Since the 1990 census ranked Greenville, Goldsboro, Fayetteville, and Rocky Mount as Metropolitan Statistical Areas, their growth and economic development is exceeding larger cities to the west. This trend is predicted to continue beyond the year 2000.
For over a century agriculture has been the dominant force in Rocky Mount's economy. Now the city is in transition, moving from that economy to a nonagricultural one in order to keep the city viable and growing.
Rocky Mount, once a slumbering tobacco and railroad town, has grown as a result of out-of-state manufacturing companies building plants in the area. The Hardees enterprise also helped the local economy after establishing its headquarters in Rocky Mount.
Rocky Mount’s journey on the road to economic prosperity involved joining the old with the new. Involved with the journey were businesses such as the CSX Carolina Connector Intermodal Rail Terminal and Rocky Mount Mills, predicted to produce substantial job growth.