Short Road Leads to Big Opportunities: Paving Underway on Casino Connector

It may be shorter than a mile, but a new road under construction in far western North Carolina has big potential.

“Economically, this is going to be huge,” says Murphy Mayor William Hughes. “We haven’t had an impact like this since the TVA built Hiwassee Dam in the 1930’s, and the population of the town tripled”.

Workers are applying asphalt to the eight-tenths of a mile connector from U.S. 64/74 on the east side of Murphy, to the site of the new Harrah’s Cherokee Valley River Casino and Hotel. The North Carolina Department of Transportation expects paving to be finished in a couple of weeks.

NCDOT built water and sewer line connections to the property, so it could move forward with building and paving the road. “That work is almost complete, from a DOT perspective, and the tribe will reimburse the state, so it’s a win-win” says Brian Burch, NCDOT Division 14 Construction Engineer. He adds the short road has been a big collaboration. “We’ve worked closely with the Eastern Band of Cherokee, town of Murphy, Cherokee County, and the contractor, Whiting and Turner.”

“This road is the conduit that’s going to provide access to jobs, visitors, and tourists to our area, so we’re real excited to be a partner in this project,” says Burch. “There’s potential in additional jobs created through more restaurants, hotels, and all the things that come with tourists visiting the area.”

Mayor Hughes agrees the impact goes far beyond the anticipated 900 new Harrah’s jobs. “Those 900 people will be living here, spending here, contributing to the economy.”

He adds the new complex will also give those who grew up in the area a chance to stay here. “In the last 40 or 50 years, we see a mass exodus of young people this time every year. After graduation, some go to college, others the service. Those looking to enter the workforce often have to look elsewhere. This will give them a chance to continue living here.”

Harrah’s is hoping to open in late summer, according to the mayor. “Some of the workers have started training already,” he says. “We’ve been anticipating this for a while and are excited for the opportunities it brings.”

Beef cattle field day is July 18 at Mountain Research Station

North Carolina’s annual Beef Cattle Field Day will take place July 18 at the Mountain Research Station in Waynesville. The event, designed for cattle producers and those interested in cattle production, will feature research-based educational sessions focusing on forage management, reproduction and nutrition.

This event is sponsored by N.C. State University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and the N.C. Cattlemen’s Association. It is free and open to the public.

The event starts with registration and a trade show from 8:30 to 9:20 a.m., followed by introductory remarks from Dr. Roger Crickenberger of the N.C. Agricultural Research Service at N.C. State, and Dr. Sandy Stewart of the NCDA&CS’s Research Stations Division.

Field day participants will then have the opportunity to take part in three sessions, led by N.C. State scientists, on how to extend the grazing season, which steps are needed for successful reproductive performance and how to feed and store wet brewers’ grains.

Lunch takes place from noon to 1 p.m., and then a panel discussion on different cattle production systems follows.

“The panel discussion will focus on what are the definitions of natural, grass-fed, pasture-raised, grass-finished beef production,” said Dr. Philipe Moriel, an N.C. State assistant professor of animal science. “It will be followed by a discussion among local producers about the advantages of each production system.”

Moriel says that the goal is to show producers that opportunities exist for each of the production systems.

The Mountain Research Station is located at 265 Test Farm Road, Waynesville. Research activities at the 407-acre station reflect the diversity of Western North Carolina agriculture, including field and forage crops, horticultural crops, Christmas trees, livestock and more. Directions to the station are available at http://www.ncagr.gov/research/MountainResearchStationWaynesville.htm.

Body of Missing Hiker is Sylva Resident

Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials said Monday they had found the body of a missing 62-year-old woman who was an experienced hiker.
Earlier Monday morning, the park’s public affairs office confirmed the missing hiker was Jenny Bennett of Sylva. The body was found about 9:30 a.m. by rangers.

Bennet’s vehicle was located at the Porters Flat trailhead later on Sunday. A search was underway when she was found by rangers, trackers and dog teams. Her body was discovered about ½ mile above 31 campsite off trail.

She was a member of the Smoky Mountain Hiking Club and wrote a blog about her outdoor activities called Endless Streams and Forests. Her last post was May 27th. She is also the author of two books with the backdrop of the park, “Murder at the Jump-off” and “The Twelve Streams of LeConte.”
Authorities cautioned hikers that off trail hiking can be dangerous.

Wells Fargo Diversity and Leadership Scholars Program

Western Carolina University is creating a new endowed scholarship initiative designed to provide financial support to underserved students who exhibit leadership qualities and who come from diverse populations, thanks to a gift of $150,000 from Wells Fargo.
Announcement of the Wells Fargo Diversity and Leadership Scholars Program came Friday, June 5, at the Wells Fargo Business Center in WCU’s College of Business.
Proceeds from the endowment will be used to provide annual assistance to a minimum of three students at Western Carolina. Preference will be given to low-income students from diverse backgrounds who are the first generation in their families to attend college.
“This new scholarship program will help underserved and underrepresented students to complete their studies at Western Carolina University and move into leadership positions, to lead productive lives and to leave a positive impact on the communities in which they live,” WCU Chancellor David O. Belcher said.
“The creation of additional endowed scholarship funds to provide financial support to deserving students is our university’s top philanthropic priority,” Belcher said. “We are pleased that Wells Fargo once again is demonstrating its commitment to being a key partner in the education and development of WCU students who will graduate with the skills and competencies necessary to make a significant and immediate contribution to our regional and state economy.”
Recipients of Wells Fargo Diversity and Leadership Scholarships must have completed freshman year requirements with no sanctions in place and must demonstrate characteristics of outstanding leadership.
The scholarship will be aimed at students residing in one of the 48 counties comprising the Western North Carolina, Greater Charlotte and Triad regions of North Carolina, and at those majoring in programs in WCU’s College of Education and Allied Professions, College of Business or College of Health and Human Sciences.
“The success of students is a critical element in keeping our communities strong and prosperous, and Wells Fargo is committed to providing them with every possible resource to achieve long-term success,” said Jim Wood, Wells Fargo’s WNC business banking manager. “Today’s young people are tomorrow’s business owners, leaders and teachers, and we are proud to support our partners at WCU in their efforts to provide scholarships to underserved students.”
The gift for the new scholarship program represents the latest example of a long-standing partnership between Western Carolina and Wells Fargo.
In 2011, WCU named the newly refurbished auditorium in the Forsyth Building, home to the College of Business, as the Wells Fargo Business Center in recognition of contributions totaling $150,000. The funds helped equip and furnish the renovated center, and provide scholarship assistance to students in the College of Business and financial support for faculty development efforts within the college.
In previous years, Wells Fargo provided support for the Professional Sales Center in the College of Business, graduate research activities, programming in the John W. Bardo Fine and Performing Arts Center, and celebration of the College of Education and Allied Professions’ receipt of the 2007 Christa McAuliffe Excellence in Teacher Education Award presented by the American Association of State Colleges and Universities.
“Wells Fargo fully believes that supporting education is one of the most important investments we can make in our country’s future,” said Rusty Edwards, area business banking manager for Wells Fargo’s Triad and WNC regions. “We are honored to work together with educational organizations like WCU to help create a competitive workforce and a sustainable economy for generations to come.”
Frank Lockwood, WCU associate professor of entrepreneurship and innovation, provided data and research about underserved and underrepresented students that were used in the university’s proposal submitted to Wells Fargo in support of the most recent gift.

The future of transportation in NC

The North Carolina Board of Transportation has approved the 2016-2025 State Transportation Improvement Program (STIP), a 10-year transportation plan that includes nearly 1,100 projects in the state over the next decade. The highway projects alone are expected to support the creation of nearly 300,000 jobs. The plan is the first developed using the Strategic Mobility Formula – a method for distributing funding for and prioritizing transportation projects – that was created two years ago with the passage of the Strategic Transportation Investments law (STI).

Using the mobility formula, the N.C. Department of Transportation is able to invest existing transportation revenues more efficiently, funding 303 more projects and helping support about 126,000 more jobs than it could have under the state’s previous funding formula.

The STIP includes projects in all 100 counties and all transportation modes, making it one of NCDOT’s most comprehensive state transportation programs to date.
The Strategic Mobility Formula directs 60 percent of available funding to improvements on the regional and local levels to ensure NCDOT is meeting the varied needs of communities throughout North Carolina. The remaining 40 percent goes to projects of statewide significance.

While projects on the statewide level are determined based only on data, local input is considered in determining projects at both the regional and division levels to ensure that local transportation priorities are addressed.

Planning organizations across the state submitted projects to NCDOT for evaluation at the local, regional and statewide levels. The projects were scored by a data-driven process that weighed factors such as safety, congestion and economic competiveness. Those at the statewide level that did not score high enough to be funded also had the opportunity to compete on the regional and division levels.

Transportation Secretary Tony Tata and Governor McCrory unveiled a draft of the State Transportation Improvement Program in December. NCDOT held a series of meetings over the past several months for public comment prior to the transportation board’s approval Thursday.

NC Expects Record Blueberry Crop This Year

Blueberry growers across North Carolina are expecting a record crop as they start harvesting for the season, thanks to recent dry weather.
North Carolina is the seventh-largest producer of blueberries in the nation. In 2012, the state grew 41 million pounds of blueberries. About 75 percent of the state’s crop is sold to fresh markets such as grocery stores, farmers markets and roadside stands.
Bill Cline, a plant pathologist at the Horticultural Crops Research Station in Castle Hayne, works with blueberry growers throughout the year. He said consumers should have no trouble finding N.C. blueberries during the next few weeks. Shoppers are encouraged to check labels to see if blueberries were grown in North Carolina, but Cline said that even national brands should be using N.C. blueberries right now because of availability.
One of the best ways for consumers to know they are getting locally grown blueberries is to buy berries directly from growers at farmers markets, roadside stands or pick-your-own farms. Many of these growers expect to have crops that last until Labor Day. The N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services offers an online directory of farmers markets, roadside stands and pick-your-own farms atwww.ncfarmfresh.com.

Suspects in Custody in Macon County School Shooting

A shooting outside an elementary school in Macon County has led to two arrests. No one was hurt in the incident which happened early Thursday morning around 5:30 am when shots were fired as the first morning employees including bus drivers were pulling up to the campus.

Adam Conley, 38 and Kathryn Jeter, 29, were arrested after the incident, and their bonds have been set at $1 million.

Macon County Sheriff Robert Holland says Conley and Jeter made their way onto the school’s campus with at least five guns.

The investigation led deputies from the school to a house just a few blocks away. Deputies executed a search warrant on Conley’s property. They hope to find what they find will shed light on the events that took place on the school campus.

Grant provides railroad improvements in Sylva

The Blue Ridge Southern (BLU) will receive a grant from Freight Rail and Rail Crossing Safety Improvement to provide upgrades to the railroad’s infrastructure. Blue Ridge Southern is the state’s newest short line railroad. This 92-mile railroad, previously owned by Norfolk Southern, was purchased by Watco Companies in 2014.

Blue Ridge Southern serves Asheville, Canton, Waynesville, Sylva, Fletcher and Hendersonville and connects with Norfolk Southern’s terminal in Asheville. It serves Evergreen Packaging, Duke Energy, Kimberly-Clark, Wilsonart and other customers.

Work will be ongoing over the next several months.

Folkmoot USA seeks volunteers

Folkmoot USA depends on hundreds of volunteers to pull off the 10-day international folk dance festival. This year, Folkmoot is seeking volunteers for the Parade of Nations, International Day, in-office and cafeteria support, guides and souvenir vendors.

The 2015 festival begins July 16 and closes July 26. The full schedule is available at www.FolkmootUSA.org.

Needed volunteer positions are as follows:

— Volunteers for the Parade of Nations

The parade takes place beginning at 1 p.m. Friday, July 17, in downtown Waynesville. Volunteers will be asked to keep parade watchers off the streets and on the sidewalks, direct parade participants and pass out schedules and brochures for upcoming performances.

— Volunteers for International Festival Day

International Day is from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, July 18, on Main Street, Waynesville. Volunteers are needed to transport, set up and takedown tables, chairs and Folkmoot merchandise. Volunteers will also serve in the information booth and will be asked to assist international performers.

— Volunteers for the cafeteria will assist with any of the four meals given to performers each day (breakfast, lunch, dinner and 11 p.m. snack). Volunteers will help clean after meals and do cafeteria chores with supervision from cafeteria staff.

— Volunteers for office support are needed after 5:30 to 10 p.m. to answer phones and take over-the-phone ticket orders. Volunteers for souvenir sales will help sell Folkmoot merchandise onsite and at each performance venue.

A call for guides

Each international group attending Folkmoot will have one man and one woman guide over the ages of 18-years old. The guide’s duty is to act as a liaison between the performers and the Folkmoot organization, accompanying the groups to all scheduled venues and helping plan fun events during the group’s free time. The job is a 24/7 commitment, requiring guides to stay with their group for the duration of the 10-day festival. A small stipend is given to each guide.

To apply as a volunteer or a guide, contact Doug Garrett at dgarrett@folkmoot.com or download and submit an application at FolkmootUSA.org. To purchase tickets for Folkmoot events, contact the ticket office at 452-2997.

Former Congressman Heath Shuler to Sell Waynesville Estate

Heath Shuler, former North Carolina Congressman, is selling his 7,000-square-foot Waynesville, N.C., mountain estate at auction on June 25.

The property is assessed at more than $1.7 million and includes its own trout creek and pond. The home itself has five bedrooms, along with five full and four half bathrooms. The house also includes a home theater, recreation room and gym. An adjacent barn adds another 2,400 square feet of space.

Shuler, a former N.C. congressman who is now a senior vice president for Duke Energy, built the 7,230 square-foot home in 2006 on 11 acres, according to J.P. King Auction Co., which will conduct the sale.

A $50,000 deposit is required to be eligible to bid and there is no established reserve. However, it is not an absolute auction. The sale is subject to the owner’s approval.

Property tours are available from June 16, through auction day.

Shuler in January purchased a home in Asheville, N.C.’s Biltmore Forest community for $985,000.

Local Employment Conditions Improve

Between April 2014 and April 2015, unemployment rates fell in 95 of North Carolina’s 100 counties and in all 15 of the state’s metropolitan areas. Over the same period, the size of the local labor force shrank in 53 counties and in 2 metro areas.

These findings come from new estimates released today by the Labor and Economic Analysis Division of the North Carolina Department of Commerce.

“Local unemployment rates declined throughout North Carolina over the past year,” said John Quinterno, a principal with South by North Strategies, Ltd., a research firm specializing in economic and social policy. “While noteworthy, the declines in local unemployment rates do not alter the fact that many local labor markets still have not recovered from the last recession.”

Compared to December 2007, which is when the national economy fell into recession, North Carolina now has 1.5 percent more payroll jobs (+63,500). In April 2015, the state gained 11,100 more jobs than it lost (+0.3 percent). Since bottoming out in February 2010, the state’s labor market has netted some 6,300 payroll jobs per month, resulting in a cumulative gain of 390,000 payroll jobs (+10.2 percent).

Between March and April of 2015, local unemployment rates decreased in 89 of the state’s 100 counties, increased in 6 counties, and held constant in 5 counties. Individual county rates in April ranged from 3.9 percent in Orange and Buncombe counties to 12.8 percent in Graham County. Overall, 2 counties posted unemployment rates greater than or equal to 10 percent, and 61 counties posted rates between 5.3 and 9.9 percent.

“The combined unemployment rate in North Carolina’s non-metropolitan counties in April was 4.2 percent,” noted Quinterno. “These 54 non-metropolitan counties are home to 21.8 percent of the state’s labor force. Compared to December 2007, non-metro areas now have 5 percent fewer employed persons, while the number of unemployed individuals is 8.4 percent greater. Over that time, the size of the non-metro labor force has fallen by 4.5 percent. In fact, non-metropolitan North Carolina has been responsible for the entire decline in the state’s labor force that has occurred since late 2007.”

Earlier this year, the Labor and Economic Analysis Division implemented new definitions of metropolitan and non-metropolitan counties consistent with federal changes made based on the 2010 Census. With those updates, North Carolina now has 46 metropolitan counties and 54 non-metropolitan ones. Additionally, the state now has 15 metropolitan statistical areas, up from 14; the addition is the three-county New Bern metro area.

Between March and April, unemployment rates fell in 13 of the state’s 15 metro areas, increased in 1 metro area, and held steady in 1 metro area. Rocky Mount had the highest unemployment rate (7.9 percent), followed by Fayetteville (6.8 percent) and New Bern (5.7 percent). Asheville had the lowest unemployment rate (4.1 percent), followed by Raleigh-Cary (4.3 percent), Durham-Chapel Hill (4.4 percent), Burlington (4.7 percent), and Wilmington and Winston-Salem (both 4.9 percent).

Compared to April 2014, unemployment rates in April 2015 were lower in 95 counties and in all 15 metro areas. Over the year, however, labor force sizes decreased in 53 counties and in 2 metros. The statewide labor force (unadjusted), meanwhile, was 1.9 percent larger (+89,077 individuals) in April 2015 than it was in April 2014.

All of the year-over-year growth in the size of the state’s labor force occurred in metro areas, which collectively added 101,653 persons (+2.8 percent). Among metros, Burlington’s labor force grew at the fastest rate (+9.5 percent) over the course of the year, followed by Charlotte (+6.7 percent) and Raleigh (+4.7 percent). With those changes, metro areas now are home to 78.2 percent of the state’s labor force, with 56.2 percent of the labor force residing in the Triangle, Triad, and Charlotte metros.

In the long term, improvements in North Carolina’s overall labor market depend on growth in the Charlotte, Research Triangle, and Piedmont Triad regions. Over the year, unemployment rates fell in 4 of the 5 metro areas that constitute those regions and held steady in 1. Collectively, employment in the 3 broad regions has risen by 10.4 percent since December 2007, and the combined unemployment rate in April totaled 4.8 percent, as compared to 4.5 percent in December 2007. Of the three broad regions, the Research Triangle had the lowest April unemployment rate (4.5 percent), followed by the Piedmont Triad and Charlotte (both 5.1 percent).

Last month, the number of regular unemployment insurance initial claims filed in North Carolina totaled 16,151 down from the 19,181 initial claims filed a year earlier (-15.8 percent). Mecklenburg County was home to greatest number of regular initial claims (2,250), followed by Wake (1,628), Guilford (1,115), Forsyth (697), and Cumberland (643) counties.

In April 2015, North Carolinians received a (nominal) total of $22.4 million in regular state-funded unemployment insurance compensation, down from the (nominal) $38.5 million received in April 2014. This decline (-41.8 percent) is attributable to a mix of factors, such as drops in the number of insurance claims resulting from economic improvements and legal changes that restricted eligibility for unemployment insurance compensation.

“Many labor markets across North Carolina, particularly some of the largest metropolitan ones, experienced improvements over the past year,” said Quinterno. “At the same time, many local labor markets still have not recovered from the last recession, and in many respects, the state’s labor market remains far from healthy—a reality that policymakers cannot choose to ignore.”

WCU’s A.J. Grube elected Southern Conference president

A.J. Grube, Western Carolina University’s faculty athletics representative, was elected president of the Southern Conference at the intercollegiate athletics association’s annual spring meetings recently in Hilton Head, South Carolina.

Grube, director of WCU’s School of Accounting, Finance, Information Systems and Business Law, will serve a two-year term, effective June 1. She has served as vice president of the Southern Conference for the past two years, with Chip Taylor from the Citadel serving as president.

“The Southern Conference is one of a few conferences where the faculty athletics representatives serve as the officers of the conference and, hence, cast his or her institution’s vote when needed. Most conferences don’t work this way,” she said. “I’m truly excited about this opportunity.”

A faculty member at WCU since 1999, Grube also was recently named to the NCAA legislative committee, a 19-member group whose primary responsibility is to review and make recommendations regarding the merits of proposals developed through the association’s shared governance process.

She chaired a campuswide review committee a decade ago that led WCU’s yearlong NCAA recertification process, culminating in notice of unconditional certification of the university’s intercollegiate athletics programs in March 2005.

Formerly assistant vice chancellor for operations and research in the Division of Academic Affairs, Grube earned her doctorate at Florida State University, master’s degrees at Georgia College & State University and Georgia Southern University, and bachelor’s degree at Georgia College & State University.

The Southern Conference is an NCAA Division I conference with headquarters in Spartanburg, South Carolina. In addition to WCU, its members are the Citadel, East Tennessee State University, Furman University, Mercer University, the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Samford University, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, Virginia Military Institute and Wofford College.

The conference’s four-day meetings, which concluded Friday, May 29, were attended by the institutional presidents and chancellors, athletic directors, senior women administrators and faculty athletic representatives. The league’s football and men’s and women’s basketball coaches also held meetings.

In addition to the election of Grube as president, Wofford’s Jameica Hill was selected as vice president. Nayef Samhat of Wofford was elected chairman of the Council of Presidents for 2015-16 while Brian Noland of ETSU was chosen to serve as the vice chairman.

The conference also finalized sites for select championships. Sites for men’s soccer, women’s soccer and volleyball were selected through 2018.
ETSU, Samford and Mercer were chosen as host sites for women’s soccer, while UNCG, Mercer and ETSU were selected on the men’s side. Western Carolina and UNCG were tabbed to host the volleyball tournament in 2017 and 2018, respectively.

WCU Announces Summer Concert Series

The rock trio American Gonzos will kick off WCU’s Summer Concert Series on Thursday, June 11. The Asheville-based musicians are (from left) Michael Dean, Toby Burleson and Andrew Thelston. Dean and Thelston are WCU alumni.

The rock trio American Gonzos will kick off WCU’s Summer Concert Series on Thursday, June 11. The Asheville-based musicians are (from left) Michael Dean, Toby Burleson and Andrew Thelston. Dean and Thelston are WCU alumni.

The 2015 Summer Concert Series at Western Carolina University gets underway Thursday, June 11, with a free performance featuring the rock trio American Gonzos.
The Asheville-based musicians will take the stage at 7 p.m. at WCU’s Central Plaza. Those attending are encouraged to bring blankets or chairs for comfortable seating.
American Gonzo includes two WCU alumni from the class of 2009 – Andrew Thelston, guitarist and lead vocalist, and Michael Dean, who plays bass and provides backup vocals. The third member of the trio is Toby Burleson, drummer and backup vocalist.
Known for their musicianship and catchy tunes, members of the trio say they gather inspiration from many genres of music, including rock, funk, punk and alternative. The band was organized in 2010, and in 2011 the three musicians released their self-titled debut album, which was followed by their second album, “No Way to Live,” in 2013. The band members are currently working on a new collection of songs with longtime producer Randall Harris.
All concerts in the free series are scheduled for 7 p.m. on Thursdays in June and July. Upcoming acts include Bubonik Funk, June 25; Doug Gibson, July 16; Buchanan Boys, July 23; and Steph Stewart and the Boyfriends, July 30. The rain location for all the events is Illusions in A.K. Hinds University Center.

Grant Assists with Homeless Veterans in Cherokee

Cherokee Seed Corn Inc. has been awarded a $10,123 grant from the Evergreen Foundation based out of Waynesville. The grant is to help renovate 10 rooms and a kitchen/dining area at the Home Stead Motel to serve homeless veterans.

The Veteran Housing is the pilot project for the 7th generation programs that Cherokee Seed Corn Inc. is focused on. Plans are to expand to family housing to reconnect veteran families as the veteran is more capable of adjusting to civilian life. Future projects will be announced as funding becomes available.

NC Labor Market Improves, But Slowly

In April, employers in North Carolina added 11,100 more jobs than they cut, with net gains occurring in the public and private sectors. Over the year, North Carolina gained 106,600 more jobs than it lost, due entirely to gains in the private sector. Although the statewide unemployment rate rose to 5.5 percent in April, the rate still was almost a full percentage point lower than had been the case a year earlier.

These findings come from new data released today by the Labor and Economic Analysis Division of the NC Department of Commerce.

“So far in 2015, North Carolina has gained 28,400 more payroll jobs than it has lost,” said John Quinterno, a principal with South by North Strategies, Ltd., a research firm specializing in economic and social policy. “For comparison, the corresponding number in 2014 was a gain of 32,000 jobs. Even with the steady payroll gains logged over the last few years, North Carolina has just 63,500 more jobs, or 1.5 percent more jobs, than it did 7.3 years earlier.”

Between March 2015 and April 2015, North Carolina employers added 11,100 more jobs than they cut (+0.3 percent). Private-sector payrolls gained, on net, 7,200 positions (+0.2 percent), and public-sector payrolls added, on net, 3,900 jobs (+0.5 percent), due chiefly to net hiring by local governments. Within private industry, the trade, transportation, and utilities sector added 3,100 payroll jobs (+0.4 percent), with all of the gain occurring in the retail trade subsector. The leisure and hospitality services sector also added 3,100 jobs (+0.7 percent), with 61 percent of the gain originating in the accommodation and food services subsector. Overall, payroll levels rose in six major private industrial sectors, and fell in four sectors.

A revision to the March payroll data found that the state lost fewer jobs than first reported (-1,800 jobs versus an original estimate of -2,600 jobs). With that revision, North Carolina now has, on net, 63,500 more payroll positions (+1.5 percent) than it did in December 2007. Since bottoming out in February 2010, the state’s labor market has netted an average of 6,300 payroll jobs per month, resulting in a cumulative gain of 390,300 positions (+10.2 percent).

Over the year, North Carolina employers added 106,600 more jobs than they cut (+2.6 percent). Private-sector payrolls gained, on net, 108,200 positions (+3.2 percent), while public-sector payrolls lost, on net, 1,600 jobs (-0.2 percent). Within private industry, virtually every major industrial sector netted payroll jobs, with the professional and business services sector gaining the most positions (+23,000 or +4.1 percent, with 60 percent of the gain occurring in the administrative and waste management services subsector).

“The steady payroll growth experienced over the past year remains insufficient to close the job gap that exists in North Carolina, a gap that may be as high as 425,000 jobs,” noted Quinterno. “North Carolina indeed has slightly more jobs than it did when the recession started, but the state’s labor market remains well short of a full recovery.”

According to the monthly household data, the statewide unemployment rate rose in April to 5.5 percent, which still is one of the lowest monthly rates logged since early 2008. Last month’s rise in the unemployment rate was attributable in large part to an increase in the size of the labor force (+33,169 persons, +0.7 percent). Over the month, the number of employed North Carolinians increased by 25,712 persons (+0.6 percent), and the number of unemployed persons rose by 7,457 individuals (+2.9 percent).

Over the past year, the statewide unemployment rate fell by almost a full percentage point, dropping to 5.5 percent from 6.4 percent, with the number of unemployed North Carolinians decreasing by 34,427 persons (-11.7 percent). During that same period, the number of employed persons rose by 143,339 individuals (+3.3 percent), while the size of the labor force increased by 108,912 persons (+2.4 percent). This suggests that the labor market managed to accommodate new members of the labor force and move unemployed persons into jobs.

Other improvements recorded over the course of the year include a rise in the share of working-age North Carolinians participating in the labor market (to 61.1 percent from 60.4 percent) and the share of working-age North Carolinians who are employed (to 57.7 percent from 56.6 percent). Although both of these measures have increased recently, they remain not too far from the lowest monthly rates recorded at any point since January 1976.

Between April 2014 and April 2015, the number of claimants of regular state-funded insurance fell by 16.4 percent, dropping to 18,384 from 21,988. Also in April 2015, the state paid a (nominal) total of $22.4 million in regular state-funded unemployment insurance compensation, an amount 41.8 percent lower than the (nominal) total of $38.5 million paid in April 2014.

“North Carolina’s labor market has improved in many ways over the past year, but those improvements have come slowly,” said Quinterno. “In recent months, North Carolina has managed to add enough jobs to keep pace with the growth in the size of the labor force and to slowly close some of the sizable job gap that was created during the recession. Yet the labor market still is not generating enough jobs, quickly enough to employ all those who want work.”

Cherokee Man Shot In Head; 4 in Custody

The EBCI Public Safety Communication Center received a report at 10:05pm on Thursday, May 21 of a male subject having been shot in the head. The shooting was alleged to have taken place at a residence in the Birdtown Community. Four people have been arrested in relation to this incident.

Cherokee Indian Police Department officers responded to the Cherokee Indian Hospital where the victim had allegedly driven himself.

CIPD officers arrested suspect, James Ralph Brady, as well as two other males and one female, whose names are not being released at this time, on Friday, May 22 at 8:03pm. Brady, 48, will be charged in Cherokee Tribal Court for assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill, inflicting serious bodily injury and aggravated weapons charge.

No other details are being released pending further investigation.

NC Reports Higher Unemployment Rate in April

North Carolina’s unemployment rate ticked up to 5.5 percent in April, marking the first time in 11 months that the state’s jobless rate was higher than the national average.

The state’s unemployment rate rose one-tenth of one percentage point from 5.4 percent in March. The national average dropped an identical amount to April’s 5.4 percent.

The last time the national jobless average was lower than North Carolina’s mark was last June. North Carolina’s unemployment rate has fallen by nearly a full percentage point in the past year.

Where children live predicts a difference in life expectancy by as much as a decade

Where children are born in North Carolina makes a big difference in how long they live and the quality of their health, according to new county data cards released by NC Child.

A baby born in Haywood County is expected to live 78.5 years. Compared to children in Orange County, where life expectancy is the longest in the state, Haywood children will live 3.2 fewer years.

The differences in life expectancy by location are dramatic. In Watauga County, children can expect to live an average of 81 years–on par with Japan where residents have the longest life expectancy of any major country. Drive over 100 miles west to Swain County and children’s life expectancies decline by nearly a decade to 73 years. On average, children born in Swain County have life expectancies on par with children in Cambodia.

The county-level pictures of child health and well-being were produced by Laila A. Bell, director of research and data at NC Child. Bell compiled data on social, economic and health outcomes for the data cards as a supplement to the North Carolina Child Health Report Card, an annual report released in partnership with the North Carolina Institute of Medicine that monitors the health and safety of children in North Carolina.

“Across indicators we see that a distance of fewer than 100 miles can mean the difference between positive or negative outcomes in children’s lives, a fact that simply cannot be explained by random chance or genetic predisposition,” said Bell. “These geographic disparities are a stark reminder of the profound impact the environments where our children live, play and go to school have on their long-term health opportunities.”

The data cards present a variety of indicators ranging from income and insurance coverage to asthma and infant mortality.

In Haywood County:

One in 27 births (3.7% percent) is to a mother who received very late or no prenatal care. Women who are uninsured at the time of conception may encounter administrative delays for Medicaid that prevent them from accessing prenatal care during the most critical period of their babies’ development.
One in three children (28.6% percent) lives in poverty. Research shows children who are raised in poverty have poorer health outcomes and are more likely to suffer from acute and chronic health problems as they age.
One in 11 children is uninsured ( 9.4% percent). Children who lack access to health insurance are less likely to receive the preventive care they need to achieve and maintain good health.
3,180 children (28.3% percent) are estimated to be food insecure, living in households that struggle to provide enough healthy, nutritious food for all members of the family.
One in 12 babies ( 8.3% percent) is born at a low birth weight putting children at greater risk for developmental delays or future health complications including infant mortality.
“These health challenges are avoidable,” Bell said.

“We know that smart public policy decisions can help enhance local efforts to ensure all children in Haywood live in homes and communities that promote their health and development.”

The county data cards identify three investments North Carolina can make to significantly improve the health of its children and families:

Strengthen access to health insurance for women of reproductive age by expanding Medicaid to cover adults below 138 percent of the Federal Poverty Line.
Support infant mortality prevention strategies like the Healthy Babies Bundle recommended by the Child Fatality Task Force.
Invest in early intervention services to reduce the effects of developmental delays.

NCDMV Begins Single License Plate Sticker Registrations

The N.C. Division of Motor Vehicles will begin issuing single license plate stickers for vehicles getting their registration renewed. The change goes into effect today. Changing from the current dual sticker setup to a single sticker will result in significant cost savings for the state.

The single registration renewal sticker is grey. The expiring month and year will be printed on the sticker, above the license plate number. The single sticker is required to be placed on the upper right-hand corner of the license plate.

The current setup has a red numbered month sticker on the upper left-hand corner of the plate, and a sticker with the year and plate number on the upper right-hand corner.

Once a vehicle owner gets the new sticker and places it on the vehicle, the red month sticker should be removed from the license plate.

There are no changes to the Limited Registration Plate (LRP) sticker design. However, the LRP expiration month and year will be printed under the plate number on those stickers.

AVL urging passengers to arrive early before flights

Asheville Regional Airport is busier than ever, having served a record number of annual passengers in 2014 and still growing. And not only are there more people traveling, the airlines are flying larger planes, which means there are more people at the airport at the same time. It is important that western North Carolina air travelers remember to arrive the recommended two hours before flights.

“We hear people say how they love to fly from AVL because they can park, check-in and go through security in a very short period of time,” said Tina Kinsey, spokesperson at Asheville Regional Airport. “While this is sometimes the case, passengers should understand that they may arrive at the airport and find a very long line at security. Longer lines are happening, and passengers seem surprised that they have to wait. So, we’re reaching out to educate and help our local passengers be better prepared.”

Passengers are responsible to understand their airline’s rules, and are encouraged to check the rules before traveling. Each airline posts their rules and “frequently asked questions” on their websites. All airlines enforce minimum check-in times – most often no later than 30-45 minutes before departure – in order to allow for baggage processing, security procedures and to help ensure on-time flight departures.

Passengers should plan time to drive to the airport (understanding that traffic delays could occur), time to park and walk to the terminal, time to check-in or check bags, time to wait in the security screening line and go through security, and time to walk to the gate and prepare for boarding. “We encourage passengers to also plan some buffer in their timeline,” said Kinsey. “It’s much better to arrive early, have everything go quickly and smoothly, and then have some time to relax, eat a meal, and have a stress-free experience.”

Traveling from Asheville Regional Airport is still one of the easiest airport experiences available, and the airport staff is committed to doing their part to make the travel experience positive. There is easy, close-by parking, an easy-to-navigate one-level terminal, friendly staff, free wifi, a business center, charging stations, food, beverages, a retail store, rocking chairs and runway views.

“We do everything we can to provide excellent customer service,” said Kinsey. “But passengers should understand that airlines will not hold flights for travelers who are running late, or who are stuck in a long security screening line.” Also, it is against Transportation Security Administration rules to cut ahead of another passenger in the security screening line.

“The best advice we can give is to remember the two-hour rule,” said Kinsey. “Once you’ve reserved your airline ticket, go ahead and subtract two hours from the departure time. That’s when you should arrive at the airport.”