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By Jennifer Thomas, Staff Writer Charlotte Business Journal

Newton Mayor Anne Stedman sees growth heading her way — and she’s trying to prepare the Catawba County community for it.

“We have been a best-kept secret, but only because we don’t tell our story and we’re trying to change that,” says Stedman, who has served as mayor for the past six years after a 14-year run as a town council member.

The blue-collar community of 13,000 has had big wins recently. It landed 210 jobs with Corning Optical’s expansion and snagged Minneapolis-based Room & Board’s $13 million furniture distribution center.

Stedman hopes to land more professional and IT-based jobs.

A $12 million streetscape project will widen sidewalks, improve open spaces and landscaping and add an outdoor stage for concerts and other events around Courthouse Square.

Expansion of N.C. Highway 16 is another key driver in Newton’s future. That project, slated for completion in 2019, is expected to cut commute times to Charlotte from 50 minutes to 35 minutes. It also will be less hassle than traveling on a congested Interstate 77, Stedman says.

“People can certainly commute to Charlotte every day and live in Newton,” Stedman says.

She identified a number of opportunities within city limits.

The community could benefit from some additional restaurants. Art-based initiatives including events and festivals such as the upcoming Foothills Folk Art Festival provide a foundation to build on.

Downtown has shopping from boutiques and gift shops to the Carolina Vines wine bar — owned by the people behind the Catawba Farms project. A brewery would be a perfect fit for the now-vacant fire station. Plans are in the works for a distillery.

“It’s a great start. I do think these kinds of creative businesses are what people are looking for,” Stedman says.

Those creative initiatives should aid in efforts to attract young professionals to the community to live as well as bringing new business to town.

The key is to balance that growth while maintaining Newton’s quaint charm, Stedman says.

Another challenge is to bring in homebuilders at a price point of less than $200,000.

“We have a lot of work to do,” she says.


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