Scott Millar keeps two Wall Street Journal articles in his Hickory office. The first, from 1998, touts the region’s economic resilience. The second story came nearly two decades later — it’s about the city’s audacious bid for Amazon’s second U.S. headquarters, nicknamed HQ2. The community at the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains pitched Catawba County’s site as a blank slate with a big-city neighbor in Charlotte. Apple Inc. has already built a data center nearby — if Siri calls Catawba home, well, why not Alexa?
Although Hickory did not make Amazon’s short list, the proposal shows the county’s ability to work toward a common goal, says Millar, president of the Catawba County Economic Development Corp. “We worked alongside the county, Hickory, and the other cities and towns, chambers of commerce, workforce-development commissions and had the help of an engineering and design firm,” he says. “It was a coalescing of so many groups to get it done under a tough deadline.”