State group honors Tolson


Norris Tolson, president and CEO of the Carolinas Gateway Partnership


Staff Writer

Monday, June 18, 2018

The man in charge of the local public-private economic development recruitment agency for Nash and Edgecombe counties was recently honored for his role in attracting new industries into the Twin Counties.

Norris Tolson, president and CEOof the Carolinas Gateway Partnership, was named the state’s Economic Developer of the Year by the N.C. Economic Development Association during the organization’s annual conference in Wrightsville Beach. 

Mark Pope, vice president of theN.C. Economic Development Association Board of Directors, said Tolson was chosen for his role in bringing Chinese tire manufacturer Triangle Tire and New York-based glassware manufacturer Corning Inc. to the 1,449-acre Kingsboro Megasite in Edgecombe County.

Triangle Tire has been dubbed the largest manufacturing investment in rural North Carolina, and the Edgecombe County manufacturing facility is Triangle Tire’s first facility in the United States. The plant represents an investment of nearly $580 million by the tire company and will employ up to 800 people when fully operational.

Tolson has said the full build-out of the project could be more than a $1 billion investment and create between 1,100 and 1,200 jobs. The plant will produce both passenger tires and commercial tires, and construction will be completed in two phases.

Corning, which will create a total of 428 jobs and invest $275 million over three years in North Carolina, plans to build a global distribution center and create 149 new jobs in the county. 

“He really helped impress the people in China to move to bring their operations to the Rocky Mount area, which was a tremendous achievement,” Pope said. “Norris has a real esteemed background in commerce. He’s a great person and has developed relationships in North Carolina and all over.”

Pope added Tolson has always been known as a humble person, who’d rather defer and give out credit. Tolson said he was surprised and honored by the award. He considers himself a retired reformed politican who just happens to be doing economic development.

Tolson gave credit to the rest of the Partnership staff for their continued hard work and role in helping the growth of the Twin Counties.

“We have a really good team and we all work as a team,” Tolson said. “Nobody can take a project by themselves and do all the work that is needed to land a project like Triangle Tire.”

Tolson said the award is also a direct reflection of the civic and political leadership in Nash and Edgecombe counties that has worked with the Partnership to help make the recent economic development deals in the Twin Counties become to light.

“Triangle Tire and Edgecombe County would have never been possible had it not been for the Egecombe County commissioners, mayor of Tarboro, mayor of Rocky Mount and other local officials and leaders aware and supportive of what we were trying to do,” he said. “Even the Nash County commissioners were just as interested as seeing that project come to the Twin Counties as Edgecombe County. If you don’t have that kind of support base behind you, then economic development gets to be a real difficult task.”

Tolson’s first big economic development catch for the Twin Counties as leader of the Partnership was the announcement of the $270 million CSX’s Carolina Carolina Connector intermodal hub and transfer facility in July 2016. However, the project has been limbo since a change in CSX leadership last year has caused a change in the company’s business model.

Tolson said negotiations have continued with CSX to rework the original project, and he feels they’re moving toward a deal, but nothing is imminent. He added the proposed plan on the 707-acre site in Edgecombe County across from the N.C. Wesleyan College envisions a precision delivery logistic center.

“What we’re saying is if the Edgecombe County site was good to you as an intermodal site, it’s equally good or even better as a precision delivery logistic center,” Tolson said. “They’ve seemed to be buying and accepting that.”

Tolson said the Partnership is continuing its efforts on several projects, and he believes some announcements for Nash County could happen this year.

“Hopefully, we will see some stuff come to fruition before the end of the year,” Tolson said.