Maiden, North Carolina, a town of about 3,400 people north of Charlotte and three hours from the Triangle, has been a quiet Apple outpost for almost 10 years.

And while the Triangle lost out in its bid to host a second “campus” for Apple, the company has made clear that it isn’t done growing. It’s already spent some $3 billion on its data center and the 300-acre solar farm that powers it, and media reports suggest that an investment of about another billion is on the way.

It’s a pretty secretive place. No big signs announce its presence and gates keep visitors at bay.

“No body really knows what goes on with all those computers in that data center,” said Catawba County Manager Mick Berry.

The facility stretches out for hundreds of acres including the solar farm, and it’s all hidden from view by a berm and trees. What’s not a secret is what Apple has meant to this little town, and to Catawba County.

“They’ve had a huge economic impact,” said county commissioner Randy Isenhower. “They are our largest taxpayer in Catawba County. They’ve added $1.12 billion to our tax base.”

And 400 jobs in an area that lost a lot with the departure of the textile industry.

“They’ve done so much for the town of Maiden,” Isenhower said. “Maiden has a new fire station.”

The fire station sits directly next door to the Apple campus, on land donated by Apple. Maiden also has a brand new town hall thanks to the increase in town revenue.

“This was a major company with a very good reputation. I don’t know if we really knew the magnitude of the impact and how great that impact would be,” Berry said.

It’s easy to see why Maiden was interested in Apple but why was Apple interested in coming here? It’s simple: water.

The city of Hickory, Maiden’s neighbor, has a water treatment facility that pumps out 32 million gallons a day, more than enough to help cool the sensitive technology at the data center.

“We went knocking on their door and said, ‘Look at all of the power and the water we have in Catawba County,'” Berry said. “And they said, ‘You know what? You are right.'”

And it’s been a good relationship since. It’s hard to find a city or county leader with a bad word to say about the company, which has become a true partner.

“We go to California and we meet with Apple at least once a year,” Berry said. “It’s so cool to be at their corporate headquarters in Silicon Valley and they know Catawba County.”