Welcome to Morganton


The Industrial Commons and our staff are so excited to welcome you!

Burke County is part of the Western Piedmont region, which is a beautiful place. Outdoor recreation opportunities abound and this, combined with an emerging art, beer and local food scene, is starting to reshape many of our downtowns. We have a rich traditional of furniture and textile production. Still today 1 in 4 people work in manufacturing. We face many challenges including population decline. The median household income is $40,854, one in five people did not graduate high school and our poverty rate is 24% higher than the national average. Learn more about our demographics HERE.

Our community is very diverse with both large Hispanic and Hmong populations. The face of our workforce is changing. To read more about this check out The Maya of Morganton, a book that chronicles the struggle of many Guatemalan immigrants and local allies to organize a chicken processing plant in our community.


At The Industrial Commons our mission is to rebuild a diverse working class based on locally rooted wealth. We found and grow interconnected enterprises that solve industrial problems for businesses and workers and manufacturers hope for the people of North Carolina.


During your visit we will explore how we are building a cooperative ecosystem. For inspiration we look often to the Emilia Romagna region of Italy, where one in every three people are organized in some form of a cooperative. We do this in various ways. We launch enterprises (like Opportunity Threads). We also run flexible manufacturing networks (like the Carolina Textile District).

We focus on Better Work, Developing Skills, Matching Opportunities, and growing Economically Vibrant Communities through organizing workers. We can not do this work alone. We recently helped launch the North Carolina Employee Ownership Center. We partner with many organizations and institutions in our community. We leverage the assets here to create a new future and a new vision for western North Carolina.

Learn more about our connections and the ecosystem we are building by exploring this MAP.


Our vision is that by 2022, The Industrial Commons has built on its successful history of working with people on the margins and is growing resilient economic models that expand access to and create economic opportunity for families and communities for generations to come. Through projects like Work in Burke and Worker Committees we lead a bipartisan manufacturing resurgence that connects managers with workers and makes local companies better places to work. Through enterprises like Material Return and Collection we embody and spread transformational models for organizing because we thrive in an economic enclave based in southern industries that create stable, humanizing work for workers, families and communities.

By 2022 our hope is that 1 in 6 (50,000) workers in our region participate in new ownership and organizing models through worker committees, worker-owned conversions, democratic employee-owned models, and democratic industry federations.

Entrenched problems need solutions from multiple angles. Through our comprehensive economic approach our factory workers embody better work filled with pride, agency, and dignity. Our region will set a new standard for an industrial resurgence that truly works for all. Learn about everything we hope to accomplish by 2022 by exploring this organizational CHART, which shows enterprises currently in existence or that will be launched soon (top half of the circle) and nonprofit programs we are currently leading or plan to implement (bottom half of the circle).


Walking Tour of downtown morganton

Thursday, Sept. 26, 1:00-3:00pm

Like many Southern Appalachian communities, Morganton has a rich and complex history. Let’s explore Morganton together on foot with members from The Industrial Commons staff and some allies of our organization.


Etta Baker STATUE

type type link to a song


Brown Mountain Lights


Coin Laundry

type here, somehing about story clothes

Sen Sam.jpg

Historic Courthouse Square

type here,