Partnership CEO: CSX rail hub will boost Wilson too

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Even though the first shipment through the CSX Carolina Connector hub still is a few years off, one official said the benefits of the project are already evident.

Carolinas Gateway Partnership CEO and President Norris Tolson spoke Monday to the Wilson Rotary Club about the $262 million project set to be complete in mid-2019, noting he’s seen the number of projects looking at Nash and Edgecombe counties triple since CSX announced the hub last summer.

He noted companies interested in eastern North Carolina have said being 50 to 75 miles from the hub is a must, which Tolson pointed out will land some economic development in Wilson County.

“The impact on this will be very, very significant across eastern North Carolina and that is why I pushed from our partnership to get all our colleagues to work with each other,” Tolson said. “Let’s make this happen because, Lord knows, we’re due. It has been a long time since we’ve had a project of this magnitude in eastern North Carolina.”

Tolson said crews are expected to break ground on the project in December or January, with construction of the 550 acres near North Carolina Wesleyan College taking roughly 18 months.

Once complete, the hub will generate 300 full-time jobs with an average salary of $60,000. Tolson said an initial study of the project estimated between $150 and $300 million of economic impact to the state along with 1,500 jobs beyond the 300 estimated by CSX.

“I’ve seen that study. We also had that study validated since we won the project, and I can tell you that based on the numbers we’ve seen, those estimates are very, very conservative,” Tolson said. “Overall statewide impact instead of $150 to $300 million could be as much as $10 billion over a period of time to the North Carolina state economy. And that 1,500 jobs will probably, if things go as dramatically as we think they will, be closer to 10,000 jobs.”

Once products are brought into seaports between Virginia and South Carolina, cargo will be loaded onto a train for Rocky Mount. Once in Rocky Mount, the cargo can be loaded onto another train or onto trucks for distribution, and automation at the CSX hub will speed up the transfer process.

Tolson said he worked with an unidentified Wilson business when the hub was in the development stages to see how much having the Carolina Connector in Rocky Mount would save the business.

“In his business, his early estimate was a savings of $1.5 million in freight costs a year,” Tolson said. “This is a big deal and the reason all these other counties will see benefits from this project.”

For more information on the project, visit www.CSX.com/Carolinaintermodal/.

“Because of the intermodal, you will not recognize the eastern part of North Carolina in 5 years,” Tolson concluded. “That is how much it is going to change this region.”