It would have been hard to create a more symbolic image of North Carolina’s transforming economy than the 30-foot wide path cut for several hundred yards through a rolling wheat field at the southern edge of Mooresville.
At the end of that path on Thursday, state and local leaders joined employees and executives of Corvid Technologies to break ground on the company’s nearly $29 million corporate headquarters, which is expected to add 367 local jobs with an average salary of $110,000.
“Agriculture continues to be North Carolina’s No. 1 industry,” Gov. Roy Cooper said before joining the line of ceremonial dirt-turners. “But we can find a different place this week” to grow wheat.
The Corvid facility, which is expected to completed in about a year, will be just east of Interstate 77 Exit 31 on a 205-acre tract owned by Langtree developer R.L. West Properties. The West tract is one of multiple adjoining properties totaling several hundred acres which could create up to $1 billion in development on the so-called Langtree Peninsula, Iredell County Economic Development Corp. Executive Director Russ Rogerson said in an interview after the groundbreaking.
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Corvid already has more than 100 employees at its current headquarters at 145 Overhill Drive in Mooresville. Corvid said its project will include two three-story buildings, a data center for high-performance computing, a mechanics lab and a prototyping lab.
Iredell County and the town of Mooresville approved a combined $2 million in tax incentives for the company, and the state is providing $9 million through its Job Development Investment Grant program.
The state and local money was critical in Corvid’s decision to pick North Carolina for its headquarters over Oklahoma, home to the company’s parent organization, Chickasaw Nation Industries Inc.
“We’re excited to be here and excited about the future,” Chickasaw Nation Industries Chairman Neal McCaleb said Thursday.
Corvid, founded in 2004, provides computational physics analysis support to the defense and automotive industries.
The proximity to NASCAR teams and related industries made Mooresville attractive, but the company’s big-ticket customers are the U.S. Department of Defense and the U.S. military. Corvid landed a nearly $1 billion contract last year with the U.S. Air Force Test Center for the research, development, testing and evaluation of weapon systems, subsystems and components.
About two-thirds of the current Corvid employees in Mooresville have advanced degrees. Iredell County Commissioner Jeff McNeely said the kind of jobs created by Corvid are needed to keep the brightest recent college graduates from leaving the area for better opportunities elsewhere.
“For so long, they have left and returned only for holidays,” McNeely said.
He added that the area around the Corvid headquarters has the potential to become the “Silicon Valley of the South.”
Corvid founder and president David Robinson said that when he started Corvid, his goal was to feed and clothe his kids. The company has since averaged 30 percent year-over-year growth.
“I have no idea what I’m doing,” he joked. “I make it up as I go along.”
The Corvid facility will be about a mile from the Lowe’s corporate headquarters, and just across Lake Davidson from Ingersoll Rand’s headquarters.