Olivia Holding is a community volunteer with deep roots in Johnston County. As the president of E & F Properties, Inc. and Twin States Farming, Inc. in Smithfield, she manages commercial real estate properties and her family’s farms.
She received a bachelor’s in political science from the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill in 1986 and a master’s in education from George Washington University in 1990.
At one point, Olivia was interested in joining the Foreign Service. She decided instead to work as a guidance counselor for an elementary school and, later, as the personnel director for the Camp Seafarer YMCA of the Triangle.
Eventually, the family business beckoned. The Holding family has operated First Citizens Bank & Trust Company since 1935, and her North Caroline roots run deep.
“Our family has been in North Carolina for at least five generations,” Olivia says. “We want to promote the success of the state.” Her father and grandfather were both county commissioners. “They were big advocates of economic development,” she says.
Olivia continues the family tradition of being civic-minded. She is the president of the Ella Ann L. & Frank B. Holding Foundation. She serves on several non-profit boards, including the North Carolina Coastal Federation, North Carolina Aquarium Society, Tryon Palace Commission, Environmental Defense Fund – NC Office, and Research Triangle Park Foundation.
New Bern attorney and fellow RTF board member David Ward describes Olivia as someone deeply concerned with helping her community. “She knows what’s going in in the state. Her whole family has been involved in the banking business. In her father’s generation, they principally were an eastern North Carolina bank that loaned to farmers and small companies. So she comes by giving naturally.”
Her native eastern North Carolina has benefitted from Research Triangle Park. Some ancillary industries supply good paying, high-skilled, clean-industry jobs to Johnston County residents. One of those firms includes Novo Nordisk Pharmaceutical Industries Inc., the Clayton facility manufactures insulin and prefilled delivery devices for the treatment of diabetes.
Another Park-related industry in Johnston County is Bayer CropScience, which develops seeds and products for crop protection and non-agricultural and structural pest control. The Clayton site also performs pesticide research, specifically in turf grasses and ornamentals. Olivia explains that RTP is an expensive place, some companies prefer having satellite locations, where they can operate more economically.
Like many of North Carolina’s eastern counties, Johnston County has struggled to maintain its residents. Some of the smaller towns continue to lose their populations because there are not enough jobs.
But the proximity of the county to RTP can make Johnston and other outlying counties desirable bedroom communities to Park workers and employers. Manufacturing facilities are increasing being established in communities that surround Wake and Durham. “Even though the hub is in the Triangle, you can live in Johnston, Wayne or Greene County and drive to RTP,” she explains. “They can stay in their communities and have a good job. A lot of people want to stay where their parents grew up.”
Olivia believes RTP continues on the right track of attracting national and international companies to the area. While RTP was one of the first research parks, more and more communities of innovation are popping up across the country. “Some are younger and a little edgier,” she says.
So Olivia welcomes the redevelopment of RTP as it plans for Park Center, an area that will include office space, restaurants, retail, recreation and entertainment.
“We have to have compelling reasons for business owners to stay,” she says. “And that’s not just for the new people. That’s for some of the older companies as well. They stay because of the great quality of life we have here. They stay because of the schools, entertainment, arts, and greenways.”
“The direction the Park is going is an exciting one. We are getting indications that the plan is working.”