting out of the workforce, that person needs to consider the opportunities for advancement that could be lost by continuing to sit out until after the current high demand for employees has ebbed, Murray said.


Ric Smith, the manager of the NCWorks Caldwell Career Center, which helps connect the unemployed with employers, said he has had discussions along those lines with some who are out of work. The job market is hot now, but it may not look the same in six months or a year, he said.

5-11-2021 – New assisted living, memory care facility to fill demand

Posted on: May 11th, 2021 by admin


May 11, 2021



Virginia Annable

May 11, 2021 Updated 1 hr ago


An $8-million, 78-bed assisted living and memory care center in Granite Falls is nearing its opening. It is the first care center built in Caldwell County in over two decades, according to the developer.


The newly constructed Grace Village Senior Living on River Bend Drive, behind Walmart in Granite Falls, is nestled behind a hill and surrounded by trees. Its freshly painted white columns, stone walls and peaked roof stand out amid lush green surroundings.


The facility has three wings — two assisted living sections with 46 beds and a memory care wing with 32 beds, Grace Village Executive Director Lyn Mikeal said.


Construction began on the building in November 2019 and was completed in April. The center is expected to open in June, Mikeal said.


Mikeal and the four partners who developed and own the facility — Hamilton Ward, Jim Martin, Brett Waters and Rodney Worley — pride themselves on the center’s amenities. Not only is the center filling a need in the community, but it goes above and beyond, Mikeal said.


The facility has an on-site physical therapy room, where patients will be able to recover from falls and surgeries or get everyday therapy, like sitting and standing. Large windows into the room allow family to watch their loved ones recover, Martin said.


“This is not something you see everywhere,” he said. “Most places do not have a dedicated, physical therapy space. Usually they’ll do it in the hall or in their rooms.”


The dedicated space also means if residents experience a trauma, they come from the hospital back to the assisted living facility and do physical therapy there, rather than stay in a separate therapy facility.


Near the center of the building, a communal area will serve up happy hour drinks and allow for socialization between residents. Down the hall, a large TV and chairs will host movie nights. Courtyards filled with lush green grass offer fresh air. A salon room will house a hairstylist for hair appointments for residents and a spa will be a welcome space to relax, Mikeal said.


Construction of the facility took about a year and a half, and the COVID-19 pandemic brought revisions during the process, Martin said. Some changes were made to make the building divisible in the case of a spike in COVID-19 cases or a future pandemic.


The owners expect demand for rooms at the facility to be high, Martin said. Memory care is limited in the area, he said. He also believes the COVID-19 pandemic has created pent-up demand.


“The events of the last 14 months have changed things,” he said. “Some people have taken care of their aging parents all year at home, and now it’s time to find them a facility.”


The demand for the services is great all over the area, Hamilton said. The partners chose southern Caldwell County to be accessible for multiple surrounding counties, including Catawba County, he said.


The available rooms range from large, two-room apartment style rooms to shared rooms for two people.


Eventually, the developers plan to build senior independent apartments on part of the additional 50 acres on the property, Hamilton said. Construction of those is expected to start in 2023, Martin said.


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5-10-2021 – Local men among state’s business leaders

Posted on: May 10th, 2021 by admin


May 10, 2021



By Guy Lucas

May 10, 2021


Two people from Caldwell County are among the more than 200 people that a statewide business magazine lists as the state’s most influential leaders.


Alex Bernhardt Jr. of Bernhardt Furniture and Phanesh Koneru of Exela Pharma Sciences are included in Business North Carolina magazine’s “Power List 2021.”


The list is divided into 18 economic sectors. Bernhardt, the fourth generation of the Bernhardt family to run the company, which was formed in 1889, is among 38 people listed in manufacturing. Koneru, who founded his pharmaceutical manufacturing company in 2005, is among 26 listed in life sciences.


The magazine said that in previous years it limited it’s “Power List” to 100 people, “but we concluded that expanding that number would give a better overview of the people who tend to have the most influence in our state.”


The magazine solicited nominations for the list but also conducted its own interviews and research to determine the final list.


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