He and other economic developers, along with CSX, announced the CCX project in July 2016 and at the time, CSX leaders were looking into the intermodal process, he said.
But when a change happened in CSX leadership last year, the business model also changed, he said. That change left the future of CCX project unclear.
"A new leadership team came in ... The new leader did not care for the wheel and spoke or the intermodal concept. So while he did not cancel the CCX project in Rocky Mount, it obviously went on their back burner for thinking purposes," Tolson said of the project.
Former CEO Hunter Harrison, who died late last year, and current CSX President and CEO James Foote, had repositioned their business model to turn the focus away from the intermodal concept and shift to what Tolson called "precision railroading."
While the project in Rocky Mount was never officially killed, Tolson said that economic developers began "extensive discussions with the CSX leadership team over what they were going to do with the land," he said, adding that if they weren't going to put anything on the property economic developers in the county would like CSX to allow them to put it into the potential development inventory as another 700-acre megasite.
"Even up until yesterday, we were still in the discussions with DOT in Raleigh and CSX in Jacksonville about what their ultimate facility will look like," Tolson said.
Tolson did not elaborate further on the topic, only saying,"We are very confident that we will wind up with some kind of precision delivery facility ... in Rocky Mount on the land that CSX owns and the remaining piece of the land, whatever they choose not to use ... I have been pushing them to allow us to put it into our inventory and go find them a client, which we think we can do," he said.
The impact that economic developers have seen in Edgecombe and Nash counties since the CCX announcement, however, has drawn more business interest to the area, he said.
The call volume of Carolinas Gateway Partnership went up 100 percent in a matter of a weeks from the initial announcement from "all over the country," Tolson said. The organization's project base went from a little more than 20 projects at the time to 64 in Nash and Edgecombe counties today, he said.
"We have spent a lot of time since July of 2016 to ... position ourselves on the map with people not only in the U.S. but globally. And that's paid off," he said. "We attribute 80 percent of that growth interest to CSX. And I told CSX that, in fact I used that as a selling point as I called on them in Jacksonville to say, 'You really still need to build some kind of a logistics facility.'"
N.C. Ports Executive Director Paul Cozza has previously commented on the CCX project, saying that, N.C. Ports views intermodal capability as a key feature of moving freight – efficiently transferring containers between trains and trucks – and providing a “competitive advantage” to customers.
CSX officials confirmed Wednesday that talks are ongoing.
“We remain in discussion with the state of North Carolina about the proposed facility in Rocky Mount with an eye toward what works best for our company, our shareholders and the state of North Carolina,” a CSX spokesman said. “We appreciate the partnership we have developed and look forward to continuing the dialogue about our plans moving forward.”
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