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2009-10 | IMAGESGASTONCOUNTY.COM ®

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GASTON COUNTY, NORTH CAROLINA What’s s e Online Enjoy an adventure at the National Whitewater Center

THE GREAT OUTDOORS Wilderness, whitewater and wide-open spaces

THE NEED FOR SPEED Fans are off to the races at Carolina Speedway

Boom Town New downtown ventures bring high energy to historic centers SPONSORED BY THE GASTON REGIONAL CHAMBER


Connecting with Gaston County has never been easier …

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SIMPLY SEARCH: In a hurry? Find the exact info you need quickly with our enhanced search capabilities.

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JUST THE FACTS: Get a quick snapshot of the community with our greatly enriched Facts and Stats section.

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WATCH AND SHARE: Experience first-hand views of the community in our video gallery, then share them with friends.

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VIRTUAL VIEW: Flip through pages of the digital magazine, an enriched online version of the print publication.

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MOVING MUSTHAVES: Visit our new Relocation Tools section for many useful tips and information to make your transition go smoothly.

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MORE EYE CANDY: Check out our enhanced Photo Gallery for more stunning photos of the community.

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OUTSIDERS WELCOME: Read about the best places to play in this community.

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IN GOOD TASTE: Get the dish on local flavor from favorite restaurants, noted area products and farmers markets in our new Food section.


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2009-10 0E EDITION DIITI D IIT TIO ION | VOLUME 3 ®

PICTURE PERFECT We’ve added even more of our prize-winning photography to the online gallery. To see these photos, click on Photo Gallery.

RELOCATION

GASTON COUNTY, NORTH CAROLINA C

CO NTE NT S F E AT U R E S

Considering a move to this community? We can help. Use our Relocation Tools to discover tips, including how to make your move green, advice about moving pets and help with booking movers.

6 BOOM TOWN New downtown ventures are bringing high energy to historic centers

10 THE GREAT OUTDOORS

FACTS & STATS Go online to learn even more about: • Schools

Gaston County residents are blessed with an abundance of natural beauty

D E PA R TM E NT S

• Health care • Utilities

4 Almanac: a colorful sampling of Gaston County’s culture

• Parks

16 Portfolio: people, places and events

• Taxes

that define Gaston County

Images Gaston County is published annually by Journal Communications Inc. and is distributed through the Gaston Regional Chamber and its member businesses. For advertising information or to direct questions or comments about the magazine, contact Journal Communications Inc. at (615) 771-0080 or by e-mail at info@jnlcom.com.

20 Business Feature 24 Biz Briefs 25 Chamber Report 27 Education

CU S TO M M AG A Z INE M ED I A

FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT: Gaston Regional Chamber 601 W. Franklin Blvd. • Gastonia, NC 28053 Phone: (704) 864-2621 • Fax: (704) 854-8723 www.gastonchamber.com VISIT IMAGES GASTON COUNTY ONLINE AT IMAGESGASTONCOUNTY.COM ©Copyright 2009 Journal Communications Inc., 725 Cool Springs Blvd., Suite 400, Franklin, TN 37067, (615) 771-0080. All rights reserved. No portion of this magazine may be reproduced in whole or in part without written consent. Member

28 Health & Wellness 30 Sports & Recreation: The Need For Speed 31 Arts & Culture 32 Community Profile: facts, stats and important numbers to know

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Member Gaston Regional Chamber EDITOR ANITA WADHWANI ON THE COVER GASTON MEMORIAL HOSPITAL PHOTO BY TODD BENNETT

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All or part of this magazine is printed with soy ink on recycled paper containing 10% post-consumer waste.

PLEASE RECYCLE THIS MAGAZINE

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Almanac

’Til You Drop Westfield Shoppingtown in Gastonia is the fourth largest enclosed mall in the Carolinas. It includes 800,000 square feet and 100 stores, such as Matthews Belk, J.C. Penny, Dillard’s and Sears, as well as numerous specialty shops, restaurants and entertainment offerings.

What a Sweet Spot Sprawled across 110 landscaped acres, Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden is Belmont’s sweetest spot. The garden was established in 1999 with a 50-year master plan that will ultimately include a children’s garden, education complex, a home demonstration garden, an Asian garden and a rose garden.

Now That’s a Museum Artifacts from as far back as the 1500s are on display at the Gaston County Museum of Art & History. The museum in Dallas has 5,000 objects related to Gaston County and North Carolina, including the state’s largest collection of horsedrawn vehicles. It stores 20,000 historical documents along with more than 400,000 photos from the 1500s through the 20th century.

That’s the Spirit! Sp Even Ebenezer Eben Scrooge would be overcome by the Christ Christmas spirit in the tiny town of McAdenville. Nicknamed Christmas Town USA, McAdenville Nic starts gearing up for the holiday in August, when star the quiet textile town’s 700 residents begin th planning for the season. Each year, they decorate more than 375 trees. In addition, at least 200 wreaths adorn lampposts throughout the town, and virtually every home is lovingly decorated.

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Fast Facts Q Gaston was once known as the “Banner Corn Whiskey County of Carolina,” because its corn crop was directed toward alcohol. Q Three of North Carolina’s five interstate highways run through or are minutes away from Gaston County: interstates 40, 77 and 85. Q The Gaston County public school system is the sixth largest in the state with an enrollment of more than 32,000 students.

Tusk, Tusk k Tusk In the m mood for mastadons? Schiele Museum of The Sch History in Gastonia Natural H life-size has on display diss mammoths mammoth h and mastodons, tooth saber too o cats and dinosaurs. Dedicated d to natural history, Gastonia museum draws the Gasto o visitors each year for 85,000 v a variety of o permanent and rotating exhibits. e

Q The Schiele Museum of Natural History and Planetarium in Gastonia features the largest collection of land mammal species in the Southeast. Q Westfield Shoppingtown Eastridge in Gastonia is the fourth-largest enclosed mall in the Carolinas.

Gaston At A Glance Gaston County

POPULATION (2007 ESTIMATE) Gaston County: 206,679 Gastonia: 71,059 (county seat) LOCATION Gaston County is just west of Charlotte in the southern Piedmont area of North Carolina. Its 15 municipalities are Belmont, Bessemer City, Cherryville, Cramerton, Dallas, Dellview, Gastonia, High Shoals, Kings Mountain, Lowell, McAdenville, Mount Holly, Ranlo, Spencer Mountain and Stanley. BEGINNINGS The county was officially founded on Dec. 21, 1846 from a lower portion of Lincoln County. It was named after William Gaston (1778-1844), a member of Congress and North Carolina Supreme Court Judge. FOR MORE INFORMATION Gaston Regional Chamber 601 W. Franklin Blvd. Gastonia, NC 28052 Phone: (704) 864-2621 Fax: (704) 854-8723 www.gastonchamber.com

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High Shoals

Dellview

Stanley

Cherryville 321

Dallas Bessemer City

Spencer Mountain Ranlo

Kings Mountain

Gastonia 77 NORTH ORT CA CAROLINA

Mount Holly

Belmont Lowell McAdenville Cramerton

G ASTON

SOUTH UT CAROLINA

What’s Online Take a virtual tour of Gaston County, courtesy of our award-winning photographers, at imagesgastoncounty.com.

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Boom Town NEW DOWNTOWN VENTURES ARE BRINGING HIGH ENERGY TO HISTORIC CENTERS

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STORY BY HOLLIE DEESE PHOTOGRAPHY BY IAN CURCIO

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century ago, downtown was the heart, soul and center of Gastonia. Shopping, entertainment, business and commerce all flourished together at the city’s core. But like many city centers across the country, that vibrancy faded over the years as people moved to the suburbs, and strip malls and shopping complexes usurped the downtown hub. All of that has now come full circle in Gastonia, thanks to the entrepreneurial spirit of local business owners and the city’s vision aggressively put into action. “We are well on our way to creating a very vibrant downtown that functions as an entertainment district, a place for nice dining, the arts, specialty retail and even a residential neighborhood,” says Jim Palenick, Gastonia City Manager, who was lured to Gastonia two years ago from New Mexico to spearhead the transformation. A new city program, IDEAL (Investing in Downtown Economic Activity and Livability) has helped bring new businesses by providing economic incentives. A “cloud” of free Wi-Fi covers the cafes, restaurants, parks and businesses that operate downtown. A $1.1 million investment in urban streetscapes has helped complete the transformation in Gastonia, where spruced-up historic buildings have views of a ribbon of green. Business owners were quick to take notice of the transformation. When it was time for Dodie Huffman to expand her business, Image Gallery, she saw a lot of potential in the

Main Avenue is downtown Gastonia’s central district.

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“We are well on our way to creating a vibrant downtown with entertainment, dining, the arts, retail and even a residential neighborhood.”

1922 historic Kirby Building. “I love the building,” Huffman says of the 6,000 square feet that houses a gallery downstairs, studios, movie screening room to view pictures and a gorgeous spiral staircase. “We hold events here and people come in the building and are amazed and never thought this would be downtown,” she says. Downtowns that succeed have to have a focus on the arts, dining and retail sector, Palenick says. But they also have to have that “wow” factor. One local couple has so much faith in the growth of downtown and all that it could mean for Gastonia, they each opened their own business within months of each other. First to open was Ella Childe’s GasPump Coffee Co. Childe, who dreamed of opening her own business, was looking for a job but dreaded the grind of a typical 9-5. With the support of her husband, she went for it. “We see a lot of potential here,” Childe says of the area. “There was never a question in my mind it needed to be downtown. For me it is just as much about the potential that

is here. Downtown Gastonia is really on the cusp of being a very cool place.” Her husband, Brad Freeman, was so inspired by his wife and downtown Gastonia that he left his longtime career in corporate banking to open Freeman’s Pub, an authentic Irish pub that has been packed from the moment the doors opened and the first pint was poured. “Things needed to start changing,” he says of his motivation. “We were tired of people talking about the changes needed downtown, but nothing changed. So instead of talking about it, we put both feet in and all the cards on the table.” It seems like their leap of faith is going to pay off. “Downtown Gastonia is definitely on the move with new businesses, events and interest from the public,” says Missy Turney, interim director of the Gastonia Downtown Development Corporation. “Restored buildings, attractive storefronts, entertainment, specialty retail, cultural events and pedestrian-friendly walkways and streets will gradually change and reinforce the public’s perception that downtown Gastonia is the heart and soul of Gaston County,” she says.

Citizens National Bank building on Main Avenue in downtown Gastonia Right: Body Mind and Synergy co-owner Michelle Crawford practices yoga in her Main Avenue studio.

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What’s Online e Take a virtual tour of downtown Gastonia in our online video at imagesgastoncounty.com.

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Great The

Outdoors

GASTON COUNTY RESIDENTS ARE BLESSED WITH AN ABUNDANCE OF NATURAL BEAUTY

STORY BY HOLLIE DEESE

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hen it comes to finding an outdoor oasis or secluded nook to take in some fresh air and natural beauty, Gaston County residents have an abundance of riches. The area enjoys a number state parks, secluded camping and fishing locations, whitewater and hiking trails. “We have a lot of things to offer and a lot of untapped beauty,” says Walt Israel, director of travel and tourism for Gaston County. One must-see destination is the Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden. Established in 1999, Daniel Stowe is a display garden, grouping plants and flowers aesthetically rather than by the typical genus and family arrangement favored by other botanical gardens. “We are a relatively new garden, only 10 years old,” says Jim Hoffman, director of marketing and guest services for Daniel Stowe. “We have 380 acres, including 10-12 acres of

From off-road bike trails to whitewater rafting, Gaston County offers miles and miles of outdoor recreation.

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PHOTOS BY IAN CURCIO

What’s Online e Take a virtual rafting trip through the whitewater at the National Whitewater Center at imagesgastoncounty.com.

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Where to go There’s no shortage of outdoor destinations in and around Gaston County. From urban gardens to rugged mountain hiking trails, Gaston County has something for any speed. Daniel Stowe Memorial Garden in Gastonia Crowders Mountain State Park

mountain bike, trail run, hike more than 11 miles of trails and even climb one of the largest outdoor climbing structures in the U.S. But if manmade just won’t do, the real thing is just a stone’s throw away. Crowders Mountain State Park is truly one of nature’s gifts. And whether you choose to spend a lazy afternoon fishing in the nine-acre wooded lake or hiking the rocky trails, there is never a dull moment for the athletic. “It is so close to Charlotte and there are people who drive down from Asheville,” says Israel. “It has been a boon for the climbing community, which a lot of people around here do.” For newcomers and residents alike, there are plenty of ways to fill a perfectly gorgeous day in Gaston County. “We are putting a whole new emphasis on travel and tourism,” says Israel. “There are tons of family friendly activities and plenty more good things on the way.”

TODD BENNETT

The U.S. National Whitewater Center

manicured gardens and areas divided into various garden rooms. People arrive, pay admission and step out into a pavilion and are immersed in a beautifully landscaped garden.” Paths and trails wind through the banana trees, palm trees and winterberry while the newest addition to the garden is the orchid conservatory. At more than 8,000 square feet, visitors can wander among the more than 10,000 species of the flower. Even more special to the center is their collection of talanzia. “We have the largest collection of talanzia, a plant that doesn’t grow in soil,” says Hoffman. “Their nutrients come from the air or from the water in the air. We have 14,000 of those in a real creative display.” And for those who like to experience nature first hand instead of simply admiring it, the U.S. Whitewater Center is just the spot to visit. This U.S. Olympic training site is just the place to raft the world’s largest man-made whitewater river. But not only that, visitors can flatwater kayak,

A new orchid conservatory at the Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden offers stunning architecture.

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PHOTOS BY IAN CURCIO

People of all ages, and their four-legged companions, enjoy walking the many trails at Crowders Mountain State Park.

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brought to you by

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0SQOcaS `SOZZgQO\PSVOZTbVSTc\¬ Go online to Relocation Tools for moving tips, tools and more.

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Local Flavor

Good Eats THERE’S NO SHORTAGE OF GREAT RESTAURANTS IN GASTON COUNTY

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A specialty at Old Stone Steakhouse is the 20-ounce bone-in ribeye with caramelized onions and sharp cheddar pimiento in a red wine reduction.

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IAN CURCIO

orth Carolina may be known for its world-famous barbeque – and there is wide variety of can’t-miss barbeque joints around Gaston County. But foodies of all stripes can find a growing offering of restaurants to suit anyone’s taste in Gaston County. Take Old Stone Steakhouse, for example. The Belmont steakhouse is known for – what else? – some of the best steaks in town. And while people rave about the incredibly tender and perfectly cooked steaks, the mellow atmosphere and friendly service, they are rhapsodic about their signature side dishes, which include Creamed Collards, Old Stone Cheddar Grits and Buttermilk Fried Squash. Cherubs Café on Main Street in downtown Belmont is a favorite of weekday working lunch regulars. The café features gourmet and specialty coffees, ice cream and fresh-baked desserts, and homemade soups, salads and sandwiches. The adjacent Cherubs Candy Bouquets sells gift “bouquets” of candy and chocolates. Both are subsidiaries of Holy Angels, a nonprofit corporation that is home to about 75 disabled children and adults. Residents can receive vocational training by working at Cherubs Café or assembling the Cherubs Candy Bouquets. Holy Grounds Coffeehouse located on the leafy grounds of Belmont Abbey College is a popular hangout for the campus community, as a study site as well as host of wine and cheese parties or other campus celebrations. But the gourmet coffee house is also a regular destination for locals, who soak up the relaxed atmosphere populated with young students, monks and local residents. – Kevin Litwin

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TODD BENNETT

Portfolio

The C. Grier Beam Truck Museum in Cherryville attracts visitors from all across the nation.

Big Wheels Keep on Turning MUSEUM PAYS HOMAGE TO TRUCKERS AND LIFE ON THE OPEN ROAD

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here are only three major truck museums in the entire United States, and one of them happens to be in Gaston County. The C. Grier Beam Truck Museum was founded in 1982 by the Carolina Freight Carriers Corporation as part of its 50th anniversary celebration. Today, the museum showcases more than 7,500 square feet of vintage and rare trucks and corresponding memorabilia. And the building that houses the museum is actually the original gas station where Carolina Freight headquartered its inaugural operations in the late 1930s. The old structure is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. 16

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As for the museum itself, it is named for C. Grier Beam, an entrepreneur who graduated from college in 1932, but always wanted to get into the trucking business. He purchased a 1931 Chevrolet truck and began transporting a variety of goods to numerous private customers, and his Beam Trucking Company eventually grew to gross more than $137,000 in 1937 – especially impressive because this was during the height of the Great Depression. The company continued to grow and was eventually renamed Carolina Freight, but new management in 1994 decided to sell the longtime Cherryvillebased company to Arkansas Best Corporation. The company moved

from Cherryville, but the C. Grier Beam Truck Museum still remains to preserve the history of Beam Trucking Company, Carolina Freight and the entire trucking industry. Items on display at the interesting attraction date from the 1930s to the present, with C. Grier Beam’s original Chevy stake truck serving as one of the centerpiece exhibits. Several tractors and trailers are also on display from the heyday of Beam Trucking and Carolina Freight. The C. Grier Beam Truck Museum is located on North Mountain Road in Cherryville, and museum hours are Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. There is also a gift shop on site. GASTO N CO U NT Y


Now That’s a Nice Web Site

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he Gaston County Economic Development Commission should give lessons on how to produce an excellent Web site. Their www.gaston.org site is a flashy product with eye-catching graphics, and is filled with interesting information that promotes the county in a succinct manner. In addition, the home page changes every few seconds so that viewers constantly have fresh video images to see. The site also trumpets the message that Gaston County is a choice location for businesses in the Charlotte region. The county has a strong transportation system in place with Interstates 85, 77 and 40, along with abundant rail lines that have access to Atlantic Ocean ports. As for quality of life, the EDC makes sure that Web site visitors know the county has a vibrant cultural arts scene and fine health care, plus outstanding schools, colleges and job training facilities. The EDC also points out that the organization’s main functions are obvious: To attract new industry and commerce to Gaston County, and help existing industry and businesses grow. The EDC is also involved in developing area land and buildings, helping to improve infrastructure that includes water and transportation, and informing citizens of the advantages of economic development. By the way, the Gaston County EDC staff is made up of seven full-time employees, making it one of the largest and most experienced economic development teams in the Carolinas. And speaking of economic development, the Gaston Regional Chamber happens to oversee its own Economic Development Division that encourages chamber members to become involved in recruiting new businesses to the area. By joining the EDD team, chamber members can network with new companies at special events, plus participate in recruitment missions to New York, Chicago, Atlanta, Los Angeles, Dallas and other major cities. GASTO N CO U NT Y

(704) 864-7789

We are M.D.s who provide: • Complete eye care from glasses and contacts to laser surgery and surgery • The latest technology regarding laser vision correction • The latest technology regarding bifocal intraocular lens implants

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Portfolio

PHOTO COURTESY OF ©2008 MICHAEL LICHTER

Indian Motorcycles Roar Back to Life I

Bike 360 is in production at the Indian Motorcycle factory in Kings Mountain.

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ndian Motorcycle gave America its first motorcycle in 1901, two years before Harley-Davidson was founded. Indian built up a strong reputation for itself over the next five decades, but sales eventually dwindled and Indian basically was dormant since 1953. However, that dormancy has finally ended. The premium motorcycle manufacturer began staging a comeback in 2008, once again building its wellknown product models – in its new Kings Mountain plant. Then in late 2008, the first batch of 2009 Indian products hit the dealership floor in the company’s flagship store in Gaston County, and business has been steadily increasing ever since. In fact, in January 2009, a second Indian dealership opened in Glasgow, Ky., with more than 600 people in attendance for the momentous occasion. Now, Indian Motorcycle officials have made it clear they want to have 50 dealerships established in the United States by the end of 2011. A dozen targeted cities have already been announced, including Detroit, Philadelphia and Phoenix. Indian bikes were originally manufactured in Springfield, Mass. The company was one of the true leaders in the motorcycle industry for 50 years. But after bankruptcy in 1953, decades of inactivity followed until London-based Stellican Limited purchased the business in 2007. Stellican is a somewhat unusual private equity firm because it specializes in acquiring and reviving distressed companies, almost all with heritage brands, mainly in the recreational products area. Stellican officials saw hope for the rebirth of Indian, and the Kings Mountain facility now has several quality-dedicated American craftsmen who enjoy manufacturing the bikes. The Kings Mountain plant employs 25 people including engineers, designers, assemblers, pattern makers, metal fabricators and painters. The new product line includes Standard, Deluxe, Roadmaster and Vintage models. GASTO N CO U NT Y


Life in the 18th century is interpreted at the Schiele Museum of Natural History, which hosts Piedmont Heritage Day each November.

A Flurry of Festivals

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f you are a town or city in Gaston County, there is a good chance you will be staging a festival at some point during the year. The 9,500-resident city of Belmont hosts an annual Garibaldi Fest at Stowe Park each May, and the celebration includes arts and crafts, dance contests, a children’s fun zone and live musical entertainment. Just down the road in Mount Holly, the city hosts an annual Spring Fest in early May that also includes arts and crafts, live music as well as a 5K run and walk. At Down Home Day in Bessemer City, the early May event has an assortment of entertaining attractions but is widely known for its food vendor booths, which include selections such as blooming onions, Polish sausage and rib-eye steak sandwiches. Meanwhile, Country Fest in Stanley takes place in early October, with bluegrass and country music acts highlighting the activities. The month of November ushers in the annual Piedmont Heritage Day at the Catawba Indian Village at the Schiele Museum in Gastonia. Guests may visit with Catawba Indian speakers and artisans and enjoy traditional cooking. The event is free with paid admission to the museum. Exhibitors from all over the Southeast convene in Dallas each October to crank up their antique steam and gasoline engines at the annual Cotton Ginning Days. In the tiny town of McAdenville – population 650 – officials bill their community as Christmas Town USA for a good reason. McAdenville proudly exhibits more than 400,000 green, red and white Christmas lights, attracting visitors from all over the country in December. – Stories by Kevin Litwin I M AG E S G A S T O N C O U N T Y. C O M

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Business

Follow

River

The

NEW GREENWAY CREATES A RIBBON OF GREEN ALONG CATAWBA RIVER

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STORY BY KATHY CARLSON PHOTOGRAPHY BY IAN CURCIO

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ount Holly’s roots go back hundreds of years, but the town of about 10,000 has embraced a vibrant, earth friendly future to be embodied in the Catawba River Greenway. The plan, says Mayor Robert Whitt, is “to gracefully fill an eclectic, unique niche in the Charlotte Metrolina region.” To do that, Mount Holly has built on its strengths: its historic buildings and scenic river. A late 19th-century knitting mill received new life as the town’s citizens’ center in 2007. That same year, the Mount Holly Community Development Foundation engaged Durham-based Greenways Inc. to develop a “green print” for the city to become the state’s first integrated “green” community. The plan offered land-conservation strategies to balance quality of life and economic development and urged a public-private partnership to guide

Catawba River is part of Gaston County’s blueprint for green growth.

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Business

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Mount Holly’s future. Trails are a key element of the plan. A trail or linear park will link the citizens’ center with downtown Mount Holly and the Catawba River Greenway, which will follow the river from Mountain Island Dam to the north of downtown to Tuckaseege Park’s recreational facilities on the south. Eventually, the greenway will be part of the Carolina Thread Trail, a regional trail connecting 15 Charlotte-area counties in North and South Carolina. “The goal is to provide people with access to this beautiful river that most people in the community have never had a chance to walk along,” said Chuck Flink, president of Greenways

Inc. Much of the greenway site was an old industrial area bounded by railroad tracks. “It’s almost impossible to get to it,” he says. The site holds a “phenomenal treasure for the community,” he says. It’s rich in wildlife and flora, with the steep, hilly northern segment providing habitats for all kinds of birds. The all-purpose, all-season greenway is designed to nurture people and the environment. It will be paved so people of all physical abilities can use it, and there will be interpretive signs to educate visitors. The Catawba River Greenway will be built with environmentally sensitive material, including recycled material where possible.

The city has acquired 220 acres for the project through a conservation easement. Currently, construction documents are being prepared for both legs of the greenway, and officials are working with landowners and utility companies to nail down the trail’s final location. Because it’s hard to predict how long negotiations will last, it’s hard to say when and where construction will begin, Flink says. “We think this trail will be a regional attraction,” he says. It will spotlight one of the last remaining stretches of undeveloped riverbank on the Catawba in the Charlotte area, and preparing the plan has been “a bit of a balancing act,” Flink said. “The habitat up there is really fantastic.”

The city of Mount Holly is banking on its efforts to develop a new greenway system along the Catawaba River to promote development, growth and a sense of community.

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Biz Briefs BUSINESSES – BOTH LARGE AND SMALL – THAT HELP DEFINE GASTON COUNTY’S ECONOMIC CLIMATE

Scorecard BUSINESS AT A GLANCE

12,838 Total number of firms

$1,789,973,000 Retail sales

$181,829,000 Accommodation and foodservices sales

$9,271 Retail sales per capita

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FACET FOUNDRY JEWELRY STUDIO Biz: jewelry store Buzz: Facet Foundry Jewelry Studio in Gastonia is known for its unique jewelry designs. Artist and owner Brent Messer created the business on the premise that jewelry is an art form. Messer’s staff not only creates original fine diamond, silver, gold and gemstone pieces, it works with customers to create their own custom-designed jewelry. www.facetfoundryjewelry.com

CHERUBS CAFÉ AND CANDY BOUQUETS Biz: café and candy store Buzz: Located in downtown Belmont, Cherubs features gourmet coffee, handmade ice cream and fresh-baked desserts, soups, salads and sandwiches. The business channels all of its profits into Holy Angels, a faith-based ministry that provides training and support to people with mental retardation. www.holyangelsnc.org/cherubs

RELIABLE HOME APPLIANCE STORE Biz: appliance store Buzz: This store has been the go-to spot for home appliances for many years. Reliable Home Appliance Store in Gastonia sells dishwashers, ranges, ovens, refrigerators, freezers, washers, dryers and microwaves in a variety of price ranges, catering to first-time home buyers and homeowners who are upgrading. (704) 864-5281

AMERICAN & EFIRD Biz: textile manufacturer Buzz: For more than 115 years, American & Efird has been producing threads and yarns from its Mount Holly headquarters. While the company has customers around the world, American & Efird is a hometown employer, dedicated not only to its product but to the generations of employees who have worked at one of the nation’s oldest textile manufacturers. www.amefird.com

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Business | Chamber Report

Career Climb Aims High

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he Gaston Regional Chamber and its partners are using a national program that helps businesses find qualified workers, reduce turnover and boost morale. The goal is to create a nationally qualified workforce, using ACT’s WorkKeys assessment program, and have potential employees certified and ready to go when the economy improves and businesses step up hiring, says Dr. Ed Smith, the Chamber’s director of workforce development. Gaston County took a big hit in the 1990s when the textile industry shifted manufacturing overseas, costing the region 20,000 jobs. Unemployment in March 2009 was 15 percent and climbing, leaving unemployed workers with time on their hands. The chamber and its community partners – Gaston College, Workforce Development Board/WIA, Employment Security Commission, Economic Development Commission, Gaston County Schools, Alliance for Children & Youth, the Community Foundation of Gaston County, Carrie E. and Lena V. Glenn Foundation, and First Gaston Foundation, collectively called Gaston Together – want people to put that time to good use. Through “Gaston Career Climb,” Gaston College assesses basic skills in math, reading and locating information and awards successful participants a Career Readiness Certificate. One component targets unemployed or underemployed workers. The other starts with students in eighth grade, assessing their skill levels and preparing them to graduate with both a diploma and a certificate. Students can choose to attend college, but those who want to start working right away have a head start. “They are the valuable target audience,” says Patty Crawford, marketing manager for Gaston Career Climb. “In four years they are our (employment) audience. I know where they are.” David Hampton got his first exposure to the program a decade ago GASTO N CO U NT Y

in South Carolina. Now human resources director at WIX Filters in Gastonia, he’s been using it since 2001. “What it does for us is let us know the skills of a person we are hiring. It is a comfort level. That person is trainable and has potential for growth,” he says. “Who wouldn’t want to know if the person they are hiring can read, write and has the skills the job requires?” WIX, which makes all sorts of filters for the automotive industry, has applicants complete the assessment, which Gaston College and the nearby Employment Security Office administer. When Gaston Career Climb launched on Oct. 1, 2008, one goal was getting 50 employers on board during the first year. As of mid-April, 32 had signed up, Crawford says. For more information, check out www.gastoncareerclimb.com. – Pamela Coyle

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CERTIFICATES TRANSLATE INTO SOLID SKILLS BASED ON NATIONAL STANDARDS

Gaston College – East Campus

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Business | Economic Profile

GASTON COUNTY BUSINESS CLIMATE Gaston County strives for a healthy economy by growing existing business, bringing in new and successful industries, and improving infrastructure.

GOVERNMENT OFFICES

TAXES

2.5% County Sales Tax

4.25% State Sales Tax

6.75%

City of Gastonia 181 South St. Gastonia, NC 28052 (704) 866-6719 www.cityofgastonia.com Gaston County Administration 128 W. Main Ave. Gastonia, NC 28053 (704) 866-3100 www.co.gaston.nc.us

Charlotte/Douglas International Airport 5501 Josh Birmingham Parkway Charlotte, NC (704) 359-4013 or (704) 359-4910 www.charmeck.org/ Departments/Airport Gastonia Municipal Airport P.O. Box 1748 Gastonia, NC 28053 (704) 864-4363 www.cityofgastonia.com

INDUSTRIAL SITES

Total Sales Tax

TRANSPORTATION ECONOMIC RESOURCES Gaston County Chamber of Commerce 601 W. Franklin Blvd. Gastonia, NC 28051 (704) 864-2621 (800) 348-8461 www.gastonchamber.com Gaston County Economic Development Commission P.O. Box 2339 Gastonia, NC 28053 (704) 825-4046 www.gaston.org

Amtrak (800) USA-RAIL www.amtrak.com

For more information on industrial sites, visit the Gaston County Economic Development Corporation at www.gaston.org.

MORE EO ONLINE imagesgastoncounty.com m More facts, stats and community information, including relocation tools and links to resources.

1303 Dallas-Cherryville Hwy. Dallas, NC 28034 (704) 922-2170 www.co.gaston.nc.us www.facebook.com/ gastoncountyseniorcenter

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GASTO N CO U NT Y


Education

Educational Goals GASTON COUNTY PUBLIC SCHOOLS CELEBRATE ACHIEVEMENTS

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arents of Gaston Public School students have plenty to be proud of. Attendance is up, scores across the board are rising and more kids are graduating, according to the school system’s chief communications officer Bonnie Riedy. “The class of 2008 included some of the nation’s top scholars,” she ays. “Our graduates were offered more than $23 million in scholarships and more than 80 percent of our graduates planned to attend an institution of higher learning.” In fact, GCS student performance increased on nine out of 10 measures of state and national achievement in 2008: SAT, ACT, math, writing, ABCs growth, high school end-of-course tests, computer skills tests, graduation rate and scholarships received. “Gaston County Schools posted greater gains than the state or nation on the SAT,” Reidy says. “Gaston County’s average SAT score climbed

GASTO N CO U NT Y

12 points over last year.” In addition, GCS received the highest ever increase in local funds in 2008, which includes $2 million additional dollars for instruction and $500,000 for capital projects. These funds made it possible for the school system to provide more technology in the middle school classrooms and implement a first-year student centered elementary school reading program that provides one-on-one instruction for at-risk students. When it comes to students relating well to each other, GCS has that covered as well. On the state violence report, GCS was rated one of the safest school districts in the state. And among the ten largest school systems in North Carolina, GCS had the lowest school campus crime rate, well below the state average and the lowest in the region. One of the main reasons for all the success is the staff at the schools, working to get the best out of the students.

“Retaining teachers is important to the academic success of our schools,” Reidy says. “The three-year GCS teacher retention rate is up this year and it’s above the state average.” Maybe that’s why GCS students and staff were able to pull together and raise more than $250,000 for community organizations. And it’s not just the public school system standing out. Students at Gaston Day School are prepped for college with a diverse curriculum and the opportunity to enroll in rigorous advanced placement courses taught by College Board certified teachers. And at Gaston Christian School, construction is complete on the renovations and they are moving forward with a variety of initiatives meant to improve the spiritual and educational growth of the students. These, among many other achievements, are helping to nurture the best and brightest students in Gaston County. – Hollie Deese

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Health & Wellness

Gaston Memorial Hospital is ranked No. 1 among the state’s top hospitals.

Hospital With Heart GASTON MEMORIAL CONSISTENTLY RANKS AS ONE OF THE TOP IN THE STATE

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y focusing on patients and embracing data-driven healthcare quality initiatives, Gaston Memorial Hospital has earned national recognition among its peers while serving its patients and community. “For more than a decade, Gaston Memorial Hospital has voluntarily participated in several national quality initiatives focused on improving patient care,” says hospital spokeswoman Laura Poloniewicz. “This quality is evident in every area of our hospital.” This past March, for example, Business North Carolina magazine listed Gaston Memorial among the state’s best hospitals. It’s also among 332 hospitals nationwide cited by the Magnet Recognition Program of the American Nurses Credentialing Center, which recognizes excellence in nursing services. Gaston Memorial, the anchor for CaroMont Health, is an independent, not-for-profit healthcare system based in Gastonia. Founded in 1945, the hospital employs 2,700 and offers general and acute care with 435 licensed beds and more than 50 treatment rooms in the emergency department. The hospital has aimed the power of information technology at two common but potentially life-threatening bacterial infections, MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) and Clostridium difficile. The hospital uses a workflow management system and SafetySurveillor an infection-control data management system, to better detect, monitor and reduce these infections.

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I M AG E S G A S T O N C O U N T Y. C O M

A collection-management system automates the specimen collection process and uses bar coding to ensure accurate patient identification and specimen labeling, enable more efficient collections, reduce medical errors and improve patient safety. While the system’s primary purpose is to ensure patient safety, the hospital is also able to streamline communication with phlebotomists, improving their ability to respond to collection requests and ultimately improving patient, nursing and physician satisfaction with laboratory services. Gaston Memorial also participated in the Hospital Quality Incentive Demonstration program, which measured the quality of treatments for heart attacks, coronary artery bypasses, heart failure, hip and knee replacements, and pneumonia. In 2006, at the end of the program’s final year, Gaston Memorial ranked in the top 10 percent of the 250 participating hospitals for treating bypasses; the top 20 percent for heart attacks, heart failure and pneumonia; and in the top half for joint replacements. The hospital offers a level III neonatal intensive care unit with 16 private rooms, state-of-the-art imaging services and a cancer center that received the Commission on Cancer Outstanding Achievement Award. Poloniewicz puts it this way: “The culture of our hospital has been, and continues to be, to provide the best quality healthcare to the communities we serve.” – Kathy Carlson GASTO N CO U NT Y


Weighing In ACTIVATE GASTON PROGRAM GIVES GUIDANCE AND SUPPORT TO USERS

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n an effort to address the growing obesity epidemic, the Gaston County Family YMCA, United Way, CaroMont Health, Gaston County Health Department, Gaston College, Gaston County Schools, Fitness and Nutrition Council and Gaston County Healthcare Commission combined forces to launch Activate Gaston, a free online health and wellness community available to anyone who chooses to use it. “You don’t have to be a member of the YMCA,� says Taffy Allen, program director. “This is about community involvement.� By registering on the site, members can easily track their health and weight loss goals and really be a part of an online community. The free program helps adults and children combat obesity by encouraging them to accumulate at least 30 minutes of activity a day five days a week by keeping an online journal. “Whatever a person does, whether they walked 20 minutes on a treadmill or ran outside for 30, they can log in the activity, the amount of minutes spent doing it and be able to go back and track their progress,� says Allen. Activate Gaston participants can also take advantage of discreet weekly weigh-ins, lectures by health and wellness experts and access to information about nutrition and exercise. “It’s a great weight-management program and way to journal,� Allen adds. “It really keeps you on track and you have nothing to lose but weight.� – Hollie Deese

BRIAN M C CORD

What’s Online e For more information or to get started with Activate Gaston, visit www.activategaston.org.

Sometimes the toughest conversations are the most important. We all want to respect the wishes and dignity of our loved ones. But when one person has a terminal illness, the entire family suffers. If you are caring for a family member who is seriously ill or whose health is failing, it may be time to talk about hospice. Need help starting the conversation? Call Gaston Hospice.

(704) 861-8405 www.gastonhospice.org NC Licensed. ACHS Accredited. Medicare/Medicaid. Private Insurance.

“Gaston Hospice gave us hope ... not hope for the healing of our loved one, but hope that we could survive her inevitable death. They also gave us knowledge that we did not have to face this horrible time alone. Throughout the best and worst of days and nights we always felt the support and strength that hospice gave.�

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GASTO N CO U NT Y

I M AG E S G A S T O N C O U N T Y. C O M

29


Sports & Recreation

The Need for Speed GASTON COUNTY FANS ARE OFF TO THE RACES AT CAROLINA SPEEDWAY

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I

Carolina Speedway is a dirt track that opens every weekend for racing.

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t’s Friday night, and eager racing fans pour into the stands at Carolina Speedway in Gastonia, ready to feel the rumble of the stock cars that will soon be idling at the starting line. When the flag goes down, the souped-up vehicles roar to life, skidding around the dirt track to the screams and cheers of the crowd. Despite the advent of paved speedways, dirt-track racing remains hugely popular all over the country. And in Gaston County, fans look forward to weekly action at Carolina Speedway’s 4/10th-mile clay oval track, built in 1962. New managers Mark Gibbons, Clint Elkins and Larry Lee have made numerous improvements to the facility, as well as upped the purses. It’s a fast, fun, family oriented environment that draws between 800 and 1,200 spectators each week. The track has also drawn top drivers, such as NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion Tony Stewart, and been recognized by the North Carolina Motorsports Association as a finalist for 2008 Event Host Facility of the Year. “We were very honored to be nominated,” Elkins says. “We work very hard so our valued race fans and teams can get the most out of their experience at Carolina Speedway.” For some fans, just watching the races is not enough. Shawn Parker owns and operates the Dirt Track Racing School, which meets on Saturdays next-door to Carolina Speedway. “We have people from all over the world come out to drive,” Parker says. Students get started with a classroom lecture followed by an orientation to the cars’ controls. “Then we turn them loose to do some laps,” he says. Parker could have located his racing school anywhere in the country, he explains, but he chose Gastonia and Carolina Speedway because of the number of race teams in the area and the large Gaston County fan base. “And because [nearby] Charlotte is NASCAR central,” he adds. – Carol Cowan GASTO N CO U NT Y


Arts & Culture

Investing in the Arts GASTON ARTS COUNCIL COMBINES CULTURE WITH SENSE OF COMMUNITY

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or the culturally minded citizens of Gaston County, the Gaston Arts Council has become the go-to resource for all things creative. Founded in 1979, the group raises funds and develops programs, but also provides arts advocacy on the local level while advising numerous local agencies. “The Gaston Arts Council is a non-profit organization that supports and promotes arts programs in our community,” says Juliette Shelley, executive director. “The Gaston Arts Council raises money for arts groups who present cultural and educational programs throughout the community as well as summer camps and afterschool arts programs.” One of those programs is the Regional Artist Grant Program, which recognizes promising artists seeking professional careers in the arts. Funds are matched on a regional basis and through a grant from the North Carolina Arts Council. GASTO N CO U NT Y

Beyond raising funds for local programs, the council also presents a variety of events that bring the community together, like Pops in the Park in late June. The annual free performance of light symphonic music at the Biggerstaff County Park in Dallas, N.C., always draws a crowd. “Residents from across the county and beyond bring their picnic baskets and enjoy an evening of great music in a wonderful setting,” says Shelley. Another popular event that brings the community together is the arts council’s annual Holiday Concert, which takes place in December. “Through our affiliate organizations, residents of Gaston County can enjoy choral performances by the Gaston Choral Society, concerts presented by the Gaston Concert Association, art and music lessons for both children and adults at Gaston School of the Arts, arts shows and displays by Gaston County Art Guild, and performances and lessons by

Gaston Dance Theatre,” says Shelley, “as well as musicals and plays by Gaston School of the Arts Playhouse.” To get kids more involved in the arts, the group works closely with Gaston County Schools by facilitating grants that provide funding for supplemental arts programming within the schools. Plus, the council awards five affiliate programs grants for operating support: Gaston Concert Association, Gaston Choral Society, Gaston County Art Guild, Gaston Dance and the Gaston School of the Arts. Overall, the main goal of the arts council is to get as many people involved in local arts as possible. “Throughout the year there are many ways residents of Gaston County can enjoy the arts, either as active participants or in the audience,” says Shelley. “No matter the age, gender, artistic ability or inclination there are opportunities for residents to do, see, create and enjoy.” – Hollie Deese I M AG E S G A S T O N C O U N T Y. C O M

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Community Profile

GASTON COUNTY SNAPSHOT Gaston County stretches over 364 square miles of rolling hills and mountainous peaks. Part of the Charlotte region, Gaston County offers a slower-paced life with all the excitement of a big city right next door. With outstanding schools, a world-class hospital and competitive marketplace, the quality of life in Gaston County is second to none.

CLIMATE OVERVIEW Gaston Countyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s climate has an average temperature of 60 degrees year-round, 78 in summer and 43 in winter. Average annual precipitation is 44 inches, and average relative humidity is 54 percent.

29 F January Low Temperature

50 F January High Temperature

69 F

Memorial Hospital is now the anchor for CaroMont Health, an independent, not-for-profit health-care system.

MORE EO ONLINE imagesgastoncounty.com More facts, stats and community information, including relocation tools and links to resources.

REAL ESTATE

$180,900 Average Home Price

23.98% Home Turnover Percentage

EDUCATIONAL OVERVIEW Gaston County has the sixthlargest school system in North Carolina, serving more than 30,000 students.

July Low Temperature

ARTS AND CULTURE

89 F

Gaston County Museum 131 W. Main St. Dallas, NC 28034 (704) 922-7681 www.gastoncounty museum.org

July High Temperature

MEDICAL SERVICES OVERVIEW CaroMont Health in Gastonia has grown steadily to meet the regionâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s changing needs. From a small hospital that opened its doors more than 60 years ago, the 435-bed Gaston

Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden 6500 S. New Hope Road Belmont, NC 28012 (704) 825-4490 www.dsbg.org

visit our

advertisers Carolina Eye Care PA www.carolinaeyes.com Caromont Health www.caromont.org City of Gastonia www.cityofgastonia.com CommunityOne Bank NA www.myyesbank.com Department of Travel & Tourism www.gastontourism.com

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First National Bank www.ibankatfnb.com

Holiday Inn Express www.hiexpress.com

Gaston County Economic Development Commission www.gaston.org

PSNC Energy www.scana.com

Gaston County Parks & Recreation www.co.gaston.nc.us Gaston Hospice www.gastonhospice.org

Time Warner Cable www.yourtwc.com Watson Insurance www.watsoninsurance.com

GASTO N CO U NT Y


Ad Index 17 C A RO LI N A E Y E C A R E PA

2 6 GA S TO N CO U N T Y PA R K S & R EC R E ATI O N

C 4 C A R O M O N T H E A LT H 2 9 GA S TO N H OS P I C E 2 C IT Y O F GA S TO N I A

1 4 CO M M U N IT YO N E BA N K N A

C 3 H O LI DAY I N N E X P R E S S

C 2 D E PA RT M E N T O F T R AV E L & TO U R I S M

1 9 P S N C E N E R GY

2 5 FI R S T N ATI O N A L BA N K

1 8 TI M E WA R N E R C A B L E

3 0 GASTON COU NT Y ECONOMIC D E V E LO P M E N T CO M M I S S I O N

2 6 WATS O N I N S U R A N C E


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Images Gaston County, NC: 2009  

Gaston County – with 15 municipalities – is just west of Charlotte, in the southern Piedmont area of North Carolina. Its moderate climate an...

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