Burke County - Homegrown Tools

Burke County, NC

Updated: 2022

The Carolina District pivoted its work in response to COVID-19 and subsequent demand for personal protective equipment (PPE) and cloth face coverings, supplying hospitals and public-school systems, among other clients throughout North Carolina.

Median Household Income2020$43,915
Poverty Rate 202018.5%
Proximity to Urban Center 56.6 miles to Asheville, NC
Proximity to Interstate Highway 0 miles to I-40
Case Study Time Frame 2020
Municipal Budget proposed 2022-2023140.8 million
Data Source: US Census, American Community Survey
View Complete Case Study

The Carolina Textile District (CTD) is part of The Industrial Commons (TIC), a social enterprise non-profit organization located in Burke County, established in 2015 to support North Carolina’s manufacturing industries. The CTD was founded by a consortium that included Opportunity Threads, Burke Development Inc. (BDI), and the Manufacturing Solutions Center. The Manufacturing Solutions Center is a part of Catawba Valley Community College that seeks to help textile manufacturers increase sales and improve quality and innovation through applied research, to expand, incubate, and support locally rooted initiatives such as CTD.



What are the lessons learned from this story?


Building networks among existing companies can lead to industry resilience in times of uncertainty. The innovative structure of TIC and CTD allows for a strong network of firms throughout the value-chain with ample experience to work together. This network enables quick and responsive production changes that can meet the needs of emergency demand, driven in this case by the COVID-19 pandemic.


Market connections are key. Workers of CTD firms are very skilled, but connections to the market are key. Before the pandemic, CTD served member firms by making critical connections to niche end buyers, allowing the firms to focus on manufacturing. When the pandemic hit, the pivot strategy relied on CTD connections in the market to secure contracts with buyers. CTD secured a lot of contracts at the beginning of the pandemic that protected many jobs that would have been lost otherwise when regular demand declined.


Regional thinking can drive local benefit. By supporting CTD and TIC, Burke Development Inc. took an innovative regional approach to economic development, focusing on smaller existing firms, and local ownership in addition to recruiting firms to relocate to the area. When manufacturing began to move from the Burke County area in the early 2000s, the recruitment-based organization focused on diversifying the manufacturing base. The regional rather than county-wide focus of CTD allows manufacturers to connect with firms
outside of Burke County, and across North Carolina. For rural counties, thinking more regionally is crucial for economic development, as it expands opportunities for cooperation with geographically proximate firms. Additionally, the regional production network and the support provided by TIC helped grow both new and existing companies in the area.