Why Now is the Time to Invest in Hickory, North Carolina

The city of Hickory has always been an innovator in North Carolina. Historically, Hickory was one of the first towns to install electric lights in 1888 and a complete sewerage system in 1904. 

Hickory, North Carolina

The History of Industry in Hickory

Hickory is continuously at the forefront of industry and business in the United States. The city is home to one of the oldest furniture manufacturers in the United States that is still located and operated on the original site. Hickory White, formerly known as Hickory Manufacturing Company, was built in 1902 and has been in continuous operation ever since. 

In the years after World War II, Hickory was known as ‘The Miracle of Hickory’. This moniker refers to an emergency hospital established in Hickory during the summer of 1944 to treat infantile paralysis (polio). And to be sure, our more recent pandemic of coronavirus last year indicates Hickory’s enduring resilience, fortitude, and the ability of the community to come together in a time of critical junctures. 

Local North Carolina artist Hunter Speagle designed the “Miracle of Hickory” mural, which commemorates the 75th anniversary of the event and is located on the wall of  Lindy’s Furniture Co. at 233 First Ave. NW in downtown Hickory. 

“No Steps Backwards”

​​Last year, Hickory, North Carolina, celebrated its 150th anniversary during the unprecedented challenges presented by the global pandemic. The city’s Latin motto of “vestigia nulla retrorsum” or “no steps backwards” is presented in the city’s seal. Today, this is another handle for Hickory that still rings as true as ever. The people of Hickory are proudly doers, makers, and shakers, determined to craft a stronger, more vibrant Hickory for tomorrow. Herein we detail just a few of those projects currently underway that will see Hickory continue to transform. And to meet the challenges of tomorrow. 

The miracle of hickory mural by local hickory north carolina artist hunter speagle which commemorates the 75th anniversary of treating polio in north carolina
“The Miracle of Hickory” by local North Carolina artist Hunger Speagle

Crafting the Future of Hickory 

Despite several hardships over the last few decades, including the sudden decline of the furniture industry and the housing crisis of 2008, Hickory has always managed to reinvent itself and emerge stronger on the other side. The year 2020 proved yet again that Hickory can achieve great things in the face of adversity.

Last year, Hickory enacted a $90 million revitalization plan to attract new industries. The steadily growing city of 365,000 people will undoubtedly benefit from the current economic landscape and new site selection considerations. That is thanks to the forethought of its citizens and community leaders. The result of the now $90 million investment will be a 10-mile urban trail system. The constellation of trails, called the City Walk project, which North by Northwest has been involved in. The pedestrian access route will connect the parks, university, and urban areas of the community. Hickory is also set to create a 270-acre Class A advanced business park to attract industry and create jobs. 

The new business park will be called the Trivium Corporate Center. It will be located between Robinwood Road and Startown Road, and is being jointly developed by the City of Hickory and Catawba County. The project is being marketed by the Catawba County Economic Development Corporation (EDC).

There are five prospective tenants that have been announced:

  1. Corning – investing $60 million; creating 110 jobs. 
  2. ITM – investing $17 million; creating 137 jobs.
  3. Cataler – investing $42 million; creating 151 jobs.
  4. Stonemont speculative building – investing $10.5 million in 192,000 square feet.
  5. American Fuji Seal – investing $52 million; creating 101 jobs.
  6. Gusmer Enterprises – investing $38.2 million; creating 73 jobs.

There are also other available lots remaining.

Downtown Hickory renovation completed

Hickory managed to leverage $40 million bond funds, which Hickory leaders and citizens rallied to develop a plan for transforming the city. They passed a $40 million bond referendum, which they then used to secure an additional $50 million in state and federal grants for complementary projects. 

Thus was born the extensive City Walk project, which is part of a larger infrastructure initiative which North by Northwest has had a hand in working on. This larger initiative included the City Walk, Book Walk, and Old Lenoir Road, all of which NxNW is working on. There is also a river walk, which though North by Northwest is not working on, is a significant project for Hickory that will have an ongoing positive impact on the city. Learn more about this infrastructure project in its full extent in our related article. 

Hickory also completed a major renovation of Union Square and the downtown block in 2019.The designs maintained the historic feel of the Square, while also making the area more attractive for lingering and engaging in social activities for groups and individuals. The new downtown space has an enhanced and distinguished walkway along Union Square storefronts. There are new green areas, additional seating, and a new public restroom. The square includes a shade structure on the east side of the Square.

On May 19, 2020, the city accepted a $275,000 product donation from Hickory-based CommScope for Downtown Union Square Wi-Fi. In honor of the sizable donation and its impact to the community, the shade structure on Union Square is named “The CommScope Stage.” 

Other Hickory highlights 

The year 2020 held challenges; yes, but also celebrations and successes. Here is a brief list of these achievements and highlights:

  1. Hickory’s housing market saw 1,135 new residential housing units from 2018 to 2020.
  2. The city started construction of its first artificial turf field at Henry Fork River Park. The turf field was completed in March 2020, making Hickory the first municipality in the United States to install revolutionary T°Cool evaporative cooling technology for cooler and safer play. 
  3. Hickory already has 25 amazing parks with impressive bike trails for beginner and experienced riders, as well as hiking trails along Lake Hickory, picnic and playground areas, multiple soccer and baseball fields, splash pads, an all-children’s playground and tree house for children with disabilities, beautiful sitting areas, and much more. But now Hickory is developing a new park, called Bruce Meisner Park, to make that 26 parks.
  4. Merchants Distributors, LLC (MDI), a wholesale grocery distributor founded in Hickory in 1931, announced plans to invest $120 million to expand its services and operations to create 111 jobs. At $120 million, this project is the single largest economic development announcement in the city of Hickory’s history.
  5. Alta Planning + Design, stakeholders, and the community throughout 2020 worked to develop a comprehensive plan to guide the future of walking and biking in Hickory. In December 2020, Hickory City Council adopted the new Hickory Pedestrian + Bicycle plan.

Ready to craft your home or business in Hickory? Hickory, North Carolina,  is located between Charlotte and Asheville at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains, along I-40. For more information about starting a business in Hickory, or information about how North by Northwest helps the community, contact us at info@nxnwconsulting.com 

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