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Tolson: Marketing the key to Global TransPark's success

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Norris Tolson, president and CEO of the Carolinas Gateway Partnership

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BY LINDELL JOHN KAY
Staff Writer

Thursday, December 14, 2017

A local economic developer has been tapped to serve on the oversight authority of an industrial park adjacent to one of the larger commercial airports in the Southeastern United States.

Gov. Roy Cooper has appointed Norris Tolson, CEO of Carolinas Gateway Partnership, to the Global TransPark Authority, which oversees a 2,500 acre, multi-modal industrial airport in Kinston, about an hour's drive from Rocky Mount. The airport runway is 11,500 feet, one of the longer commercial runways in the nation.

“The reason I accepted is because I see a lot of synergy between what the Global TransPark is trying to do and what we're trying to do in the whole area of logistics,” Tolson said.

Tolson told the Telegram on Wednesday that he took the appointment because he was assured he would be allowed to steer the TransPark toward a focus on aggressive marketing.

Built in the early 1990s, the park was sluggish in its early years, but prospects have been looking up as evidenced by an announcement from Spirit Aerosystems earlier this month. The Kansas-based aircraft manufacturer said it will invest more than $55.7 million and create 1,000 jobs at the TransPark over the next five years. The company already has two facilities located at the park.

Tolson said the TransPark can bring in raw material and get it to manufacturing sites, something Eastern North Carolina needs.

Tolson said he's looking forward to working with Allen Thomas, the newly named executive director of the TransPark. Thomas stepped down from his post as Greenville’s mayor to helm the TransPark.

“Allen Thomas thinks like I do,” Tolson said. “Aggressive marketing is the key.”

As for the planned $272 million CSX trains-to-trucks terminal in Rocky Mount, Tolson said he's in a holding pattern while the railroad giant figures out its new business model. That model calls for a hub in Central North Carolina just like the trans-modal model did, so it makes sense that CSX would make use of land the company already owns and is working on, Tolson said.

“To their credit they're taking their time,” Tolson said. “Their new CEO was brought in to increase stockholder value. We believe we can do that in Edgecombe County.”

Tolson has long been a proponent of job creation in the private and public sectors.

Before returning two years ago to lead the Partnership he helped create two decades ago, Tolson was the senior adviser for economic development with the Williams Mullen law firm. Prior to that, he was president and CEO of the N.C. Biotechnology Center for seven years. In addition, Tolson held various domestic and international marketing, research and sales responsibilities as a longtime executive for DuPont before starting a second career in public service.

Tolson's political background includes time as the top state administrator for three separate departments: Commerce, Transportation and Revenue. He also represented Nash, Edgecombe and Wilson counties in the N.C. House from 1994 to 1997.

Also appointed to the Global TransPark Authority along with Tolson were a state transportation official, a real estate investor, a banker and a representative of environmental interests.

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