Catawba County


Located in the foothills of North Carolina’s Blue Ridge mountains, Catawba County was formed in 1842 from the upper-third portion of what then was Lincoln County. Named after the Catawba Indian tribe, the county seat of Newton gets its name from Isaac Newton Wilson, the son of Nathaniel Wilson who served in the General Assembly from 1842-48 and filed the bill for Catawba’s formation.

For much of the twentieth century, Catawba – and more specifically, Hickory – has been known as the furniture production capital of the South. After witnessing much of the South’s timber migrate north for furniture manufacturing, locals set up design studios and began upholstering and building furniture. George Hall is credited with launching the furniture industry in Catawba, founding the Hickory Furniture Company and then the Martin Furniture Company. Today, Hickory is home to a massive wholesale furniture marketplace, the Hickory Furniture Mart, which has over four floors and one million square feet of furniture, manufacturers, and retailers. Catawba Valley Community College still educates and trains the next generation of furniture makers in the craft.

However, the 1990s saw a new, then nascent, industry take root in the county: tech. The county began producing fiberoptic cabling and by 2000 it was responsible for 40 percent of the global production of fiberoptic cables. This launched what is referred to as the NC Data Center Corridor, as large companies, such as Facebook and Bed Bath and Beyond, began building data storage centers in Catawba and then surrounding counties. Fiberoptic cables still comprise a large share of the county’s economy. Catawba’s largest private employer is Corning Optical Communications.

Culturally, Catawba is home to the state’s second-oldest art museum, two higher education institutions, and an annual Oktoberfest that pays homage to its rich German heritage. We would be remiss to profile Catawba without mentioning the Hickory Motor Speedway and the county’s reputation as the “Birthplace of the Nascar Stars.” Famed NASCAR legends Glenn and Dale Jarrett, Bobby Isaac, Harry Gant, and Tommy Houston all hail from Catawba. Multi-award-winning artist Tori Amos and Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes also called Catawba home.

Politically, Republicans have had a stranglehold on the county for nearly 80 years. The last time a Democrat won Catawba was in 1944 when the county went for FDR. Jimmy Carter in 1976 has been the highest-performing Democrat since, earning 47% of the vote to Gerald Ford’s 52%. Republican registration has held steady over the last decade and makes up approximately 40 percent of the electorate. In that same time, Democrats’ share of the county’s registered voters is down about 11%, and Unaffiliated voters have increased by the same percentage.


County Seat: Newton
Biggest Cities:

Hickory, Newton, Linconton, St. Stephens, Conover, Westport

Media Market: Charlotte

Elected Officials

County Data