Business leaders step in to help Pfizer find storage space as recovery continues week after tornado

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Monday, July 24, 2023
Businesses step up to help Pfizer after destructive tornado
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Crews continue to inspect tornado damage at the Pfizer plant in Rocky Mount. The warehouse area was hardest hit; now Pfizer seeks temporary storage.

ROCKY MOUNT, N.C. (WTVD) -- Garry Silver was at the senior center Wednesday, preparing to take shelter, when he learned of where the tornado touched down.

"When I found out that Pfizer had been hit, I was looking for my son because I knew my son was out there. He normally works a 12-hour shift. I wanted to make sure that he and the (other workers) were OK," Silver said.

His nerves were calmed when he learned that everybody at the plant was safe and no deaths were reported as a result of the EF-3 tornado.

Monday, crews were at the Pfizer plant on North Wesleyan Boulevard in Rocky Mount, continuing to inspect the damage. At this juncture, the company believes the warehouse facility was hit hardest, though they are looking to temporarily move production to other facilities, including in nearby Sanford.

"They are going to do what they have to do to get it up and running. We and others have worked to secure if they need storage once manufacturing begins, that's out there. Both climate controlled and non-climate controlled if that's a direction they feel appropriate. The logistics, the companies are up to move product," said Rocky Mount Chamber of Commerce President David Farris.

"I've been spending almost all of my time since last Thursday trying to help Pfizer find a storage space that they can utilize because the warehouse was the principal damage for them out there. So what we're doing is helping them locate storage space that's available that they can get into right now. Not next month, not six months from now, but right now," added Norris Tolson, who serves as President and CEO of Carolinas Gateway Partnership.

The Rocky Mount Chamber of Commerce has partnered with the United Way Tar River Region to establish a fund to assist people who sustained property damage as a result of the tornado. During a visit to the site last week, Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla pledged the company would pay workers during the closure.

Pfizer employs more than 3,200 workers and contractors and is the largest employer in Nash County.

The tornado comes less than two years after a deadly fire at the QVC Distribution Center in Rocky Mount. Months later, the company, which employed nearly 2,000 workers at the location, announced it would not be returning to the site. The lot was sold earlier this year to an out-of-state buyer.

"As we speak today, we've got four companies that are actually looking at that site either to lease or to purchase. So we're confident that sometime by year end, we'll have a deal with somebody," said Tolson.

"The whole site is cleaned up. The campus itself is ready for sale. There are several interested players out there now looking at it. But the solar farm wasn't damaged. So all the infrastructure is there," added Farris.