Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Tolson Next NC Biotech CEO?

From the Tech Journal South:

NC Revenue Secretary Tolson next Biotech Center President/CEO?
June 19, 2007
By Allan Maurer

EXCLUSIVE RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, NC—Sources close to the NC Biotech Center say E. Norris Tolson, Secretary of the North Carolina Department of Revenue, will be the next President and CEO of the Center, replacing Leslie Alexandre, who stepped down in March.

The source close to the Center tells TechJournal South that Tolson was offered the position and has accepted it. The Biotech Center has said it expects to announce its board’s decision in late summer. The board apparently has not yet made a formal decision.

Despite repeated calls to his office Monday and Tuesday, Tolson did not respond to requests for comment.

Biotech Center responds
The Biotech Center issued the following statement in response to TechJournal South’s inquiry:

“Rumors typically swirl around a vacant position, but the Biotechnology Center doesn’t comment on rumors. Our board of directors is responsible for hiring a president, and the board has not yet done so. When the board does hire a president, the Biotechnology Center will share the good news with everyone as quickly as possible.”

When Leslie Alexandre took the helm, however, the news leaked to the “Raleigh News & Observer” prior to being released generally.

Tolson, who would be only the third president/CEO in the Center’s history, is vice chair of its board and was on the steering committee that guided development of the state’s strategic plan for biotechnology. He has wide experience in state government, economic development, and in industry.

Center relies on state support
Gov. Mike Easley appointed Tolson Secretary of Revenue in 2001. He also served as NC Department of Transportation Secretary in 1998 and as NC Commerce Secretary from 1997-98. He was a member of the NC House of Representatives from 1994-97.

The Biotech Center relies on state support for its initiatives, grants, and programs, widely seen as catalysts that helped propel NC into an enviable position as one of the top four biotech hubs in the United States. It's state appropriation for 2006-07 is $13.1 million.

Since 1984, it has invested $187 million in state funds to develop a statewide biotech industry.

The Center has a worldwide reputation and its CEO frequently travels domestically and abroad with state commerce department officials and other economic development specialists.

Tolson has industry experience
According to his NC Revenue site biography, prior to his election to the General Assembly, Tolson worked at E.I. Dupont from 1965 until his retirement in 1993.

He worked in various research, marketing and sales assignments in the company's agricultural products and electronics business for 28 years. He was assigned both domestic and international business responsibilities and lived in Europe for several years.

Tolson graduated from North Carolina State University with a bachelor's degree in crop science and agribusiness in 1962. He also served in the U.S. Army Counter Intelligence Corps from 1963 through 1965.

In an interview with the publication Biotech Catalyst, Tolson said, “Currently, biotechnology generates $3 billion in annual revenues in North Carolina and employs about 18,500 people.

"As a proud member of the North Carolina Biotechnology Center's board of directors, I can assure you that this whole area of scientific development is growing at lightning speed and that, because of our long-term investments in the industry, North Carolina's economy is poised to grow with it.”

Leslie Alexandre led the Biotech Center during a period in which the state climbed to the third ranked in the nation as a biotech hub.

She presided over development of the “Jobs Across North Carolina” strategic plan submitted to Gov. Mike Easley in 2004 and considers it one of her two most important accomplishments.

She also helped establish the Center’s regional satellite offices in the Piedmont Triad, Charlotte, and Eastern and Western NC.

Alexandre followed visionary leader Charles Hamner, who led the Biotech Center for its first two decades.

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