Nash to leave partnership


Staff Writer

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

NASHVILLE — Some of the most affluent and influential business leaders in the Twin Counties were unable Monday to convince the Nash County Board of Commissioners not to withdraw from the Carolinas Gateway Partnership.

Commissioners said they feel since the county already invested in a retail economic developer, a focus on large business and industry is a logical next step.

The public-private economic development partnership is made up of Nash County, Rocky Mount, Nashville, Tarboro and Edgecombe County. As of Oct. 1, Nash County will leave the group, according to a 5-2 vote by commissioners.

Commissioners Fred Belfield and Mary Wells wanted to remain with the partnership, making a failed motion that the board table the vote for 60 days.

Belfield said the county has a better chance with the regional agency than going it alone.

"Why can't we work together?" Belfield asked.

Wells said industry in Edgecombe County benefits Nash County through shopping and housing.

Commissioner Lou Richardson said the time to meet has passed. There's been too much talk of meetings and no actual meetings. She said she was amazed how many people turned out for Monday's meeting who haven't tried to meet before.

Vice Chairman Wayne Outlaw said he's been on the county board for a decade and there's always been talk of leaving the partnership.

Outlaw said he recognizes he's a nobody and the room is filled with important people, but he's listened to his constituents.

Outlaw also said with the exception of Vince Andracchio, no one with the partnership has tried to contact him. Outlaw said the partnership should have reached out and met with commissioners.

"I wish we could have done that, but we didn't," Outlaw said.

Commissioner Sue Leggett said she's been listening to her constituents, and they think Nash County will be more focused, flexible and competitive without the partnership when it comes to economic development.

Commissioner Dan Cone said his late predecessor Billy Morgan would want the county to withdraw.

"Nash County now; Nash County forever," Morgan used to say repeatedly during meeting.

Cone made the motion with a second by Outlaw to leave the partnership on Oct. 1.

A who's who of business leaders tried and failed to change the commissioners' minds prior to the vote.

David Farris, president of the Rocky Mount Chamber of Commerce, told commissioners that Partnership President  and CEO NorrisTolson and the partnership were instrumental in the relocation of the state Department of Motor Vehicles to Rocky Mount.

"The man and his staff know how to get something done," Farris said of Tolson.

The partnership is a model for the rest of the state, Farris said.

Partnership Chairman Don Williams said the office, chairman, vice chairman and 70 percent of the board are located or live in Nash County.

Andracchio of Guardian Holdings told the commissioners he and a large group of business operators see no logic in Nash County pulling out of the partnership with the main reason to stay being the success of the agency over the years.

Andracchio said he finds it hard to believe Nash County will be able to do all that's needed for economic development for less than the $330,000 annual payment it makes to the partnership.

"Please remain a partner," Andracchio said. "Keep regionalism alive."

Tolson said his staff logged 500 hours in getting the DMV for Rocky Mount. He said economic development is grueling, arduous, nonglamorous work.

Tolson said the partnership is working on 34 projects for Nash County.

Lige Daughtridge — a small business owner, partnership board member and candidate for the Rocky Mount City Council Ward 5 seat — asked commissioners to delay their vote to give them and the partnership time to discuss their concerns.

In other business after a closed session, the commissioners announced the $119,000 purchase of 14 acres adjacent to the county airport to preserve the property for possible future development.