The area’s business and industrial recruiter is shifting from a building just northwest of downtown to a location in downtown.
Carolinas Gateway Partnership President and CEO Norris Tolson told the Telegram the plan is to bid farewell to what has been the public-private agency’s home at 427 Falls Road across from Braswell Memorial Library.
Tolson said the plan is for the agency to begin anew on the second floor of a building abutting the south to southeast side of the Station Square business and professional complex.
That future location’s southeast side will face the railroad line through the heart of Rocky Mount.
The future location’s southwest side will provide a view of the adjacent Helen P. Gay Rocky Mount Historic Train Station, which also is the home of the Rocky Mount Area Chamber of Commerce.
The future location also will be a short walk to the northwest across the parking area and Church Street to City Hall.
Tolson said the location first will require a reconfiguration inside by landlord Ben Braddock.
“So it’s going to take us a little bit longer than we anticipated,” Tolson said of the move. “I could not tell you specifically right now whether it’s going to be late January or early February or early March.”
Nonetheless, Tolson is upbeat, saying of the future location that other than the construction of a boardroom, the rest of the work will be cosmetic and involve a fresh coat of paint and the installation of new carpeting.
Tolson said of the choice of a future location, “We were delighted because it keeps us right in the center of things that are happening in Rocky Mount.”
Carolinas Gateway Partnership, which was formed in 1995, eventually brought Edgecombe County’s and Nash County’s economic development efforts under one umbrella in the Twin Counties.
The partnership eventually set up operations at the 427 Falls Road location. Nash County has been providing the building rent-free and the partnership has been responsible for the upkeep.
At the start of 2015, Tolson, a former legislator and former state commerce, revenue and transportation secretary, became the partnership’s president and CEO.
Under Tolson’s watch, the Twin Counties has scored big in landing future business and industrial commitments.
They include Corning having a future distribution facility and Triangle Tire having a future manufacturing facility, both between Rocky Mount and Tarboro.
They also include CSX having an intermodal facility across from N.C. Wesleyan College.
Rocky Mount also scored both an economic development and public relations coup by securing state approval to shift the state Division of Motor Vehicles headquarters. Plans are to relocate the DMV from Raleigh to the former Hardee’s Food Systems building just on the Nash County side of the Nash County-Edgecombe County line. Gov. Roy Cooper signed the lease on the building on Wednesday.
In April, however, the Nash County Board of Commissioners, in a 5-2 vote, withdrew the county from the partnership, effective at the start of October.
A who’s who of business leaders tried and failed to change the board members’ minds prior to the vote.
One supporter of the withdrawal, Commissioner Sue Leggett, at the time said her constituents told her they believe Nash County will be more focused, flexible and competitive without the partnership when it comes to economic development.
Last month, Nash County announced the hiring of a new economic development director, Andy Hagy, from a position as director of an economic development agency in West Virginia. Hagy is set to start in his new job at the beginning of next month.
The building at 427 Falls Road dates back to the start of December 1975. That was when the ceremonial ribbon was cut for what was going to be a Nash County building housing a tax office and the then-Nash Industrial Development Commission.
Tolson said Nash County has made clear to him and his team the county has a need for the 427 Falls Road location and that he and his team began looking for another location for the partnership.
“We need confidentiality, of course, and because of what we do, we needed space that would be presentable to clients when they come in to see us,” Tolson said.
Tolson said the search involved looking at a number of locations, including in downtown Rocky Mount and on the city’s perimeter.
“And fortunately, Ben came to us and said, ‘I think I’ve got the ideal space for you. What do you think?’” Tolson said.
“We looked at it and it provided all the things we were looking for — a location where we are by ourselves,” he said. “It’s easy to get to. It has got good parking.”
Tolson said a lease was signed with Braddock within the past two to three weeks.
Tolson said he and his team certainly want to be in the partnership’s future location the first quarter of 2020 — and he noted the partnership has booked a moving firm.
“And it’s just a matter of how quickly the contractor can get the build-out done and we can get relocated,” he said. “So we are ready as soon as the building is ready.”
Nash County Attorney Vince Durham told the Telegram the county does not know when the partnership is vacating the building at 427 Falls Road, but he said once the partnership leaves, the county plans to secure a future occupant at that location.