Integrated Research on Information Technology Cluster Expansion: Solving the Unemployment Crisis in Catawba County 2010-2020
The information technology (IT) industry is well suited to the demographics and location of western North Carolina. IT extends to include hardware and software manufacturing, as well as servicing. Western North Carolina presently houses notable businesses in software creation and servicing, and is prevalent in hardware assembly. (Duke University Department of Sociology, 2007) Semiconductors already have a foothold in North Carolina; however, no company dealing with semiconductor technology is currently located near Catawba County. Catawba County has a population of 157,000 people in just less than 400 square miles. Unemployment in this area is presently at 14.8% due to changing economic conditions and an increased national reliance on global outsourcing. Prior prosperity came from furniture and textile manufacturing. This creates a need for expansion of the IT industry in Catawba County. Through the custom utilization of Western Piedmont Community College, Catawba Valley Community College, and Appalachian State University's distance learning program, increased training and education could facilitate IT clustering. Catawba County also holds an enviable location geographically due to its centralized location among other metropolitan areas. The political climate is favorable for industrial expansion, especially in areas of economic hardship. State and Federal grants and incentives are available. The most notable state incentives are North Carolina Department of Commerce (DOC) programs and include three grants under the Rural Economic Development Center. The DOC oversees North Carolina Job Development Investment Grants; $8 billion is also available for expansion of smart grids. In Catawba County, the Economic Development Corporation (EDC) aims to attract large companies to Catawba County and the Manufacturing Solutions Center (MSC) exists alongside Catawba Valley Community College to provide training and support to aspiring entrepreneurs.