Tolson retiring from NC Biotechnology Center

The state-funded N.C. Biotechnology Center is initiating a search for a new president and CEO to replace Norris Tolson, who is retiring after nearly seven years at the helm.

Tolson, 74, announced Wednesday that he is retiring effective June 30.

“There is no end to the important work of the Biotech Center, and it’s essential to find the right leader to continue that work,” Tolson said in a prepared statement. “I hope my decision gives the board time to do so.”

Tolson has led the center since July 2007.

Among his accomplishments, according to the center, were creating an economic development division and expanding loan programs for small bioscience companies. He also launched the Ag Biotech Initiative that works with agricultural biotechnology companies, farmers and others.

Last year, however, the center had to resort to cutting jobs and slashing programs in the face of a 27 percent cut in state funding to $12.6 million.

Still, Tolson led an effort that managed to head off cuts that could have been much worse. The budget initially proposed by Gov. Pat McCrory called for cutting the center’s appropriation by 58 percent, and the Senate considered cutting its funding in half.

Before joining the center, Tolson was secretary of revenue under Gov. Mike Easley. He also was appointed secretary of commerce and secretary of transportation by Gov. Jim Hunt.

A native of Edgecombe County, Tolson also was a member of the state House from 1994 until 1997, after a career of more than 25 years at E.I. du Pont de Nemours.