Johnston County’s loss appears to be Rocky Mount’s gain as CSX moves forward with its plan to build the massive Carolina Connector cargo terminal on a stretch of empty land just north of Rocky Mount. The $270 million facility will be located on about 500 acres of land east of Highway 301 in Edgecombe County.

Initial plans had CSX building a cargo hub in Johnston County, but those plans changed after landowners in Selma balked at the idea of being forced to sell their property. Four Oaks’ mayor tried to lure the project there, but residents quashed the idea as well. Residents in the Rocky Mount area, however, are welcoming the project because of what it will mean to the local economy.

So what does this mean for the Rocky Mount area? Well, state officials believe the Carolina Connector will be a game-changer for the state’s economy by supporting agriculture and ports while positioning North Carolina as the Southeast’s No. 1 state for manufacturing jobs. As a hub facility, freight containers will be transported into CCX on trains and trucks, will be sorted and then routed to their destinations on other trains and trucks, according to Kristin Seay, corporate communications manager for CSX.

Only the second terminal of its kind in the CSX network, the Carolina Connector is expected to bring high-paying jobs to the area. The project will initially create 250-300 short-term construction jobs during the development phase and another 300 long-term positions once the terminal becomes operational. About 150 of those terminal positions will be directly employed by CSX and pay an average annual salary of $60,000, company officials said. This will be a great opportunity for area residents to work for one of “America’s Best Employers,” according to the results of Forbes magazine nationwide survey on employee satisfaction. This is the third consecutive year CSX has earned this honor. CSX provides its workforce with challenging and meaningful career opportunities, best-in-class training and competitive pay and benefits to help CSX remain among the most desirable employers in America.

In addition to the jobs at CSX, local officials believe this project is something that will turn into a wide variety of opportunities for economic development. To that end, the state Department of Transportation is studying the potential economic impact of CCX for the immediate area in an effort to devise a strategic plan that identifies the types of industries and businesses that should be considered for the area. The hope is that the state can derive even greater economic benefits through a comprehensive plan. Studies show that warehouses and other distribution facilities usually cluster around such cargo hubs which could eventually create as many as 13,000 related jobs state-wide, many of them likely in eastern North Carolina.

Currently there is a lot of activity going on behind the scenes in terms of property acquisition, permitting, preliminary engineering and design and roadway improvements. CSX is working with local, state and federal agencies to ensure all necessary permits are secured which is expected to take another six to nine months. Permanent jobs won’t be available until construction is nearly complete. Construction is set to begin toward the end of 2018 with the facility up and running by the end of 2019.

CSX Corporation, based in Jacksonville, Fla., is one of the nation’s leading transportation suppliers. The company’s rail and intermodal businesses provide rail-based transportation services including traditional rail service and the transport of intermodal containers and trailers.