Summit puts focus on logistics


Staff Writer

Friday, April 21, 2017

NASHVILLE — With logistics being the theme for the Rocky Mount Area Chamber of Commerce’s 2017 Economic Summit, the focus of discussion centered on CSX’s Carolina Connector Intermodal Terminal coming to the area.

Norris Tolson, president and CEO of Carolinas Gateway Partnership, was one of three speakers who talked in front of a crowd of business leaders, community leaders and city and county officials Thursday at the Rose Hill Conference Center. Tolson expressed how a wave of potential economy activity in the Twin Counties is being driven by the coming of the CCX terminal, which he said is the largest project the state has had in a number of years, especially in the transportation sector.

Assuming all the permits go through, the $276 million transformational state-of-the-art terminal is slated to start up in the first quarter of 2019, Tolson said. 

“If everything goes well, we will be making a lot of announcements in 2017,” Tolson said. “We have projects that are very close to being closed at this point that weren’t on the books 12 months ago at all. Eighty percent of the projects are being driven by the intermodal and our call volumes are up 100 percent from over a year ago at this time. Almost every request for information comes with someone wanting to be within 50 miles of the intermodal.”

Tolson said the Partnership currently is involved in 43 active projects across different sites in the Twin Counties, which represents 8,600 jobs and 4½ billion dollars in investment. 

“A lot of what we’re seeing are return center businesses or fulfillment distribution centers like a QVC,” he said. “If you look at our landscape, five years from now you will see a tremendous amount of fulfillment distribution and return centers. We believe there will be five to 10 million square feet of that kind of activity in our two counties,” he said. We suspect over the next two years, we should be able to generate 2,000 to 3,000 new jobs in Nash and Edgecombe counties ... While things are bright, we don’t win projects until they sign contracts.”

David Howard, chief deputy secretary for the N.C. Department of Transportation, said because of CCX coming into the area with a lot of trains there are are going to be opportunities for other industries to build up around the Twin Counties.

“There are going to be more opportunities for more rails to be on those lines, so the real key is for industries to pop up in this area and take advantage of that asset,” Howard said.

Cliff Pyron Jr., senior manager of external affairs for the N.C. Ports Authority, said the Port of Wilmington will have daily access to CCX, which means shipments going through the Pembroke rail connector. The route would be shipments going west of Lumberton, then north to Rocky Mount and daily trains coming into North Carolina ports.

“This intermodal hub, there is nothing like this in the southeast,” Pyron said. “It’s an outstanding investment being made by CSX and this state. It’s going to pay dividends for the Rocky Mount area and be an economic magnet because manufacturers are going to want to be around CCX, so it can burst into the network.”

Also during the summit, David Joyner, vice chairman of business infrastructure and environment for the Rocky Mount Area Chamber of Commerce and owner of Joyner Media Strategies, announced that Chamber President Theresa Pinto is resigning from her position. Pinto said her final day on the job will be May 31. She added she is leaving to move to New Hampshire to spend more time with her parents.

Joyner said the Chamber will announce an interim president in the coming days, and a search committee has been put together to find the next president.