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August 11, 2014

Aerial view of Apple Data Center in Catawba CountyTwo major initiatives of the Catawba County Economic Development Corporation (EDC), Catawba County and partner municipalities are the subject of a case study released across the United States by the National Association of Counties (NACo).

Catawba County is one of only 33 counties (along with two multi-county associations) selected in the United States for case studies this year.

NACo’s report, “Strong Economies, Resilient Counties: The Role of Counties in Economic Development” presents information to county governments across the United States about economic development challenges and solutions being applied by selected local governments.

“Counties are responsible for providing core services such as human services, criminal justice, public welfare and infrastructure to communities of all sizes across America,” the authors of the report noted in an executive summary. “To ensure the delivery of these essential services, support job growth and maintain a healthy revenue base, counties invest in economic development activities in a number of ways.”

Catawba County’s efforts to attract data centers to the county, following the location of an Apple Data Center off Startown Road near the Town of Maiden, are featured in the case study along with the Innovate Catawba initiative working to make the county more economically competitive.

“One of the Catawba County EDC’s most successful programs is the promotion of Catawba County as a premiere data center hub,” the NACo report notes. “In 2009, EDC registered its first major success with the location of an Apple, Inc. 500,000 square-foot data center in Maiden, a city within Catawba County. This data center hosts iCloud and iTunes services. One of the primary reasons Apple selected the Maiden industrial site was the readiness of the site. The Apple data center project represents the largest investment by a private firm in North Carolina history.”

The case study goes on to note the cooperative planning for a data center location that led to Apple’s decision to locate in Catawba County.

“Before Apple selected the site, the county and four municipalities planned to finalize the development of utilities, roads and signage at the data center campus (as it originally was envisioned) before a buyer was secured. Catawba County and its municipalities planned to accomplish this project through a jointly funded multijurisdictional agreement” it continues. “This multijurisdictional partnership did not come to fruition at that time due to the sale of the entire site to Apple, but the partnership continued to be considered, and ultimately bore more fruit with a subsequent multi-jurisdictional partnership agreement.”

The NACo case study notes that the County, EDC and the Cities of Conover and Hickory and the Towns of Maiden and Catawba subsequently partnered to create a second data center development called the ncDataCampus off I-40 near Conover, now nearing completion. It also noted a website,, developed by the EDC to help market the data campuses to businesses. It concludes by showing the connection between Innovate Catawba and the data campus concept.

“(A 2013) study found that more public-private solutions and collaboration between local governments will be necessary to continue building data center sites in advance of securing a buyer, a strategy that helps secure a quick turn-around for prospective firms,” the NACo study reads. “As a result, Innovate Catawba plans to catalyze job growth by building facilities and sites that could be used to attract new business. This plan will enable the County to remain competitive as a data center location.”

Economic Development Corporation President Scott Millar said Catawba County’s case study provides an example from which other local governments across the nation could benefit.

“The recognition of having done a very focused and targeted recruiting initiative that paid off handsomely is good for the Board of Commissioners and the County,” Millar said. “The community focus should determine what arguments make sense for your community and your community’s assets, and that will make sense to those that might be seeking alignment with those assets in order that they might choose you.

“We realized the selling points that we had (reliable, affordable, and substantial power and water resources, the ability to offer quick permitting, and access to the Charlotte Douglas International Airport) and found a growing market opportunity that aligned with that. Every community should seek to do the same,” Millar added.

The entire NACo Case Study may be seen here. 

For more information about the EDC and its efforts to build data centers in the county, you may call the EDC at 828-267-1564 or visit