Strategic Plan

Success for Catawba County means driving economic and population growth through creating jobs and strengthening quality of life.

In 2016, in response to projections indicating a declining workforce in Catawba County, the Board of Commissioners began implementing a Strategic Plan aimed at strengthening our economy and growing our working-age population. Since then, strategies designed to deepen tax base investment, create jobs, attract workforce and enhance the county’s quality of life have yielded significant progress, including $4.3 billion in corporate investment, the creation of more than 4,000 jobs, and 4% population growth.

Recognizing that the best strategic plans are living, breathing documents, the Commissioners have begun a renewed planning process referred to as Strategic Plan 2.0. This next phase builds on the Commissioners’ initial successes by placing continued importance on economic development, workforce growth, and quality of life, key factors in assuring a thriving future for residents and businesses alike.

Strategic Plan 2.0 focuses on elevating and refining the Commissioners’ strategies in five areas of impact: economic development, education, community planning and development, healthy and safe community, and nature and culture. Strategy development is still in progress; the Commissioners, the Manager’s Office, and the Department Head team are working to establish a path forward in each area.

Economic Development

What It Is: The strategic recruitment of major corporate investment and jobs to Catawba County. Due to their scale and impact, economic development initiatives are a collaborative effort among the County, local municipalities, the Catawba County Economic Development Corporation, the State of North Carolina and the private sector.

Why It Matters: Economic development strengthens our local economy by expanding the corporate tax base and creating jobs. New jobs provide economic opportunity for residents and help attract new residents to the community, further enhancing economic stability. A large and growing corporate tax base also helps support a low tax rate for all residents, and supports our positive business climate.

Where We’re Headed: Positioning the county to attract relevant and diversified tax base investment, jobs, and higher wages through targeted economic and workforce development efforts.

Current Focus: Industry Growth Analysis
Ensuring a diversified and sustainable mix of industries has long been an economic goal for Catawba County. Catawba County is partnering with the Catawba County Economic Development Corporation to identify growing industries with desirable wages that align with the County’s current and future workforce assets. The goal of the analysis is to inform strategies for industry recruitment and workforce development to ensure our continued competitiveness in attracting industries that maximize the county’s potential.


What It Is: Increasing educational attainment and ensuring our residents have relevant job skills to engage productively in the economy. While Catawba County is not directly responsible for educational programming, the County collaborates with local education and business partners to offer relevant, accessible education and workforce development programs.

Why It Matters: Education plays an important role in a person’s ability to find a good job, and factors significantly into quality of life. For a community to thrive, relevant education and certification programs need to support the creation of a skilled workforce capable of filling local jobs and driving economic growth. The quality of our local education system is also a significant contributor to the County’s desirability as a place to live and raise a family.

Where We’re Headed: Targeted alignment of higher education programs and resources to support current and future workforce needs.

Current Focus: Higher Education Listening Sessions
Thanks to the presence of Catawba Valley Community College, Lenoir-Rhyne University and App State Hickory, higher education has never looked better in Catawba County. Recognizing the regional nature of the County’s workforce, Catawba County Commissioner and Board Chair Randy Isenhower, County Manager Mary Furtado, and Catawba County Economic Development Corporation President Scott Millar have held listening sessions with leadership from local and regional colleges and universities. As a first step toward identifying collaborative strategies for driving workforce alignment, the sessions focused on mutual priorities and shared future goals related to educational attainment and workforce development.

Community Planning and Development

What It Is: The process of establishing a land use vision for the community’s future. Through land use policies affecting the built environment, the Board works to balance property rights with community needs and expectations. This focus area includes planning for sufficient future infrastructure and public services. Part of the strategy involves strong partnerships between the County and our municipalites that enable us to guide future commercial and residential growth through targeted water and sewer investments.

Why It Matters: A community that is not growing is dying. As market-driven growth occurs in Catawba County, deliberate, focused planning helps guide development in line with community-informed plans and needs.

Where We’re Headed: Ensuring a balanced and deliberate approach to future growth stewardship that preserves quality of life while supporting continued economic development.

Current Focus: Catawba County Comprehensive Plan
Catawba County has updated its Comprehensive Plan, a document used to help guide future land use decisions. Built around community input, the plan establishes an approach to future development in unincorporated Catawba County that preserves those aspects of life which make it a desirable place to live while supporting quality, focused development in appropriate areas. Anticipated to go before the Board of Commissioners for consideration in April, the draft plan can be viewed online.

Healthy and Safe Community

What It Is: Assuring residents receive the right care in the right place at the right time. Catawba County makes this happen through 911 communications, emergency medical response, law enforcement, adult and child protective services, healthcare, collaborative partnerships, and more. Assuring a healthy and safe community also requires balancing these continual service demands with relevant community-based prevention strategies.

Why It Matters: The health and safety of a community are foundational to community and individual well-being. Safe communities that support individual and community health are places where people want to live.

Where We’re Headed: Refining public safety and emergency response with a dual focus: enhancing service delivery and fostering a community culture of resilience through prevention.

Current Focus: EMS System Response
Catawba County Emergency Services is exploring the addition of a collaborative community paramedicine team to the County’s EMS portfolio. A paramedicine team connects residents with services that go beyond emergency medical care, such as preventive healthcare or mental health resources, that may be identified as needs in an emergency medical response.

Current Focus: Opioid Strategy Development
Catawba County is set to receive just over $25M in national opioid settlement funds over the next 18 years to implement transformational strategies to address the opioid crisis. With leadership from Catawba County Public Health and supported by Social Services, Emergency Services, and a broad range of community partners, the County is evaluating the best ways to put those funds to use through evidence-based strategies aimed at prevention and resilience.

Nature and Culture

What It Is: Enhancing quality of life through access to the outdoors, arts and culture. Catawba County does this through services and partnerships touching on parks and recreation, agriculture, historical preservation, and the arts. Ensuring our residents and visitors have access to a diverse range of recreational and cultural amenities.

Why It Matters: Sustained, locally-driven investment in community assets, such as parks and arts and culture, drives high-quality jobs, greater tax base investments, increased property values, population growth, and community prosperity. No one aspires to be a bedroom community.

Where We’re Headed: Promoting our community’s quality of life assets as foundational to economic vitality and workforce attraction.

Current Focus: Identifying Synergies
At the end of March, the Board held a Nature & Culture workshop to review the wide variety of opportunities occurring in the realm of the outdoors. The workshop was a preliminary step toward determining where synergies and potential collaboration may exist in both the outdoors and the arts. The anticipated release of the United Arts Council of Catawba County’s community-wide cultural plan later this summer is expected to help further inform potential strategies in this focus area.