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App State Purchases 5-Story Building, 15-Plus Acres to Establish Hickory Campus

From left to right, City of Hickory Mayor Hank Guess, Appalachian State University Chancellor Sheri Everts and Catawba County Economic Development Corporation President Scott Millar are pictured at an event announcing the new App State Hickory Campus. Photo by Chase Reynolds

On Friday Appalachian State University announced the purchase of a 225,800-square-foot building to establish the App State Hickory Campus in the state’s largest metro area without a public university.

The former Corning Optical Communications building at 800 17th St. NW in Hickory is five stories and is larger than any building on App State’s Boone campus. The building sits on 15.7 acres of land and features large open spaces, a cafeteria and nearly 700 parking spaces.

“Hickory is a vibrant, growing city, just a short drive from Boone, that offers opportunities for App State to continue the mission we have had since 1899 — to increase access to education,” Chancellor Sheri Everts said at an event announcing the purchase.

Recognizing that App State’s growth potential in Boone is limited, the university has been looking for areas that have growth capacity and market potential for both on-campus and online programs. The Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton Metro Area — with a population of more than 370,000 — was identified as the largest metro area in North Carolina without a state university presence.

Chancellor Sheri Everts, sixth from right, poses with her leadership team inside the new App State Hickory Campus building on Nov. 19. Photo by Chase Reynolds

The future App State Hickory Campus has frontage along U.S. Highway 321 and is located less than 2 miles from the Hickory Regional Airport and 4 miles from Interstate 40. The campus is close to downtown Hickory and two regional hospitals and is only a short drive from the second North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics campus, which is slated to open next fall in Morganton.

“We are extremely excited — we’re ecstatic — today that Appalachian State University is expanding its presence in Hickory and taking advantage of the former Corning headquarters building to increase educational opportunities in Hickory and to equip our workforce with the skills needed to meet the demands of today’s employers,” said City of Hickory Mayor Hank Guess, who spoke at the announcement event and presented Everts with a key to the city.

Also giving remarks at the event was Scott Millar, president of the Catawba County Economic Development Corporation.

“Education plus economic development are the fundamental drivers in opportunity in today’s marketplace,” Millar said. “They’re quickly becoming synonymous. If you don’t have an educational opportunity for people, you certainly won’t have economic development.”

This concept art provides an aerial view of the former Corning Optical Communications building in Hickory, which Appalachian State University purchased on Nov. 19. The five-story, 225,800-square-foot facility is the largest in App State’s buildings portfolio and will be home to the App State Hickory Campus. Graphic by Jim Fleri

Positioning an App State campus in the Greater Hickory area aligns with University of North Carolina System Strategic Plan priorities and with the myFutureNC goal of ensuring that 2 million North Carolinians have a high-quality credential or postsecondary degree by 2030.

“App State is a proud partner in achieving this goal for our state,” Everts said, noting that the university consistently receives national recognition for academic excellence and overall value. “For those who want an App State education but choose to live and work in the Hickory area; for those who may have begun but not completed their undergraduate degrees — App State is here for you.”

Catawba Valley Community College in Hickory, Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute in Hudson and Western Piedmont Community College in Morganton are all within a 30-minute drive of the App State Hickory Campus, and all three are partners in the Aspire Appalachian Co-Admission Program, which provides a seamless pathway for students enrolled at partner community colleges to complete their degrees at App State.

Temporary signs, such as the one pictured, announce the new App State Hickory Campus along U.S. Highway 321. Graphic by Jim Fleri

Prior to the announcement, the university’s deans toured the building with the chancellor and Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Heather Hulburt Norris. In the coming weeks and months, Everts will continue conversations with the Hickory community and will seek additional input from the university’s academic leaders to determine best options for program offerings and utilization of this much-needed space.

In addition, an audit of the building will be performed to assess energy and efficiency needs, as well as opportunities to advance the university’s sustainability mission.

This conceptual art depicts a view of the former Corning Optical Communications building in Hickory from the east. The building was purchased by Appalachian State University on Nov. 19 for the future App State Hickory Campus. A driveway that runs parallel to U.S. Highway 321 is shown. Graphic by Jim Fleri