11/15/2017 – Development grants reflect Caldwell County growth

Posted on: November 15th, 2017 by admin


November 15, 2017


By Guy Lucas
(Lenoir) News-Topic


Caldwell County’s economic development program hit a record level of grant money payouts, which is tied to job creation.


From Jan. 1 through the end of October, local employers who have worked with the Caldwell County Economic Development Commission, had drawn nearly $1.7 million in state and local grant payments, and the total appears poised to reach $2 million by the end of the year, according to Caldwell EDC Executive Director Deborah Murray. That would be nearly double last year’s grant draw of $1.14 million.


The grants have requirements for companies to document the creation and filling of jobs before they are able to draw money, so the amount of money drawn is a reflection of new job creation.


The grant drawdown is among a number of positive economic indicators that Murray said leaves her hopeful that Caldwell County will be able to officially shed its status as one of the state’s most economically distressed counties when state officials issue an update next month.


The state first designated Caldwell as a Tier 1 – the category for counties most in need of economic help – in 2005 following waves of layoffs in the furniture industry. Caldwell remained at Tier 1 until 2014, when it qualified as a Tier 2 county. However, the county barely fell back into Tier 1 status in 2015 and, due to program rules, has had to remain there through 2017 despite economic improvements.


If Caldwell does not move out of Tier 1 this year, Murray said it might be due to a lack of population growth.


Although the number of jobs in Caldwell has been steadily growing, a lack of new, market-rate housing – especially apartments – means that many people filling new jobs are going to neighboring counties for housing. For the purpose of the local unemployment rate, that helps the rate in those other counties because the rate is based on where workers live, not where they work.


The EDC has been working to lure new residential development, and Murray said she hopes there will be an announcement on that front in early 2018.


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