Lincolnton, North Carolina
Small town character, big on business
Business View Magazine interviews Ed Hatley, Mayor of Lincolnton, North Carolina, for our focus on Economic Development in U.S. Towns & Cities
Although beauty is often thought of as being in the eye of the beholder, there is no doubt that the Town of Lincolnton, North Carolina, is a beautiful gem for residents to call their own. Within a short commute to the bustling City of Charlotte and within throwing distance of the stunning Blue Mountains, Lincolnton has been able to retain enviable small-town charm, while still attracting big business and amenities often seen in much larger cities.
A town known for its impressive number of green spaces and offering its residents 11 different parks to enjoy, Lincolnton is a wonderful place for outdoor enthusiasts or those that are attracted to a more active lifestyle. As Ed Hatley, Mayor of Lincolnton, describes, “Lincolnton is a small town but we are quickly becoming a suburb of Charlotte and we are experiencing the growth from Lincoln County, which is directly adjacent to Mecklenburg County. Our population is now almost 12,000 within our town limits. Lincolnton is very unique in that it is the only incorporated town in Lincoln County, so almost everybody in Lincoln County says that they are from Lincolnton.”
One of the main attractions of the town stems from its developed walking trail that runs adjacent to the old railroad. Hatley explains, “We are a typical southern town where the railroad ran right through the middle of the city limits and we converted the old railroad to a trail. We are a walking town. What also attracts most people to Lincolnton is that it is a very good place to raise a family. This is what attracted me to Lincolnton several years ago. We have a small downtown which is about three blocks and we are very fortunate in that we have been able to revitalize downtown and it is now almost 100% occupied.”
With very good transportation links that include major highways connecting to nearby Charlotte, a rail network, and boasting access to two airports (Charlotte-Douglas International Airport and Lincoln County Airport), Lincolnton is very well-situated for attracting major retailers and industry players into the region.
Beyond the transportation links, Lincolnton is also able to provide an economic-friendly atmosphere for businesses, both large and small, with a low tax rate and affordable utilities. “We have a good distribution of services,” Hatley outlines. “We have everything from boutique shops to antique shops, we have a men’s clothing store, a butcher shop, and around six restaurants that have a uniqueness about them that makes it attractive to people to come and dine.”
The city works closely with the Lincolnton Economic Development Association (LEDA) to help recruit, develop and attract new business to the town. “In addition to the traditional industrial recruitment and support side of economic development, we also have professional team members that work with small businesses and entrepreneurs,” Cliff Brumfield, Executive Director with the Lincolnton Economic Development Association (LEDA), states.
“People are wanting houses and they are buying them and people are voting with their dollars,” Brumfield adds. “They are pulling the lever on Lincolnton because they want to be here. We have new residential construction for single-family detached and it has been decades since we have seen construction at this level. In addition, we have constructed new townhomes.”
Lincoln County has very strong industrial roots and a proud history of manufacturing mostly textiles and furniture. Agricultural roots are also deeply seeded in the area with farms that date back many years, including one of the oldest dairies in the state which is about to celebrate its 100-year anniversary. “This background has helped us to be very attractive to international industry, as well. Most of our larger manufacturers are our foreign direct investments, with revenue being the main one,” Brumfield explains.
Another incentive helping to lure large-scale industry and new businesses to Lincolnton relates to its highly-regarded educational system and focus on local infrastructure. “In North Carolina, our school system ranked in the top 10 and that is a very strong part that motivates people to come here and experience the quality of life, knowing their kids can get a good education. Our businesses and industries rely on that,” Brumfield affirms.
Lincolnton’s schools have been recognized nationally for having outstanding links to industry and programs that are technology, industry, and vocational oriented. “We teach advanced manufacturing and that’s a curriculum that was created by our business industry leaders and accredited by our local community college,” Brumfield says.
With attention being paid by the town council to infrastructure projects, Lincolnton remains a draw for businesses that want to move in and have the facilities and ease of utility access to carry out their operations.
Richard Haynes, City Manager for Lincolnton, points to the strategic plan put in place in 2017 to help address any infrastructure upgrades necessary moving forward. He notes, “Infrastructure was identified as one of the areas that the community wanted to put emphasis into. Along with Parks and Recreation, our downtown, as well as the retaining, recruitment, and attainment of employees, we are now developing a 10-year city infrastructure plan that will be geared towards our streets or sidewalks, water lines, the electric department, and government facilities.”
The town is in a very good financial position to be able to see these infrastructure initiatives take flight with the water fund and sewer fund anticipated to be debt-free by 2023. Haynes reports, “Our fund balances are really good for a city of our size. Our electric department is part of ElectriCities and ElectriCities, as a whole, is in a really good financial position as well. In fact in 2031 they will be debt-free as well. I do think that what we are going to see moving forward is emphasis from council and staff on replacing some of the infrastructure, especially water and sewer around town.”
For Brumfield, the success of the prospective infrastructure projects and the lure of businesses drawn to the area stems in part from the great partnership that the town retains with LEDA. “It always starts, locally,” he says. “Then, of course, we have other partnerships with the Economic Development Partnership in North Carolina, and our power providers and utilities are tremendous and robust supporters of our efforts and the needs that we have.”
With new developments on the horizon, both residential and commercial, the question begs as to what role environmental initiatives play in any ongoing and future-slated projects in the city pipeline. According to Haynes, “ElectriCities has an LED rebate for its customers. We have had several customers take advantage of that and it involves ElectriCities providing a certain amount of money toward a project that converts old sodium to LED lighting.” ElectriCities is also offering rebate programs in the area for residents that are putting in new heat pumps that are more energy efficient.
Looking toward the future, the Mayor is very enthusiastic about what lies ahead. With recreational programs that cater to the growing number of families relocating to Lincolnton, including flag football, soccer, and volleyball programs, the town offers activities to keep residents engaged in their community. Seniors’ programs offered by the town are also available to help connect older Lincolnton residents to the town that they call home.
With other programs in place that address important issues such as pay equity, coupled with ongoing infrastructure efforts put forth by the city, the residents of Lincolnton can remain proud and follow the town’s lead into all the positive things to come.
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AT A GLANCE
Lincolnton, North Carolina
What: An attractive, progressive small town; population 12,000
Where: Lincoln County, NC
Lincoln Economic Development Association – www.lincolneda.org
Lincoln Economic Development Association (LEDA) is a non-profit, charged with facilitating business development in Lincoln County. LEDA’s mission is to foster an economic environment that promotes an enhanced standard of living for the citizens of Lincolnton and Lincoln County through job creation and a diversified tax base.
Lincoln County Schools – www.lcsnc.org
Lincoln County Schools is proud to offer career-focused learning opportunities, a positive culture, and a collaborative stakeholder environment. Our small-town community atmosphere is conducive to strong community support and partnerships with local companies.