Edgecombe weighs loss of CSX rail hub


Staff Writer

Sunday, March 4, 2018

A big reason for the excitement of CSX building the $270 million Carolina Connector intermodal hub and transfer facility was that it was going to be built on the Edgecombe County side of Rocky Mount.

While the Twin Counties’ economy as a whole has struggled for many years, Edgecombe County has longed suffered with one of the highest unemployment and tax rates in the state, but the creation of the intermodal was viewed as a game-changer and a project that would bolster the county’s economy and for the Twin Counties.

The construction of the train hub was expected to create up to 300 short-term jobs. Once operational, the hub would provide more than 300 direct, long-term jobs with average terminal salaries of more than $60,000. Over time, CSX officials said the intermodal hub would create more than 1,500 jobs statewide, while attracting new businesses to the area and pump an estimated $125 million into the state economy.

CSX officials said the CCX would be an intermodal hub on the company’s southern network much like its Northwest Ohio terminal is in the north, positioning Edgecombe County and Rocky Mount as a transportation and logistics focal point in the region. Officals had said CSX’s intermodal terminals in other locations had proven track records of driving economic growth with a couple of CSX’s most developed intermodal terminals attracting distribution centers from companies like Target and Proctor & Gamble in Chambersburg, Pa., and Amazon, FedEx and Walmart in Winter Haven, Fla. 

Economist Mike Walden said the Rocky Mount intermodal facility was something he and other economists viewed as a concept that was going to help companies as freight increased along Interstate 95 because of the expansion of the Panama Canal.

“This was one of the more major announcements made a couple a years in the state and certainly for Rocky Mount and in Edgecombe County in the last 25 years,” Walden said.

But the plans CSX announced in 2015 in Edgecombe County appears to be a distance memory.  Norris Tolson, president and CEO of the Carolinas Gateway Partnership, told the Telegram last week that he doesn’t believe the company is going to build the intermodal as it orginally planned and CSX is still working on a new business plan that’s centered on “precision scheduled railroading.”

Edgecombe County Manager Eric Evans echoed Tolson’s sentiments. CSX owns about 700 acres of land across from N.C. Wesleyan College and is paying taxes on the property, Tolson said.

“The project as it was originally planned, which was an intermodal hub, where the truck meets the train — that potential project for them is off the table,” Evans said. “But there is a lot of variations of what CSX could do at that site, if not a full-blown large scale intermodal hub. We’re hopeful something will be done to both create jobs and add some value to our tax rate.”

CSX’s change of plans in Edgecombe County surfaced last year when it was reported in an industry magazine. Evans said hearing the potential scrap of the project in the magazine was surprising and very disappointing.

“It was absolutely a setback when that article came out because we had a lot of hope of what CSX would do directly here in the county, but also what the residual effects would be for that type of facility would be for the county,” Evans said.

All is not lost in Edgecombe County and the Twin Counties as two major new industry job announcements were made in December that will produce more than a combined 900 jobs in Edgecombe County. The announcement of Chinese tire plant Triangle Tire Co. to create 800 jobs and invest $580 million at the 1,449-acre Kingsboro megasite was the largest-ever manufacturing investment in rural North Carolina.

The project is estimated to contribute more than $2.4 billion to the state’s economy. The salaries for the new positions are estimated to be an average annual salary of around $56,000 a year.

Also, a week before the historic tire plant announcement, Corning, a world leading innovator in materials science, announced it will invest $86 million to build a warehouse facility in Edgecombe County and create 111 new jobs. Evans said both companies are still working on final details of their agreements and both have aggressive schedules of looking to be 100 percent operational in 2019.

“With Triangle Tire and Corning both coming and both having logistical needs that we believe CSX could reconsider or continue to build something in Edgecombe County,” Evans said.