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Courtesy: The Jefferson Post

 

Lansing Board of Aldermen announced at its Monday night meeting that the town will need to move its banking business once First Citizens Bank closes in May.

Board members said they have heard that town residents were upset about the planned closing and looking for information.

Mayor George Rembert said he would contact First Citizens to see if a public meeting could be held to answer questions.

Information about the closing of the First Citizens branch in Lansing was unavailable by press time.

A spokesperson at the bank was referring questions to corporate communications in Raleigh.

The aldermen identified possible uses for the building that the bank is currently housed in during discussion about the Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) program through High Country Council of Governments.

As part of the CEDS planning, municipalities can make requests for funding of projects over the next five to 10 years.

Items on Lansing’s wish list would include a welcome center, bike trail, community center, sidewalks extended to the old school, expansion of the technology center, upgrading the water/sewer system, establishment of a library, and a police department along with public restrooms for the park and farmers market and playground equipment.

High Country Council of Governments said that every so often, municipalities need to put in a plan with desired projects and development with specific details, said Town Clerk Bernice Prestwood. The aldermen were asked to form their list and give it to her to present to High Country COG by Feb. 29.

The items listed above were some of the things the aldermen said they would like to see for Lansing.

“If we put 10 things on the list and get one that’s great,” said Alderman Brenda Reeves. “It’s a wish list.”

At next month’s meeting, the aldermen will further discuss a scenic byway through the town and the issue of removing the traffic light in favor of a three-way stop.

A public hearing may be set for discussion of the traffic light.

The board is also seeking someone to fill and empty seat on the board.

Read more: Jefferson Post – Lansing Aldermen to seek banking alternative

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Courtesy Wilkes Journal-Patriot:

Michael Brown

Wilkes County had surprisingly strong job growth in 2011, said a Wells Fargo Securities economist in a presentation at the Wilkes Chamber of Commerce annual Membership Celebration Thursday night.

Michael Brown said Wilkes had a net increase of about 1,375 jobs between November 2010 and 2011, which was a 3.6 percent rise. Brown said this was a larger percentage increase than in most other counties across the state.

“I think that’s a testament to some of the economic development programs I heard about this evening,” added Brown, speaking to a crowd of about 450 business leaders and others at the John A. Walker Community Center.

The county’s jobless rate stood at 10.6 percent this past November, down from 12.6 percent in November 2010.

Brown said Wilkes County’s unemployment rate is still above the national average, primarily because of a substantial population of people who lost traditional furniture, textile and other manufacturing jobs in recent years.

He said the key to getting these people back to work is helping them retool and gain more advanced job skills at community colleges and technical schools. Brown said this also is needed to draw new employers to Wilkes.

“This is a challenge statewide as well,” he added.

Brown said the lack of population growth in Wilkes and many other parts of North Carolina leads to an oversupply of houses for sale and reduction in new home construction, which has an adverse rippling effect on other businesses and the overall economy.

This ultimately leads to slow or no growth in the property tax base, which puts a strain on the ability of local government to provide services and infrastructure.

Wilkes County’s population only grew from 65,632 in 2000 to 69,340 in 2010, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

He said lack of growth or much slower economic growth in rural and certain other parts of North Carolina, compared to certain urban areas of the state, is more pronounced than ever.

Brown said the nationwide slump in home values and housing oversupply makes it harder for people to sell their homes, thereby increasing transaction costs when companies move. He said this makes it harder for communities to recruit new companies.

Brown said he and other economists predict only slight improvement overall at best in the economy in 2012, both statewide and nationally.

Businesses are expected to continue taking advantage of tax breaks and consumer confidence is expected to continue gradually improving,” but at the end of the day they are still not coming out and spending like they were before the recession.”

He added, “I firmly believe the psychology of consumers has shifted. They are now looking for the best deals. They are not using as much credit as they have in the past.”

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We’re pleased to announce the name for the new Division created when the former Employment Service Division merged with the former Division of Workforce Development within the Department of Commerce.  Our new Division name is:

 

THE DIVISION OF WORKFORCE SOLUTIONS

 

Reaching agreement on the brand for our new Division was a difficult and very important decision. The Division’s Merger Oversight Team discussed branding the Division over the course of several meetings and ultimately realized the importance of creating a new, fresh brand that did not attempt to salvage remnants of our former brands.

We think the Division of Workforce Solutions (DWS) offers the following:

•          A new reflection of what our core business is to be—Helping jobseekers and employers access employment, career development, and training.

•          A brand that reflects the broad customer base that is Workforce Development— employers, jobseekers, education, training and economic/community development.

•          A brand that is positive, action-oriented and not bureaucratic.

 

We plan to deploy our new Division brand to our 90 local offices in a way that does not confuse our customers or impact on services. Local offices have been directed to use the term “Employment Service” for the time being whenever they are communicating with customers by telephone, email, letter, and in person. The use of the additional phrase “JobLink Career Center” will also be continued where appropriate.

 

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Courtesy Jefferson Post  :

 

Neighboring Boone has been ranked one of the “10 Best Places to Retire in 2012” by U.S. News and World Report, and Ashe County could reap the rewards of that honor.

“If active retirees are drawn to Boone through this recognition,” said Ashe County Manager and Head of Economic Development Pat Mitchell, “I believe the spillover to Ashe seems natural and logical.”

U.S. News and World Report, the prestigious national news magazine known for its “America’s Best Colleges” rankings, draws more than nine million web hits a month.

The report labeled Boone an “affordable mountain town,” for retirees looking for gorgeous mountain vistas and outdoor fun, without the price tag that comes with Aspen or Vail in Colorado.

“Nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Boone boasts three nearby ski resorts as well as trails for cross country skiing, winter hiking, and snowshoeing,” read the ranking, available at usnews.com. “Residents of this small town of 14,000 also have access to one of the country’s most scenic roads, the Blue Ridge Parkway.”

The ranking also included the AppalCart bus service, access to Appalachian State University, and a 2010 median home price of $215,000 as further draws for retirees.

Mitchell said she thinks Ashe can benefit from retiree growth in Boone, and that active retirees looking to make their home in Watauga will also find their way to Ashe County.

“I think regionally, individuals come to areas and explore neighboring areas,” said Mitchell. “Active retirees look for things to do. We have two state parks and the New River, many entrances to the Blue Ridge Parkway, wonderful arts culture as well as the Florence Thomas Art School, (and) we are known for hiking and biking. And great music within our hills too.”

Ashe County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Cabot Hamilton said the recognition from the ranking is a positive for the entire High Country.

“We’re such close neighbors to Boone, to Watauga County,” said Hamilton. “As people do start to look around and make their retirement plans, our closeness to Boone could be a draw.”

In compiling their ranking, U.S. News and World Report considered Boone’s population (14,493), crime rate (low, on a relative scale, compared to other cities on the U.S. News and World Report list), cost of living (high), median home price (high), and median income (high).

The ranking also took into consideration Boone’s proximity to Charlotte (81.23 miles), and average commute time (13.11 minutes), as well as seasonal temperature variations.

Boone joined Flagstaff, Ariz., Traverse City, Mich., Walnut Creek, Calif., Ithaca, N.Y., Lincoln, Neb., Pittsburgh, Pa., Port Charlotte, Fla., Pittsfield, Mass., and Sante Fe, N.M. on this year’s list.

To view the entry on Boone: http://money.usnews.com/money/retirement/best-places-to-retire/north_carolina/boone

 

By: Adam Orr
Read more: Jefferson Post – Boone named on
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Courtesy Winston-Salem Journal :
 
 
Chris Warren, owner of furniture manufacturer Mayland Court.. He says the Made in America pavilion at the High Point Market has been a hit.
 
 

Chris Warren, owner of N.C. furniture manufacturer Mayland Court, wears the term survivor as a badge of courage.

The fact that Warren and his customized wooden-furniture company from Spruce Pine are still around to show at this week’s High Point Market is a testament to grit, innovation and the loyalty of 1,600 interior designers.

Still, he has had to cut his workforce from 25 to seven in the past four years to match production with demand.

“There were 1,500 furniture workers in Mitchell County in the 1990s,” Warren said Wednesday. “Now, there are seven, and they’re all mine. That’s a lot of household incomes wiped out by the imports.”

But Warren, a second-generation furniture executive, has a gleam in his eye when it comes to the future of American-made furniture, in part because he was surrounded by 29 other exhibitors in the first-ever 16,000-square-foot Made in America pavilion at the market.

The market, which ends today, is not open to the public.

Karen Olson, a spokeswoman for International Market Centers, the group governing the largest showroom buildings in High Point and Las Vegas, said she expects all 30 of those exhibitors to renew their leases for the spring 2012 trade show.

“The pavilion has been a hit because it gives retailers looking for U.S-made products not only a place to shop, but also to see the variety of what’s still made here,” Warren said.

“Consumers are becoming more conscious of where furniture is made. If they perceive a price value along with the quality of U.S. product, they’re willing to pay more.”

How much more, however, remains the biggest question looming over the latest of several buy-American market initiatives. Market exhibitors and retailers say that although there aren’t any official numbers, the percentage seems to range from 10 percent to 25 percent.

Linda Simms, co-owner of furniture retailer Arch Murray Inc. of Westminster, Md., said she was shopping at the pavilion because her customers are increasingly dissatisfied with imported furniture.

“When the Chinese product first came in, the quality was typically good,” Simms said. “But the next wave or two, the quality wasn’t as good. Typically what you were shown at market wasn’t the quality you got in the container.

“We’re hoping to find U.S. suppliers that can pass our criteria for price and quality. We recognized how bad the economy is. We want to help keep and create jobs here, too.”

Analysts have said the global recession has created manufacturing opportunities in the United States because of rising shipping, raw material and labor costs in China.

Sparking more reason for optimism was a report by The Boston Consulting Group, released Oct. 7, that listed furniture as an industry that could gain jobs from manufacturers returning production to the United States.

“We’re on record predicting a U.S. manufacturing renaissance starting by around 2015,” said Harold Sirkin, a senior partner of the group and lead author of the analysis.

Responding to that renewed demand could be challenging since many wooden-furniture plants, particularly in North Carolina, have been mothballed in the past 10 years.

“To get back in will be expensive,” said Ken Smith, director of furniture services for Smith Leonard PLLC, a financial-services company based in High Point. “To be able to compete, very expensive equipment will need to be purchased unless you are in a niche.

“Upholstery is another story, as we never lost the custom-order business and probably will not. As the expense gap narrows there, it could be that some of the imports could move back to existing or new companies.”

Not all of the Made in America buzz was in the pavilion.

Four Hands, based in Austin, Texas, but primarily an importer, gained a share of the spotlight by offering an upholstery collection made by a private-label group in Valdese.

Wade Oppliger, Four Hands’ vice president of upholstery, said the company chose the Valdese manufacturer over one in Mexico because it offered the best blend of quality, value and price. The Valdese company also is able to make and ship the upholstery in a 30- to 45-day window, compared with a typical eight to 12 weeks from China.

“We believe this made-in-USA product will resonate with our customers, and hopefully become a larger percentage of our business over time,” Oppliger said.

Robert Bailey, left, president of Buck Stove, and Chuck Williams, a distributor of Coastal Eco-Leisure and Buck Stove, relax in the Made in America pavilion.

 

 

rcraver@wsjournal.com (336) 727-7376

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Courtesy Jefferson Post:
 
 

For the first time in three years, the High Country Council of Governments is once again accepting applications for home repair grant money. Low income county residents who meet the requirements then have an opportunity at a portion of $400,000.

Michelle Ball, Community Development Planner for High Country Council of Governments, was at Monday’s meeting of the Ashe County Board of Commissioners to announce that the program is again accepting applications for county residents in need.

Ball said Ashe County is applying for a $400,000 grant to implement a Scattered Site Housing rehabilitation program designed to assist low income county residents in making home repairs and, in extreme circumstances, provide new manufactured homes for individuals who live in property that is unlivable.

Ball said the state program, in existence since 2002, runs on a three-year cycle where applications are taken, decisions are made by a committee as to which applicants represent the greatest need, and funds are used to complete necessary repairs.

“It’s tough, when you’ve got 10 homes that need repairs,” said Ball at Monday’s meeting, “but you can only help with five of them.”

Every three years, each county in North Carolina, with the exception of Wake and Cumberland, is eligible to receive community development block grant funding from the North Carolina Division of Community Assistance to develop a Scattered Site Housing program.

The program provides funding for housing repairs to low-income homeowners. Homes selected for the program must be brought up to the current building codes, and could possibly be eligible for replacement with a new mobile or manufactured home.

During the last application cycle, which began in 2008 and finished earlier this year, four county homes, too far gone to repair, were bulldozed and replaced with manufactured homes. The total average for each home, including drilling new wells and installing septic systems, grading, towing, and set-up of homes, came to $78,000.

Ten percent of the CDBG funds were used for smaller repairs, capped at $5,000 per home. An additional eight homeowners were helped in replacing roofs, repairing rotten floors, and modifying a bathroom to make it handicap accessibile.

Ball said the manufactured homes greatly improved the living situation of those helped. Homes were located in Lansing, Lazy Branch Lane in Creston, 16 N in Jefferson, and Clay Bank in West Jefferson.

In July, Ball told the Jefferson Post that more residents qualify for the program than can be helped. “A lot more than we have money for,” she said. “I know, just through my own experience, that there are far more homeowners in need out there than we know about.”

Ball said even though significant need exists within the county she received only 38 applications in 2008. She was expecting more than 100.

Ball said an eight year deed of trust placed on the house is a significant sticking point for many applicants.

“A lot of people, even those in houses that are simply unlivable, are wary of signing over that deed of trust,” said Ball. The deed of trust is reduced by one-eighth each year until the property reverts back to the owners.

Ball said the application window of six weeks may not allow enough time to promote the program. The application window runs from Dec. 19, 2011-Jan. 31, 2012.

Applications will be available at the Ashe County Managers Office, the Department of Social Services, the Ashe County Cooperative Extension Office, the Ashe Tax Office, the Ashe County Health Department, and the Ashe County Senior Center. You may also find applications online at http://regiond.org, or call Michelle Ball at High County Council of Governments at (828) 265-5434 to request an application.

“To insure your application will receive consideration, it must be submitted no later than Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2012,” reads a press release issued by Ball.

To be eligible for the CDBG Scattered Site Housing Program, the property must be located in Ashe County and cannot be located in the floodplain.

The applicant must own and occupy the property full time (a legally prepared and recorded “Life Estate” or lifetime right to the property spelled out in an existing deed may also be accepted) and total gross income (before taxes) for everyone in the household over the age of 18 must be below 50 percent of the median income for Ashe County.

To insure your application will receive consideration, it must be submitted no later than Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2012.

 

Read more: Jefferson Post – Grants available again for home repairs