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RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. – The folks at the North Carolina Biotechnology Center apparently didn’t need to launch a nationwide search for a chief executive officer after all.
If what my good friend Allan Maurer, editor of TechJournal South, is correct, the Biotech Center apparently has picked Norris Tolson for the CEO job. Tolson just happens to sit on the Center’s board.
I don’t believe for a second, however, that this is an inside job.
Tolson has a top-drawer resume for the job. While he hasn’t worked in the life science sector, his experiences elsewhere qualify him for the job, in my humble opinion.
I love the fact that he once worked in counter intelligence for the U.S. Army. That doesn’t necessarily mean he was a spook or spy, but he has dabbled in the black arts of intelligence work.
How many CEOs can list that achievement in their bona fides?
Other strengths include the fact he is a native of North Carolina, growing up in Edgecombe County. He therefore knows the state and especially the challenges rural counties face in securing jobs.
He also has a great deal of private sector experience, having worked at Dupont for 28 years.
Further, Tolson has served in the General Assembly, so he knows how the political game works.
Under Gov. Mike Easley, Tolson ran the North Carolina Department of Transportation, and he has served as Commerce Secretary. Having worked in Commerce, he knows the importance of industrial recruitment and how that game works as well.
Add up those experiences and you have an executive who has worked in the private sector, has a great deal of political experience, and has battled spies.
The selection of a CEO is extremely critical for the Biotech Center. it has grown to include offices across the state, is actively involved in industrial recruitment, and is a source for funding and loans needed by startup companies.
The Center also has to fight each year for funding from the General Assembly. Tolson could be a big boost to those efforts.
Leslie Alexander and Charles Hamner, former CEOs at the Center, helped turn it into a vibrant contributor to North Carolina’s economy. Let’s hope that the Center’s board finds a worthy successor. Tolson could be that person.