Rowan County’s Economic Growth Gains National Exposure in Site Selection Magazine


May 2019  |  Ron Starner, Exectuve Vice President of Conway, Inc. | Site Selection


Want a front-row seat to the national truck manufacturing resurgence? Pay a visit to the small North Carolina county that gave us Food Lion and Cheerwine.

If you haven’t been to Rowan County, about 40 minutes north of Charlotte, then you’ve missed one of the more remarkable economic turnaround stories of the past decade.

“Like a lot of communities across the country, Rowan County took it hard on the chin during the economic downturn,” says Greg Edds, chairman of the Rowan County Commission. “Manufacturing jobs left by the thousands and our communities were devastated. The challenge we’ve taken on is to modernize and rebuild our economy and our workforce while also retaining the distinct character that makes our community so attractive.”

Fast-forward a decade from the Great Recession of 2009 and what you’ll see is a county of 140,644 people who believe in miracles. Fueled by America’s first 10-gigabit-per-second internet connection, a network of six community colleges, workforce training assets that are best in class, and a suddenly revitalized automobile and truck manufacturing sector, Rowan County is a case study in what can happen when people refuse to stay mired in defeat.

Evidence of this dramatic turnaround is everywhere, spearheaded by the rapid growth of firms engaged in every part of the heavy-truck supply chain. At the top of that chain is Freightliner, a division of Daimler Trucks North America and the country’s biggest producer of long-haul trucks. Its Cleveland plant in Rowan County employs 2,450 workers and has added about 800 new employees in the past five years.

Construction began on Freightliner’s new logistics operation building in 2017 and is continuing. Upon completion, the facility will consist of 120,000 sq. ft. of warehouse space including kitting areas and offices. The $27.1 million plant investment is just one of several automotive sector investments popping up throughout the county.

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