News, Information, Opportunities & Benefits
January 19, 2015
New Year Means Lower Corporate Tax Rate

With the start of the New Year also comes a lower corporate tax rate for your business. Starting January 1, your corporate tax rate dropped to 5 percent, down from 6 percent in 2014. The corporate rate will continue to fall in the coming years - 4% in 2016 and 3% in 2017 - if North Carolina meets revenue targets ($20.2 billion in general tax collections by June 30).

The picture is mixed for two other high profile taxes. The NC Chamber of Commerce championed House Bill 998 which reduces the personal income tax level for all North Carolina taxpayers.  On the other hand, North Carolina's gas tax increased by one cent to 37.5 cents a gallon on January 1. With wholesale gas prices now dropping dramatically, however, the gas tax may decrease as much as 5 cents per gallon when the next adjustment is made, most likely in July of this year.

SBA Sponsoring Free On-Line Course:

Small businesses are becoming a larger target for criminals looking to access sensitive data, because attackers are aware that small businesses have limited resources dedicated to information system security. The protection of sensitive data such as business invoices, payroll records, client and employee data and other proprietary information is essential to the success of a small business. Business owners need to know how to identify information security vulnerabilities that can put their companies at risk.


In an effort to combat cyber-attacks against small businesses, The Small Business Administration (SBA) is helping to provide the protective tools and techniques needed to maintain and guard business information and systems. It has developed an online course called Cybersecurity for Small Businesses to help educate businesses on securing online information and evaluating the needed security tools and techniques.


The online course teaches how to identify the types of customer information that should be secured, how to guard against intentional attacks or even unintentional damage, and offers practical steps to take to protect a business' operations.

Do not assume that your business is not at risk. Many small business owners run a large part of their business over the Internet, without any security features. As a business owner, The SBA advises small business owners to understand that, while there are advantages to taking a business online, certain risks come with it.


New State Legislature Convenes

The North Carolina General Assembly 
convened last week and organized itself for the business of the 2015 session.
The Burke Chamber's Governmental Affairs Committee monitors the General Assembly --  and  through contacts with the Burke County delegation to the House and Senate and the NC Chamber of Commerce -- advocates for legislation supporting business.

In his newsletter to constituents, State Representative Hugh Blackwell provided a primer on the structure and the primary responsibilities of the General Assembly during this session. If you are a newcomer to NC or plan to follow state politics in 2015, you may find Rep. Blackwell's information helpful.  He granted permission for us to include some of its key points in this edition of Chamber News.

North Carolina has two legislative bodies, the North Carolina House of Representatives and the North Carolina Senate. Together, the state constitution refers to them as The General Assembly. 

The General Assembly consists of 120 representatives in the House and 50 senators in the Senate. Following the 2014 General Election, the House consists of 74 Republicans and 46 Democrats. The Senate is comprised of 34 Republicans and 16 Democrats, 
The Senate and the House of Representatives meet in their respective chambers in Raleigh on Monday evenings and during the day on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. The members return to their homes to take care of their affairs and be available to their constituents during the weekend. 

During the week, committee meetings are held in the morning and late afternoon. There will be a dozen or more committees for each body, and their work is very important, as every bill introduced will be studied by at least one committee in the Senate and in the House of Representatives. Every legislator serves on several committees.

Last week the House members elected a new Speaker of the House, seven-term representative Tim Moore of Cleveland County, to succeed Thom Tillis, who was elected to Congress last November. The Speaker holds a very powerful position and is responsible for running the House, so that the House's business is conducted effectively. One of his most important roles is the appointment of all House committees and the chairs of each of those committees. In addition to electing a Speaker, the House also re-elected Representative Paul Stam of Wake County as Speaker Pro Tempore, who will "fill in" for the Speaker when he is absent.  

The presiding officer of the Senate (called the President of the Senate) is the Lieutenant Governor of the State, Republican Dan Forest. He has no vote in the Senate except to break a tie. Eight-term senator Phil Berger will serve as the President Pro Tempore in the Senate.

The Legislature's primary responsibility is to adopt a balanced budget for the next two fiscal years. The first fiscal year will begin July 1, 2015 and run through June 30, 2016. The second fiscal year begins July 1, 2016 and goes through June 30, 2017. The House of Representatives and the Senate take turns on which goes first in creating a draft budget. This year, it is the House that will begin on the budget first. Once the House has approved a budget, the Senate will then consider its version and any differences will then be negotiated before being sent to the Governor for his action. At this point, the legislative fiscal staff is working with the governor's budget staff to agree on a consensus forecast. A consensus forecast predicts the revenue available to the state government over the next two fiscal years. This information is essential in formulating an accurate and balanced budget. Of course, as the year goes on, and particularly including information that we will gain in April after state taxes are paid, these revenue projections will be adjusted to make them as close to the mark as lawmakers can hope to get. As of the moment, state revenues are running behind what had been hoped for the current year by about $190 million. Although that is an important number, revenue developments between now and June 30 when the current budget year ends can easily make up the current shortfall.  

The House and Senate are now adjourned until January 28, 2015. 

15 Networking Tips for Small Businesses
Networking is NOT about selling but about building new relationships based on trust. 

The year ahead will be ripe with opportunities to grow your small business by networking at Burke Chamber events, such as the upcoming Annual Meeting on March 5 at CoMMA. As experienced business networkers know, it's not who you are, it's who you know. But networking and saying the right things don't come easy to everyone. Here are 15 top tips to learn how to communicate at your best at networking events, many of them courtesy of the Charlotte Area Chamber of Commerce:

1. Find the right event. Events that happen regularly, rather than one off events, are more likely to result in ongoing business relationships. Stay on top of events like the Burke Chamber's Business After Hours and Business for Breakfast, so you can build relationships with potential customers.

2. Plan for your networking event. Rest assured there will be plenty of others at any networking event who feel nervous about networking. The best way to combat nerves is to be thoroughly prepared. Firstly, decide what you want to get out of it. Do you want to make 20 new contacts or one real quality contact? Are you looking for a new supplier, an investor, a mentor or new customers? Your reasons for attending should define how you approach the meeting and help you judge whether it has been a success. It's important to look professional, so check that you've you got enough business cards and something to take notes with. Here's another tip: Check with the Chamber to see if you can get a list of attendees before the event to see if there are any particular businesses organizations you want to speak to.

 3. Create a 30-second pitch for your business. Time is precious at networking meetings, so you should be able to get across the most important information about your business, including your unique selling point, in a short space of time. It's the classic "elevator speech." Practice until you feel confident with your pitch.

4. Take a colleague. If you're really nervous about going it alone, you could always take a colleague with you, but that doesn't mean you should stick by each other's sides for the whole event. The benefit of taking a colleague is that you can cover twice as much ground. Just be careful not to speak to the same people.

5. Arrive early at the event.  Getting to the venue early gives you the opportunity to compose yourself and get your business cards and other promotional materials in order. Be sure to wear a name badge. It also gives you the opportunity to strike up conversations early. There is nothing worse than being the last person to turn up to a room full of people already deep in discussion.

6. Be confident.  Standing in a room with many people you don't know is nerve-wracking for most of us. It can be quite tempting to stand quietly in the corner and wait for someone to come to you, but for the best results, you will need to be proactive. After all, the point of networking is to talk to other people about what you do! Remember to make eye contact with people and, most importantly, smile.

7. Take a genuine interest in others. Once in a conversation, listen to others and show interest. Do not start looking around the room at others trying to spot someone more interesting or who may be a "hotter prospect." This will only get you a reputation of being rude. Listen to others exactly how you would like them to listen to you. By listening and helping others, they are more likely to help you. Remember: 'givers gain'.

8. Remember, networking is about building new contacts. If networking is your mission at an event, don't spend a lot of time in the company of people you already know. By all means, have a quick chat with them (to build the relationship further), but spend the majority of your time getting to know new contacts.

9. Avoid over-selling at a networking event. Networking is NOT selling. Networking is about building relationships, getting to know, like and trust others. By all means, talk about your products/services, as you are there to raise the profile of your business, but sandwich 'business talk' between 'small talk'.

10. Bring people standing alone into your conversation. They will be grateful to you for doing so, as you have taken them away from the uncomfortable position of standing on their own. Your kind act could eventually lead you to some new business via the person you helped in their moment of need. When you arrive at an event, look out for those standing on their own, as they will often be the most open to meeting new people.

11. Do not discount people. Never assume that certain types of business people won't know someone who may be interested in your products or services. Who do they know? Do they know your 'perfect' contact or lead?

12. Know when to move on. It's the thing that every networker dreads: being stuck with the same person throughout an entire event. If there is potential for a working relationship there, organize to meet at a later date and move on. If there isn't, be polite and exchange business cards. You never know when they might become a useful contact in the future.

13. Take notes. Networking events can be a case of information overload, so you should make short notes at the first available opportunity during or after the meeting. Try not to make notes while you're talking to someone, as you should be paying them your undivided attention.

14. Take the opportunity to present. Some networking meetings offer the opportunity to present to the group. This is an opportunity to demonstrate your knowledge and experience to a room full of potential customers and referrers, but don't use it as a sales pitch.

15. After the event, make sure you follow up with your new contacts. 
Follow up on new contacts as soon as possible with a short email or a quick phone call. If you've said you'll do something, make sure you do it. By not doing so, you will undo all the good work you did at the event.

In summary, networking is NOT about selling but about building new relationships based on trust. People buy from people that they like and trust, so it is important to be yourself and be genuine at all times. You should think of networking as a long term strategy for building profitable relationships, rather than a quick win.
Growing Business...
Founder Hope Lowman cuts the ribbon as CEO Wendy Ward (to her left), staff and guests celebrate the opening of the staffing firm's fourth office.

Catawba Valley Staffing Opens Valdese Office
Catawba Valley Staffing has opened a new office in Valdese at 152 Main Street East, adding to its other offices in Morganton, Marion and Hickory. Owner and president Hope Lowman was joined by daughter and Chief Executive Officer Wendy Ward, manager Melanie Townsend, staff, Valdese Town Manager Jeff Morse, Burke Chamber Ambassadors and community guests at a ribbon cutting and reception last month. Catawba Valley Staffing specializes in securing employees for local, national, and international businesses in the region, including manufacturing, health and medical, clerical, technical and professional companies. "We are an organized team of professionals dedicated to developing positive employment relationships that benefit our employees, our businesses, our communities, and our families," said Wendy. For more information, call (828) 522-1076 or visit

Atlantic Bay Mortgage Opens in Morganton

Senior Mortgage Banker Jennifer Wright led a grand opening in December for Atlantic Bay Mortgage's new office at 105 North Green St. in Morganton. "My goal is to assist my client with the best mortgage product that meets their needs and helps them with long term home ownership," Jennifer said. "These clients range from first time home buyers to buyers
Senior Mortgage Banker Jennifer wields the scissors at the grand opening of Atlantic Bay Mortgage in Morganton.
who are moving up or down sizing
. I strive to make it a good experience for them with open communication and dialogue.. Atlantic Bay Mortgage specializes in a wide range of financing options,including conventional home loans, FHA home loans, USDA home loans, VHDA home loans, VA home loans, jumbo home loans and reverse mortgages. Atlantic Bay also underwrites To Be Determined (TBD) files before the client has a property. This means the client can be fully approved prior to finding a property.  Having lived in Burke County for most of her life, Jennifer brings more than 20 years experience in the financial services industry and over 12 years experience in mortgage lending to her new business. For more information, call (828) 348-7837.

Breathe Yoga & Wellness Connects Mind and Body

Rhonda Cook believes the exercises in posture, breathing and meditation practiced in yoga should be part of a well-rounded, balanced approach not only to a person's physical health but also to a healthy mind. So, earlier this month she celebrated the opening of Breathe Yoga & Wellness at 131 West Union Street in Morganton.  The facility offers a variety of traditional and non-traditional  
Guests at the ribbon cutting for Breathe Yoga & Wellness admire a spacious studio at the 131 West Union Street facility, located next to Root & Vine Restaurant. 
yoga classes for       fitness and for health, as well as personalized therapeutic body and mind practices adapted to individual needs.  "The mission of Breathe Yoga & Wellness is to provide instruction, practice, and support that encourages individual and community health," said Rhonda, who is a yoga therapist. "It's why we are a member of the Foothills Holistic Alliance, a local network of practitioners who share values grounded in complementary wellness."  Breathe Yoga & Wellness will offer a variety of class styles and levels and allow purchase of unlimited monthly memberships, class packages, gift cards, great yoga products, drop-in pricing, specials, discounts, workshops, online check-in and pay options, tons of parking in the back and walking distance to other spots in our vibrant little downtown.Students of Breathe Yoga & Wellness are eligible to receive special rates on group classes, private sessions, and special events through its referral program. For more information, visit the facility or contact Rhonda at

New Carolina Rugs & Flooring Has You Covered

To better serve its many customers, Carolina Rugs & Flooring has relocated to a new and larger location at 906 West Union Street in Morganton . Owner Rob Thawley marked the move with a ribbon cutting just before Christmas. Rob is now offering an expanded line of traditional oriental and 
Rob and Amanda Thawley mark the opening of Carolina Rugs & Flooring's new store at 906 West Union Street, accompanied by Chamber Board of Directors Chairman Scott Mulwee. Chamber Ambassadors LeAnne Brittain and Chad Burrell man the ribbon.
contemporary rugs, laminate and vinyl flooring, custom cabinets, home decor, and doors, and discounts are a specialty. "From formal oriental style rugs and rugs for your lodge or cabin to hard-to-find rugs for the kids' room, we have you covered," Rob said. "The same is true for flooring of all styles and types, as well as cabinetry. If you are re-modelling or simply want a fresh new look, we can pull it all together for you." For more information, 
stop by the store located adjacent to Silver Creek restaurant, call (828) 475-1192, or visit Rob's Facebook site. "We will soon launch a website that will have more than 10,000 rugs available," Rob added.
Building Community...

Morganton Ranked Among NC's Safest Cities 

The Movoto Real Estate Blog has ranked Morganton 18 on its list of the safest cities in North Carolina, based on the newest FBI Uniform Crime Report. For the second years in a row, the Village of Pinehurst topped the rankings. Rankings were determined by dividing crimes into four categories: murders, violent crimes, property crimes and total crimes. Movoto then calculated the number of crimes per person (per capita) in each of the 68 places in North Carolina with populations of 10,000 people or more. From there, it ranked each place with a score from 1 to 68 according in the above criteria, with scores closer to one being safer. Next, Movoto weighted these rankings so that murders, violent crimes, and property crimes each made up 30 percent of the overall score, while the total number of crimes made up just 10 percent. And finally, these weighted rankings were averaged into an overall Big Deal Score, where the lowest score went to our safest place. 

Lake James State Park Tapped as "2014 Park of the Year"

Lake James State Park in Burke and McDowell counties has been named the North Carolina 2014 State Park of the Year by the N.C. Division of Parks and Recreation. The park was chosen for its "exemplary contribution to the North Carolina state parks mission of stewardship, public service and education," and specifically recognized for initiatives in managing natural resource, recruiting volunteers and expanding recreation opportunities.
Lake James State Park opened a 15-mile network of mountain biking trails in 2015.
Lake James State Park was authorized in 1987 and is under the direction of Superintendent Nora Coffey. The park encompasses 3,515 acres and reported 398,148 visitors in 2013. "Lake James State Park is fulfilling the promise it has held since 2004 when it was expanded with 2,900 acres of property acquired from Crescent Resources Inc. Its staff has been adept at balancing exciting new recreation opportunities with careful protection of natural resources on that property," said Mike Murphy, state parks director. 

2015 Foothills ConservancOutings 

Winter Family Outing at Lake James State Park's Holly Discovery Trail
Saturday January 31, 1-3 p.m.
Free & open to the public.

Views & Brews at Smith Cliff/Henry Fork Preserve
Saturday, February 28 1-3 p.m.

Students Get Their Hands on Industrial Sewing Machines


Shenandoah Furniture, Baker Furniture, Opportunity Threads and Bill's Sewing Machine Company recently donated industrial sewing machines to the county's four high schools, and Burke County Public Schools hired veteran sewer Karen Turner to instruct students on how to use the equipment. In high school Apparel II classes, students are taught how to design and sew clothes and household goods. For the first time this past semester, Apparel II students received a bonus: two weeks of instruction on an industrial sewing machine.Turner told the students even with their short introduction on the machines they have gained a valuable skill - one they can take into a

Veteran industrial sewer Karen Turner shows East Burke High School Apparel II students Faith Fox, left, Katilin Peters and Beth Yoder how to thread an industrial sewing machine. Turner is spending two weeks at each of Burke County Public Schools' four high schools to teach an industrial sewing class.

Burke County industry that relies on sewers to produce goods, such as furniture and apparel. Ward added that the students' grades are based on their production, similar to how a factory would pay them for their work.Part of the Apparel II curriculum is business enterprising. The students are selling the goods they made with the industrial sewing machine in the teachers' lounge at the high school. Burke County Public Schools Superintendent Larry Putnam said, "We would like to thank these companies for donating these industrial sewing machines to our high schools. This is another example of how Burke County Public Schools is preparing students for career opportunities in the local workforce, and we appreciate local industries and their willingness to partner with us in this endeavor."


Burke County Public Schools has added a new partner to its team of school resource officers, 2 1/2-year-old, female, black Labrador retriever named Drift. Drift and her handler, School Resource Officer and Burke County Sheriff's Deputy Sgt. Angie Bumgarner started training together at K2 Solutions, Inc. in November and have completed their six-week training course. Drift will randomly visit BCPS schools with Bumgarner and is trained to detect both narcotics and firearms.

Burke County Public Schools Superintendent Larry Putnam said training the dog in both areas will add another layer of protection on school campuses. 








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Burke Hospice
Case Farms
Catawba Valley Staffing
Charter Business
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Advisor Level
Duke Energy
Friday Staffing Service
Grace Ridge Retirement Community

Phifer Wellness Center
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Canteen Vending
Environmental Inks
J. Branstrom & Associates
Montreat College
Pepsi Cola Bottling Co.
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