8-13-2019 Signposts of economic progress reviewed

Posted on: August 14th, 2019 by admin


August 13, 2019


By Guy Lucas


Aug 13, 2019 11:40 AM

After the loss of thousands of jobs to offshoring in the furniture industry 10 years ago, even before the full effects of the Great Recession were felt local business and government officials saw the need to try to diversify the economy.


They were spurred in part by a commissioned study of “competitive realities” — essentially the local area’s strengths and weaknesses.


Those efforts can be seen paying off now in a number of statistical measures used in that study, said Deborah Murray, the executive director of the Caldwell County Economic Development Commission. Murray showed the EDC’s board of directors comparisons in a number of areas on Tuesday.


One of areas with the most notable change is education. In 2006, nearly one-third of county residents didn’t even have a high school diploma, but by 2017 that had dropped to slightly more than one-fifth.


And the proportion with two-year college degrees or better rose across the board: In 2006, only 18.4 percent had at least a two-year degree, and in 2017 that had risen to 24.5 percent.


That reflects the more advanced skills required for many of the jobs Caldwell has been able to add, which will continue, Murray said.


“You’re going to see these numbers really start to move and start to change,” she said.


That also is seen in the average private-sector wage paid by jobs in Caldwell, which over the past four years climbed by 27 percent, or $6,940 a year, to $38,957, a the largest increase among counties in the Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton metropolitan statistical area.


Murray asked the board members to give some thought to what might be needed to continue the growth over the coming years.


“What is it we should be thinking about going forward?” she said. “We need to be focused now on next things, next steps.”


For instance, among the things businesses are struggling with now is a critical shortage of workers in many fields, but also a critical shortage of housing for new workers coming here for those jobs.


She said the board will have more discussions later on the challenges the county faces.

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