By Seth Mabry, O-N-E General Manager, The Observer News Enterprise

A $67 million investment by a worldwide provider of fiber optic communication will bring more than 200 jobs to Newton.

The news was announced Monday morning during a joint special meeting between Newton City Council and Catawba County Commissioners that Corning will move into the former General Dynamics Building on Prodelin Drive in the Danner Industrial Park in Newton. The company plans to create at least 210 new jobs over the next two years. Corning Optical will hire a variety of workers needed at the new manufacturing operations, including operators, distribution staff, maintenance personnel and other workers. Salaries will vary by position, but the average annual compensation for the company's new jobs will be $56,963, above the Catawba County average wage of $39,774. The plant will manufacture protective housing for the cable. 

"The creation of the jobs will be net new jobs and new new investments to Catawba County," according to Scott Millar, President of the Catawba County Economic Development Corporation. "They are not placing equipment (or jobs) from one place to another just to meet these requirements." 

"We are pleased to announce this expansion of our world-class optical cable manufacturing footprint in Catawba County," said Clark S. Kinlin, executive vice president, Corning Optical Communications. "Hickory - and now Newton - are a vital part of Corning's 46-year history in North Carolina, where we invent, make and sell high-performance fiber optic solutions to global network operators. This expansion would not be possible without the ongoing support of city, county and state government entities that help make our increased investment here a win/win." 

Discussions with Corning first started last November when the company contacted the county and said "(Corning) has a substantial manufacturing need... and the need to place equipment in operation by June," Millar said. Several locations were considered for Corning including Park 1764 and the North Carolina Data Center, but none of those options would fit into Corning's timeframe.

Having this facility in Newton will not only bring jobs to the area, but will have other benefits to Newton as well. 

"This represents a significant increase in our tax base and a significant investment in our community," said Newton City Manager Todd Clark. "We are expecting an increase in the electric load - about a four megawatt increase. That will make (Corning) our largest electric customer so that will have a positive impact for us to maintain our electric rates." 

Corning has been in Catawba County since the early 1970's, but has been in existence globally for 160 years. It has five manufacturing facilities in North Carolina, and has other operations in Mexico, India, China, Korea as well as other nations. It has a Fortune 500 ranking of 313 and employees more than 40,000 workers across the globe. In 2016, sales for Corning was in excess of $10 billion. 

The contractual agreement requires Corning to invest $67 million in building upfits and new equipment by March 31, 2018. The agreement also includes 210 net new jobs will be added to the workforce by December 31, 2017. 

"We are excited about this phenomenal regional and state high-tech industry leader bringing new opportunities to the City of Newton," said Mayor Anne P. Stedman, City of Newton, "Corning's significant investment in our community will make life better for our current residents and encourage people to move here to take advantage of the wonderful amenities and employers we have in Newton. I would like to thank the team of professionals at the Catawba County Economic Development Corporation for advocating for Newton throughout this process. With their help, we've been able to advance strategic economic development efforts that are yielding significant investment. The future looks bright for our city." 

Randy Isenhower, Chair of the Catawba County Board of Commissioners sees the long-term effect this will have on the county and the impact it will have on future generations. 

"As Corning's evolution in Catawba County continues, their needs are providing good, solid, next generation job opportunities for Catawba County workers," said Isenhower. "Our county is taking the lead in developing a next-generation workforce not just by expanding local jobs, but also by building the foundation for those jobs through K-64 educational initiative." 

For more information about Corning Optical Communications, including job opportunities, visit www.corning.com

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