Business

CSX finally finds home for cargo hub in Rocky Mount

Posted July 19, 2016 9:58 a.m. EDT
Updated July 19, 2016 7:09 p.m. EDT

— After months of discussion and debate, CSX announced Tuesday that it will build its massive Carolina Connector cargo terminal in Edgecombe County.

The $270 million hub, which is expected to open in 2020, will be built across U.S. Highway 301 from North Carolina Wesleyan College in Rocky Mount. Officials anticipate 300 permanent jobs at the site, as well as 250 to 300 construction jobs.

"The Carolina Connector will be a game-changer for our state’s economy, supporting North Carolina’s agriculture, ports and position as the Southeast’s No. 1 state for manufacturing jobs," Gov. Pat McCrory said in announcing the project.

Cargo transfer hubs, which move containers from ships to rail to trucks, improve efficiency in distributing goods from manufacturers to retailers and consumers, officials said, and they also reduce truck traffic on state highways. CSX predicts 270,000 fewer trucks will be be traveling across North Carolina once the Rocky Mount terminal opens.

Studies by the state Department of Transportation show warehouses and other distribution facilities usually cluster around such cargo hubs, and officials have projected the Carolina Connector could eventually spawn up to 13,000 related jobs statewide.

"It's going to spur economic development, expand the transportation capabilities, protect air quality in North Carolina through the lower emissions of taking freight off the highways and putting it onto rail," CSX Chairman and Chief Executive Michael Ward said.

DOT plans to provide $110 million in improvements to rail lines and terminal infrastructure, while CSX will invest $160 million in the project. The company also qualifies for up to $4.3 million in rebates of employee withholding taxes under a Job Development Investment Grant if it meets annual hiring and investment targets in the coming years, as well as $7.8 million in state tax credits.

Officials said the company was attracted to the Rocky Mount site because of its proximity to CSX’s main north-south rail line, Interstate 95 and the future Interstate 87 corridor from the Triangle to Norfolk, Va., and the planned Interstate 42 corridor from the Triangle to Morehead City.

Still, it wasn't CSX's preferred site.

The company announced plans in January to build the Carolina Connector near Selma. But that plan quickly fizzled when landowners protested the idea of being forced to sell their property, and county and state officials came out against the proposal.

In April, Four Oaks Mayor Linwood Parker pushed for the hub in his town as an economic driver. Again, opposition from local property owners quashed any potential deal.

State economic development officials said they learned a lesson from the Johnston County experience, and Carolinas Gateway Partnership, a local economic development organization, has already assembled nearly all of the land needed for the terminal in Rocky Mount.

Nash County teacher Michael Pardue is confident the project will be an economic boon to Rocky Mount and the region.

"I think the folks in Nash and Edgecombe counties, Rocky Mount are excited about welcoming it. I know some people that will probably benefit job-wise," Pardue said.