Catawba County: Transforming Charlotte’s Great Northwest
Catawba County, Charlotte’s Great Northwest, is undergoing a rapid transformation from a smaller separate economy to becoming a choice Charlotte sub-market alternative. As an example of this diversification, the county is home to the fourth highest number of manufacturers in the state of North Carolina, Apple’s largest data center, and the Hickory Furniture Mart. Hickory, Newton, Conover, Maiden and even the smaller cities in Catawba County are focusing on renewal and revitalization projects designed to appeal to the 20-44 age grouping, and by doing that, are appealing to other age groups such as the active adult market. Housing starts are reflecting the inevitable expansion of Charlotte, particularly in the southeast Catawba County and Hickory zip codes. In the past 12 months, there have been 2,789 units permitted in these two areas alone, and the other cities are also seeing strong impacts.
Recent economic developments across the County show the transformation is working. New project announcements are evident as you drive around the County. Massive new mixed-use retail and residential projects flanking Hickory’s new 10.2 mile CityWalk have been announced. D9 Brewery has relocated their brewing operations from Huntersville to Newton. The widening of NC Highway 16 from uptown Charlotte into the heart of Catawba County is nearly complete, a new 192,000 square foot spec building in Trivium Corporate Center by Atlanta-based developer Stonemont Financial Group has been announced, and construction has begun on the Village at Sherrills Ford and the Terrell Town Center on the shores of Lake Norman in southeastern Catawba County.
Long-understood to be the home of furniture, textile, and fiber-optic manufacturing, the growth of the higher-end and modern home furnishings market, the merger of science to create advanced textiles and testing, and the advent of 5G and today’s communications requirements due to COVID-19 are all ushering in surprising new growth in Catawba County. Meanwhile Apple quietly sits next to its three huge solar farms, answering data needs through practically every device in the marketplace. And it doesn’t stop there. Recent diversification has added packaging manufacturers American Fuji Seal and MaxPax, auto parts supplier Cataler and pharmaceutical supplier ITM to established companies like GKN, ZF, and Sarstedt, just a few of the 425 manufacturing firms already in Catawba County.
A recent international prospect came in and asked three questions— “Where will I get my people; how can you add value to my operations; and do you have an appropriate site for my new facility?” New ideas always drive creative approaches in Catawba County, and the Workforce Solutions Complex and K-64 programs at Catawba Valley Community College’s main campus stand out as part 1 of the 1-2-3 effort when it comes to economic development. Catawba County’s Board of Commissioners understand the constant need for improving the workforce pipeline, and funded both of these efforts long before the pandemic, programs unparalleled in their approach. To get to the second question, look to the Manufacturing Solutions Center in Conover, recently awarded $9 million in funding by the NC General Assembly and a direct appropriation from the Governor’s budget, to expand entrepreneurial support efforts and commercialize ideas from pen and paper to large scale production. The third question gets answered by the County’s and City’s investments in prepared business parks and spec buildings, answering client questions many times before they are asked.
Likewise, creative targeting initiatives that worked to land data centers in Catawba County have been reformulated to attract the expected opportunities being created by COVID-19. Targeting holes in the supply chain that have been exposed, Catawba County’s Critical & Essential Recruitment Initiative is aimed at recruiting and providing special incentives to industries within the Federal Government’s 16 recognized Essential & Critical Categories in order to assure America’s health, safety, and preparedness during this and future challenges.