An “exciting” future for Surry County

Assistant to the County Manager Nathan Walls presents Dr. Michael Walden a Surry Cellars wine. Walden said, “We enjoy coming to Surry County it is a beautiful place with hospitable people.”

Dr. Michael Walden heaped praised onto Surry County right from his opening remarks Thursday at the Viticulture Center at Surry Community College in Dobson, “I just feel the stress drain out of me when we are in Surry County.”

Sponsored by the Surry Economic Development Partnership and Greater Mount Airy and Yadkin Valley Chambers of Commerce, Walden came to town to offer remarks to business, community, and civic leaders on the economic outlook for Surry County.

Walden has a resume to accompany the gravitas with which he wielded the microphone while he spoke to the group. He is an author published many times over, a William Neal Reynolds Distinguished Professor Emeritus at North Carolina State University, president of Walden Economic Consulting, LLC, and recipient of the Order of the Long Leaf Pine among many other accolades.

In a global economy that has been plagued with supply chain issues, inflation, and the increasingly insecure access to fossil fuels thanks to the ongoing conflict in Europe, Walden provided some context. “The current condition of the economy is that we have been through a recession in 2020 due to COVID.”

“Economists knew there was going to be a recession once the governors in most states said stay at home and selected industries were told don’t even open your doors; so, we had a fairly nasty recession in the early part of 2020.”

During that time, he said a major reallocation of labor took place as a rash of retirements led to folks leaving the work force. Also, he notes labor ‘sit-outs’ are still occurring for those such as parents who stopped working to be at home teachers or full-time care givers. This left job openings in sectors that allowed for large movements between differing fields

“If you look at North Carolina, not only have you seen shortages in sectors like leisure, hospitality, construction, and manufacturing,” he said, “But we have also seen a reallocation of labor. In fact, something very unusual happened during the recession of 2020 that I have not seen” in the eight recessions of his professional career.

“What we saw in 2020 was when the government was providing assistance to households… many people, particularly young people, didn’t just take that time to watch TV or play video games. What they did was they used the time to get better skills to move up the economic ladder.”

When the economy started to reopen people were moving away from lower paying sectors to higher paying sectors, which led Walden to one of his suggestions to businesses who are having trouble finding workers.

Higher wages and better benefits can attract more applicants and he noted that in the restaurant field the average wage rate in the state rose 14%. “That is one of the few industries paying wages high enough that they outpace inflation.”

Yes, Walden knows higher wages may mean that prices must go up but here is a chance for business owners to explain why prices are changing rather than keep customers in the dark, “You’d be surprised sometimes how understanding people are.”

Substituting automation and technology is another suggestion he makes for solving labor shortages. He recounted meeting the McDonald’s order kiosk for the first time and coming to the realization that other customers were already acclimated to the new set-up.

Finally, he recommended taking a long broad look at the employees, their tasks, and the systems in place that create the distribution of labor. Finding redundancies in duties to eliminate them can increase efficiency by reducing the number of employees needed.

The nine-letter curse word of 2022 is inflation, and it is a global problem. Walden reported, “For most of the 21st century inflation averaged between 1 – 3% a year; since the end of 2020 we have seen a gigantic jump to the latest reading is 8.6%. Unfortunately, the average wage increase over the last year has been less than half that. Peoples’ standard of living is dropping because prices are going up faster than income.”

Walden explained if demand outpaces supply, prices will go up. The government pumped $5.5 trillion into the economy during the pandemic, a 40% increase in the actual money in circulation, “but the economy wasn’t open.”

During the pandemic personal savings rates increased dramatically from 3% to 14%. Now, stores are back open, and stay at home orders are a thing of the past, but the supply does not meet the new demand. Americans have money to spend but cannot buy many of the things they want because of supply issues. This is what he called “the perfect recipe for high inflation.”

Walden focused on Surry County, and he presented $2.3 billion as the total amount of good and services produced in the county for 2019. Data was available for 2020 but COVID skews all numbers from that year making a real comparison a fool’s errand.

The biggest sectors of the local economy are manufacturing, construction, retail, and financial services / real estate. All sectors of the labor market grew from 2009-2019 except for a 30% drop in manufacturing. Growing those sectors means the county needs people, in the past decade as the state grew in population 9.3%, the county lost 3.2%.

In a projection for the next three decades the state may see an increase in population of one-third. while Surry County stabilizes it losses to 1% a year. This trend of a lower population count may be one factor discouraging housing construction in this area, he said.

The growing population of the state may be a long-term benefit to Surry County. While the state attracts 4% migration from other states, the appeal of a “new farm lifestyle on cheaper land” may draw people away from the metros. “For a county like this, the future is very exciting,” Walden said.

With expanded broadband thanks to the initiative with Surry Communications, almost everyone can have access to high-speed internet which will be essential. The work from home trend has peaked, he feels, but the genie is out of the bottle and work from home will only expand with time. As it does the importance of living near a brick and mortar office will decrease, adding again to potential county population growth.

He offered some advice to job seekers as the labor market will slow, “Don’t pass up on that job that may not be your number one. It may not be there in three to four months.” He is seeing a trend of retirees reentering the labor force, some of whom feel they retired too hastily during the pandemic.

Education remains a key component of the future financial growth and long-term health of the local economy, and Surry Community College is helping create the work force this community needs. Dr. Walden said, “I think it’s very fitting we are here at Surry Community College.”

“I think the vanguard of education in terms of dealing with changing labor markets are community colleges. They respond to changes in the local community, so I think we will see these kinds of institutions at the forefront of dealing with labor market disruptions.”


Kitten Rescued After Getting Stuck in a Pepsi Vending Machine


Cat Videos Trot Onto the Big Screen – NBC Los Angeles

  • CatVideoFest at The Frida Cinema in Santa Ana
  • July 2 and 3 at 2:30 p.m.
  • $7.50

You can’t spell “fact” without the letters C, A, and T, and while there are many facts to be found in the feline world there is a major, and majorly modern, one: You don’t need a reason to obsess over cat videos.

You can love these vivacious videos, just be claws, er, because.

But if you’re bringing the emotion-laden, joy-strong, feline-forward topic up, you might as well clarify what you mean: Do you mean those videos that catch your cat’s attention, as they sit on your lap, because there may be bright movement involved?

Or are we talking about the cat videos that humans famously obsess over, the ones that star felines and feature all sorts of adorable antics?

If we’re spotlighting the latter, then you likely know that there are more cat videos to be found online than tiny pieces of kibble in an XL food bag.

How, though, can you watch a sweet spate of cat videos in a place where they’re rarely seen… the big screen?

Look to The Frida Cinema, in Santa Ana, which is presenting CatVideoFest, on the afternoons of July 2 and 3, all to start the second half of the year with a merry meow.

The festival “… is a joyous communal experience, only available in theaters, and raises money for cats in need through partnerships with local cat charities, animal welfare organizations, and shelters to best serve cats in the area.”

One of those charities is OCSP Cat Rescue, a local organization.

Some of the “powerhouses” of the online world will be part of the catly collection, as well as animated bits and music videos, too.

The running time?

It’s 75 minutes, which is probably the longest stretch that anyone, even devoted fans of the oeuvre, has watched a bunch of cat videos in a row.

Though quite honestly? That length of time may be the daily average for some especially enthusiastic aficionados of the genre. And we certainly get it: Cat videos prompt smiles, happy feelings, and a connection with all critters, in a way that few other short-form experiences can.

That the cats seen in these videos are clever and cute isn’t in dispute, even when they’re knocking items off a shelf or playfully pouncing as their human naps.

What we’re craving is more of that cleverness and cuteness, during CatVideoFest, to start our July with joy.

Feline fine? We are, now that we know where to pounce upon a ticket.


Animal Rescue Saves 30 Cats and Kittens from ‘Filthy House’ in Iowa


Hampden Recreation director position considered, Trust asks for reimbursement

HAMPDEN – Hampden Parks and Recreation Board Chair Carrie Gray Joseph came before the Board of Selectmen to propose the creation of a paid recreation director position. Currently, there are four people on the board with one vacancy, and Gray Joseph explained that there was not sufficient staffing to create and maintain programs.

Board of Selectmen member Donald Davenport asked Gray Joseph about participation levels of Parks and Recreation programs. She told him the numbers of children participating has fallen and said that may be due to an overall decrease in the under 18 years of age population in town. There was a discussion about programs that could be offered to draw in participants if staffing allowed for it.

Board of Selectmen Chair John Flynn said he supported the creation of the position and recalled that such a job used to exist but was cut due to budget constraints.

Gray Joseph suggested using federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding for the position’s salary, but Board of Selectmen member Craig Rivest told her such a use was likely ineligible for ARPA but suggested there were other grants available for that purpose. Gray Joseph will work with Town Administrator Bob Markel to locate a source of funding. If one cannot be found, Flynn said, the position could go before Town Meeting for budget approval.

On another topic concerning outdoor recreation, Sherry Himmelstein of the Minnechaug Land Trust requested the town reimburse the conservation organization for $6,000 in tree work. The town had agreed to pay for the removal of trees on town land that might fall onto land run by the trust. She explained that the trust was given a quote of $5,000 to remove damaged trees, but when the tree service arrived, she was told that the work would take multiple days and would cost more than $5,000. According to Himmelstein, the service offered to stop after $5,000 of work had been completed, but she said there were still too many trees “in danger of falling,” so she had the service continue work.

“But you had no more money,” Flynn emphasized. He also said the board was frustrated that the trust had waited seven months to bring the issue back before them.

Himmelstein said she thought ARPA money could be used to fund the difference and made a case that the trailheads were in a state of disrepair because of heavy use during the coronavirus pandemic. Flynn explained ARPA is designated for infrastructure repair, whereas the federal coronavirus relief funding known as the CARES Act addressed fallout from COVID-19. That funding expired in 2021, he told her. When asked, he said it was unlikely the trailheads would be accepted as an infrastructure issue.

Instead, Flynn suggested she apply to the Community Preservation Commission to apply open space funding to the reimbursement. He said Himmelstein would have the board’s support in her application.

Dog issue update

On April 11, the board had conducted a hearing on the dog dispute between neighbors Steve Haskins and Anne Thomas. At that time, Animal Control Ofc. Shelley Sears stated that Steve Haskins has complained about his neighbor Anne Thomas’s dogs roaming on his property on Rock-A-Dundee Road, attacking his dog and chickens.

Thomas had submitted a written letter to the board indicating that she had hired a dog walker to exercise the dogs and said her dogs would be tethered in the future. She also said she was going to install an electric fence around her property. The board accepted these changes and continued the hearing to a future date.

During the June 27 meeting, Flynn followed up on the issue, stating that Thomas’s dogs had again escaped her property and attacked her when she attempted to break up a fight with another animal. Flynn said the dog would be euthanized later in the week.

Other topics

Two new members have been added to the Hampden Fire Department. Fire Chief Ed Poulin presented Ryan Fitzgerald to the board for approval as a probationary EMS/firefighter. Fitzgerald is a licensed EMT and works part-time for National Ambulance. He is interested in trying firefighting, Poulin said.

Michael Patrick was brought on to be a driver/operator for the department, driving fire vehicles and freeing a firefighter to attend to other duties. Patrick will be trained with all equipment in case his help is required. He has firefighter experience from working in Westfield.

The annual audit of the town’s finances was recently completed. “It really reflects that the town is doing well,” Flynn said. The board will conduct an in-depth review of the audit with legal counsel and Town Accountant Cliff Bombard at a later date.

Resident John Plaster brought up a property on the corner of Main and North Streets. He said the lawn is overgrown and “in terrible shape.” While there is no ordinance in Hampden regulating the maintenance of yards, Plaster said, “I don’t agree with it.” Flynn asked that Building Commissioner Wendel Hulbert send a letter to the property owners expressing “concern.”


Give to Pets Foundation Provides a Comfortable Home for Animals in Need | Four-Legged Friends and More

Noozhawk’s inaugural Four-Legged Friends and More Guide is officially here! We have sniffed out local businesses that best cater to the needs, health, comfort, training, exercise, and general welfare of our furry companions!

To provide a closer look at the pet establishments in Santa Barbara County, Noozhawk has conducted a series of interviews with representatives of local businesses for this year’s Four-Legged Friends and More Guide that will be sure to have your tail wagging.

In this interview, Noozhawk spoke with Nadia Bernardi, Executive Director and Founder of Give to Pets Foundation/Give 2 Thrift Pets Store, to learn more about how they serve the four-legged community.

Give to Pets Foundation & Give 2 Thrift Pets Store

Question: What is the name of your business or practice?

Answer: Give to Pets Foundation / Give 2 Pets Thrift Store Boutique

Q: What is the mission behind your business?

A: We provide a loving and cage-free transitional or forever home for pets in need when someone enters hospice or needs temporary pet sitting when in medical treatment facilities.

Q: What types of animals does your business cater to?

A: Seniors and special needs cats and dogs.

Q: Can you describe the services or products your business offers?

A: The Give to Pets Foundation is a small community-based organization. We provide a comfortable home for animals who might otherwise end up in shelters or be euthanized. When someone enters hospice without family or friends able to take in their beloved pets, we provide a loving and cage-free transitional or forever home. We also offer permanent homes for senior and special needs animals. This includes some rescue pets who have already experienced a lot of trauma. For these animals, sudden loss and change under dire circumstances can be terribly stressful.

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Cat Sanctuary. (Give to Pets Foundation / Give 2 Pets Thrift Store Boutique)

We also provide permanent homes for seniors and special needs animals. We provide temporary pet sitting programs for people experiencing medical emergencies and long-term care needs. People in the hospital with life-threatening illnesses need to be assured that they don’t have to worry about the well-being of their pets during their stay in the hospital. Not everyone has the person or the funds to provide this service in an emergency situation. There is nothing more heart-wrenching than having to fight for your life and not knowing what has happened to your beloved pet.

We are extremely active against animal abuse. We have protested and fought for animal rights and will continue to do so until we change laws to protect our beloved pets.

Q: How long have you been in this industry?

A: For over 20 years but the foundation was started 2 years ago and the thrift store 1 year ago.

Q: Do you work with all breeds/ age groups?

A: Seniors and special needs.

Q: What advice would you give to a new pet owner?

A: Be kind and give your pet a chance to acclimate. It takes time for a pet to get used to the new home and owners.

Dog Sanctuary.
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Dog Sanctuary. (Give to Pets Foundation / Give 2 Pets Thrift Store Boutique)

Q: Can you name a few common reasons animals end up in your shelter?

A: Their owner passes away and the family members can’t take the pet in. People with terminal illnesses that can no longer care for their pets.

Q: What kinds of challenges have you faced within the pet care industry? How did you or your team manage them?

A: There are always challenges! The number one thing is financing. 

Among the pets, at the sanctuary, there are health issues such as hearing, sight, geriatrics, special diets, and diabetes that are addressed on a daily basis.  Regular veterinary visits are required.

Employees and groomers are a necessary expense, as are supplies such as food, medication, and cat litter. Fundraising is essential! We receive private donations and support from the wonderful customers that come shop at our Give 2 Pets Thrift Store Boutique.

Q: Are you a nonprofit? Do you accept donations?

A: We are a 501 (c) 3 and except money donations, clothing, household items, and other donations for the Thrift Store which supports our foundation.

Q: How do you keep the public informed about your business or service(s)?

A: Social media and advertising.

Q: What is one fun fact about your business?

A: We are here to help with an open heart!

Q: Is there anything you would like to tell our readers that was not mentioned above?

A: Please come visit the Give 2 Pets Thrift store at 31 Parker Way. 100% of the proceeds go to help the animals at the Sanctuary. Thank you for your support.

Click here to learn more about Give 2 Pets Thrift store!