On Friday, December 18, 2015 E. Norris Tolson, a native of Pinetops NC, was unanimously elected by the Board of Directors of the Carolinas Gateway Partnership to serve as the new President and CEO of the organization.
“The Carolinas Gateway Partnership was created 20 years ago by the visionary leaders of Nash and Edgecombe counties in order to foster and lead economic growth for the counties by working together. I am pleased to now become a part of the team and I am excited that the combined effort of our two counties will lead to further growth and prosperity,” noted Tolson when his appointment was announced.
Most recently Tolson served as a senior advisor for economic development with the Williams Mullen law firm. Prior to that he was president and CEO of the North Carolina Biotechnology Center from 2007 – 2014.
He has also served as both the North Carolina Secretary of Commerce and the North Carolina Secretary of Transportation. In 1999 Tolson served as the Chairman of the North Carolina Hurricane Floyd Relief Fund and in 2001 he was appointed to be the North Carolina Secretary of Revenue and stayed in this role until 2007.
Tolson was elected to the North Carolina General Assembly and served in the House of Representatives from 1994 until 1997 representing parts of Edgecombe, Nash, Pitt and Wilson Counties at the time. Tolson also served on the Board of Trustees of North Carolina State University where he was Vice Chairman and First Vice Chair of the executive committee.
He graduated from NCSU with a bachelor’s degree in crop science and agribusiness and has served his alma mater in many other capacities over the years. He received the Distinguished Alumni Award from the university in recognition of his outstanding career achievements and for his commitment to the land-grant principle of service to community, state and nation. He served in the U.S. Army Counter Intelligence Corps from 1963 – 1965.
Prior to his beginning his public service career, Tolson held various domestic and international marketing, research and sales responsibilities with E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Company. From 1965 until his retirement in 1993, he served the company’s agricultural products and electronics divisions and lived in Europe for several years during that time.
Tolson and his wife, the former Betsy Cobb also of Edgecombe County, live today in Pinetops. The couple has three children and five grandchildren.
Tolson stated recently, “We are blessed to live in an area full of great people, unlimited opportunity and a quality of life second to none in North Carolina. We have done well already in our area and I know that we will do even better in the future. It is an exciting time to be here.”
Tolson continues today as a member of the NC State Alumni Association Board of Directors as well as the CALS Alumni and Friends advisory boards. He also served on several other agribusiness related boards and is a member of the Academy for Leadership Excellence within the United Methodist Church.
Don Williams, Chairman of the Carolinas Gateway Partnership said at the announcement, “Having a person with the enormous experience and the outstanding credentials that Norris Tolson offers to serve as the next leader of our economic development public/private partnership is pretty amazing. Norris Tolson is just the catalyst we need to create even better opportunities and more economic growth in Nash and Edgecombe Counties in the future.”
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