The economic landscape in the Catawba Region continues a transformation that began three decades ago with the beginning of the decline of the textile industry. While manufacturing continues to be a major employer in the region, the impact of a global economy is reshaping economic expansion. The days of low-skilled, labor-intensive manufacturing are largely over as that type of industry has moved offshore or technology has automated processes and production. What remains is a growing manufacturing base that is greatly automated and requires a technically trained, highly skilled local workforce.

While large scale manufacturing operations continue to locate regionally, much of the new manufacturing is anticipated to be smaller entrepreneurial firms that will require a computer literate, technically trained workforce, along with access to capital. Other sectors that will drive where future economic expansion takes place include major distribution facilities, information-based support technologies and marketing services, and research and development facilities.

The Catawba Region has many of the necessary pieces to encourage and accommodate future economic growth. The region will need to pay particular attention to certain factors such as making sure worker retraining programs are targeting skills relevant to current and future employer needs, maintaining necessary public infrastructure to support growth, increasing the quality of the local educational system particularly in rural areas, preserving the natural environment, and expanding cultural opportunities.

It is noteworthy that EDA grants funded key capital improvement projects in all four of the region’s counties and have helped to offset the continuing loss of the regions textile related manufacturing jobs. The Catawba Regional Council of Governments has effectively layered multiple funding sources, including EDA, CDBG, SC Rural Infrastructure Authority, etc. to facilitate economic development and infrastructure improvements throughout the region.