City Council reviewed the past year's economic progress during a planning retreat last month. Councilmembers were impressed with the number of new businesses and the amount of new investment in Lenoir.
City Council held their annual Planning Retreat Friday, Feb. 21, 2020, at the Blue Ridge Energy Caldwell District Office. To kick off the retreat, City Manager Scott Hildebran and Mayor Joe Gibbons gave a state-of-the-city update. The presentation included nearly 100 slides highlighting private and public investment last year in Lenoir.
More than 20 businesses opened or expanded their operations in the city in 2019, and several businesses are planning to expand or locate in Lenoir in the near future. Hampton Inn & Suites opened in March. The Salad Bar and Taste of Havana opened downtown. Comfort Inn completed a $1.2 million interior remodel in October. Mauer Architecture renovated and saved 818 Harper Ave. in downtown. Starbucks opened on Blowing Rock Blvd., and Tidal Wave Auto Spa opened on the east side of the city.
Caldwell UNC Health Care completed its $24 million renovation project and continued work on the $10+-million Jonas Hill Hospital and Clinic. Blue Ridge Energy built a new, $18.5 million corporate headquarters on U.S. 321. BioNutra Inc. purchased the former Hammary/Kincaid Furniture building on Norwood Street. The company is investing nearly $8 million to build its first U.S. facility in Lenoir. Fairfield Chair is planning a ~$770,000 expansion, which could create 32 new, full-time jobs.
Currently, 12 residential units are under construction in Downtown Lenoir. Once new construction is complete, about 20 residences will be in the downtown district. Private contractors are also building new, single-family homes in the city.
And that’s just a sample of the private invests in 2019. The City also completed many public investment projects and more are in progress.
Last year, the City made improvements to public parks, downtown, the city website, leaf pickup, and the water treatment plant. Code enforcement cleaned up and assisted with abandoned properties. The Police department purchased new trucks and acquired new canines, and the Fire department opened Station 3. The Main Street Department won five awards at the 2019 N.C. Main Street Conference.
City staff is currently working on the Hospital Avenue sidewalk project, water plant expansion and distribution studies, two-way traffic conversion in downtown, improvements to the wastewater treatment plant, rail trail paving, improvements to water meters that will provide online account access to customers, and stormwater improvements to J.E. Broyhill Park.
Mayor Gibbons said he’s always impressed when he looks over the state-of-the-city presentation for the first time each year.
"It’s pretty amazing to see all the things that have been accomplished. Until you see a presentation like this, it’s hard to grasp everything that has happened," Mayor Gibbons said. "We’re proud of what’s happening, and we’re thankful for all the private investment. Council and staff work every day to make sure we’re moving in the right direction."
After the presentation, Council discussed the accomplishments and set priorities for the coming year. The 2020-2021 priorities are:
- Employee Recruitment/Retention
- Community Beautification
- Healthy Infrastructure
- Economic Development
- Public Engagement
Mayor Gibbons said all the priorities are important, but housing is a big need in Lenoir.
"We need market-rate housing in our community," Mayor Gibbons said. "One of our major priorities is to increase housing in Lenoir - market-rate, single-family, multi-family. With the help of staff, Council has made changes to the code to make it easier to build multi-family, and we’ve budgeted funds to address problem areas in the city."
Mayor Pro Tem Crissy Thomas said she was glad to see progress being made year after year, and she is pleased with the 2020 priorities.
"Employee compensation continues to be a top priority, because our city employees and department heads work hard and deserve to be rewarded for the work that they do to keep this great city running," Mayor Pro Tem Thomas said. "We have so much to be proud of; we do not just talk about what we plan to do as a City. We are full of talent and passion, and we are getting things done."
Mayor Joe Gibbons echoed Mayor Pro Tem Thomas’ comments about employees.
"We’re very thankful for our employees and appreciate everything they do for Lenoir," Mayor Gibbons said. "The City wouldn’t operate as well as it does without dedicated employees, and we have excellent staff working for the Lenoir."
Councilmember Todd Perdue said City staff are meeting Council objectives and doing so within budget, which is good for the City and taxpayers.
"Each year, our staff continues to meet the primary objectives Council sets in the budget process," Councilmember Perdue said. "And each year, City staff accomplishes this through getting the most out of every dollar, being creative in managing the physical and financial efforts of the city, and by keeping the commitment to the citizens as the top priority. The result is a city that is in excellent financial health, is forward thinking, and minimizes the tax burden to the citizens."
Any group that would like to hear the state of the city presentation at a meeting or gathering can email firstname.lastname@example.org. The presentation is available below.
"Public engagement is important, and we want to share our story," Mayor Gibbons said. "We want to let the public know about everything happening in the City of Lenoir."
Click here to view the retreat agenda (PDF).
Lenoir 2020 Presentation (PDF)
North Carolina Senator Warren Daniel stopped by the City Council planning retreat Friday, Feb. 21, 2020, to hear about what’s happening in Lenoir and share his support for the city. Sen. Daniel was instrumental in helping get state Historic Tax Credits extended for a development project in Lenoir. From left: Councilmembers Ike Perkins and Todd Perdue, Sen. Daniel, Councilmembers Jonathan Beal and David Stevens, Mayor Joe Gibbons, Councilmember Ben Willis, Mayor Pro Tem Crissy Thomas, and Councilmember Ralph Prestwood.
North Carolina Senator Warren Daniel, at podium, speaks to City of Lenoir Councilmembers and department heads during the City Council Planning Retreat Feb. 21, 2020.