Work on new plants moves ahead


Norris Tolson, president and CEO of the Carolinas Gateway Partnership


Staff Writer

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Progress is continuing on Triangle Tire's plans to build a massive plant in rural Edgecombe County.

"They're selecting a contractor now," Carolinas Gateway President and CEO Norris Tolson said. "We've got the site ready for 'em. So, when they're ready to build, the site is ready to build on."

Triangle Tire, which is based in China, in late 2017 announced plans to bring approximately 800 jobs to the Kingsboro megasite, which is approximately five miles east of Rocky Mount and approximately six miles west of Tarboro.

Tolson said Triangle Tire has proposed a two-phase project at the megasite, with the first phase calling for an investment of approximately $580 million.

The first phase calls for having a facility to produce tires for cars and trucks.

Tolson said Triangle Tire plans to begin construction of the first phase in May and wants to begin production of those types of tires in 2020.

The second phase calls for producing tires for large, non-farm trucks and earth-moving machines.

Still unknown is how much money is going to be spent and how many people are going to work in the second phase.

However, Tolson said he and his team believe the entire project is going to approach a billion dollars when Triangle Tire finishes construction.

Across the road, but not in the megasite, Corning, a New York-based world-leading innovator in material science but mainly known for glass, is building a distribution center. That project, like the Triangle Tire project, was announced in late 2017.

Tolson said the Corning project is an approximately $87 million investmeent and approximately 149 jobs are going to be created.

He said that site is under construction right now and had there not been a wet December, the Corning facility's supporting structure already would be beginning to take shape.

"They'll have steel coming out of the ground in April," he said.

He said Corning wants to be in operation in Edgecombe County by the fourth quarter of this year, which would be sometime between October and December.

Additionally, he noted plans still call for construction sometime in the May to June of an approximately 32,000-square-foot training facility to be operated by Edgecombe Community College at the Kingsboro site.  

The Rocky Mount-based Golden LEAF foundation has pledged a $10 million grant to construct and equip the facility.

Tolson said what generated interest in the Twin Counties — both nationwide and worldwide — was Florida-based railroad giant CSX's July 2016 announcement to build a rail-to-truck terminal site to be called the Carolina Connector.

Although the plan for the project has been scaled back, Tolson said CSX is going to begin building the facility sometime in April or May in front of N.C. Wesleyan College in Edgecombe County. 

Tolson said he believes anywhere from 25-50 jobs are going to be created at the technology-driven rail facility.

Carolinas Gateway Partnership is the nonprofit tasked with day-to-day recruiting of business and industrial prospects in the Twin Counties.

Presently, Tolson said, Carolinas Gateway Partnership's team is working 42 yet-to-be-announced business or industrial leads to try to get them to commit to the Twin Counties.

"We are very comfortable that in 2019 we will announce three or four new projects — maybe five," he said. "It could be more than that, because some of these folks are in the decision-making stage and we don't know where they are in their ultimate decision-making stage."

The sizes and types of the projects differ, with Tolson saying, "We do not have another Triangle type size that we're working on, but we've got some that are pretty nice."

"We have projects that we're chasing that every developer in the state of North Carolina would love to have," he said.

He said the Carolinas Gateway Partnership is looking at advanced manufacturing projects, food-processing projects and logistics projects, as well as service projects such as call centers.

"In fact, we have a call center project that is very close to announcing, very close," he said.

Tolson made clear he "absolutely" believes the Twin Counties is going to sustain the recent momentum of securing business and industrial prospects.

"People like to be where things are happening — and there's so much energy and vibrance going on in the Twin Counties right now — Nash and Edgecombe," he said.

He said people are calling him and his team to ask, "What's going on in the Twin Counties?" and "What's driving all that?"

His answer is simple.

"You cannot do economic development unless you have a very engaged political structure and a very engaged business community," he said.

He noted Carolinas Gateway Partnership can readily call in a local business person to sit down with a prospect to talk about the Twin Counties.

He also said one couldn't have economic development in Edgecombe and Nash counties if the commissioners in those respective counties didn't say, "Bring it on. Let us see what you want to do — and we will try to make it happen."

"They have said, 'Keep doing what you're doing, bring us more projects, let us decide if we want that growth.' And up to this point, they've said yes," he said. "That's what it takes."