EXISTING ECONOMIC CLUSTERS
Long considered a center of the manufacturing industry, Catawba County and the Hickory Metro have diversified and balanced a traditional manufacturing base of furniture, textile, and telecommunications. Comprehensive efforts are being directed at identifying and recruiting new sectors in manufacturing such as biomedical, pharmaceutical, technology and building products.
Owing to the county's tremendous connectivity and to close geographic ties to major urban markets like the Queen City (aka Charlotte), the region is also becoming a hub for expertise within logistics/supply chain, back office operations and middle market headquarter operations.
Read below to learn a little bit more about some of the most significant building blocks of the HKY and Catawba County economy.
Manufacturing has a long and rich history in Catawba County. Even today, over 25 percent of Catawba County’s working population is engaged in manufacturing. That’s basically double the national average. There are over 425 manufacturers in Catawba County.
It's true that the face of the manufacturing sector in Catawba County has seen a lot of change. Though the textile mills that once lined the region’s rivers are gone, in their place are advanced manufacturing facilities producing high value products like automotive components, fiber optic cable, and custom handcrafted furniture.
Catawba Valley Community College's Manufacturing Solutions Center is a non-profit organization located in Conover, North Carolina. The center strives to improve quality and efficiency, develop new products and create/retain jobs. The multi-faceted center offers several different services including standardized testing, product development, training (hosiery, software, industrial, etc), engineering, and many more.
View our Advanced Manufacturing Brochure to learn more about Catawba County's manufacturing specialization.
The Hickory Metro ranks 6th in the nation for concentration of manufacturing - 400+ manufacturers in Catawba County alone.
It is a diverse mix of advanced manufacturers, including: General Dynamics SATCOM, Turbocoating, US Conec, Continental Structural Plastics, Centro Inc., Century Furniture, Carolina Nonwovens, International Paper, Poppelmann Plastics, GKN Driveline, von Drehle Corporation, HSM Solutions, Dynamic Air Engineering, Fiber-Line, Jaybeam Wireless and more.
Two of Catawba County's largest employers also happen to be two of the world's largest producers of fiber optic cables. Supporting these industry giants— CommScope and Corning Optical Communications, along with Prysmian —are a number of smaller suppliers that combine to create one of the most impressive clusters of fiber companies in the world.
CommScope (NASDAQ: COMM) helps design, build and manage wired and wireless networks around the world. Started and headquartered in Hickory, this newly-minted Fortune 500 Company has more than 30 manufacturing and distribution facilities across the globe - with a strong presence right here in our area and North Carolina.
As a communications infrastructure leader, CommScope executives believe the connectivity company is positioned well as consumers and businesses require more and more bandwidth: “Smartphones, social networks, cloud computing, mobile video and network-connected ‘everyday gadgets’ are changing how we connect to each other and creating a future filled with even more promising lifestyle and business innovations,” says Eddie Edwards, CEO of CommScope Inc.
With such an impressive collection of fiber companies, it should be no surprise that Catawba County and the surrounding area is also home to some of the world's largest and most sophisticated data centers. A targeted recruitment effort started by the Catawba EDC to establish the NC Data Center Corridor has brought jaw-dropping investments by companies like Apple and Bed Bath & Beyond to Catawba County and companies like Google and Facebook to other counties in the Corridor. These companies are able take advantage of the reliable, low-cost energy and abundant water found in the region.
Anytime you search Google for the "best ham bone soup recipe", buy a a luxurious set of 300-thread count bed sheets from Bed Bath & Beyond, ask Siri to play some James Brown, or post an ill-advised photo from your birthday to Facebook - there is a chance that digital traffic might be touching the servers and datacenters operating in Catawba County or in the surrounding region.
Minelli S.p.A. is an 80 year old, family-owned company headquartered in Italy. They manufacture wood products for a number of OEMs. At the beginning of 2017, they opened their newest manufacturing plant in Hickory, NC. This plant was designed to finish products in their Outdoor Wood division, which cover guns stocks and pistol grips. But the stocks and grips are not run of the mill. They are made more as an artisan product of the highest excellence. "We picked Hickory because we had heard that this is the cradle of the wood working industry in the United States," says Minelli CEO Luca Minelli. "We thought we could find the right expertise and people here. At the end of the day, it’s all about people."
While not technically an industry cluster, the significant presence of international firms in Catawba County makes it worth highlighting. International firms remain a fitting target for Catawba County and the EDC works closely with representatives in Europe to uncover companies who may be seeking, or could benefit from, a new US location. At last count there were over 30 internationally owned firms in the area, the vast majority of which are engaged in manufacturing. Some of these companies include Klingspor Abrasives (Germany) , Punker (Germany), Turbocoating (Italy), Sarstedt (Germany), Technibilt (Germany), ZF (Germany), Smart Electric (Taiwan), GKN (United Kingdom), CertainTeed (France), Prysmian (Italy), Poppelman Plastics (Germany) and Taiji Group USA (China).