Economic gains push area ahead


Staff Writer

Monday, July 30, 2018

The heavy recruitment by the longtime economic development agency for Nash and Edgecombe counties is a big reason why more than 900 jobs are soon to be coming to the Twin Counties due to last year’s announcements about Triangle Tire and Corning.

The Carolinas Gateway Partnership, a public-private recruitment organization that focuses on economic development in the Twin Counties, has brought 13,659 jobs and $2.5 billion in investment to Nash and Edgecombe counties over the past 20 years, according to data provided by the partnership.

Norris Tolson, president and CEO of the Carolinas Gateway Partnership, was part of a group of local business leaders who helped create the partnership. He said $858 million of the $2.5 billion in investment and 2,000 jobs created in the Twin Counties over the past 20 years has come from direct foreign investment from companies headquartered overseas.

“The international aspect of companies in the Twin Counties is unique because not too many people realize we have companies from Germany, Belgium, Switzerland, Italy, Brazil, South Korea, Japan and China,” Tolson said. “A big portion of our area’s total investment has come from these international companies.”

Don Williams, president of Lewis Advertising and a member of the partnership’s board or directors, said the agency’s mission is to attract new companies and jobs to the Twin Counties as well as retain the companies already in place in the area.

According to data gathered from 1997 to 2017 provided by the partnership, 73 percent of the companies recruited to the area during that span are still operating in the Twin Counties, while 27 percent have closed.

“What we’ve done over the last 20 years shows pretty impressive data,” Tolson said.

The partnership is unique from other economic development organizations in North Carolina, Williams added. 

“It combines the political and government leadership and resources of two counties, one city and two towns together with the business leadership of the Twin Counties in a collaborative way that allows everyone to work together on economic development opportunities available to Nash and Edgecombe counties,” he said.

Williams said based on the annual capital fundraising program conducted every five years, the partnership has funds readily available to use as incentives to attract new companies and additional jobs to the Twin Counties.

“These funds have been very helpful in bringing the CSX intermodal project as well as many other area companies to Edgecombe and Nash counties,” he said.

The partnership data shows Nash County had 68 projects announced from 1997 to 2017, totaling 7,118 jobs created with a total investment of $967 million. Edgecombe County has had 59 projects announced, totaling 7,291 jobs created and a total investment of $1.5 billion.

The data also shows that the partnership has created 3,665 jobs and more than $840 million in investment in the city of Rocky Mount.

“One of the things that really jumps out is how balanced it has been between Nash and Edgecombe counties,” Tolson said. “While Nash is far ahead in terms of actual projects landed per county, Edgecombe seemed to get the large projects because Edgecombe has the large tracts of land. Only with the Triangle Tire project did Edgecombe move past Nash in dollars or total investment.”

The Twin Counties’ economy was driven by agriculture in the past. But since 1997, 32 percent of the partnership’s announcements of new companies and existing industry expansions have been in advanced manufacturing. 

“Success in advanced manufacturing drives more success,” Tolson said. “People know Triangle Tire is coming to North Carolina in Edgecombe County, and other big people or companies like that say, ‘I should take a look.’”

Tolson said between 100 to 200 jobs are expected to be coming to Nash County by the end of the year due to the partnership’s ongoing recruitment efforts . 

While the CSX Intermodal project has changed from what it was initially intended, Tolson said the original announcement in 2016 helped put the Twin Counties on the map. He said in the past two years, 60 percent of the leads the partnership is working on are self-generated and didn’t come from the state.

“When that project was announced, we got discovered — not just here in the state, but all over the country,” Tolson said. “We don’t go to trade shows anymore. We go to highly targeted consultant companies, which allows us to get face-to-face with a consultant — and that has really started to pay dividends. We are now getting calls from that.”