In my talks around the country, I often talk about Mooresville and Rockingham, NC. Both towns had about 10,000 residents when they decided to try to diversify away from their one-industry dependence upon textiles. Mooresville built an incredibly diverse economy around four strong pillars (manufacturing, race teams, a regional hospital and recruiting in the headquarters of Lowe’s) because of their wonderful quality of life. Rockingham went down a different path.
In 1965 a NASCAR track owner, a local landowner and a local trucking company executive built the North Carolina Speedway, nicknamed “The Rock”, in Rockingham, NC (population 9,672). Richard Petty won the first Carolina 500 there, which pushed him to the top of the NASCAR point standings for the first time in his long career. In 2003 and 2004 the two NASCAR races run on its 1.017 mile oval were transferred to California and Texas and the last race was run in February, 2004.
This fall the famous course was auctioned off for $4.4 million to a racing school which pledged to bring a race back in 2008.
Rockingham came to rely upon The Rock and those two races per year. Two-thirds of its retail sales occurred during the two weekends of those NASCAR races. It has been a painful couple of years since it lost those two races but I’m hopeful that they can rebound and reinvent themselves again.