Gaston County, North Carolina
a truly great place to call home
With a community feeling, great amenities, and outdoor recreations options at its doorstep, Gaston County never falls short
Located in the beautiful piedmont region of central North Carolina, Gaston County offers a beautiful rural landscape combined with a diverse mix of urban amenities. As part of the Charlotte metropolitan area, the county is a destination in its own right, and is, as County Manager Kim Eagle describes, “claiming a place in the region, relative to all that we have to offer.” She elaborates, “Our rich history, our outdoor amenities, and our proximity to Charlotte are all benefits. We are close to so much, yet we maintain our character which is rooted in our history, and we have areas in the county where we have that small-town feel.”
With so much history and natural beauty, tourism is an important economic driver throughout the region, and Gaston County is no exception. “We’re really fortunate to be located where we are, as part of this rapidly growing metro area, with easy accessibility and a lot of convenience to the southeast market by interstate 85,” says Michael Applegate, Director of Tourism and Development.
“We’re also fortunate to have the natural resources that we have. The county is bordered on the eastern side by the Catawba River, and on the western side by Crowder’s Mountain. Those are two really iconic destinations that 1000s of drivers see every day along Interstate 85,” he adds.
Promoting Gaston County as an ideal place for biking, riding, and paddling, Applegate notes that each of the municipalities ensures that their natural spaces are not only preserved but accessible for the public to utilize and enjoy. “We have a lot of preservation and conservation efforts going on in the county because there are so many great natural spaces. We work pretty closely with the Catawba River Keeper Foundation, and the Catawba Land Conservancy to make sure that we’re setting aside and maintaining, for posterity and quality of life for all of our visitors and residents, these great natural spaces,” he asserts
As part of a planned approach to growth, Gaston County is focused on industrial recruitment. Matthew Rhoten, Deputy County Manager relays, “We’ve been very successful in that. It’s been a really big focus of Gaston County to create jobs that have income levels that are at or above the country average. We’ve had a lot of investment from very large companies and a lot of North American headquarters have located here.” After the initial success of its Gaston Technology Park, the county was inspired to bring about the development of a second park, Apple Creek Corporate Center, which sold 5 of its 10 available sites before the development was complete.
Alisha Summey Economic Development Commission Director of Operations, shares, “These land development activities led to recruiting dozens of companies over time and have helped rebuild the county’s economy after the decline of the textile industry. Allowing these business park developments has diversified the economy and allowed some of our smaller municipalities to gain large utility customers, and grow the overall tax base at the county and municipal levels.”
With more than 5 million square feet of construction either proposed or in progress since 2020, Gaston County is now considering a third business park. “We need to be looking for industrial development, to make sure that we’re not missing out on growth and opportunities,” says Summey. “The way we get some of those businesses here is through the availability of land and buildings that we have. We’ve had a lot of private investors building spec and shell buildings that we are able to market to bring companies to Gaston County, whether they’re warehousing or manufacturing.”
Maintaining strong partnerships with municipalities is another part of Gaston County’s effort to grow the workforce opportunities in its communities. “Most of our municipalities match our local incentive grant policies,” recounts Summey. “It is basically a tax grant, these companies pay their taxes in full, but the more they invest, the more they get back in their taxes. So that’s definitely an incentive for them to come here.”
A strong and prepared workforce is made possible through a partnership with both Gaston College and the Gaston County School System. “If we don’t have the training at Gaston College, we will create that training for them from incentives at the state level,” conveys Summey, adding that Gaston County also works with the Economic Development Partnership, as well as the Charlotte Regional Business Alliance.
On the housing side, the last several years have seen a rise in development, with new subdivisions in various stages throughout Gaston County. Director of Building and Development Services, Brian Sciba explains that although higher-end single-family homes are prevalent, there are also mixed-use and multi-family developments happening. There is also a growing interest by developers for future housing projects in various municipalities.
Sciba acknowledges, “The county takes development seriously. We’re trying to create what we consider to be a one-stop shop when it comes to the permitting process and the development process, making it easier for developers coming into the area. That is a big focus for the county and has been for the last couple of years. We’re getting a lot of developers that are wanting to come here and be a part of it because they know what’s going to happen when they get here and how easy it’s going to be to actually work in our area.”
Gaston County is also working with NCDOT, the local Gaston, Lincoln, Cleveland MPO, and municipalities in the eastern part of the county to create additional connectivity while making road and sidewalk improvements. “In addition, we’re addressing opportunities for trail networks around the county greenways to help improve some of the quality-of-life issues,” reports Infrastructure and Asset Manager, Ray Maxwell. “On our park side, we are in the process of acquiring about 600 acres, which will create some exciting outdoor recreation opportunities for citizens in the area.”
With a number of water and sewer projects in the works, Maxwell details a major project which will connect the municipalities of Dallas and High Shoals. “That project is moving forward, and that’s about a $14 million interconnect for water and sewer.” Other projects will extend service to the northwestern and southwestern parts of the county, connecting elementary schools in these areas to municipal service.
“These schools have been in operation for years and have not had great access to municipal water. It also allows for additional development, and we have a number of developers that are looking at those areas,” he asserts. “Some of them have projects that are already in the works in anticipation of those water lines being placed into service. There’s a lot of activity in that area as well.”
A significant investment into the Gaston County school system was a necessary step Chief of Staff Justin Amos explains, “In our county, a lot of the schools are older, between 40 and 70 years old in many cases. So, they’re all coming due here at the same time, and there’s a real need. The county is growing and with growth comes expanded needs for schools and children needing classrooms.”
Four years ago, the county and the school system joined forces to plan $250 million in county bonds which have been used to construct new middle schools and will continue to be used to improve existing schools and build new ones. As the county grows, there is an effort to be ahead of the necessary infrastructure needs in all departments, something which Amos admits can be challenging.
“All of our departments are facing growth pressures, doing more with less in many cases. We’re actively engaging our departments to figure out what their needs are over the next five years related to our strategic plan, to see how the vision laid out by our board aligns with the needs of the community.”
Currently, Gaston County is working on an update to its strategic plan, which will lead the county through the next 5 years. The plan will be divided into three focus areas: economic development and planned growth, recreation, culture, and lifelong learning, and community health, safety, and well-being. “Those are the three guideposts that we’re using to structure all of the initiatives into the future,” says Amos.
A community-wide vision is also helping to guide the county’s approach to economic development. Eagle elaborates, “This touches the business community, all of the local governments in the county, non-profits, religious sectors, so this is truly a community-wide effort so that we can understand how we want to position Gaston County and how we can best work together to achieve that vision.”
In summary, Rhoten offers, “This county is full of top-notch public servants that are committed to the county’s mission, vision, and shared values. We all work together for the common goal of providing excellent public service to our citizens every day. I’m really proud to be not only part of the organization but part of the community. It truly is a great place to be.”
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AT A GLANCE
Gaston County, North Carolina
What: A growing county in the Charlotte metro area
Where: Central North Carolina
Kearey Construction – www.keareyconstruction.com
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