Catawba County has long been known as a major center of commerce for the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Taking advantage of its location at the nexus of a number of transportation networks from the urbanizing Piedmont to the east and the more remote mountain communities to the west, Catawba County has had a successful track record of transforming its favorable geography into economic advantage. This is probably best represented by the emergence of Hickory as a major furniture center, thanks to its proximity to the great forests of western North Carolina. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Catawba’s wealth of water resources along the Catawba River made the county ripe for industrialization, as textiles joined furniture in strengthening the county’s regional economic prominence.
In the latter part of the 20th century, the fiber optics industry set up shop and established the county as one of the world’s top producers of fiber optic cable, the life blood of the telecommunications industry. With Apple’s recent decision to locate a new data center near the Town of Maiden, Catawba is now at the heart of an emerging data center corridor stretching from Charlotte northwest to the edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains. As the county’s economic destiny increasingly converges with that of the Charlotte region’s in the 21st century, it seems more than likely that Catawba will find even more reasons to engage collaboratively with a globally-connected Charlotte.