Thursday, April 28, 2005

Notes From Race City USA

Mooresville, NC is one of my favorite agurbs®. It was a one horse town with 5,600 jobs in the textile mill industry in the early 1980s, way too many for a town of only 10,000. Residents decided that even though textiles were doing well at the time, they needed to diversify their job base. They started a new 250 acre industrial park on the outskirts of town and brought in a stable of new companies.

One of the early companies that located in Mooresville was NGK Ceramics USA, a Japanese manufacturer of catalytic converters. This month they completed a major expansion with a new 100-yard-long kiln that will increase production from the current 50,000 catalytic converters they produce per day for virtually every auto producer. The $60 million investment solidifies the 500 high paying manufacturing jobs at this plant, according to Melanie O’Connell Underwood, economic developer for the community.

Another initiative of Mooresville in the 1980s was branding their town as “Race City USA”, hoping to encourage race teams to locate in this high quality of life community. From only one team in 1989, 48 more teams have moved their headquarters, plus another 150 entrepreneurial racing suppliers to Mooresville. Mooresville is the epicenter of racing in NC, an industry that provides 24,000 jobs in the state and generates over $5 billion in economic impact to the state. The state is looking at building a new testing and research center in the state and I’m guessing that Mooresville will be on the top of the list of where that facility should be located. It’s another example of the impact of clustering on a community and region.

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