Statesville-Troutman, North Carolina

Site Selection magazine calls it the No. 1 Micropolitan Area in the country. This “micropolis” is an economic and quality of life corridor embracing North Iredell County, from Statesville and Troutman to Mooresville.

A micropolis is considered to be a rural, regional economy that does not depend on a nearby metropolitan area for jobs or services, and this is what North Iredell has become, all the while leading the state in the production of cattle, corn and dairy products. Four years ago, Iredell County created a Farmland Preservation Program, and since then, about 10,000 acres of farmland have been protected.

Growth has crept — and sometimes leapt — up I-77 for the past decade. Statesville’s mayor has often been quoted as saying the community doesn’t want its historic and agricultural identity snuffed out by encroaching Charlotte, or even Mooresville. So the city and county have been busy, making foresighted plans to incorporate growth as it spirals toward them and erases the lines between communities.

You could say that planning has created a new sense of energy in Statesville. In the spring of 2005, county and Statesville officials agreed to create what is known as an urban service area, which they believe to be the first of its kind in the state. Basically, the agreement draws an invisible boundary around Statesville to areas where the city can reasonably run sewer and water lines in the future. Beyond the service area would still be considered rural. It’s a way of knowing in advance which lands will be annexed into the urban area and to plan for it — a method that has worked to control sprawl in other parts of the country.

At the same time, Statesville is renovating its historic downtown to create a vibrant new city center. There’s a new Civic Center, and across from it, the historic Vance Hotel, which a developer hopes to restore to a modern version of its former elegance. Already, there is a popular upscale restaurant operating there.

Nearby is the old three-story brick bank building whose clock tower has come to symbolize downtown Statesville. Now the building is about to get a top-to-bottom restoration that will create 30,000 square feet of multi-use space, including restaurants and retail.

The square in downtown Statesville plays host to the popular fall Pumpkinfest, and is billed as “home of the the flyin’ pumpkins.” That’s because one of the most popular events is pumpkin chuckin’, with elaborate catapults being invented and built each year to achieve the greatest distance and accuracy. There’s also pumpkin bowling, pumpkin eating and a scarecrow contest.

Another festival that is a highlight of Statesville’s calendar is the National Balloon Rally, when balloonists from all over the country descend on Iredell County. At one time, this was one of the biggest national hot air balloon rallies east of New Mexico, and Statesville is working on ways for it to be that way again. Statesville plans to breathe new life into the event, which was heavily attended by residents and out-of-staters at the Iredell County Fairgrounds last year.

Five miles south of Statesville and eight miles north of Mooresville is the town of Troutman. It’s a walkable town, surrounded by farmland, and a quick commute by interstate to Winston-Salem, Greensboro or Charlotte. Recent studies predict that Troutman will at least double in size between 2005 and 2025. Like Statesville, Troutman celebrates new growth, new technologies, new approaches to regional planning and new companies choosing to call Troutman home.

In 2005, Troutman welcomed its first business park. The equipment manufacturer, CR Onsrud, is building a new 55,000-square-foot corporate facility on six acres of the industrial park. The new park’s 47-acre location is near the Iredell County Fairgrounds. Sanitary service for the park could open adjacent areas to future development.

Where Troutman touches Lake Norman has become a residential hot-spot. Crescent Resources has plans for a 530-home subdivision off Perth Road. The homes would be in the $300,000 to $500,000 range, and would center on the upper end of a cove. Elsewhere along Perth Road, Easter Development Corp. is creating a neighborhood of 44 all-brick homes less than 4 miles north of N.C. 150, called Honeysuckle Creek.

Located on 1,600 acres in Troutman, Lake Norman State Park offers numerous recreational opportunities, from mountain biking to hiking to camping. The park also includes a brand-new beach, with the only public swimming access on Lake Norman.