Gastonia is located in the heart of the Piedmont section of North Carolina and encompasses approximately 43.5 square miles. With a population of 66,277 in 2000, the City is 22 miles west of Charlotte, North Carolina, and approximately 165 miles southwest of Raleigh, the state capital of North Carolina. Incorporated in 1877, Gastonia is the county seat of Gaston County and is the second largest city in the Charlotte-Gastonia-Rock Hill Metropolitan Statistical Area ("MSA") as identified by the United States Bureau of the Census. The MSA has a population of more than 1,200,000 persons and is currently listed as the 33rd largest MSA in the nation. The City has a broad industrial, office and commercial base and is the 11th largest city in North Carolina.