08/28/05 — Earl Brinkley shares his vision

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Earl Brinkley shares his vision

By Turner Walston
Published in News on August 28, 2005 2:02 AM

Eastern North Carolina can improve its economy by taking advantage of its links to it seaports, says a Duplin County entrepreneur who has spent his career in international business logistics.

Earl Brinkley spoke to about 150 people Friday at the biannual meeting of the Goldsboro and Mount Olive Committees of 100 Friday at the Goldsboro Country Club.

Brinkley, a native of Sampson County, retired from the John Deere Co. after 38 years and has formed his own firm, Accu-Track Logistics in Wallace.

He said the seaports in Morehead City and Wilmington must become more competitive with ports in Savannah, Charleston and Norfolk for them to be able to fully benefit eastern North Carolina industries.

He said the state needs to create a deep-channel container seaport at Morehead, which has good access to the Atlantic sea lanes. By linking the ports to inland industries through improved rail lines and highways, he said, the entire region would benefit from international trade.

He said Virginia, South Carolina and Georgia have made port development a priority and are reaping the benefits.

"They realize the value of their seaports to their economic health," Brinkley said.

The United States imported 4.2 million vehicles a year through its ports, Brinkley said, yet Morehead City and Wilmington imported none.

Wilmington's port would be able to handle smaller ships, Brinkley said. Between the two seaports, he said, North Carolina could become an important player in international East Coast shipping.

Brinkley's proposal also included creating cruise terminals in both Morehead City and Wilmington, allowing North Carolina to take advantage of the domestic and international cruise industry.

Building better railroad connections between the ports and the interior of the state would be crucial to the ports' success, Brinkley said. He added that an inland container terminal in the Goldsboro-Selma area, where major railroad lines connect, would be able to accept shipments via trucks and redistribute goods for shipment anywhere in the country, especially along the eastern seaboard. He also said a similar terminal in the Asheville area would be able to complement those in Greensboro and Charlotte, which also are major railroad crossings.

Brinkley recommended upgrading and utilizing rail to move both freight and people, including the replacement of the line from Wallace to Castle Hayne.

Brinkley also suggested branding the entire network as the North Carolina Global TransPark.

"I recommend we piggy-back on the name already developed," he said. "Let's have one organization selling all of North Carolina, not marketing personnel selling individual locations."

Brinkley estimated that moving one million containers through North Carolina ports would create 164,000 jobs, $5.4 billion in wages, and $1.4 billion in tax revenue.

"The state of North Carolina is a beautiful state," Brinkley said. "North Carolina can obtain and sustain a major role in the world economy."

Brinkley said money in the recent incentives package offered to Dell to locate in North Carolina could have been better spent elsewhere.

"We can design and create new concepts. We can turn a negative into a strong positive. However, we need to have a vision and seize the opportunity now."

At the close of his presentation, Brinkley received a standing ovation from the attendees. Mount Olive Committee of 100 President John Pegram then presented him with a package of Wayne County products.