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Architects, contractors duel over plan-review bill

N.C. architects are raising safety concerns about legislation that would reduce the number of smaller construction projects that require a plan review from a licensed architect. Some contractors says the change makes such projects more affordable. Senate Bill 329 passed the N.C. House this week. It would raise the threshold for bypassing an architectural review from $200,000 to $300,000. A Senate vote is pending.

Biogen plans Raleigh layoffs

The drug giant is making what could be “hundreds” of layoffs among its patient support staff in Raleigh after a new Alzheimer’s drug brought in just $300,000 in sales in its first full quarter. Hailed as a potential breakthrough treatment for the disease, the infused drug has suffered from a slow debut complicated by coverage questions and doctor concerns.

Winston-Salem’s Lowes Foods expanding in Concord

The North Carolina grocery chain continues to grow, with plans to open a 52,000-square-foot store in Concord by early 2023. A subsidiary of Hickory-based Alex Lee, Lowes Foods has nearly 9,000 employees at 80 supermarkets in the Carolinas. The 67-year-old company currently has two other stores in the Charlotte area, in Mooresville and Harrisburg, with another coming to Huntersville.

Topgolf tees up new Durham location

Texas-based sports entertainment company Topgolf is beginning work on a three-level, 102-bay venue in Durham. The new location, projected to open in late summer 2022, will be the company’s third in the state along with two in the Charlotte area. Carolina Hurricanes owner Tom Dundon was among Topgolf’s early investors.

High Point Market attracts about 80% of normal traffic

The High Point Market closed Wednesday with attendance of buyers and designers hitting about 75% to 80% of normal years, continuing a steady improvement from a year ago, says CEO Tom Conley. Supply chain issues and COVID-19 concerns are affecting the Triad’s biggest semi-annual event. He noted that the market had about 1,600 exhibitors, 300 less than at its peak. 

Winston-Salem nonprofit acquires assets of Amazon retailer Pinnacle Mercantile

IFB Solutions, the largest employer of people who are blind in the country, acquired the assets of Pinnacle Mercantile, a reseller and manufacturer of products for the home, kitchen, garden and landscape. These products, primarily made in the U.S., are sold and distributed through the Amazon marketplace. The acquisition adds jobs and revenues to help people who are blind.

Wilmington film production shutdown averted

A union representing tens of thousands of crew workers nationwide reached a tentative agreement with movie and television producers, avoiding a nationwide strike that could have brought most productions to a halt. The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) agreement with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) includes wage increases and mandatory rest periods for crew workers.

Buncombe approves expansion of state’s largest public solar cluster

County leaders also voted to transition to zero-emission vehicles. The county and city are engaged in a large-scale solar installation at 39 local government buildings, paying for its projects with a $12.4 million, 15-year bond, with a potential $2.2 million rebate from Duke Energy. The projects are forecast to save the county between $14 million and $17 million in energy costs during the next 30 years.

Community college enrollment gained this fall, Stith says

North Carolina’s community colleges reported a 1% systemwide increase in enrollment, according to preliminary information released yesterday by system President Thomas Stith. Forty-six of the 58 colleges had full-time equivalent increases of at least 2%, Stith said. The estimates are based on the number of accumulated student hours. Enrollment has declined at the colleges in recent years.

Morrisville apartments sold for record $121M

In one of the largest multifamily deals in Triangle history, Indigo Apartments in Morrisville were sold last week for $121.9 million, or $249,284 per unit. Raleigh’s Blue Heron Asset Management, the seller of the property, claims this is largest single-property, conventional multifamily transaction in North Carolina so far this year. The property was purchased by Canadian real estate asset management firm Indigo Acquisitions LLC. 

Charlotte considers rezoning petition near Panthers’ stadium

Charlotte’s city council members on Monday discussed the possible rezoning of a 55-acre site near Bank of America stadium to a “mixed-use district” which could house retail, hotels, restaurants and even a new stadium . The petition will go to a zoning committee for additional recommendations after Monday’s discussion, and the council could vote on it as early as Nov. 15. Some city council members worried the rezoning could eliminate the potential for future parks or open space. 

Triangle loses top housing market ranking

The Triangle dropped to No. 2 in the Emerging Trends in Real Estate 2022 report’s list for top housing markets in the country. Though Nashville beat the region out in that category, the Triangle ranked first nationally for homebuilding prospects for the third consecutive year. The area has continuously grown, particularly as the the pandemic saw many move from larger cities to more affordable suburbs. 

Amazon opens 150,000 seasonal positions

North Carolina stands to benefit from the 150,000 seasonal positions Amazon announced it would hire for this year as one of the primary states with the highest number of seasonal roles. The jobs will have an average starting pay of $18 per hour and may include signing bonuses up to $3,000. The workers are expected to help full-time employees in fulfillment centers, sorting centers, regional air hubs and delivery stations throughout the U.S. 

NTT America files to lay off 150 employees

NTT America Inc. will permanently lay off 151 employees from its Charlotte office in December, according to a new filing with the N.C. Department of Commerce. More than 60 job classifications are being eliminated, including purchase agents, analysts and billing. The company issued a statement saying it was attempting to improve efficiency and focus on clients. 

Charlotte businesses “blindsided” by brewery plans

Just before news coverage broke that San Antonio-based Weathered Souls would be coming to Charlotte last week, the Ride or Die Spin Studio and Mugshots Coffee & Tea owners learned they will not be allowed to sign another lease in their building and need to move out by Nov. 30 to make way for the brewery. Both allege property owner Stuart Brauer told them only a portion of the building would be up for grabs, allowing them to continue operating. Brauer says leasing the full building was always a possibility. 

Hubbell Power Systems will add 70 jobs in expansion

Hubbell Power Systems, Inc. will expand its operations in Rocky Mount through a $8.9 million investment expected to add 73 jobs to its operations. Hubbell Power Systems is a unit of Hubbell Incorporated, an international manufacturer of electrical and electronic products, and has a facility in Rocky Mount for its PenCell Plastics brand. The new jobs will have an average salary over $40,000. 

RTP startup raises $10 million

5Metis Inc. has raised $10 million for the development of crop protection products, according to an Oct. 4 securities filing. The startup was founded this year when the crop protection division of Triangle-based Boragen Inc. and AgriMetis, LLC joined together, and will be sustained through mid-2023 thanks to the funding from eight investors. 

Kriya Therapeutics launches eye-disease division

After a $100 million Series B financing round, Kriya Therapeutics, which has headquarters in Research Triangle Park and Palo Alto, California, is launching a new division focusing on gene therapies for eye diseases. The biotech startup recently completed the construction of a 51,000-square-foot manufacturing facility. Kriya Ophthalmology will be headed by Theresa Heah, a former AsclepiX Therapeutics executive. 

New Hanover approves $1.9 million for affordable housing project

On Monday morning the New Hanover County Board of Commissioners approved a $1.9 million request for gap funding allocation for an affordable housing apartment project in Wilmington. Bradley Development and Kelley Development Co. have also approached the City of Wilmington for $3.5 million in gap funding for the 278-unit development. The $1.9 million from the county will be treated as grant and will not need to be paid back. 

High-tech job market cools in North Carolina

The available job openings in IT and other high-tech industries dipped slightly in September from the previous month, but remains 37% higher than September last year. According to a report by Clarkston Consulting and Momentum, there have been at least 30,000 job openings in Charlotte for the past 9 months. NC Tech is sponsoring a virtual job fair this week in an attempt to fill open positions. 

Truist, BB&T merger on track

Truist Bank officials stated its $66-billion merger with BB&T bank is still on track for completion in the first quarter next year during an earnings call on Friday. The bank has closed over 400 branches of the 800 total that will close by the end of February, but no jobs will be lost in the consolidation efforts. In the coming months, Truist will also transition customers to a new digital banking platform, which already has 7 million users. 

Chapel Hill’s Ultraloop cleans up with new funding

The company, which focuses on sanitation tech, has closed on $225,000 in new funding and could raise an additional $275,000. Ultraloop advisors include Bernard Bell, executive director of Shuford Program in Entrepreneurship at UNC-Chapel Hill, and Stephanie Davis, M.D., the chair of the department of pediatrics and physician-in-chief of the N.C. Children’s Hospital.

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