• Put Johnston County on the right track

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    May 09, 2016
    This letter to the editor was written by Eric Brownlee of Smithfield.

    There has been tension in Johnston County recently.

    The subject of this tension: the locating of a CSX transportation hub along the railroad tracks on the Interstate 95 corridor. The causes of the tension: politicians with their finger in the air, misinformation from some of the opponents and no real answers for those interested in an offer.

    The stakeholders: a diverse collection of long-term homeowners and farms and the transplants who have moved to the county to enjoy country living.

    The stakes: the happiness of those who want the status quo and the economic or financial future for those who haven’t yet realized their dreams or even financial stability.

    Old money. New money. And no money. Everyone has an opinion. And many of the most vocal are not even affected by the transaction.

    I’m for the hub to be located in our county. I don’t favor one community over any other. I’m simply for a site where the property owners are treated fairly. I am in favor of everyone involved getting a fair offer for consideration, and here’s why:

    Johnston County has a unique position in Eastern North Carolina. Located midway between New York and Florida, Johnston County connects the nation’s North and South through I-95 and East and West through I-40 and U.S. 70.

    CSX, a Fortune 500 company, has proposed an intermodal terminal for our area. Called the Carolina Connector, or CCX, this could be a game changer for eastern Johnston County, using the county’s unique strategic location to create tangible economic growth for the county and state.

    This project in Johnston County also has the opportunity to position Eastern North Carolina as a major logistics hub in the Southeast and drive new economic development in the region. The CCX terminal will significantly improve transportation infrastructure and enhance distribution opportunities for large and small businesses across Johnston County and our state. The development will introduce a new competitive advantage for existing businesses because of improved access to national and global markets and lower shipping costs. Johnston County could then attract additional manufacturing, distribution and industrial businesses. The prospects for economic expansion as an output of the CCX are immense.

    The CCX will also bring economic development directly to Johnston County, creating advantages for the local community – for businesses and residents.

    Hundreds of direct and indirect jobs will be created as a result of CCX. The funds allotted by the state will create infrastructure jobs updating the roads and the accompanying utilities, etc.

    The CSX terminal salaries will average well above the county’s median income, with hourly wages nearly double the average retail or service wage. These higher-paying jobs would create a better opportunity for the graduates of our high schools and community college.

    We’ve lost 6,000 manufacturing jobs in a population of about 20,000 such jobs over the last 20 years, driving the median household income to under $25,000 per household in both of the communities considered. Those jobs have been replaced with the lower-paying retail and service jobs.

    Construction and day-to-day management of the terminal will create hundreds of jobs and may generate up to 1,500 more, stemming from secondary industries attracted to the area. This project and the additional jobs it creates will give our children opportunities that they currently lack. We train many young people and adults at our community college in vocations that are a fit for CSX and other manufacturing and distribution businesses, only to have them leave the area to get good-paying jobs.

    Furthermore, I believe the immediate and long-term economic developments brought by a project of this magnitude would significantly strengthen Eastern North Carolina economically as a whole.

    The intermodal terminal will help upgrade critical infrastructure and has the potential to reduce highway congestion and pollution by reducing long-haul trucking. The model used for this project is more environmentally advantageous than previous terminals and has incorporated many innovations, including ultra-quiet electric cranes and gate-entry technology that reduces idling time for the trucks.

    With this project, Eastern North Carolina will become an essential part of the freight transportation system and a hub for the region – a position that will pay dividends in the form of jobs and opportunities for our children for years to come.

    I love this community and want only the best for everyone who lives here. Everyone. I hope that you will take time to weigh the strengths and weaknesses of this project and recognize what I believe are positive end results.

    More CSX Project Information
     
    Contact:
    Rick Childrey, President
    (919) 934-9166

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