The retail and employment hub of the Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton Metropolitan Statistical Area, Catawba County has successfully diversified and balanced its traditional manufacturing base of furniture, textiles, and communications through comprehensive economic development efforts to recruit new non-manufacturing sectors. Its prime location–just 60 minutes away from the City of Charlotte and the Appalachian resort areas of Boone and Blowing Rock–adds to Catawba County’s desirability.
The County’s primary employers are a result of the changing economic environment. As an employer, the County’s three school systems along with the two medical centers showcase the strength of the local Educational and Health Services sectors. In regards to the County’s effort to diversify the tax base, Apple, Inc. and Target, two relative newcomers to the County, have added significant heft to the tax base while also aiding the County’s resiliency.
Employment figures in the MSA are on the rise, showing 2,400 more jobs in March 2017 than the same period one year ago. Another bright spot for the economy is that job openings continue to be available, with 5,732 job opening advertised online through NCWorks in March 2017, according to the NC Department of Commerce Labor Market Overview.
The average monthly unemployment rate in calendar year 2016 was 4.8 percent, and dropped to 4.4 percent in of March 2017. This unemployment rate is among the 26 lowest in the State and lower than State’s 4.7 and national 4.6 percent rates.
Recently, Catawba County has taken a proactive, aggressive approach in charting its economic future through targeted expansion. In the past few years, job gains have been made as a result of significant expansion projects – funded both privately and in partnership with the public sector - occurring in a wide range of industries from traditional manufacturing to high-tech. This mix of public-private partnership and private investment underscores the County’s balanced economic health and resiliency.
To further bolster these efforts, the County continues to actively recruit and attract targeted national and international companies with a focus on higher-wage industries like Information, Emerging & Alternative Energy, and Advanced Manufacturing, the latter which leverages the County’s skilled workforce.