Business North Carolina June 2024

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NEXT TECH AWARDS: 30 UNHERALDED IT STARS BIGGEST BANKS, CREDIT UNIONS AND MONEY MANAGERS | BEST EMPLOYERS | THE TOYOTA WAY JUNE 2024 Salud! Cheers! Yamas! Amber Moshakos juggles Greek, Mexican and seafood restaurants along with her core alehouse concept, one satisfied customer at a time.

My perspective regarding issues in NC has broadened. I understand how issues impact each other and how we can be part of the solution. Most of all, I really love that I have new personal and professional relationships in industries that were not on my radar. LNC has been a value-add for me!

Dr. Priscilla Ramseur, LNC Class 25

2 BUSINESS NORTH CAROLINA Leverage resources. Develop connections. Turn knowledge into action.
Chief Nursing Officer Duke Raleigh Hospital


Sean Suggs explains the “Toyota Way” and updates the status of the forthcoming giant battery plant.


Five of the 15 UNC Systems are seeking new permanent campus chancellors.


No longer a flying fancy, drones have become a necessary business tool.


Golden Corral tests a smaller-cafe concept; Chain convenience stores find a Tar Heel path; Few N.C.trained medical students choose primary care and rural practices.


Agriculture leaders seek new markets, fresh approaches. 28 ROUNDTABLE: HEALTHCARE

Health leaders discuss cost controls, better accessibility and attracting staff to serve an aging population.


Marketing outdoor recreation improves a region’s quality of life while luring visitors and employers.


Transportation businesses are driving growth in a region known for its textiles and furniture.



Buoyed by her popular burgerand-ale pubs, Amber Moshakos bets on downtown Raleigh as others depart.


Ranking the state’s biggest financial institutions and money management groups.


Meet 30 top performers making a difference at global firms, agencies and small enterprises. BY


Scenes from the Power List 2024 reception and N.C. Leadership Conference.


These businesses take the extra step to keep workers motivated.

3 JUNE 2024 June 2024, Vol. 45, No. 6 (ISSN 0279-4276). Business North Carolina is published monthly by Business North Carolina at 1230 West Morehead Street, Suite 308, Charlotte, NC 28208. Phone: 704-523-6987. All contents copyright © by Old North State Magazines LLC. Subscription rate: 1 year, $30. For change of address, send mailing label and allow six to eight weeks. Periodicals postage paid at Charlotte, NC, and additional offices. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to Business North Carolina, 1230 West Morehead Street, Suite 308, Charlotte, NC 28208 or email Start your day with business news from across the state, direct to your inbox. SIGN UP AT BUSINESSNC.COM/DAILY-DIGEST.
JUNE 2024


I've refereed youth soccer games at many di erent venues across the state. When I pass some of those elds, even many years later, I inevitably recall some regrettable, speci c decision. OK, a fan would say I made a bad call.

Seeking perfection doesn’t mean we attain it, and no one regrets an error more than the person who made it, I’ve concluded.

Our Power List 2024 was a prodigious annual project published in May. We’re proud of the chance to spotlight 500 in uential state leaders. We’re not proud of mistakes that occur when our editing and proofreading fail. ese are errors from our print edition, which have been corrected online at

BEAU CUMMINS is vice chair and chief operating officer at Truist. His responsibilities were listed incorrectly.

SCOTT HAMILTON is CEO of he Golden LEAF Foundation. His organization was listed incorrectly.

LOREN HILL is Carolina Core Regional Economic Development director. The group has helped create more than 50,300 jobs. The number listed was incorrect.

GREGORY POOLE III is CEO of Gregory Poole Equipment. His grandfather co-founded the business. It has more than 1,400 employees. His relationship to the company’s founders and the number of employees were incorrect.

LISA TUCKER is CEO of Shoe Show. The names of the Shoe Show and Shoe Show Mega brands were incorrect.

GREG WALTER is executive vice president and general manager of Charlotte Motor Speedway. His title was incorrect.

TED WHITEHURST is CEO of PB Financial, which acquired Coastal Bank & Trust in April. The acquired bank’s name and transaction date were incorrect.

DONTá WILSON is chief consumer and small business banking officer at Truist. He has an MBA from the University of Maryland and has served in leadership roles for more than 25 years at Truist and predecessor BB&T. He oversees more than 1,900 branches. His MBA school, tenure and the number of branches were incorrect.



Fayetteville Cumberland Economic Development


Best Advice: Count to 10 before you throw a stone. Whatever you believe, you may be wrong. (Paul Thorn)

Favorite passions: Music and tennis Won’t do again: Forget to ask, “Are we on the record?”

Favorite book: “Relationship Economics” by David Nour

Favorite musicians: The Dead South



Truliant Federal Credit Union


Truliant continued its rapid expansion, topping $5 billion in assets last year and building its franchise in the Triad, Charlotte and Greenville, South Carolina, markets. Hall joined the credit union in 2012 and became CEO in 2020.

Education: BS University of South Carolina, MBA, Wake Forest University

First job: Bartender while in college.

Best advice: No one can impact the amount of effort you put into your job except for you, so always out hustle your competition. (Father) Career accomplishment: CEO at Truliant Federal Credit Union.

Best life change: Marrying my wife, Shannon, 30 years ago.


CEO First Bank Southern Pines

Mayer joined the largest North Carolina community bank in 2014 after a career that included a stint at Bank of America. Starting in Troy in 1935, the bank now counts 118 branches across the Carolinas. Its First Bancorp holding company had total assets of $12 billion as of Dec. 31, up 14% from a year earlier.

Education: BS Clemson University

Best advice: Never bet against the Fed. Favorite passion: Spending time at the beach, and playing golf.

Person I admire: My daughter, Virginia Mayer. She combines IQ and EQ in just the right measures.

Never do again: Making the mistake of saying something I’d never do again.

DAVID REA President

Salem Investment Counselors Winston-Salem

Rea and Salem have concentrated on high quality companies with good growth prospects since 2007. CityWire named it the state’s fastest growing investment advisor last year, while USA Today and CNBC have rated it among the best U.S. financial advisory firms.

Education: BA Wabash College; MBA Indiana University; JD Wake Forest University

What would a competitor say: Smart, honest and experienced.

Best advice: Work hard and have fun. (Dad) Favorite book: “Lessons in Chemistry” by Bonnie Garmus

Career accomplishment: CNBC ranking our firm No. 1 nationally.

Best life change: Switching to finance from law.

David Mildenberg is editor of Business North Carolina. Contact him at


EDITOR David Mildenberg





CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Ray Gronberg, Cooper Metz





ACCOUNT DIRECTOR Melanie Weaver Lynch, eastern N.C. 919-855-9380


CIRCULATION: 818-286-3106

EDITORIAL: 704-523-6987


OWNERS Jack Andrews, Frank Daniels III, David Woronoff, in memoriam Frank Daniels Jr.

PUBLISHED BY Old North State Magazines LLC


VOLUME 45, NO. 6



Toyota North Carolina Battery Manufacturing President Sean Suggs joined High Point University President Nido Qubein in the Power List interview, a partnership for discussion with some of the state’s most influential leaders. Business North Carolina’s annual Power List publication spotlights the state’s powerbrokers.

Sean Suggs oversees the state’s biggest economic development prize, a Toyota operation that expects to entail an investment of $14 billion and employ 5,000 within four years. The automaker has already hired 700 for the Randolph County site. Toyota is making its Liberty operation an essential hub as the industry transitions from gasconsumption vehicles to hybrid and electric options. Suggs grew up in Maryland and served in the military before starting his 26year career at a Toyota plant near Evansville, Indiana. He has an MBA from Auburn University. This story includes excerpts from Suggs’ interview and was edited for clarity.

How did a gentleman born in Maryland and who served in the Army for eight years rise to be president of Toyota Battery Manufacturing?

I have been very, very blessed in my life to have had a lot of adventures, starting in Maryland, moving to Indiana, joining the military, which helped me pay for college. I got my bachelor’s degree at Oakland City University [in Indiana.] ere was a golden opportunity at the Toyota truck plant in Indiana, and I was one of the new hires. Eight promotions later, I sit before you today as the president of Toyota North Carolina Battery. It’s been a phenomenal ride. It started 26 years ago. You cannot do that without having a great team and great leaders around me and surrounding me.

Well, you’ve certainly earned it, Sean. Toyota is investing something like $14 billion in building the North Carolina site. Tell us about that.

It’s the largest investment in our company’s history. It’s also the largest investment in North Carolina. We feel like the electri cation movement is real; however, we also believe in a multi-pathway approach. North Carolina o ered us everything we needed, including the infrastructure. e talent pool is amazing. It’s all in this area, and we’re going to try to take full advantage of that, giving the customers exactly what they need from a hybrid, plug-in hybrid and all electric battery. We feel like what we’re going to produce here is going to provide batteries for all the vehicles in North America production. at’s our goal.

I read that the size of the plant is going to equal something like 1,300 times the size of a football field. I can’t even imagine that?

e site is 2 by 2 miles. It’s 1,800 acres, and we’ll build on about 1,000 acres, with seven solid buildings there. e smallest building will be about 500,000 square feet, and the largest will be 1 million square feet, and we’ll have three of those. e most important thing that we’re excited about is we’re going to employ 5,000 people and we’ll be able to impact 5,000 families and their lives. We’re really excited about that.

Where do you find these people, Sean?

e good news is in the 12-county area where our plant is located, there’s 1.7 million people. So we’re going to take full advantage of the population, the population growth, and the partnerships that we’ve already established with the community colleges and great universities throughout the state. We also believe that the Toyota Way is attractive to people that want to try something new in an innovative company. We’ve already hired more than 700 people in a short period of time, and we haven’t had any issues to date.

with Nido Qubein

What is the Toyota Way?

That is something that is ingrained in all of our team members. It’s continuous improvement and respect for people. We’re always looking for a better way, every single day, to make our company better. Most important is the respect for people. We treat everyone with dignity and respect, and it’s a core principle for us. So when a new hire comes in, from day one to twenty-six years later, we hope they have that passion. That respect for people is paramount.

You started with Toyota making pickup trucks?

Yes, the original Tundra was built in Indiana. It has since moved to San Antonio, Texas. But that plant in Indiana started with 1,200 team members, and now it’s got 7,000. We believe similar growth will happen in North Carolina.

Where was your last assignment with Toyota?

It was at our headquarters in Plano, Texas, as the diversity officer and social innovation officer. I was able to impact the enterprise with great initiatives on helping children and to help support 360 services in all of our operating communities. I had a great time there, but when this opportunity came up, I was like wow, I’ve got to get to North Carolina.

When Toyota hires thousands of people, do you get push back from other companies already here who are saying, “I’m worried about you taking some of my people?”

Our approach is to be the best in town, and then best in the state, and then best in the country, best in North America, etc. We just keep our head down and focus on what we can control. When I’m having conversations with other CEOs in the area, I believe there’s a big old ocean out there. North Carolina is the ninth-largest populated state with 10.9 million people. So I think there’s enough for all of us.

When I think of you and when I talk to people about you, the word “leader” comes out. Extraordinary leader. You have been able to develop leadership skills that clearly have brought you up the ladder to be responsible for such a mega investment. What is it that makes you a good leader?

Thanks for the compliment. Three key things that I try to focus on are energy, excellence and evolution. I try to bring a high energy because I think team members follow people with passion.

What is energy? What does that mean?

When I wake up in the morning, every single day I’m trying to make a difference in the lives of the people that we employ. That’s a really important thing to me. Leading by example is really important. And we’re always trying to strive for excellence and being the best that we can be in any given field. And evolution, it goes back to the Japanese word “kaizen” that we use in Toyota, or continuous improvement, we’re always looking for a better way.

When you speak to young people at a college campus or some new hires, what are the traits you look for?

We hope that every applicant that wants to come to us is intrigued by something new and better. If they are, we’ve got a place for them. We’re always looking for someone with integrity. That’s a big deal for our company. And we try to sense early, are they a person that has that “respect for people” trait? Are they a person that’s a critical thinker? Are they always trying to look for a better way? If they have those qualities, we can take care of the rest.

We have training centers in our site that can take a person who has no skill, similar to me 26 years ago. I had no automotive experience and Toyota gave me the basics and fundamentals. I will tell you, 26 years later, those fundamental traits never leave you.

What are those basics?

It’s the Toyota Way, but most importantly when you build things, it’s the Toyota production system. It’s how we actually produce things, in a “just in time” fashion, always looking for ways to eliminate waste and take care of the customer. Those principles are big deals for us because we’re doing things in seconds and minutes.

When you say we’re doing something in seconds and minutes, give me an example. What does that mean?

For example, if you went to a truck or car factory, we produce a car and a truck in every minute and a half or two minutes. You take our battery world, we’re going to be doing multiple cells in 20 to 30 seconds.

What is it that you worry about? You have a big responsibility, but you don’t look worried to me. You look relaxed.

I am, and let me tell you why. One of the things I’ve never forgotten is being a frontline supervisor. I’ve never forgotten that, and I lead that way every single day. No matter what position I’ve had in my company, I’ve always tried to have the opinion that I’ve got to take care of the line team members first. They’re my No. 1 priority. The second thing is that you’ve got to have a world-class team to help you. You can hire great leaders with the same character and principles, making your job so much easier. The other thing is the state of North Carolina has been wonderful. They’ve helped us out with everything that we’ve asked for. They’ve delivered the infrastructure and everything that we’ve needed. So it makes my job so much easier.

You don’t have any concerns about, you know, I’m not going to meet the goal for this month? I’m going to get the big guys in headquarters calling me, saying, listen, your efficiency is not as high?

Now, I’d be foolish to say there won’t be any bumps in the road. But we treat those bumps just like they are, not the entire road because we know there’s a strong journey and a pathway forward for us.

Your grandmother lived in Rocky Mount and you still have family there, right?

I still have aunts there, and cousins. I try to make my way back there to see them all the time. I’ve been very blessed, and I’m trying to represent my family as well as the team members.

Did you have adversity in your life?

Absolutely. Growing up the youngest out of seven kids, the first one to graduate high school, growing up in the inner city of Baltimore. Now since then, they’ve gone on to do great things, but I was the first to go 12 years through school and graduate, the first one to get my college degree. So I’ve seen a lot of adversity and I felt a long time ago that I wanted more and better, and I’ve been able to achieve a lot of those great things through the grace that I’ve had.

You exude excellence at every level, but as a man of color, you are an example to so many of all backgrounds. Are you doing stuff in the Black community to say to young men and young women, “yes you can”?

Absolutely. I’ve written three books. One is about my life. One is about leadership. And the other one is about a passion that I have about golf. I’ve played golf in all 50 states. It’s actually my stress reliever. It took me 20 years, but I finally knocked it out.

But to answer your question specifically on the give-back, my wife and I have a scholarship fund for underserved communities. We set it up five years ago. It’s going really well. Any time that I can speak or engage with anyone from a diverse perspective, I’m all in, because my story can be replicated, I really do believe that. ■

7 JUNE 2024


Five UNC campuses are on the hunt for new chancellors.

elp wanted signs are up at the top rungs of several North Carolina campuses these days, with Appalachian State University’s Sheri Everts and Campbell’s J. Bradley Creed among the latest to create work for search committees.

HOther campuses seeking permanent chancellors include the following:

N.C. Central, where Johnson Akinleye is retiring at the end of June after leading the Durham school since 2014.

UNC Chapel Hill, where interim chancellor Lee Roberts succeeded Kevin Guskiewicz in January.

Winston-Salem State University, where Elwood Robinson retired last June after seven years. Provost Anthony Graham is interim chancellor.

N.C. A&T State University, where Harold Martin is retiring in September after leading the Greensboro campus since 2009.

Separately, Randy Woodson, chancellor of N.C. State University, is widely expected to retire after his current contract expires in June 2025. He’s led the state’s largest campus for 15 years.

The average tenure of university presidents is five years, reflecting the pressures of attracting students as the traditional college-age population plateaus, raising money and dealing with constant controversies such as the recent protests over the war in Gaza.

Appalachian State joined that list in April, when Everts said she would step down within a week of notifying UNC System President

Peter Hans, citing “significant health challenges.” Heather Norris, the provost since 2020, was promptly named interim chancellor.

Everts’ move came a month after trustees Chair Mark Ricks criticized the chancellor and her staff for what he termed “a failure of process” in their handling of the university’s plan to bring emergency dispatching for its campus police in-house. The move sparked considerable criticism from elected leaders of Boone and Watauga County, which established a consolidated 911 center less than two years ago.

Ricks said the administration had “advanced this initiative without engaging our opinion,” even as it was “blindsiding town residents.”

Under UNC rules, management and oversight is largely the responsibility of the system office in Raleigh, with trustees serving in a mostly advisory role.

Appalachian State showed strong enrollment growth during Everts’ decade-long tenure, and she helped negotiate the addition of a second campus in Hickory. Like many university leaders, she had her share of quarrels, including a “no-confidence” resolution passed by the Appalachian State Faculty Senate in 2020.

“The trajectory of the university has been going in the right direction,” says ex-trustee Bob Hatley, the former CEO of Raleigh’s Paragon Bank. “The reputation of Appalachian State has continued to increase, the enrollment has increased, its national reputation has been increasing.” Hans praised Everts’ tenure as “a time of growth and momentum for Appalachian State.”

Appalachian State University Interim Chancellor Heather Norris.

The five UNC System searches are happening after approval of a revised policy that allows Board of Governors members to take part in the searches. Under the new rules, the system president appoints a search committee of as many as 13 voting members, which includes the president, the BOG chair or a designee, and the BOG member who is the designated liaison to the university seeking a new leader. A sitting or retired chancellor from another UNC campus is also required, along with faculty, staff, student and alumni representatives.

At least three finalists are submitted to the system president, who then chooses a nominee for a vote by the BOG. (If the president doesn’t like the choices, he can send the slate back to the Board of Trustees.)

On the private college front, Creed announced plans to retire next year, ending a 10-year run at the helm of the university based in Buies Creek, one hour east of Raleigh. Creed is only the fifth president in Campbell’s 137-year history. A national search for his successor is planned.

Creed oversaw Campbell’s most successful capital campaign, raising $105 million. It was a key factor in the development of the Oscar N. Harris Student Union, which opened in 2020.

“After more than 30 years of leadership in higher education, I’m eager to take on other projects and to spend more time with my loving wife, children, and grandchildren,” Creed said in a release. Creed was dean at the George W. Truett Theological Seminary at Baylor University in Texas when Campbell tapped him for its top post in 2015. He also had been provost at Samford University in Alabama.

Campbell’s Wiggins School of Law is based in downtown Raleigh, and it maintains additional satellite campuses in Fort Liberty/Pope Air Force Base and at Camp Lejeune.

During the Fall 2023 semester, the university had approximately 5,100 students, including about 2,800 undergraduates. It also runs the only osteopathic medical school in North Carolina.

Campbell was led by founder James Campbell from 1887 until he died in 1934. His son, Leslie, was president until 1967, followed by Norman Wiggins, Jerry Wallace and Creed. ■













9 JUNE 2024
Interim UNC Chapel Hill Chancellor Lee Roberts Harold Martin chancellor of North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University.


No longer curiosities, drones are making a sweeping impact across many industries.

This may be the decade when drones become mainstream business tools with artificial intelligence capabilities. There seems to be momentum.

The Federal Aviation Administration counts the number of remote pilots, namely people who have passed the Part 107 exam. This is a significant number because you take the Part 107 course if you want to fly a drone for business purposes, more than just operating a little drone for recreation.

By the end of last year, the FAA says, 368,883 remote pilot certifications had been issued. It predicts commercial drone activities will require more than 472,269 remote pilots by 2028. That 28% increase does not include the operators of large drones. All told, there are probably more than 1 million drones out there, with many used for recreation.

Our large universities are big into drones, such as N.C. State University’s Center for Geospatial Analytics. Elizabeth City State has an unmanned aircraft system degree program. East Carolina University has a research program for drone applications. UNC Chapel Hill has a drone lab, and UNC Wilmington does coastal mapping with drones.

But a lot of the training in North Carolina will happen in the 58 community colleges, which are well-positioned for basic commercial training. Community colleges respond quickly to businesses and public safety organizations that need training.


In late April, I attended Drone Safety Day at Vance-Granville Community College, whose main campus sits off Interstate 85 between Oxford and Henderson. There were lots of drones and presentations about the college’s training programs. During a break, I got a tour of the drone soccer setup, which looks like a batting cage in the basement. Youngsters fly drones encased in plastic and try to score goals.

“Drone soccer is something for everyone,” says Derek Parker, a Vance County school employee who started the training as a way to engage students in the science and engineering that surrounds building, flying and repairing these machines.

Vance-Granville, which serves more than 5,000 students from four counties, got into drones in 2021 as part of a U.S. Department of Agriculture grant to create more ag-business career pathways in a sector that had huge technological potential. In 2022, the college’s foundation won a $50,000 grant from the National Association for Community College Entrepreneurship and then received $107,000 from the Cannon Foundation of Concord.

Buying drones for commercial use is not cheap. An Agras T30 spray-and-seed combo drone can run around $20,000 or more. A multispectral drone, which can assess the condition of a crop, can run $5,000.

“We’re slowly adding more capabilities to the program,” says Ken Wilson, the college grants

Ben Poulin

administrator. “We’ve come a lot further down the road than where we were three years ago. We’re pretty well-equipped now.”

Granville County wants help doing drone inspections of its facilities because that’s “easier than paying guys to get up on the roof and do that thing.” The college has also been approached by law enforcement for training.

“I think the sky’s the limit,” Wilson says. “We really haven’t introduced it yet to all the farmers in the area. We have a lot of farmers who could benefit from drone technology.”

One of the presenters at Drone Safety Day was Mikayla Berryhill, a field crops extension specialist in Oxford and a 2020 N.C. State grad. Her presence was significant because drone-savvy extension agents can help spread the word to farmers.

“I take a special interest in drones,” she says, “because I think they have a lot of promise in agriculture.” In areas with smaller farms, crop-dusting with planes is difficult. Small fields are surrounded by power lines. Drones can do it more safely.

Drones with sensors, which Berryhill calls a fancy way of saying cameras, can take images of fields to show where crops are in trouble. Maybe they aren’t getting enough water. “Sometimes you can detect problems before we can visually see them,” she says.

Drones can also spray and fertilize fields when they are too muddy for ground vehicles.

She talked about going to the farm show in Raleigh, “And I saw so many drones. It’s crazy how many drones.”


Last fall, I was at a drone air show at Washington-Warren Airport, around five miles from the Beaufort County Community College campus. That is where I met Justin Rose, who is in charge of the college’s industrial training, and he connected me with Ben Poulin, who runs Beaufort’s drone program.

The college is a good base for drone training because its fourcounty service area is the largest in the state, covering nearly 2,200 square miles of land between the Pamlico River and Albemarle Sound and Ocracoke on the Outer Banks. That’s a lot of farms and forests and water, and folks who could benefit from drone services.

“Everybody we’re talking to recognizes the application,” says Poulin. The rangers from Goose Creek State Park came in recently for training. Poulin also had folks from the N.C. Marine Patrol, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the N.C. Forest Service in the building at the same time.

“Everybody’s looking for these classes,” adds Poulin. “Over the last three months, we probably had 60 to 70 people who moved through the Part 107 exam.” Remember, this is not a huge community college. Beaufort had a fall headcount of 4,100, one-tenth of Wake Tech’s.

Poulin drew an analogy to web design 30 years ago. It required computer skills, while a lot of businesses didn’t have websites. “Now every business is using it and everybody can make their own website pretty easily,” he says. “I think we’re following a similar trajectory when it comes to UAS operations.

“Our job, as we see it, is to help out businesses who are either aware that drones should be something that they are implementing, and help them, or introduce the technology to those who aren’t aware.”

To move things along, Poulin creating an outdoor drone training course on campus with the help of local businesses. Tideland EMC is donating utility poles, power lines and other equipment. There will be a simulated cell tower and a simulated solar farm. Poulin says he’s not aware of a similar training facility at a public institution.


But there’s more at stake here than imaging corn and inspecting roofs, as worthy as those applications are. There are national security implications. One of the military’s top priorities is more capable and lethal drones and counter-drone technology.

The military will need recruits to fly, program and maintain drones. I thought of this when I saw the drone soccer cage at VanceGranville. I thought it might be interesting for the youngsters to visit Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point. In April, the drone training squadron got the components of their first MQ-9A Reaper UAV, which they assembled. It is a $31 million piece of equipment.

I mentioned that idea to Wilson, who replied: “If someone called and said would you like to come down, there’d be people on that bus.”■

Veteran journalist Dan Barkin writes the NC Military Report newsletter for Business NC. He can be reached at

11 JUNE 2024
At Vance-Granville Community College’s soccer drone cage, Ken Wilson (right) joins Derek Parker and his son, Benjamin. Mikayla Berryhill


Raleigh’s Golden Corral examines a concept apart from its famous buffet line.

Raleigh-based Golden Corral is looking to o er a simpler alternative to family dining with a pilot project just outside of downtown Southern Pines.

Called Homeward Kitchen, the 3,500-squarefoot restaurant o ers drive-thru, carry-out and delivery as well as dine-in options, and a menu that ranges from egg bowls for breakfast to salads and sandwiches for lunch as well as Golden Corral staples such as pot roast and fried chicken. Such comfort food has been a mainstay of local independent restaurants, many of which have faced tough sledding because of pressures from the pandemic, labor shortages and in ation.

And it’s an attempt by Golden Corral to address what COVID exposed in its core business. Relying solely on in-house dining crippled the company. is Homeward Kitchen opened in December, and CEO Lance Trenary is optimistic about its potential. He says a second will open in Richmond, Virginia, this fall and the company believes there’s a potential for 500 locations across the country. At a target of $3 million in revenue per restaurant, that’s a potential additional $1.5 billion in revenue for the company, owned by Raleigh’s Investors Management.

“We’ve had a lot of inquiries from franchisees and outside investors looking to build a Homeward Kitchen,” says Trenary. “We’re the ones kind of holding it back, saying let us continue to work on the concept and make sure the model is working well.”

To be sure, Trenary believes Golden Corral restaurants have growth potential. at’s an understatement, given that

the chain’s 400-plus restaurants reported average same-store sales gains of 14% in 2023, when the company scored $1.5 billion in revenue. Coming out of the pandemic obviously was a factor, but such growth was strong by any measure. Homeward Kitchen provides another, less capital-intensive way to expand.

While the typical Golden Corral sits on 2 to 3 acres and the building size is between 10,000 square feet and 12,000 square feet, a Homeward Kitchen needs just about threequarters of an acre and a building that’s between 3,000 square feet and 3,500 square feet. at provides more opportunities for locations. “Lowering the entry costs gives our franchisees a broader portfolio,” says Trenary. “ at’s where the fast-casual idea started surfacing.”

e Southern Pines location is in a remodeled Chickl-A, while a Super Target and BJ’s Wholesale are opening on adjacent property. Trenary says early outside research suggests that customers like the exibility o ered by a Homeward Kitchen, but the concept needs tweaking. “We’re not doing the volume that we expected,” he says. “But when you’re launching a completely new concept with no brand visibility, it’s di cult to get o the ground.”

Among the changes being considered: Adding more healthy options to the menu, and changing how customers order takeout and delivery on the Homeward Kitchen website. e company is also launching some catering options. Customers so far are trending slightly younger than Golden Corral clientele.

“We haven’t gotten any credit for family meal replacement,” adds Trenary, citing an industry term for less home-cooking

NC TREND ››› Restaurants

and more take-out dining. “ at’s really a sweet spot for us. But we haven’t gotten that word out well. You can come through our drive-thru and order a pot roast and two or three vegetables, homemade bread pudding. It doesn’t have to be fast food.”

Trenary also foresees reducing the seating space inside to about 75 seats from more than 100 currently. More than 60% of the initial sales are from drive-thru and take out.

ere’s no Golden Corral near the Southern Pines location, and Trenary says he’s not comfortable putting one within ve miles of its core restaurant to protect the business of current franchisees. e Richmond Homeward Kitchen is about eight miles away from the nearest Golden Corral.

“My gut feel is three to ve miles,” says Trenary, “depending on the density of the market. We see this playing out well in dense, metropolitan markets.”

e company will place the rst half-dozen Homeward Kitchen locations in the Carolinas and Virginia, he adds, so that it can keep close tabs on their performance. It’s also hired a vice president of operations to oversee Homeward Kitchen, a signal to Golden Corral franchisees that it’s not taking away anything from the core operation. Trenary says the company is looking in Charlotte, and he’d like to have one closer to his Raleigh o ce.

“As we moved through COVID, it became evident that we needed to think about di erent access points to our customers,” says Trenary. “Our business model was shut down. at’s what really launched this work. And Homeward Kitchen answers a lot of questions for us.” ■

Lance Trenary became president and CEO of Golden Corral in 2015 after spending 12 years as chief operating officer and 11 years as senior vice president of company operations. He started in the industry at the age of 8, washing dishes in his father’s restaurant.

13 JUNE 2024
JUNE 2024


Wawa and Royal Farms gas their growth engines in North Carolina.

North Carolina remains a popular state for large convenience store operators seeking growth, with Northeast chains Wawa and Royal Farms debuting in the state in May. They’re hoping to show similar success as rivals Sheetz, which showed up in North Carolina in 2004, and QuikTrip, which has become a Charlotte powerhouse after entering in 2012.

Wawa opened the first of 90 planned locations in North Carolina in mid-May in Kill Devil Hills. Four days later, Baltimore-based Royal Farms continued its southward in-state expansion, opening a location in Lumberton. Then there’s Buc-ee’s, the Texas-based chain building its first North Carolina location along Interstate 85 in Mebane in Alamance County. It will include a 74,000-square-foot building and 120 gas pumps.

An industry leader doubts these newcomers will overthrow current market leaders. Instead, the state is a high-growth area that marks a corridor for regional expansion plans, says Jeff Lenard, vice president of strategic industry initiatives at the National Association of Convenience Stores.

“Nobody is looking to get into an area and fight it out for market share,” says Lenard. “Especially in [an area] with a lot of great operators. They see opportunity instead.”

Wawa is a family-owned company that opened its first food store in a Philadelphia suburb in 1964, and still operates most of its 950 stores in the Northeast. But it opened its first Virginia store in 1998, then moved into Florida in 2012. Now, Media, Pennsylvaniabased Wawa is trying to fill in its

East Coast footprint by expanding in eastern North Carolina. Other locations have been announced in Elizabeth City, Goldsboro, Rocky Mount and Wilson.

Baltimore-based Royal Farms similarly views North Carolina as a viable expansion zone. It has more than 300 stores in five states, and opened its first North Carolina store in Grandy in Currituck County in May. It also plans a similar 5,300-squarefoot store in Greenville.

The scouting process for new convenience stores has evolved from counting cars driving by a site to using census information to determine where population growth will translate into consistent business for breakfast, lunch and dinner consumers, says Lenard.

“What we’re increasingly seeing is the model where people are going to the store because they want to go to that store, and oh by the way, get gas,” he adds. “The biggest reason they want to go to a specific store is because of the food.”

Convenience stores can differentiate themselves by specializing in a certain type of food, says Lenard. Wawa features hoagies, while Royal Farms specializes in chicken.

Two major convenience-store newcomers have scored major success in penetrating North Carolina over the past two decades. Tulsa’s Cadieux family owns QuikTrip, which operates more than 1,000 stores in 17 states. Its first North Carolina store opened in Indian Trail in Union County in 2012. There are now about 45 locations in the Charlotte market.

Sheetz has built a huge presence in the Triad and Triangle since


entering the state in 2004. It plans to expand to the Asheville market this year. Altoona, Pennsylvania-based Sheetz, which is also family owned, operates about 700 stores in six states, from Pennsylvania to North Carolina.

Nationally, the convenience-store industry remains dominated by international operators Circle K and 7-11, which are owned by French and Japanese companies, respectively. Circle K is the largest convenience store chain in North Carolina with nearly 400 locations, according to data firm ScrapeHero. It’s planning a store this fall in Wilson that will include a Krystal restaurant.

“If they’re (Circle K) known as the convenience store in the area where you can get Krystal, then that sets them apart,” says Lenard. “All these other places [...] aren’t necessarily known for their burgers, so that’s quite a differentiator.”

7-Eleven has about 9,500 U.S. convenience stores and also operates about 3,800 Speedway stores, which Japanese owner Seven & I Holdings acquired from Marathon Petroleum for $21 billion in 2021.

Today’s convenience stores offer a much broader variety of products than a decade ago, making them competitive with drug stores and other retail outlets for items beyond snacks and beverages.


Boviet Solar, a Chinese-owned company based in Vietnam, plans to create 908 jobs in Pitt County with a $294 million investment for its North American solar panel manufacturing facility.

The company will initially use a former Denso Manufacturing cars-parts factory just north of Greenville to make photovoltaic modules for residential and commercial customers. About 475 jobs disappeared in 2022 when Japan’s Denso opted for a consolidation of its operations in North America. It still has factories in Salisbury and Statesville.

It’s the first phase of Boviet’s project that will eventually include a new factory covering more than 500,000 square feet, officials say. The state is providing an $8.3 million Job Development Investment Grant, payable over 12 years, if the company delivers on its promises. Other state and local incentives total more than $25 million.

“We don’t take opportunities and investments like this for granted,” Gov. Roy Cooper said at the announcement, according to the Daily Reflector of Greenville.

Boviet is a subsidiary of the Boway Group, a Chinese electronics and manufacturing conglomerate. It was part of a federal investigation in 2022 over tariff-dodging charges

“It’s always good news when you have a bunch of competitors entering the market,” says Lenard. “That just means that all of them have to up their game, and it’s just to entice customers. That’s always good news.” ■

involving several Southeast Asian companies. But the feds cleared Boviet and other targets of the probe, though the U.S. Department of Commerce found that some companies were circumventing tariffs.

The company plans to build two gigawatts of PV cells per year, making up the building blocks that go into PV modules. Setting up a factory here “will allow us to bring ‘Made in USA’ products to the market,” said Scott Chen, Boviet’s vice president of global sales and marketing.

Boviet said the second-phase factory construction will occur on 34 acres, and that the overall project will become its first factory outside Vietnam. Jobs will have an average salary exceeding the Pitt County average of nearly $51,000. ■

15 JUNE 2024
State officals celebrated Boviet Solar’s expansion at an April ceremony in Greenville. Wawa says it invests about $7 million in each store, with a typical payroll of about 35 people. The 950-store chain plans about 90 sites in eastern North Carolina, with an emphasis on the Wilmington market.


Newly minted N.C. med-school grads opt against primary care, rural options.

It’s proving as di cult as ever to turn graduates of North Carolina’s public and private medical schools into primary care doctors — and to convince the few who do to practice in the 55 counties labeled as rural.

Only 14% of the state’s 2018 cohort of med-school graduates were training or practicing primary care medicine in North Carolina ve years later, the UNC Area Health Education Centers noted in its annual report for legislators in April. at’s 84 out of 597 physicians trained by the medical schools at UNC Chapel Hill, East Carolina, Duke, Wake Forest and Campbell universities.

at number isn’t improving much. Ten years a er graduating, just 10% of the 2013 med-school cohort were practicing in primary care in North Carolina, the report says.

at’s 45 out of 445.

Moreover, just 14 of the 2018 group, or 2.4%, and six from the 2013 group, or 1.3%, were working in the 55 N.C. rural counties. e state has 100 counties.

e data isn’t much di erent from what AHEC has reported for years. Most physicians graduate with signi cant debt, and working in primary care tends to be less lucrative than most medical specialties. Family medicine doctors, internists, and pediatricians tend to average $250,000 to $275,000 of annual compensation, while orthopedists, cardiologists and other specialists earn twice as much on average, according to various industry pay surveys.

“ e current average debt of graduating medical students

nationally is now about $200,000,” and many well- nanced large health systems o en provide better recruiting incentives and salaries, the AHEC report says.

Dr. Jesse Ehrenfeld, the president of the American Medical Association, last year called the physician shortage a “public health crisis.”

From 12% to 17% of graduating cohorts between 2010 and 2017 were training or practicing in primary care in North Carolina ve years a er graduating, the report notes. Only 1% to 3% of N.C. medical school graduates were practicing primary care in rural N.C. ve years a er graduating, AHEC adds.

ECU’s Brody School of Medicine traditionally sends a larger share of its graduates into primary care and rural areas than its N.C. peers. Of the 2018 cohort, 16, or nearly a quarter of the class, are in primary care. at compares with 31 UNC graduates, or 18% of its class. e Greenville program is smaller than UNC School of Medicine.

Of the private medical schools, Campbell has become a bigger factor in the eld than Duke or Wake Forest. Twenty-six Campbell graduates were in primary care, versus six from Wake Forest and ve from Duke.

None of the Wake Forest or Duke–trained physicians were working in rural counties. UNC and Campbell had ve each in rural counties, and ECU had four.

“Primary care physicians are the cornerstone of the state’s healthcare safety net” says Steve Lawler, president and CEO of the N.C. Healthcare Association, which represents hospitals. “Communities with a strong primary care presence are healthier

NC TREND ››› Education

and have better access to care. “North Carolina is blessed to have several outstanding medical schools, such as ECU and UNC, that focus on training primary care physicians. It is wise to continue to invest in the programs that train and graduate students who stay in North Carolina.”

AHEC de nes “primary care,” as family medicine, general internal medicine, general pediatric medicine, internal medicine-pediatrics, and obstetrics and gynecology.

Meanwhile, just 12 of the 597 N.C. graduates from 2018 went into psychiatry in the state. None are practicing in a rural county.

To address the situation, legislators and the UNC System are expanding East Carolina with a $265 million medical school building expected to start construction early next year. It is slated for completion in the fall of 2027, with ECU’s annual class size growing to as many as 120 students. It graduated 81 in 2019, according to AHEC.

Also, AHEC says it’s been talking to o cials at UNC and ECU about a pilot program to recruit students from rural communities into medical school, making sure there’s a “community health service track” for them to follow. More residency opportunities in rural areas would also be needed, along with e orts to eliminate medical-school debt incurred by would-be rural doctors. ■


UNC Chapel Hill - 168 Campbell - 151 Wake Forest - 105 Duke - 102 East Carolina - 71

Source: UNC Area Health Education Centers


Li Industries, a Charlotte-area company that is developing lithium-ion battery recycling technologies, raised $36 million from investors including units affiliated with Bosch, LG and Chevron.

Li expects to raise as much as $42 million in the current funding round, which would bring its total private funding to more than $50 million since its founding in 2017. The company says the money will be used to construct a 10,000-ton recycling facility.

“Our investors bring invaluable resources, experience and commercial partnerships that are essential for us to successfully scale and commercialize,” CEO and co-founder Zheng Li said in a release.

The investors include Bosch Ventures, Khosla Ventures and LG Tech Ventures, Anglo American Decarbonization Ventures and Chevron Technology Ventures. Previous investors have included Shell Ventures.

The company operates a 500-ton battery recycling site and a 1,000-ton battery sorting location, both in Mecklenburg County.

“They are the first and only company in the U.S. capable of economically and sustainably recycling low/no cobalt batteries,” said Ingo Ramesohl, managing director at Bosch Ventures.

Zheng Li has bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Chinese universities and a Ph.D. in materials science and engineering from State University of New York, Binghamton. Li Industries’ research is being guided in part by SUNY Professor Stanley Whittingham, who won the Nobel Prize in chemistry in 2019.

Li has been a professor at Virginia Tech University since 2016 after post-doctoral work at MIT.

Li Industries’ co-founder is Nolan Schmidt, a former vice president at BAE Systems, a large defense contractor where he led a $1.3 billion division that produced electricpowered vehicles. ■

17 JUNE 2024
A Campbell University medical school graduate celebrates matching at Wake Forest University for a pediatric residency. LI Industries’ lithium-ion battery recycling facility in Pineville.




Four law enforcement officers were killed, and five others injured, while attempting to serve a warrant. It was the deadliest attack on U.S. law enforcement since 2016. Those killed were: U.S. Marshal Thomas Weeks Jr., Sam Poloche and Alden Elliot with the N.C. Department of Adult Correction, and Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officer Joshua Eyer. The suspect was also killed.

The Charlotte Regional Business Alliance boa rd tapped retired Bank of America executive Andrea Smith to serve as interim CEO as the organization seeks a permanent leader. Smith replaces Janet LaBar, who announced she was leaving the organization she had led since 2019.

Clean Juice is being acquired by Dallas-based Brix Holdings, a multibrand restaurant portfolio company.

Adding 75 existing Clean Juice locations brings the portfolio company’s national footprint to about 300 locations across eight brands.

The National Transportation Safety Board concluded a loose bolt and other improperly installed hardware caused a Nov. 22, 2022, helicopter crash that killed pilot Chip Tayag and WBTV meteorologist Jason Myers. The helicopter was owned by Metro Networks Communications .

Florida-based First Watch Restaurant Group spent $75 million to purchase 21 franchise-owned restaurants in North Carolina and corresponding development rights in North Carolina. The restaurant chain has at least 28 locations in North Carolina, including in Clemmons, Winston-Salem and Greensboro, but mostly focused in the Charlotte area and the Triangle.

The Charlotte Hornets NBA team named Shelly Cayette-Weston as president of business operations, which include the Spectrum Center. She had worked for the Cleveland Cavaliers since 2012, most recently as senior vice

president of global partnerships. She succeeds Fred Whitfield, who had led the team’s business side for 17 years.


Davidson College plans a $100 million renovation of its library, including permanently relocating about half of its collection. It’s the largest capital project in the private school’s history. The project received $85 million in combined gifts from the Duke Endowment and Bob Abernethy, a businessman and Davidson native.


A Chinese battery parts company plans to invest $140 million to build its first U.S. manufacturing plant in Lincoln County. Green New Energy Materials makes a key component used in lithium-ion batteries and plans to employ 545 workers.


Charlotte-based Albemarle’s plans to reopen a lithium mine here has hit a roadblock due to the collapse in lithium


prices. The mine could produce enough material to manufacture 1.2 million electric vehicles annually. Albemarle has not set a precise date for the mine to become operational but is preparing to initiate the permitting process.


Illinois-based Medline Industries , a medical supply company, will close its distribution center here by this summer resulting in the loss of about 220 jobs. About 20 workers will be offered a chance to stay with the company and relocate to Mebane, where Medline opened a 1.2 million square-foot distribution center last year that could eventually employ 600 in Orange County.


About 7,100 United Auto Workers at Daimler Truck, which makes Freightliner and Western Star trucks and Thomas Built buses in North Carolina, won 25% pay raises and cost of living allowances in a new contract. In North Carolina, the contract covers Freightliner workers in Cleveland (2,300), Mount Holly (2,000) and Gastonia (1,000), and Thomas Built Bus workers in High Point (1,800).


Kewaunee Scientific , which has a lmost 1,000 employees, ended its pension plan. The health care and laboratory furniture maker transferred approximately $17.7 million of pension obligations to group annuity contracts. The company also contributed approximately $300,000 to the pension plan, which is intended to fully fund the company’s remaining defined benefit pension liabilities. Pension benefits to which plan participants and their beneficiaries are entitled will not change.



Boviet Solar says it will create 908 new jobs in Pitt County with a $294 million investment for its first North American solar panel manufacturing factory. Boviet Solar, which is based in Vietnam and is Chinese owned, makes solar panels and photovoltaic cells and does solar projects for commercial, industrial and residential customers in the U.S.


Wilmington-based Intracoastal Angler plans to grow with two new locations here. The expansion “marks a significant milestone” for the long-time fishing gear and tackle shop, according to a release.


Tri-Tech Forensics, which makes fingerprint kits and evidence bags for local and state agencies, among other products, has acquired SAM Medical for an undisclosed amount. SAM Medical, which is based in Portland, Oregon, makes tourniquets, hemostatics, splints and pelvic binders. In January, Tri-Tech acquired California-based Hartwell Medical, which has a splint system using vacuum technology instead of rigid boards or air pressure splints.


The Cape Fear Memorial Bridge, which had been partially closed since Jan. 29 for repairs, has fully reopened. Construction crews from Florida-based Southern Road and Bridge replaced steel support beams under the driving deck where cars travel across the bridge. The company earned a

19 JUNE 2024


$500,000 bonus for completing the $7.1 million project before a May 23 deadline.

Asheville-based FedUp Foods , which brews kombucha and prebiotic sodas, plans to take over a shuttered TRU Colors brewery here later this year. A company spokeswoman says it expects to add around 102 jobs by the end of 2027. The company has locations in Marshall, North Carolina, and Erwin, Tennessee.



Lumos is being sold for $2 billion to a joint venture that includes T-Mobile, which will invest $1 billion into the high-speed internet company. The joint venture will be between EQT, Sweden’s largest private-equity group

that manages more than $220 billion in assets, and Bellevue, Wash.-based T-Mobile, whose largest shareholder is Deutsche Telekom.


The state purchased almost 80 acres of land from Greensboro developer Marty Kotis for $1.99 million. The state has been acquiring property along the Haw River to become part of an expansion of the Haw River State Park and land preservation.


Thermogenics, a Canadian-based provider of boiler lifecycle solutions, has acquired Matt Marshall and Co. The expansion in the Southeast and mid-Atlantic regions allows for broader service coverage in the eastern United States, officials say. Matt Marshall was founded in 1954.


A Massachusetts-based food-waste company purchased 28 acres for $1.3 million to build a facility that will employ as many as 50 workers. Divert operates 13 facilities across the country, capturing wasted food from retailers and other companies, transforming it into carbon-negative renewable energy, thereby preventing it from emitting methane in landfills.

7 Cinematics , a three-time Emmywinning film production company that had facilities in Nashville and Los Angeles, moved its operations here. The company produces a range of content, including concert feature films, live-music broadcasts and live streams around the world with artists such as Red Hot Chili Peppers, Dead & Co. and KISS.

Piedmont Triad Airport Authority approved enhancements to its terminal and surrounding areas. The board voted unanimously to award a contract to Tremco to supply materials for the “Main Terminal Roof Re-covering Project.” The current total of estimated fees and expenses under the contract is $13.4 million.


Winston-Salem State University will eliminate 55 positions. The historically Black university faces a $3.3 million budget deficit in the upcoming academic year. Interim Chancellor Anthony Graham said the workforce reduction is part of the first phase of an academic reorganization and that of the 55 eliminated positions, 43 had been vacant.

The Winston-Salem Alliance and Greater Winston-Salem economic development groups are combining, ending an arrangement in which Allen Joines has led the Alliance while also serving as mayor since 2001. The move streamlines economic and workforce efforts in Winston-Salem and Forsyth County, he says.

Garner Foods CEO Ann Garner Riddle plans to retire at the end of the year after 52 years with the company and 14 in her present position. She is the last of the third generation of the Garner family to retire, leaving leadership of the maker of Texas Pete sauce in the hands of a fourth generation.




Ca mpbell University ’s School of Osteopathic Medicine received “accreditation with exception outcome” status for another 10 years, from the Commission on Osteopathic College Accreditation. The school opened in the 2013-14 academic year.


Chandler Concrete is being acquired by Maryla nd-based Cheney Enterprises. Chandler has about 500 employees and provides ready-mix, block masonry and hardscapes throughout the Triad. The transaction is expected to close later this year.


Florida-based Driftwood Capital bought the six-story, 225-room Marriott Raleigh-Durham and is planning a $9 million renovation to the hotel. Driftwood Capital is led by father-and-son Duke alums CEO Carlos Rodriguez Sr. and COO Carlos Rodriguez Jr.


Pharm Alliance acquired Complete Hea lth Economics Outcomes Research Solutions, the third acquisition of the past year for the pharmaceutical and life sciences service company.


JT International, a Swiss tobacco company, plans to move its U.S. headquarters from New Jersey and bring 100 jobs here. JTI already has hundreds of contra cted tobacco farms in North

21 JUNE 2024

NC TREND ››› Statewide


NCInnovation passed the $25 million private fundraising requirement set by state lawmakers when they authorized the nonprofit, which is slated to receive $500 million in potential funds over the next two years. NCInnovation intends to help N.C. public universities outside Duke, UNC Chapel Hill and N.C. State commercialize their research. It has four networks anchored by directors at UNC System campuses in Charlotte, Cullowhee, Greensboro and Greenville.


Next Century Spirits acquired a stable of brands from Dallas, Texas-based Southwest Spirits & Wine. Terms of the acquisition also include The Other 49 Bourbon, Sixty Men Bourbon, George Ocean Rum, Calamity Gin and Henderson Whiskey. Earlier this year, Next Century Spirits purchased a minority stake in RTD brand Vide.

Carolina and a large buying station in Wilson. North Carolina farmers harvested 113,000 acres of flue-cured tobacco in 2023, down 2,000 acres from last year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Dr. Assad Meymandi, a Raleigh philanthropist who helped make the capital city into a center for fine arts, literature, music and theater, passed away at age 89. His name appears on the Meymandi Concert Hall serving the N.C. Symphony, and the Meymandi Exhibition Gallery in the N.C. Museum of Art.

Meridian Waste, an integrated, nonhazardous solid waste services company, has acquired Lillington-based Tin Cans . Assets include roll-off collection vehicles, containers and contracts located in Wake, Johnston, Harnett, Lee, Durham, Moore, Sampson, Orange, Hoke, Chatham and Cumberland counties. The assets and services will be relocated from Lillington to Goldston.

The U.S. Small Business Administration named Dylan Gehrken as the state’s Small Business Owner of the Year. Gehrken founded Greasecycle in 2009. Greasecycle built its own processing facility in 2012 and opened a second location in Charlotte in 2022. The company converts food waste into renewable energy sources.

A survey sponsored by the N.C. Association of County Commissioners and the N.C. League of Municipalities found that about 87% of participating governments intend to offer workers cost-of-living or merit-pay increases in fiscal 2024-25. About 77% expect to provide a cost-of-living increase, 58% are planning merit-pay raises and almost 50% plan on doing both.

Ricoh , a Japanese printing company expanding into 3D printing, is opening a new center on N.C. State University’s


Centennial Campus. Ricoh plans to initially invest $1.8 million in the center.

The State Employees’ Credit Union reported that loans more than 60 days late surged 138% to $700 million during the first quarter, compared with $293 million a year earlier. More than three-quarters of the late payments were tied to home loans, with used-vehicle loans making up most of the balance.

Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin will not run for a third term. Baldwin says she has recovered from breast cancer, but added she needed to devote time to the care of her husband, Jim, who has had open-heart surgery. Baldwin became mayor in 2019.


A Flushing, New York-based window and door manufacturer plans to build a Johnston County plant that will employ 500 workers. Crystal Window & Door Systems plans to invest $83.6 million in the plant that will specialize in aluminum and vinyl extrusion and window and door fabrication.


Jacksonville, Florida-based Innovative Construction Group will create 157 jobs with an almost $40 million investment in a new manufacturing plant. The residential construction company provides design services, manufactures wall panels, roof trusses and floor systems. It expects to have the facility finished in 2027.


Amazon’s newest distribution center is expected to employ 1,000 people who will work alongside robots and automated systems to fulfill orders within minutes. Approximately the size of 11 football fields, the company expects 1 million items to be sorted at the facility every day.



A newly filed federal lawsuit says the HCA-owned Mission Health system illegally withheld pay of 1,000 or more employees. The class and collection action lawsuit said the Tennessee-based HCA “willfully manipulated both the beginning and end of shift time records” for hourly workers. Company spokesperson Nancy Lindell said HCA wouldn’t comment on the ongoing litigation.


The City Council cleared the way for Canton Investors to build the largest apartment complex in Haywood County. Haywood native Michael Parrot first proposed an apartment/retail complex

on property just off Interstate 40 two years ago. His updated proposal includes 300 units, versus 160 earlier.


Medical marijuana can be legally purchased in North Carolina with the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians opening its dispensary last month on tribal land. Hundreds of people celebrated the opening of the Great Smoky Cannabis Co. within the land known as the Qualla Boundary, on the opening day of sales.


A federal jury found insurance agent David Shane Simmons, along with two attorneys from St. Louis, guilty in a tax fraud scheme that involved $4 million in lost revenue to the IRS. The defendants designed the scheme to conceal their clients’ income from the IRS by inflating business expenses through fictitious royalties and management fees. ■


Winston-Salem’s Novant Health applied to build a 26-bed cancer-focused hospital in Buncombe County. Novant Health Asheville Medical Center would be built on a 24-acre site. Novant Health Surgical Partners – Biltmore opened last November 2023, and provides specialty surgical services. Novant also committed $20 million over five years to open a medical office in Buncombe County.

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Health systems and hospitals create more than 275,000 jobs in North Carolina, making them one of the 10 largest employers in 92 out of the state’s 100 counties, and one of the top three employers in 45 counties.

They also directly created $40 billion of the state’s gross domestic product, or about 6% of North Carolina’s economy. And they provided another $5.8 billion in community contributions, whether that’s through charity care, Medicaid and Medicare losses and donations.

Business North Carolina recently gathered a group of industry leaders to discuss the issues facing healthcare and what can be done to improve the situation. The conversation was moderated by Executive Editor Chris Roush. What follows is an edited transcript.

The discussion was sponsored by:

• CarolinaEast Health System

• North Carolina Healthcare Association

• Smith Anderson Law Firm

Chip Baggett CEO, N.C. Medical Society Allison Farmer CEO, EmergeOrtho Jay Ludlam deputy secretary, N.C. Department of Health and Human Services Steve Lawler president and CEO, N.C. Healthcare Association


SHAW: I think the biggest issue in healthcare is the tremendous challenge of aligning incentives of the stakeholders – patients, the payers, the providers –and those that work in the interests of those stakeholders. And it turns out that it’s a very challenging thing to do, and it’s essential for the long-term success of the system.

TERHUNE: The biggest issue today is staffing and how to deal with the newer generations and the technology that they deal with and combining all of the different kinds of benefi ts. In North Carolina, for example, we lack a number of child psychiatrists. We don’t have enough psychiatrists to cover the whole state.

ZASS: I think the biggest challenge is really the workforce. And it’s not just staffing. I think it’s designing the staffing model and workflow force of the future and trying to think differently of how we create a career in a profession that attracts, retains and develops top talent to stay in the healthcare industry.

LAWLER: It sounds like a broken record, but it is workforce. How do we design a plan and orchestrate a new delivery model that allows individuals to participate and to care for others at the top of their ability? And how do we extend that care to individual homes? How do we stay connected to people throughout their lifetime so they’re able to enjoy their optimal health?

LUDLAM: Yes, workforce. And for the providers and organizations that work with the department. I think it’s change fatigue. We’ve been radically changing our systems, bringing in Medicaid managed care, expansion, COVID. And I think people are tired. We’d like to just get to the business of delivering health.

BAGGETT: I think that the essential piece around the workforce is building resilience. And that resilience has to be in the structural systems of where our folks work and how they work, as well as in the personal mind and body pieces. And those are more complicated issues than we’ve typically paid attention to as employers and as medical teams that are training the next workforce.

FARMER: I’m going to take a little different approach although I agree with all of you so far. I’m going to go

with patient access. While there’s been incredible work on walk-in clinics, same-day appointments, telehealth and digital tools, I’m concerned with the offsetting burden of the commercial health plans, with authorizations and excessive delays of care.

SMITH: I’m in eastern North Carolina, which is rural health. And access certainly is an issue for us with a spreadout population that we try to serve, so it’s a challenge in recruiting qualified providers and physicians to eastern North Carolina. It’s not like recruiting to Raleigh or Charlotte or Winston-Salem. That’s one of our biggest challenges.


LAWLER: I don’t think it’s a silver bullet. I think it’s taken us a while to get where we are. And the pandemic certainly magnified the problem. And it’s going to take 10 to 15 years of intentional work and investment to get us to the other side, but I’m pretty optimistic. Healthcare makes up 8% of the state’s workforce. I think just using that as an accelerator to attract new people into that field is going to be key.

25 JUNE 2024
Robert Shaw partner, Smith Anderson Michael Smith CEO, CarolinaEast Health System David Zass president, Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist Peggy Terhune CEO, Monarch

BAGGETT: Short term, there’s administrative burdens, those can be done very quickly if only the will of certain people were there to do it. We’ve been pushing prior authorization reform or partnership with our good (health insurance) friends. My members tell me all the time that they are being damaged by 1,000 paper cuts a day. How do we get everybody else out of the exam room between the physician provider and the patient and let them decide what’s best?

ZASS: I think we’re starting to see the tides turn in terms of the partnerships with our technical schools and community colleges with the number of nursing applicants and our dependence on contract labor decreasing. But we can’t let this go to waste and realize that if we just try to hire back into the way that we’ve delivered care before, we’re not going to achieve our long-term goals. So I would challenge all of our hospitals and health systems and practices to say, ‘Let’s not just recruit to fill the old model; let’s redesign the model. We really aren’t efficient.’

FARMER: I would challenge leaders in the healthcare industry to look at how other industries have reacted to

labor shortages – banking, software, hospitality. I think we need to challenge ourselves. Let’s really get creative and meet patients where they are. If you can use remote monitoring tools, there’s a wealth of opportunity to relieve the burden of the face-to-face experience. Working from home, we have found the turnover of work-from-home employees is nominal. People just are starting to prioritize their own schedules and what they’re willing to commit to a job. If we can compromise on that, I think it could be a long-standing workforce.



SMITH: It’s those other positions that don’t pay enough t o move a family

from Charlotte to rural North Carolina. ECU Health has been a wonderful partner for us. They only accept North Carolina residents into their medical school, which is phenomenal because 70-plus percent stay in North Carolina. Physicians aren’t a challenge.

LAWLER: There are some communities that are more urban than rural where housing is a real issue. It’s an issue for trying to recruit nurses or even competing for hourly wage employees. We never used to compete with hourly wage employees. Now we’re competing with Starbucks and the local hotel. We need to really take a holistic approach in regard to what makes somebody choose healthcare. What makes somebody choose that community?

ZASS: We have other barriers. We’re not as flexible in our hours as other industries. We need to learn to be equally as flexible or more flexible with remote work with variable hours. We need to get better at telling our stories. We have so many amazing stories that lead to meaningful impact and joy. If we create that flexibility, if we create that sort of career ladder trajectory growth, we’re going to retain people. If we focus on the idea that we’re just going to have


to match the salaries of Five Guys, we’re really going to struggle because we’re missing some of the unique things that we have. But sometimes we’re our own worst enemy.


FARMER: I’m excited about the future of technology with healthcare. I think it’s wonderful the tools that are coming online to complement our physicians and the level providers. It’s unlimited the value of care that can be given, and I’d love for the United States to be leading in this. You’ve heard too many times, ‘Don’t waste a good crisis.’ We did more with technology in the first 60 days of COVID and have reaped the benefits of a much more efficient way of communicating. I hate that that happened to our country.

I don’t want to minimize it. But it sparked a fire of the need for technology.

TERHUNE: I would agree, but I have some concerns. My first concern is the feds have not yet approved the money that would give many rural people access to high-speed internet. For a lot of people, you could only use that technology if you have access to the internet. And in North Carolina, there’s a lot of places that people do not have access.

Artificial intelligence is going to have an impact. It’s going to take away the burden of physician notetaking once we get it so that we’re sure it’s accurate and appropriate. I don’t think AI is going to replace healthcare. I just don’t see it happening. I think people will try it. But you’re still going to need that nurse by the bedside. You’re still going to need

that level of clinical knowledge and expertise. I don’t see a bot doing that.

LUDLAM: For us as regulators, technology has been a fantastic tool. And it’s also freed us up to be able to recruit from local communities all across North Carolina. As a regulator, I am completely excited by AI. First, it brings joy back to the work; instead of spending five days organizing financial reports that work can be done in an hour. We’re using technology and experimenting with AI to be able to combine tremendously large data sets, so that our analysts can actually now get to follow those leads and really pick apart and focus on those high-value activities. I think that without some of these tools, it would be difficult for us to manage the number of health plans that we now have.

27 JUNE 2024

TERHUNE: We need to use AI a lot bigger than we’re thinking. So Monarch is using remote staffing. We’ve discovered that I can replace those direct support staff that I need all over the state with remote staffing in some situations. It’s incredible technology. It’s out of this world, and it’s going to help that direct support workforce down the road. If that patient has a screen in their bedroom, you can just pop in and talk to him and look at him and see him and now we have a whole different picture. And so I think there are ways to use technology far beyond what any of us have thought of.

ZASS: I worry a little bit that the technology can do so much more than we allow, whether it’s due to regulatory barriers, reimbursement barriers or cultural barriers within our teams. We could markedly accelerate the use of remote patient monitoring. We could sustain much higher levels of telehealth use. Technology really isn’t the barrier. And I think our patients and families as consumers really want that and we can use it to address health disparities in rural areas. Can we get to the point that 25% to 30% of all patients get all of their care at home? The national average is still around 10%.

LAWLER: One of the exciting parts of AI is it ties to what’s going on at the academic institutions. We’re going to be able to do predictive analysis of patients, and we’re going to be able to intervene with people in communities before it becomes a crisis. AI really is going to give us some insight and understanding on how to connect with individuals and communities outside the four walls of a hospital or even a practice and be much more involved in their lifestyle choices, their support network and how to access care at the right time. It’ll be so interesting to see what our teaching institutions do to help accelerate that process and that learning.

BAGGETT: This is a human touch business. And it always will be. How do we use it in smart ways to augment and enhance? How do we use it to predict and avoid certain things? Ten years ago, I sat in an exam room and saw an example where the electronic health record was projected onto a wall. And the voice activation of the doctor talking was filling in the notes in front of the patient in real time. Where’s the widespread adoption of that so we maintain that human touch?

SMITH: There’s a lot of benefits that I see for the technology. My concern is that if we use that to drive payers and providers further apart, that’s going to make things really untenable. We’ve got to bring those two groups together. Because if someone’s just using the technology to search through for a reason not to pay some money, that’s a problem. And so we’ve got to figure out how to bridge that gap.


LUDLAM: About 421,000 (451,194 as of May 9) individuals have been moved over to the Medicaid expansion benefits since Dec. 1, which is almost a little more than two-thirds of our two-year goal in four months. There’s a couple of benefits or opportunities that we’re going to see.

So one is we’re gonna have a lot of pressure on access. I think consumers are going to start putting more pressure on us as an agency, you all as deliverers of care, for access.

I think expansion will be very good for North Carolina. It is cost shifting much of our current costs. A lot of these 420,000 people were already on Medicaid, but the state was paying for them. And now 90% of that cost is covered by the federal government. That’s an opportunity now for us to take those state dollars and apply them in places that we haven’t traditionally applied them in the past.

And the last piece is we have the wholeperson perspective on care – traditional medicine, physical and behavioral health and also the social determinants. We are seeing that because of efforts addressing food insecurity, housing insecurity, transportation issues, especially in rural communities, and wrapping services around victims of interpersonal violence at very tangible cost savings. We’re seeing a reduction and faster recovery times, and a lot of promise. And we’re resolving those social needs.


TERHUNE: I see that all the time. I love that North Carolina is focused on the whole person because that has made a huge difference in our psychiatric world.


People are healthier because they’re paying attention to their diet, and they’re going to see their primary care physician for their high blood pressure, not just the schizophrenic person going to see their psychiatrist. I think that has been critical.

SHAW: It’s no longer sort of taboo to say that it’s everything from health, to mental health, to substance use disorders. Access and other social determinants is an inherent part of achieving a healthy outcome. The system is really starting to understand and react to that reality.

LUDLAM: So many of these healthy opportunity programs are community driven. So the community itself is identifying what it needs in order to help its neighbors. It’s the people that live within that community. And it comes up with solutions for that community, which

for North Carolina is a fantastic model. It’s what makes North Carolina different from many other states.

FARMER: I do want to bring us all back that this does need to be a business-minded conversation. The vast differences in the way that we pay for our services cannot be more important and needs to be top of mind. We’ve got to continue to work together on that. I don’t think the consumers are completely educated on the mechanics

behind that. I think that is disappointing. This is our responsibility to put light on that as more and more of our patients are on high-deductible health plans. There does need to be a level set before any of the value-based care initiatives can have any success or that is going to continuously be a barrier behind the mechanics of the numbers.

LAWLER: Value-based care shouldn’t be some sleight of hand trick by a payer that includes a withhold that you can earn back if your quality and patient safety scores are commensurate with what was negotiated in the contract. The best value-based care is actually driven by the people that are taking care of folks. I think the compact with all individuals or organizations that are involved in the ecosystem is just making sure people are showing up at the table

29 JUNE 2024

trying to do the right thing. And the right thing should be investing in people in programs to care for folks versus investing in processes to deny claims or create barriers to care.


SMITH: We’re positioned in North Carolina to take advantage of just the nature of North Carolina – the medical schools that we have here, the training programs that we have, the technology that we have. For a 50-somethingyear-old CPA, it’s hard to imagine what that looks like in the future, but I’m excited about it.

FARMER: When it gets right down to it, North Carolina is just a wonderful place to live. That means a focus on healthcare and medicine. I think there’s a focus on active living and wellness that you don’t see in other geographies in the United States. I think that we are positioned for greatness. With good continued leadership and governance, that it’ll be positioned for success.

BAGGETT: I’m excited about our past because our past is an example of where we have been a thought leader and innovator. And we’ve been the model that has been copied all over the nation before. So people are looking to us to do that again. And because of that innovation, we’re not afraid to go try those new things. We’re not afraid to step out of the box and do something different.

LUDLAM: We’ve caught up to the other 38 states that have done Medicaid expansion, and I think now it’s the time to capitalize on that. We need to compensate providers for better data for higher cost workforce, and to continue

to make investments in themselves to continue the innovations that are made that make North Carolina great. Now we need to continue to make those investments going forward.

LAWLER: What I’m really enthusiastic about is just this feeling of hope that we’re at this tipping point. It’s really about springing forward. The work that’s been done over the past several years in regards to expansion, creating new training programs and using technology. I think that for small communities, it’s raising hope and raising the possibilities for the future, which I think is vitally important. I think the other piece that I really am excited about is we continue to be a destination for new companies and new people. If we’re gonna continue to track those people, there’s a bright future for healthcare.

ZASS: We have all those key elements, from the universities to the technology, the innovation, the growing communities. Most importantly, we have amazing people from our frontline care team members to our leaders. We can learn to work together, across silos, break down barriers between government and health systems and

between health systems and different industries. So I think the burning platform for all of us right now is how do we seize that opportunity and really ensure that because we owe that to the residents of the state.

TERHUNE: It’s a combination of whole person care and innovation. The state is incredible. We pay attention not just to those wealthy corporate people, but we pay attention to everyone in North Carolina, and our health system actually cares. And because it cares it’s continually innovating, and it continually is coming up with new and different ways to do things that make it better for the end user and makes the end user healthier. And if we can help our population be healthier in every aspect, that just continues to make North Carolina an incredible place to be.

SHAW: There’s never been more enthusiasm and investment in innovation and healthy outcomes. With technology and AI, we can look forward to 20 years from now how much incredible innovation and new investments and new technologies will improve healthcare in the long run. ■




Connecting assets that support outdoor recreation can improve the quality of life for residents and attract visitors and businesses.

- Wilkes Economic Development Corporation


Rural redevelopment is happening across North Carolina, with 78 of the state’s 100 counties classified as rural -- those that have an average population density of 250 people or less per square mile. Research from the North Carolina Rural Center suggests rural North Carolina, with more than 3.7 million residents, has experienced overall population growth in recent years due to COVID-19. The state’s rural population is the second highest in the country, behind only Texas. But a greater percentage – 33% – of North Carolinians live in rural areas than in Texas, where the percentage is 16%.



Wilkes County is centrally located in the Mountain and Piedmont regions of Western North Carolina and has a total area of 757 square miles. Its geography is diversified, from the northern Blue Ridge Mountains to the central Yadkin River Valley to the southern Brushy Mountains.

Recognizing that upward economic opportunity and health are interconnected, a workgroup formalized its purposes and combined financial resources. Connecting assets that support outdoor recreation through capital infrastructure development can improve the quality of life for our residents while attracting visitors, newcomers, and businesses.

The Outdoor Economy Workgroup, a collaboration including the Health Foundation, County of Wilkes, Towns of Wilkesboro and North Wilkesboro, Wilkes Economic Development Corporation, Wilkes Tourism Development Authority, Wilkes Health Department, and Yadkin River Greenway Council, created the Great State of Wilkes Outdoor Action Plan. The group focuses on rivers, trails, greenways, destination-quality parks, attractive downtowns, and multi-use public spaces for enjoyment, major events, and festivals.

The Outdoor Economy Workgroup continues to meet monthly to discuss ongoing projects, including wayfinding, outdoor infrastructure development, and marketing. The group’s objective is to create and promote our outdoor economy, create jobs, and position Wilkes as a multifaceted tourist destination.

The Great State of Wilkes Outdoor Action Plan represents the culmination of several months of analysis, planning, graphic development, meetings and site visits. The planning process involved six major phases:

– Direction Setting & Project

– Launch Research & Analysis

– Public Engagement

– Vision & Plan Framework

– Final Plan Preparation

– Implementation
Scan the QR code to view the study

Buoyed by her popular burger-and-ale pubs, Amber Moshakos bets on downtown Raleigh as others flee.

Onion Special Bread closed on Raleigh’s Fayetteville Street in March. Clouds Brewing shut its downtown location in early April, followed later in the month by The Capital Club 16 Restaurant and Bar. Clyde Cooper’s Barbeque, in operation since 1938, put its Wilmington Street building up for sale and is looking for a new location away from downtown; its owner cited crime and fewer customers after the pandemic.

Amber Moshakos, president of Raleigh-based LM Restaurants, however, sees opportunity. She just struck a partnership with Highwoods Properties to open the 150seat Birdie’s Barroom & Kitchen on Fayetteville Street in the heart of downtown. It’s a strategy the company used when it moved its Taverna Agora to a then-downtrodden area on Hillsborough Street nearly a decade ago. The company has used a similar tactic in opening restaurants in Deerfield Beach and Pompano Beach in Florida and Wrightsville Beach in North Carolina. And it’s working. Most LM Restaurants are now back to where they were before the pandemic, though Moshakas declines to give specifics for the privately held company.

Zigging wh e o s zag

President, LM Restaurants since January 2018

Education: B.S., N.C. State University, M.M.H., Cornell University

Family: Husband Tyler and four children

Amber Moshakos

“Restaurants play a really important role in our community,” says Moshakos, sitting at a rooftop table at Taverna Agora. “When restaurants and bars are there, they become these gathering centers for the community. I enjoy being part of that. We are putting a stake in the ground and being part of something to help revitalize a community.”

Earlier this year, the company spent $14.9 million at an online auction to buy a 10-story office building on Fayetteville Street, a block from the historic N.C. State Capitol. The fully leased building will be used “outside of the restaurant industry,” she says.

It’s part of a broader post-COVID growth strategy for the company, the parent of the Carolina Ale House chain that has 24 locations. Moshakos says it’s looking to grow in South Florida, between Jacksonville, Florida, and Wilmington, North Carolina, in Charlotte and in Tennessee.

Carolina Ale House trimmed its locations from 28 during the pandemic by not renewing leases, but will open a new location in Deerfield Beach later this year and is looking for real estate for others.

In addition to Carolina Ale House, LM Restaurants operates nine other concepts, including two Oceanic locations, which feature seafood such as tuna, shrimp, little neck clams, oysters, flounder and mahi-mahi. All told, the company operates 33 units in four states.

Transition time

There’s lots of moving parts. The company bought some property next to its Cove restaurant in Deerfield Beach that will be used for a Greek restaurant, a parking deck and a boutique hotel. There are plans for a barbecue restaurant, with famous North Carolina pitmasters Ed and Ryan Mitchell, at its original Carolina Ale House location on Glenwood Avenue. Another Lucky Fish restaurant is in the works for Dania Beach, Florida.

“Finding the right real estate is difficult,” says Moshakos. “We like to own our real estate. One of the things that’s a differentiator for us as a family is we don’t have to grow. We have the opportunity to do smart growth as the right opportunities come up.”

LM Restaurants is also going through a leadership transition as Moshakos takes on more responsibility for future visioning. That job has long been held by her father, Lou, but two years ago the company hired Tannia Dougherty as chief operating officer, and she is now running much of the daily operation. Dougherty had been with the company from 2013 to 2017 as director of marketing and technology.

“Now Amber is moving into that visionary position,” says Katherine Goldfaden, the vice president of brand strategy. “You’ve got succession planning in action. Everybody sees the future of the company.”

Says Lou Moshakas about his daughter: “I try to slow her down sometimes, and I can’t. She is unstoppable. I don’t know where she finds the energy. I think she’s doing a great job.”

Amber Moshakos didn’t want to be in the restaurant business. Lou Moshakos and wife Joy started the company in 1978 with a Deerfield Beach, Florida restaurant, the Seafood Shanty, where 2-year-old Amber was fed raw oysters by her dad while she crawled underneath his feet. (“No pediatrician would ever support that decision,” she says.)

Seeking a northern market for its Miami Subs operation, they moved to Raleigh in 1992, opening a sub sandwich location on Western Boulevard and eventually expanded to 10 locations in the state. The first Carolina Ale House opened in 1999 in a former Chinese restaurant.

The three Moshakos daughters grew up working in the restaurants, but Amber Moshakos wanted to go to medical school after she graduated from N.C. State University with a

35 DECEMBER 2023
Amber Moshakos is looking for "smart growth," which requires finding the right locations for restaurants.

degree in biological sciences and a minor in business. Dropping a milkshake one day while working at one of the family’s locations was a “traumatizing event,” she says. “I shied away because of this event.”

Her father, however, convinced her to work in the business for a year after graduation. She stayed from 2003 to 2007 and then went to Cornell University to earn a master’s of management in hospitality. She also met her husband, Tyler Kaune, at the Ivy League school.

Amber Moshakos returned as vice president of corporate affairs and moved up to president in 2018. “Amber went to school,” says Lou Moshakos. “I didn’t. I had to learn from my mistakes. She’s more particular. She’s more organized than I was ever. I’m not the type that’s very organized when it comes to paperwork.”

The focus on helping communities and employees (who are called “team members” and customers are called “guests”) started with her parents. At the first restaurant, Joy Moshakos worked in the kitchen, and Lou Moshakos shucked oysters and clams, so they knew what their employees faced. Goldfaden says Amber Moshakos “knows everyone at the company,” which in late April totaled close to 1,900 workers. During a visit to Taverna Agora, she spends time talking with recently promoted general manager Rudy Rodriguez. “He’s doing a great job,” Amber Moshakos says.

“I love working with people,” she says. “I’m fascinated by finding ways to help people, and when I look back on my career, I see that as a pattern.”

Brand longevity

After the first Carolina Ale House, the company opened one in Cary in 2002 and another in north Raleigh in 2003. It now has 13 locations in North Carolina, six in South Carolina, three in Florida and one each in Georgia and Tennessee. Lou Moshakos developed the idea after sitting in London’s Gatwick Airport on a layover while traveling back to Greece, his home country. While there, he watched soccer fans cheering their teams in an ale house. The first Carolina Ale House lost a half

million dollars in the first year before it caught on.

Not every site has worked. A Carolina Ale House on Franklin Street in Chapel Hill closed in May 2017 after being open for about 18 months in a renovated car dealership. Amber Moshakos says customer traffic was inconsistent during the week, while Goldfaden mentions parking issues. “We’re always looking for the next location,” says Goldfaden. “It needs the right parking and the right footprint and the right neighborhood.” Workers were offered jobs at other restaurants. The only Carolina Ale House location in Texas, in Killeen north of Austin, closed the same year after being open since 2014.

But Carolina Ale House remains the company’s “growth brand,” faring well even during the pandemic because of its robust take-out business, Goldfaden says. The new Carolina Ale House in Deerfield Beach, scheduled to open this fall, is near the south Florida city’s main beach pier.

Lou and Joy Moshakos moved back to Florida in 2015 and have been building the company’s presence there with an Oceanic and a Lucky Fish in Pompano Beach and The Cove in Deerfield Beach. The latter restaurant, which was reporting $6 million in annual revenue, is on track to do $10 million this year after a rebuild in 2021 and 2022. The company was the first to enter into Pompano Beach’s public-private partnership to revamp the area called Pompano Beach Fishing Village. “When you see some areas that have deteriorated, and you really want to give it a little spark, you gotta go in and create the business, and the business is going to employ people,” says Lou Moshakos. “And they’re going to pay taxes and take care of themselves.”

Amber Moshakos says her parents remain active in the operation. She expects to receive a phone call one day that her father has died while visiting one of the restaurants. “It’s OK because he will have died doing what he loves,” she says. (The senior Moshakos is in good health.)

Bluewat Wat front Gr a'V de C ina Ale House Tav na Ag a 36 BUSINESS NORTH CAROLINA

The company is helping revitalize other communities. LM Restaurants funded the rebuilding of the Crystal Pier in Wrightsville Beach, which re-opened in 2013 as a public fishing pier. “That was a passion project,” says Amber Moshakos. The company’s Oceanic restaurant, which first opened in 1990, is nearby. It suffered significant damage from Hurricane Florence in September 2018 but reopened in April 2019. Another nearby company restaurant, Bluewater Waterfront Grill, also suffered damage but has recovered.

Vidrio, a high-end Mediterranean restaurant, opened in 2017, in the same building as a Carolina Ale House on Raleigh’s Glenwood Avenue. A Lucky Fish opened in 2020, during the heart of COVID, primarily because of its outside seating. The company worked on the Lucky Fish concept for five years before its debut. The new Lucky Fish is opening where the 75-year-old Dania Beach Grill had closed in 2019 and been abandoned.

A’Verde, a Mexican restaurant, opened in Cary in March 2022. It was developed by chef Katsui Tanabe, who appeared on three seasons of “Top Chef” and was a winner of “Chopped” on the Food Network. Amber Moshakos hired him to be the company’s “culinary innovator.”

As for Birdie’s Barroom & Kitchen, Highwoods Properties has been looking to add a restaurant in its 29-story Wells Fargo Capitol Center tower on Fayetteville Street to make the area more amenable to tenants and other downtown workers, says Brian Leary, chief operating officer of the Raleigh-based real estate company. In January, Wells Fargo said it would vacate its space in the Triangle’s largest office building, with employees moving to other area locations.

Leary says Highwoods created a package for what it wanted in the restaurant and pitched it to nationally famous operators but quickly decided on LM Restaurants. “We found our soulmate in Amber and LM Restaurants,” says Leary, noting her ability to also make money from events such as weddings. “She’s special because of her passion.”

Scheduled to open later this year, it will include a barista-led cafe, a bar and indoor and outdoor seating, as well as private meeting space. “We needed a place like Cheers,” says Leary. “I’d much rather have the best meal of my life in a saloon than the

best drink of my life in a restaurant.” If Birdie’s is successful, more could come, says Moshakas, who was named to the National Restaurant Association board earlier this year.

Sticking it out

Because most of its restaurants have outdoor seating, LM Restaurants fared better than peers during the pandemic. But company-wide sales, which had been about $100 million, fell by 60% in 2020, and it laid off nearly 2,000 workers. Moshakos, Goldfaden and others were in a conference room with Lou Moshakos on the phone when Gov. Roy Cooper ordered restaurants to close in March 2020. “The whole room wept,” says Goldfaden. “We’re on the phone with Lou, and he’s crying.”

Goldfaden says she noticed a change in how Amber Moshakos operates because of the pandemic. “You grow a little more cautiously, you resource differently,” says Goldfaden. “You change your business because you never want to find yourself in that position again.” Henry’s Restaurant and Bar in Wilmington, which LM Restaurants had acquired in 2008, was sold in 2022 to old family friends. Another Wilmington restaurant, Hops Supply Co., closed in 2023 because the company sold the land to a developer who approached the Moshakos’.

Her husband, Tyler, has been working for the company since 2016 and is now director of strategic technologies. He started at LM Restaurants in guest relations and has been working on improving its delivery operations. He doesn’t report to Amber, but she says they work well together. “He’s clued me in on things going on at the company, and I tell him different things that I’m trying to accomplish,” she says.

As for the next generation, Amber Moshakos says her 11-year-old daughter Saxton is a project planner and excellent at conflict resolution. “The company has grown to the size where if she wanted to be a lawyer, we can have a position,” says Amber Moshakos. “So whatever she wants to do.”

Sounds like someone who knows how to help people, and communities, succeed and grow. ■

Oceanic at y al Pi Vidrio The Pres ve 37 JUNE 2024



Profit is hard to come by. Twenty-nine of the 50 largest N.C.-based institutions reported lower annual net income or a loss in 2023, compared with 17 a year earlier.

Charlotte-based Truist Financial is restructuring to revive its sluggish growth. It sold its insurance division, booking a $10 billion gain, and started a $750 million cost-reduction effort.

Only 23 of the 50 N.C.-based institutions had return on assets of more than 1%, a traditional banking measure of success. That compares with 31 a year earlier.

State Employees’ Credit Union named Leigh Brady as CEO, its first female CEO since its founding in 1937. It borrowed $5 billion from a Federal Reserve program to assist bank and credit union liquidity.

Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan turns 65 in October, raising speculation over succession. He has been CEO since 2010. BofA shares have been flat over the past three years, while Wells Fargo, JPMorgan and the S&P 500 Index have increased more than 30%.

Skyla Credit Union of Charlotte jumped to 16th from 23rd, and added more than $400 million in assets, partly through its merger with Parsons Federal Credit Union of Pasadena, California. Parsons is a national engineering firm with a key office in Charlotte. Skyla started in 1962 to serve Charlotte city employees.

Raleigh’s Dogwood State Bank is likely to jump in next year’s rankings after buying Community First Bank of Seneca, South Carolina. It will put Dogwood’s assets at more than $2 billion.

First Citizens uniquely benefited from the biggest U.S. banking crisis in 15 years, acquiring assets of failed Silicon Valley Bank in a government-assisted rescue. It booked an $11.5 billion profit for 2023, while first-quarter earnings topped expectations.

Despite the closing of the famous paper mill in Canton in Haywood County, Champion Credit Union profited last year. It completed its merger with Ecusta Credit Union, which opened in 1976 and operated one branch.

Over the past decade, Wilmington’s Live Oak Bank has grown from $400 million in assets and $50 million in capital to $11 billion in assets and nearly $1 billion in capital, compounding 34% annually, CEO Chip Mahan noted in May. ■

Source: S&P Global Market Intelligence Companies with highest profit

Source: S&P

Source: FDIC

(June 2023)

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
EDITION Biggest increase in revenue (2023) First Citizens Bancshares 254.2% Farmers & Merchants Bank 31.3% American Bank of the Carolinas 28.2% Champion Credit Union 26.9% Skyla Federal Credit Union 25.0% HomeTrust Bancshares 24.4% Coastal Federal Credit Union 23.2% Mechanics & Farmers Bank 21.2%
2024 EDITION 2024
Bank of America $26.5 billion First Citizens Bancshares $11.5 billion State Employees’ Credit Union $364.3 million Southern Bancshares $148.4 million Fidelity Bancshares $112.8 million First Bancorp $104.1 million Live Oak Bancshares $73.9 million
Bank of America 41.3% Truist 19.5% First Citizens Bank 11% Wells Fargo 10.9% PNC 1.7% Live Oak Bank 1.6% First Bank 1.5% FNB 1.2% First Horizon 1.1%
Global Market Intelligence N.C. Bank deposit market



1) First Citizens’ finances were affected by the federal-assisted acquisition of assets of Silicon Valley Bank. Blue = Credit union | Data compiled April 11, 2024. Includes banks, thrifts and credit unions that filed regulatory reports for the year ended Dec. 31, 2023. | Total revenue equals the sum of net interest income, noninterest income and gains on sales of securities. | Net income equals the sum of net interest income after provision, noninterest income, gain on securities, extraordinary items less noninterest expense and taxes. | Source: S&P Global Market Intelligence

39 JUNE 2024



to manage money for the wealthy, which is the core business of North Carolina’s major investment advisers. Our annual listing includes 30 North Carolina–based institutions that oversee at least $1 billion in assets.

Twenty-six of the 30 managers on the list reported more assets under management than a year earlier, including eight that had gains topping 20%. at was a direct reversal from the previous year, when only ve managers showed gains.

It helps when the stock market is roaring, of course. Most indices were trading at or near record high levels as of mid-May.

e list is based on the most recent annual lings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, which requires data on the number of employees, assets and principal owners.

It doesn’t include large asset managers based in other states, such as Fidelity, Morgan Stanley and Vanguard.

We want to spotlight the sector’s local folks, many of whom have outstanding track records while receiving little publicity.

Sterling Capital Management, which ranks third this year and has been owned by Truist for many years, is being acquired by a Canadian money manager. But the companies making up the list tend to be quite stable, re ecting a long-term approach to their cra .


Owns CapTrust, which has more than 1,550 employees at 90 U.S. locations.

Investment manager operates globally and is a subsidiary of MassMutual.

Charlotte $66.7

The longtime subsidiary of Truist is being acquired by Canada’s Guardian Capital Group for $70 million. 4.

Most executives of the Wells Fargo unit work in St. Louis.

Acts as a recordkeeper for retirement plans. Unit of publicly traded Alight. 6.

Robert Russo founded the company in 2014. Its assets under management have quadrupled since 2018.



Former Carlye Group executive Greg Kares started the firm in 2012.

Robert Eubanks founded the business in 1990. It’s now led by President Robert Newell. Fifth Third Bancorp is owner. ASSETS UNDER MANAGEMENT (BILLION); CHANGE FROM 2023

Most clients are universities and foundations. Co-founder Stephanie Lynch is succeeded Poerter Durham as managing partner last year.



Provides technology, reporting and other services to wealth advisors. Parent company is Concord, Calififornia-based AssetMark, which is being acquired by the GTCR private equity firm.


Charlotte $7.6

Mutual-fund adviser, formed in ‘84, is mainly owned by six partners.



Palo Alto, California-based Altamont Capital owns the mutual-fund adviser led by CEO John Drahazal.


David Rea leads the company founded in 1979. CNBC has ranked it as a top financial advisory firm several times.


$852 $137 19.2%
$296 $23 8.4%
$4.7 7.6%
$44 $6 15.8%
$32 $1.2 3.9%
$2.7 26.7%
Charlotte $12.8
$12 $1.2 11.1%
$11.6 $1 9.4%
$10.7 $2.4 28.9%
-$0.5 -6.2%
$4.47 $0.7 17.6%
Winston-Salem $3.61 $0.6 20.3%
Hill $3.46 $0.5 15.3%


Fort Mill, S.C.


The investment platform-reporting company is a subsidiary of LPL, which has a big suburban Charlotte office.


The family-owned business was started in 1964. It has about 35 employees. Assets have doubled since 2017.



Gregory Smith and Mackay Salley founded the firm in 2003.

CEO Chris Cecil founded the firm in 2008. Other owners include Nicole Gokey, Michael Farrell and Israel Gorelick.



Richard Bryant and Bobby Edgerton founded their business in 1984. Ben Brooks is president.


Wake Forest University owns the firm formed in 2014. Jim Dunn is CEO. 20. COLONY FAMILY OFFICES



Managaing director Dean Ridenour leads the business the was formed in 2013 and manages money for more than 30 wealthy families.


Wealth manager is affiliated with New Republic Bank and backed by the Belk and Close-Bowles families. Tom Hoops is CEO.


Wealth management consultant Brian Hughes was named president in April. Robert Mallernee , Jackson Parham and Teresa Ericksson founded the firm about 15 years ago.



President James Richard Sotell is the controlling owner of the retirement services company.


Don Olmstead and Bill Baynard started the business in 1999, mainly serving high net-worth individuals


Chapel Hill

$1.43 -$0.2 -10.6%

Mark Yusko, former chief investment officer at UNC Chapel Hill, started the firm in 2004. Assets totaled $2.7 billion in 2017.


Owner Stephen Thomas formed his own company after ranking among the 20 top advisors at Merrill Lynch in the mid-2000s.


George Edmiston is CEO of the firm, which has more than 600 individual and corporate accounts.


Former Bank of America executives Jason Cipriani and Jonathan Mandle are co-managing partners.


Former Credit Suisse executive Andy Hart is CEO. It was founded by former South Carolina Retirement System CEO Robert Borden in 2012.

Source: Securities and Exchange Commission

Owner Ralph Bradshaw is president of the publicly traded Cornerstone Strategic Value Fund.

41 JUNE 2024
$3.42 $0.6 22.1%
$0.4 13.3%
$0.6 25.7%
17. BILTMORE FAMILY OFFICE Charlotte $2.89
$0.2 10.8%
$0.3 15.7%
$0.4 18.2%
$0.3 14.5%
Hill $1.96 $0.3 22.5%
$1.9 $0.1 11.8%
$1.51 $0.2 16.2%
$1.37 $0.3 24.5%
$1.36 -$0.2 -9.3%
$1.09 -$0.2 -16.2%
Chapel Hill
$1.03 $0.2 14.4%

Business North Carolina collaborated with NC TECH to create the Next Tech Award to recognize North Carolina’s rising stars in our state’s tech and tech-enabled companies. The award is meant to spotlight those individuals who often work in the trenches of an organization, and who keep pushing projects and objectives forward.

Supervisors and colleagues submitted nominations for the awards and a selection committee picked 10 winners in one of three categories: tech and innovation, tech professional and sales and marketing. The winners solve problems at work, make teams better and contribute in ways that are not a formal part of the job description.

These 30 profiles of the winners share what these individuals do at their jobs, their motivations, those who inspire them, thoughts on AI as well as their passions outside the office. In many cases, those efforts outside work help others or advance a worthy cause, such as encouraging more women to seek job opportunities in technology.



director of engineering | Jackrabbit Technologies Huntersville

Bonzert’s father passed his love for technology down to his son, who grew up using computers from an early age. Bronzert oversees engineering teams and jumps in to help bridge technical issues with business needs across the company’s three products.

How AI can help workers: With proper guidelines, it can elevate jobs rather than replace them, eliminating repetitive tasks and allowing people to solve problems faster.

Favorite tech executive: CEO Satya Nadella took Microsoft from a closed platform company to one that contributes enormously to open source projects.

Influence: A project at my first job allowed doctors to better lookup patient data on the Navajo Indian Reservation. It prevented duplicative treatments and demonstrated how simple solutions can have a large impact on people’s lives.

What others say: “Greg leveraged his extensive experience in building payment solutions to lead the effort to architect and deliver a new payment gateway option to Jackrabbit clients,” says Jill Purdy, spokeswoman for Jackrabbit.

Outside work: Hiking, mountain biking, skiing or just being out in nature. I’ve tried to instill this same love in my children, and we’ve visited most of the major national parks around the country.

Making a difference: Bonzert serves with Rise Against Hunger, Second Harvest Food Bank and Ronald McDonald House events.


senior manager, technology management software engineering | Fidelity Investments


Kulp moved from metro Atlanta to North Carolina in 2015 for a software engineering role with Fidelity Investments. Promotions have led him to lead teams, and while he was new to people management, he transitioned with perceived relative ease by taking classes on leadership, influence and communication to hone his skills.

How AI can help workers: Making educational content and instruction more affordable and accessible.

Influence: After taking two computer sciences courses in high school, I knew it was something I wanted to continue studying. I was hooked from the first assignment and never considered another career path.

What others say: “When we’ve experienced difficulties in projects, Kevin has always remained committed and flexible to help remove barriers and come up with creative solutions,” says David Beck, vice president of donor and mobile engineering at Fidelity Investments.

Outside work: Whether I’m 3-D modeling or sculpting something from clay, I like to see something new come to life.

Making a difference: Since 2019, Kulp has been an adjunct instructor at Durham Technical Community College. Computer science professors throughout college inspired him to explore education.



Mabe started with MCNC about 14 years ago. In her five years as director of MCNC’s cybersecurity, the team has grown from three people generating less than $200,000 a year to 20 FTEs who will generate more than $8 million in revenue this year. This line of business now accounts for about 10% of the organization’s overall revenue.

How AI can help: In the cybersecurity world, it can enable advanced threat detection and automated incident response. It can identify patterns indicative of threat actor activity, swiftly detect security breaches and processes rapid containment and mitigation of attacks.

Favorite tech executive: The experiences of Palo Alto Network’s CIO Fadi Fadhil, and formerly with the city of Minneapolis, demonstrate that humanizing cybersecurity is a vital part of increasing the broader understanding of its complexities.

Influence: Ironically, my refusal to answer the question “where do you want to be in five years.’’ I’m a history major who landed a temp job at a non-profit technology company a year out of college. Each time there was an opportunity to move and grow I looked at it through the lens of “how can I continue to be a valuable and contributing member of this team.”

What others say: “Ruthy has been tapped to lead large, complex, highvisibility projects that need to coordinate across multiple departments in the organization. She has been asked to lead these efforts because she is trusted to deliver results when the stakes are high and the work is challenging,” says MCNC marketing coordinator Kendall Shaffer.

Outside work: Working parents, especially moms in tech, only get a few precious seasons with their kids. Whether it’s a soccer game, a cookout, live music, or doing a puzzle, I enjoy it best with friends and family.


vice president cloud enablement engineering

Deutsche Bank


A native of India, Patil moved from Maryland to North Carolina after visiting friends here. As a Google Cloud Platform faculty lead, she has driven training initiatives that have benefitted more than 6,000 global members of Deutsche Bank Cloud Engineering community.

How AI can help: AI practices will help to solve complex problems like climate change and lead to healthcare system improvements, equity in education and water supply and agriculture challenges.

Favorite tech executive: Bill Gates’ journey from software developer to CEO of Microsoft and philanthropist is inspiring.

Influence: My selection to the Global Enterprise Engineer Deutsche Bank program in 2018 influenced my career. Before then, I was focused on my skills, my projects and my team deliveries only. Being part of the GEE program widened my perspective and has led to opportunities to upskill, contribute and collaborate with colleagues.

What others say: “Smita’s key strength is collaborating to make others successful which is evident in the number of technical trainings she has conducted for Google Cloud,” says Divya Shaju, managing director at Deutsche Bank.

Outside work: I joined a Bollywood cultural dance group to encourage my daughter. Now, I enjoy dance stage performances and trainings with social time.

Making a difference: As Cary’s Women in Technology lead, she has helped build a community at Deutsche and provided a forum for women to grow their technical influence.


senior manager, strategy and business development

Toshiba Global Commerce Solutions


Miller has led a project to create a return-on-investment calculator for retail and hospitality clients. She tracks global and regional macroeconomic trends to help set strategic directions for businesses. She also provides financial analysis to evaluate manufacturing options for point-of-sale hardware.

How AI can help: AI has already made it easier to form connections, improved decision-making and given back time to us through automating basic things.

Favorite tech executive: My favorite tech executives are those that have a real understanding of how technology helps build great customer/ employee relationships, culture and trust.

Influence: What I learned through sport is the importance of resiliency, team diversity, hard work and my comfort with learning from failure.

What others say: “She provides critical insights that help senior executives and sellers navigate the complexity of today’s technology market. She does this by strategically selecting markets based on industry data and trend analysis to enter and win critical deals for the company,” says Amy Gray, communications specialist at Toshiba Global Commerce Solutions.

Outside work: I’m passionate about new ways to enjoy coffee. I’ve tried amateur roasting, making different espresso drinks, trying out coffee shops and experimenting with different methods of brewing. It’s what I love besides Excel spreadsheets.

Making a difference: A two-time cancer survivor, Miller volunteers with Caring Connections, which supports women undergoing bone marrow transplants or experience infertility after. Also a mentor for the Alliance for Fertility Preservation. Helped found and lead the Toshiba Women’s Network Employee Resource Group.


software engineer | Rownd Durham

Radford has led a technological initiative that will make it simple for non-technical product managers to customize their authentication and user onboarding flows within mobile apps. This took months of intense work. As a result, Rownd expects to attract a larger set of customers and increase the satisfaction of existing users.

How AI will help: AI is a helpful tool in problem-solving and generating coding solutions, particularly in novel areas like new programming languages and frameworks. This AI empowerment will apply to almost every profession and hobby.

Influence: The co-op program I did at N.C. State gave me practical experience and set me up for success in my first full-time job.

What others say: “His ability to innovate, solve problems, aid colleagues, and make an impact in the community is unmatched,” says Matt Hamann, co-founder and chief technology officer at Rownd

Outside work: Work with my hands – building things, home renovations, gardening or otherwise creative pursuits. My job as a software engineer involves a lot of time behind a screen, so doing some physical work is great for my soul.

Making a difference: Active with his church and aiding startups; participant in Raleigh/Durham Startup Week.

43 JUNE 2024


Sherwood started his career working in higher education, but pivoted to local government where he says he “discovered my dual passions for technology and public service.”

How AI will help: In public safety, AI can sort through existing data to improve the way we support our community.

Favorite tech executive: Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella for his advancements in cloud computing but also in leadership and company culture. One of my favorite quotes of his is, “The C in CEO stands for culture... We want to move from a group of people who know it all to a group of people who want to learn it all.”

Influence: I worked for my stepfather’s plumbing and electrical company every summer. As I was gearing up for college, I wanted to confirm I could work for him the following summer. He said I shouldn’t come back and do manual labor, and instead should pursue my passions. It was tough to hear, but led me to pursue technology.

What others say: “His passions for community services and technology blend to solve complex problems with innovative solutions in the connected community arena,” says Nicole Raimundo Coughlin, chief information officer for the town of Cary.

Outside work: Whether it’s painting or crafting something, art relaxes me and stimulates my creativity.

Making a difference: Sherwood influences the business analytics curriculum at Wake Technical Community College through an advisory role. Music, traveling, photography, anime and movies.


director of digital foundations | N.C. Department of Health and Human Services


Thomas has worked for the state agency for more than 27 years. Last year, she was selected as the first N.C. Department of Health and Human Services’ director of digital foundations. In that role, she’s tasked with leading the efforts to modernize delivery models through the implementation of digital frameworks.

How AI will help: I don’t want to lose our creativity, but having a technical background I appreciate what AI can do for wordsmithing, note-taking and administrative tasks.

Favorite tech executive: Author Simon Sinek and his leadership philosophy. He is very relatable and is all about practical guidance in building stronger teams.

Influence: My mother, Glenda Miller, was a single mother who transitioned into a real estate career. Her work ethic and determination to succeed inspired me and taught me the value of perseverance.

What others say: “Robin’s wealth of technical knowledge and expertise driving collaborative digital improvements has enabled a strong foundation for critical and sustainable improvements that will enhance the work life of NCDHHS employees and ultimately help bring more value to North Carolinians,” says Reese Edgington, the agency’s chief technology officer.

Outside work: Quality family time is a priority. We like to laugh, spend time at the beach and hike with our dog. Being with family and outdoors is how I recharge.


assistant director, health analytics and external services | N.C. Health Information Exchange Authority Raleigh

Stewart is a 24-year state employee, starting with the Department of Correction. She joined the N.C. Department of Information Technology in 2013 and has been with her current agency since 2019. As part of the leadership team at the NC HIEA, Jenell has overseen the development of the N.C. Stroke Registry, a public health tool that aims to improve the system of stroke care across the state.

How AI will help: Help people progressively learn subject matter with custom interactive feedback. Doing lighter work will allow people to spend more of their time solving more challenging problems.

Influence: Working for Carol Burroughs, chief data officer and director of Government Data Analytics Center. She has propelled the N.C. state government into a leader in innovation and transformed the way decisions are made in our state.

What others say: “Managers are always looking for that exceptional employee who ‘knows how to get stuff done.’ Jenell is mission-driven, understands the value of strong internal and external relationships and works through barriers to move a project or an organization forward,” says Jessica Hagins, communications specialist with N.C. Department of Information Technology.

Making a difference: As a local Girl Scouts leader, Stewart serves as a role model and puts in hundreds of hours each year, including camping trips. She also participates in work-related volunteer projects like packing meals for the food bank.


managing director, media and event technology

Wolford began his career working for several ABC affiliate TV stations across the country before joining NASCAR a decade ago. He has led modernization efforts from behind the scenes and those to improve the fan experience. One big success was the implementation of optical tracking technologies that enhanced NASCAR’s ability to monitor cars on the track over the course of a race, which required coordination from several different groups.

How AI will help: AI is a tool for processing data in order to reveal trends and help make predictions.

Favorite tech executive: LinkedIn Executive Chair Jeff Weiner manages with compassion and great insight.

What others say: “Chris has been instrumental in modernizing NASCAR’s capabilities with a focus on using cutting edge technology to expand engagement and amplify the fan experience both off and on the track,” says Arjun Baradwaj, director of sports and entertainment at NASCAR.

Outside work: The study of space exploration has always been intriguing as well as the technology to make it possible.

Making a difference: Active engagement with the broader tech community to drive collective progress across North Carolina.

NASCAR Charlotte




Boone’s success on the job can be seen in the awards she has received: top recruiter in the company (2013); salesperson of the year (2015); President’s Club (2013-present).

How AI can help: AI can bring equality to education with instant access to information. It’s improving healthcare research.

Favorite tech executive: The first six years of my career were supporting Cisco Systems across the U.S. Joe Pinto was the leader of technical services, managing some of the best technologists in the business. He met with me early in my career and it felt like meeting a celebrity.

Influence: In 2011, I was set to start my teaching career. I had the tragic loss of a sibling that took me out of town the day before my job interviews. This life event shifted my career. After 12 years in the same company, I still have 100% job satisfaction.

What others say: “She serves and helps clients realize their goals by bringing the best talent to bear,” says Lily Scott, managing director of Experis.

Outside work: I love to visit new locations. As a mom of a 4-year-old, it’s more about sharing those experiences with family.

Making a difference: Last year, Boone organized a group to help a mother of three young children who was coming out of an abusive relationship. The woman was able to graduate from school and open a Raleigh bakery; board member of All-In to Fight Cancer.


vp operations and advancement | RevTech Labs Foundation


Supervisors say Everett sets herself apart by making sure she knows as many stakeholders, investors, corporate partners and those involved with start-ups as possible. She also makes sure entrepreneurs know the “next steps” to engage with the broader tech ecosystem.

How AI can help: Less mundane tasks and more true imaginative thinking and creative problem solving.

Favorite tech executive: Nicole Casperson, founder and CEO of Fintech is Femme, is an advocate for more female leadership in the industry. “She’s not just leading a company but also driving meaningful change in the tech world.”

Influence: English writer and environmental activist Rob Hopkins. “His work is about inspiring others to make sure their work is an expression of a positive vision for the future. His two guiding questions have come to inform mine – What if? And why not?”

What others say: “She has effectively connected and supported women in fintech,” and “contributes to the disruption of gender imbalances within the industry,” says Sara Roselli, RevTech co-founder.

Outside work: Everett reads about 75 books a year, mostly nonfiction. “I’m very curious and want to spend my life learning and being exposed to as many different ideas as possible.”

Making a difference: She introduces students to fintech entrepreneurship and venture capital through the Exposure Project; vice president of CC Griffin STEM Middle School’s PTO.


learning and development lead | WorkSmart Durham

Burks was WorkSmart’s first learning and development lead, a role that works with both employees and clients. A guiding principle for Burks is “if team members could learn this, we could better serve our clients.”

How AI can help: Less time searching for knowledge, more time critically evaluating it.

Favorite tech executive: David James is chief learning officer at 360Learning. The field is still finding its footing, but he has helped professionalize it with a focus on driving performance outcomes.

Influence: I felt guilt when I shifted from teaching high school to teaching preschool. A conversation with my father has allowed me to let go of the idea that my identity is tied to a role or title.

What others say: “Samantha previously remarked that answering people’s questions is her love language. How lucky are we,” says Audrey Vogelsang, human resources director at WorkSmart.

Outside work: I knit, crochet, weave, and spin – all the fiber arts. It’s the original 3D printing, and I love seeing my small, repeatable efforts stack into a whole greater than the sum of its parts.

Making a difference: Burks has worked as a tutor, soccer coach, high school math teacher, preschool director and an international (China) education professor.


audio visual engineer | Wake County government Raleigh

Wake County hired Goodwin after the pandemic to facilitate more remote work and collaboration with assistance from technology. Supervisors credit him with building the county’s audio/visual program from the ground up and changing the way employees do business with each other, vendors and community members.

How AI can help: Prompt ideas to get projects started and provide a path to a solution.

Favorite tech executive: Mark Cuban started selling garbage bags door-todoor as a kid. He then found a path for media streaming in the mid ’90s. Cuban started young, worked hard and seized opportunities.

Influence: My father was a radio announcer in Maryland and served as an Army deejay in Thailand during the Vietnam War. He was a news announcer and broadcast engineer for Voice of America and a member of the Maryland Broadcasters Hall of Fame.

What others say: “Bill is self-motivated to make things better, and he brings the perfect blend of technical acumen and customer service to his job each day,” says Mike Bass, the county’s chief information officer.

Outside work: Recorded three albums with various bands and have plans to record a fourth. Authored a book (not about tech) that is being published.

Making a difference: Goodwin brought closed captioning to the live streaming of meetings for the hearing impaired as well as Spanish subtitles for the Spanish-speaking community.

45 JUNE 2024


Islam collects “resignation letters” at work. Those letters signify company apprentices moving on to their careers. Supervisors say his experience as a tech business analyst gives him an ability to mentor aspiring professionals.

How AI can help: Writer’s block? ChatGPT can get you started. Encountering errors in your code? Gemini can provide a solution.

Favorite tech executive: MAXX Potential CEO Kim Mahan embraces cutting-edge technologies while also prioritizing people and society.

Influence: Jason Golt was my mentor at my first job in Genworth, Michigan. He helped me land a job at the Clorox Company in Durham. He once drove across Raleigh to jump my car in a Kroger parking lot.

What others say: “Rahim exemplifies the qualities and the heart of a true leader in the tech industry with his ability to inspire and guide others in their career paths while exercising a strategic vision for business growth,” says Elizabeth Papile, company marketing director.

Outside work: Traveling abroad. I’m the only person in my family, aside from my father, to have traveled out of the country. He was only able to travel due to his U.S. Navy service.

Making a difference: Works with several community groups focused on economic empowerment and civil rights.


controller | Netsertive Raleigh

Keiper took on the role of controller in January after starting with Netsertive as a financial analyst in November 2020. In 2023, she earned the Team Player Award, the most prestigious accolade at the company.

How AI can help: Complete mundane tasks that can dominate our lives so we can focus on the real tasks we want to accomplish.

Favorite tech executive: Alphabet CEO Ruth Porat because of her belief in long-term investing in the development of technology.

Influence: Netsertive CFO Bill Green has provided me with many “life lessons” that will stick with me throughout my career.

What others say: “Courtney’s ingenuity has spurred a complete overhaul of accounting processes, elevating them to best-in-class standards,” says Sydney Kleinsasser, marketing manager for Netsertive.

Outside work: Spending time outdoors hiking and gardening.

Making a difference: Keiper is program manager of Netsertive Gives Back program. She coordinates fundraisers and events with organizations including Toys for Tots, the Boys and Girls Club and the American Heart Association. She also runs the company Wellness Challenge, which encourages employees to exercise, read and take care of their mental health.


executive director, strategy and innovation, PINC AI applied sciences | Premier Charlotte

Kalgren sees her job as a “matchmaker” between the health system, life sciences organizations and clients. She’s helping address the nation’s health equity crisis by leading a notable life sciences organization collaboration alongside Henry Ford Innovations, one of the nation’s leading healthcare innovation programs.

How AI can help: In healthcare, it makes the invisible, visible. AI can analyze and organize medical data in minutes or days, where a search to discover these insights in the past would have taken months.

Favorite tech executive: Two organizations: Midi Health uses technology to serve women in need of mid-life care related to menopause; Charlotte-based Mentra brings together neurodivergent individuals with employers in software, UX and data.

Influence: Zoe, Ryan, Elise, Denise, and others. They cleared paths, removed barriers and encouraged innovation when others couldn’t see it.

What others say: “Kari is passionate about closing gaps in care for underserved populations. That drives everything she does each day in her role at Premier,” says Noah Zachary, senior director at Premier.

Outside work: Travel, live music, dogs (bigger the better) and time with my two teenage daughters and husband. Many hours spent at volleyball courts or track meets.

Making a difference: Passionate about the city of Charlotte and making it better. Kalgren has been on boards of NCMedAssist, currently Charlotte Family Housing and a grant-making group, the Women’s Impact Fund.


senior director, global alliances | Infosys Limited Raleigh

Mahapatra’s success can be seen in some of her awards. Infosys named her “Most Valuable Contributor,” one of the company’s most prestigious awards. She was an “All Star” with Women of Color in Technology, given to tech leaders across the United States.

How AI can help: Faster and better decision making and predictions on outcomes.

Favorite tech executive: Former Meta COO Sheryl Sandburg because of her inspiring journey from Harvard to the board room.

What others say: “Lopamudra has always tried to empower, support and uplift women and tech talents through various forums,” says Linda Gossage, AVP Global Alliances.

Outside work: Volunteers with Habitat for Humanity, Women in Agile and KaBoom, a group that builds playgrounds for children.

Making a difference: Helps with Habitat for Humanity, speaker at women in tech events, makes YouTube videos used for K-9 STEM education. Her podcast has a reach of 300,000.



senior talent acquisition specialist | Project Kitty Hawk


Rodriguez left Atlanta to attend UNC Chapel Hill and says she never looked back. She says she was drawn to work for Project Kitty Hawk because of its mission of helping adult learners access the UNC System.

How AI can help: My husband uses AI to generate bedtime stories for our children.

Favorite tech executive: Girls Who Code founder Reshma Saujani saw firsthand how few girls were going into computing. Her nonprofit aims to close the gender gap in new entry-level tech jobs by 2030.

Influence: Two years ago, I transitioned into recruiting after teaching high school history for eight years. I was nervous, but my dad encouraged me to take the risk and believe in myself.

What others say: “Yasemin was instrumental in crafting our organization’s first inclusion policy, laying the foundation for a culture of diversity and inclusion from the outset of the hiring process,” says Erin Neuhardt, senior strategic outreach manager at Project Kitty Hawk.

Outside work: My husband, David, and I have two children – Phoebe, 4, and Luc, 2. It’s about keeping up with our kiddos, taking them on family trips, art museums and encouraging them to make their own art.

Making a difference: I’m the first person many of my teammates talk to at [Project Kitty Hawk.] Watching them develop from that first conversation to a year later excelling and thriving in their role is extremely rewarding.



vice president, global solutions consulting | commercetools Raleigh

While based in Durham, Alberts’ job calls on him to make contributions worldwide. Sometimes that means joining telephone calls at odd hours, on other occasions he travels internationally to support business efforts. The Rockford, Illinois, native moved to London while working for Oracle. When it came time to return to the U.S., Alberts says North Carolina fit the criteria of things important to his family.

Favorite tech executive: I haven’t found the Gregg Popovich (coach of NBA’s San Antonio Spurs) of the tech industry. That person who develops people into great leaders and builds opportunities for everyone around them.

Influence: Chris Sarne, senior director at Oracle, changed my career by identifying the skills and passion I had for sharing knowledge and presenting me the chance to blend storytelling and tech together into my current role.

What others say: “He effectively manages a global team spanning locations from London to Munich while also providing consulting expertise on C-level and strategic initiatives throughout the organization,” says Stephanie Forbes, DEI manager for commercetools.

Outside work: Interested in aviation and the opportunity and connections it makes for us.

Making a difference: Helping people get connected to opportunities through tech.


director of client success | The Diversity Movement

Silver was an art instructor for Wake County Schools for about 18 years before joining The Diversity Movement three years ago. She is a certified diversity executive who leads DEI training for clients including Abrigo, Spreedl, and insightsoftware. She is a national expert in LGBTQ+ inclusion

How AI can help: Consideration of unconscious bias, ethical and societal implications must be understood in all phases of development and deployment of AI.

Favorite tech executive: Reshma Saujani, founded Girls Who Code, and is an advocate for diversity and inclusion in the tech industry.

Influence: Guidance, support, and belief in my potential by many have empowered me to overcome challenges and achieve success. I look forward to paying it forward.

What others say: “Silver’s collaborative attitude melds her LGBTQ+ thought leadership with a focused dedication for enabling clients to create better workplaces for their employees,” says Jamie Ousterout, chief experience officer at The Diversity Movement.

Outside work: My art studio seeks to give viewers an escape from everyday “noise.” It’s heavily influenced by nature, such as rock formations and aerial views of land and water.

Making a difference: Founded With Pride Consulting to create change for the LGBTQ+ population in workplace and educational institutions.


multimedia designer | Research Triangle Foundation of NC Durham

Barnwell says she was surrounded by cow pastures and apple orchards growing up around Hendersonville. She had dial-up internet until arriving at UNC Asheville but had a knack for technology. She took a job in Arizona with a web design and marketing startup after college.

How AI can help: Offers more people access to innovative tools and broadens the reach of creativity.

Favorite tech executive: Steve Jobs allowed millions the ability to capture life from their point of view and opened the door for new uses of photography.

Influence: The relationship between art, technology and animation fueled my passion to pursue tech as a career. I decided to study new media with a focus in 3D animation and design during my undergrad at UNC Asheville.

What others say: “Over the past year, click rates for all brands have consistently increased by over 50%, underscoring the effectiveness of Brittany’s innovative design and engagement methods. Additionally, her efforts have contributed to a noteworthy reduction of over 50% in unsubscribe rates across all brands,” says Ana Velez, marketing manager for Research Triangle Foundation of NC.

Outside work: Photography from taking portraits to experimenting with different lighting setups. I’m learning how to blend photography and generative AI to create my own AI world.

Making a difference: Taking a Certified Diversity Professional course to better support inclusivity.

47 JUNE 2024



Bautista’s family moved from Mexico to North Carolina when he was 5. The evolving nature of tech attracted Bautista to his career.

How AI can help: Automating some tasks will increase productivity, freeing up humans for more challenging and creative pursuits.

Favorite tech executive: Open AI CEO Sam Altman’s AI technologies, like ChatGPT, DALL-E, and Sora, aim to enhance productivity and improve our lives

Influence: Guidance from Kirk Adams, a vice president at Targan, has played a role in shaping my professional trajectory.

What others say: “Carlos has proven himself to be a true team player in our company. He has been involved with several internal projects that have helped amp up the company culture that we find critical to our vision of success,” says Adams.

Outside work: Time with family and friends, discovering new music, playing sports, board games or simply going for a run or walk. I enjoy whenever I can get away from a computer screen.

Making a difference: Bautista volunteers with Amexcan, an organization focused on empowering the Latino community; worked on the documentary “At a Strangers Table,” which focused on contributions of migrant community; led a company food bank donation drive; helped organize Targan’s first Family Day; volunteers at Pitt Community College in Winterville.


managing partner | Axiom Path


Crowther grew up in Wilmington learning how to fish, surf and drive boats, and also build computers for his friends. His IT background is an asset as he now helps others find jobs that “fit not only from a skill set, but from a culture fit as well.”

How AI can help: Teachers can personalize their students’ learning experiences with AI. It can also automate their administrative tasks.

Favorite tech executive: Elon Musk because of his ambitious vision for the future of transportation, energy and space exploration.

Influence: Tano Failla (now vice president of Anistar Technologies) was my first manager 15 years ago. His strategy around business development and account management helped us thrive.

What others say: “What sets Jordan apart is his enthusiasm for helping others. He prioritizes the growth and development of his team, recognizing that their success is fundamentally tied to the success of the organization as a whole,” says Axiom Path CEO Sakib Kadak.

Outside work: The mental engagement of golf can distract from negative thoughts, enhance cognitive function and promote mindfulness, which I find benefits my corporate responsibilities.

Making a difference: Mentors UNC Charlotte students as they prepare to enter the workforce; involved with Best Buddies, a movement to create employment opportunities for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities; basketball coach with Matthews Athletic & Recreation Association.


marketing strategist | Ablr Chapel Hill

Clark arrived at Ablr three years ago from UNC Chapel Hill. The sales team was struggling to close its first 10 deals. She helped bring structure to the sales process and Ablr closed the fiscal year with more than 20 clients. She helped create an “accessibility scorecard” for a client’s site or product, which helps businesses measure success. It has aided Ablr attracting more than 150 clients. How AI can help: I can get lost in data, a paralysis by analysis. We can leverage AI to compile data and create a story around the findings. Highlighting trends, spikes or dips can help us utilize widespread data efficiently whatever we are working on.

Favorite tech executive: Katsuya Eguchi created the Nintendo game Animal Crossing, which brought millions of people together during the pandemic.

Influence: The Netflix show “Abstract: The Art of Design” inspired me by showing innovative solutions conceived after collaboration.

What others say: “Sarah took on the challenge to help us clean up our customer information in our CRM, so that we could start analyzing data to develop personas, and this has helped us refine our sales and marketing efforts,” says Ablr CEO John Samuel.

Outside work: Creating art and exploring different mediums and presentations.

Making a difference: Clark helps the blind with sight support in work and job searches; helps blind high school students prepare for postsecondary life.


director, revenue operations | Relias Apex

Doligalski worked several years in fashion, including about five years for Peter Millar. Connections from an earlier internship at Relias led her into the tech space.

How AI can help: Improving efficiency and productivity will give people time to focus on value-added activities.

Influence: Becoming a parent gave me a new perspective on things that were important in my career: the boundaries I was willing to set, how I expected to be treated by colleagues and the type of company that I wanted to work for.

What others say: “Her dedication to excellence is evident in everything she does, and her passion for data-driven decision-making is contagious,” says Tina Krebs, chief people officer at Relias.

Outside work: Reading, travel, cooking and being a mom to my two kids.

Making a difference: Doligalski is involved in literacy programs and school events in the Oak Hill area.



After starting her career in banking, Jernigan joined Abrigo in 2019. She led the changes to customer onboarding. She has an industryleading net promoter score from client training engagements. She was the highest-scoring manager in Abrigo’s employee satisfaction surveys last year.

How AI can help: Everyone can have an assistant in their pocket to help them learn.

Favorite tech executive: At one of the first Abrigo Women’s Group leadership meetings, Abrigo’s Chief Administrative Officer Emily Larkin said, “Women don’t spend enough time being uncomfortable.” We often don’t realize the uncomfortable place is the place of growth.

Influence: Seeing and hearing from successful women in leadership positions. It’s been inspiring to see the inclusion and diversity efforts over the last few years.

What others say: “Instead of seeing obstacles as roadblocks, she views them as opportunities for growth and innovation. Her ability to lead by example makes her a trusted mentor and role model for her team members,” says Kendall Kram, human resources manager at Abrigo.

Outside work: I love to explore new places and immerse myself in the culture, food and history of each location. Photography helps me capture these memories.

Making a difference: Jernigan is a leader in Abrigo’s Women’s Group and her establishment of a local women’s group highlights her commitment to women’s empowerment and community development.


executive vice president | Genesis10


The events of Sept. 11 prompted Parisi to move to North Carolina to reconnect with a friend and mentor. “What brings me the most fulfillment in my job is the opportunity to make a meaningful impact, whether it’s through an extra phone call or connecting with someone new. Even the smallest gestures can lead to significant positive change, often in ways we may not immediately recognize,” he says.

How AI can help workers: AI can enhance healthcare diagnostics, personalize education to suit learning styles, optimize energy use and improve public safety through predictive pattern management.

Favorite tech executive: The grounded demeanor of Debbie Guild, the executive vice president at PNC, makes her stand out. Guild contributes to diversity initiatives and is recognized as one of the most powerful women in banking.

Influence: My dad, who encouraged me to seek out opportunities for growth.

What others say: “His advocacy for neurodiversity has transformed Genesis10 into a more agile, forward-thinking organization that celebrates the unique talents and perspectives of every individual,” says Susan Avery, the company’s senior communications manager.

Outside work: My family and coaching football. Coaching football allows me to impart values to young athletes while fostering their growth both on and off the field.

Making a difference: Parisi’s advocacy for neurodiversity positions Genesis10 as a trailblazer in promoting diversity and inclusion within tech and staffing.


director of market development | Michael Best & Friedrich Charlotte/Myrtle Beach

Moore’s job involves connecting founders in the tech sector with the resources they need in early and growth stages, support from inception to funding, growth and eventual sale. Moore says contributing to the “next big success story in tech” drives her passion for the job.

How AI can help: It can enhance education by facilitating access to information, analyzing data, recognizing patterns and providing recommendations to make informed decisions.

Favorite tech executive: Canva co-founder and CEO Melanie Perkins went from adversity to extreme success. She also earmarks billions for charitable purposes, demonstrating the power of giving back.

Influence: Three years at Durham-based tech startup, Windsor Circle, exposed me to the challenges of building a company from the ground up. This experience taught me the importance of agility, resilience and the ability to wear multiple hats. It also gave me a firsthand experience of how innovation can drive growth and competitiveness.

What others say: “From now on, there will be Founders Live entrepreneurial celebrations in North Carolina, and we have Mallorie Moore to thank,” says Nick Hughes, CEO of Founders Live.

Outside work: My life motto is, “leave a little sunshine everywhere you go,” and doing so through the magic of art and design is so much fun.

Making a difference: Moore serves as city leader of Founders Live, and leads events to help connect the entrepreneurial community in the Raleigh area.


director of industry engagement and impact strategy | Circ Durham

Before joining Circ in 2021, Parker founded Carbon Insights, a fintech life-cycle-assessment company that was sold to green bank Aspiration in January 2022. She also worked on developing supply chain decarbonization strategies for large companies such as WeWork and Under Armour. Circ is a textile recycling start-up backed by Inditex and Breakthrough Energy Ventures. Parker played college field hockey at Johns Hopkins.

How AI can help: By using it as a tool alongside human ingenuity we can strengthen our ideas and learn to work more efficiently, thereby freeing up mental space for more creative pursuits.

Favorite tech executive: Kate Brandt, chief sustainability officer at Google, has been a true pioneer in the integration of policy and sustainability work. Her career path shows the value of cross-sector collaboration and professional experiences.

Influence: After starting one career, Parker pivoted and returned to graduate school to work in sustainable business. The reconnect was based on her appreciation for the environment, rooted in childhood summers spent outdoors.

What others say: “Parker’s investment in moving forward climate solutions is indisputable,” says Eden Breslow, account coordinator for The No. 29 Communications.

Outside work: Avid trail runner, hiker, backpacker, snowboarder and gardener. I find a lot of peace being alone, or with my husband and pup, out in nature. When inside, I’m fiddling in my workshop refurbishing furniture, crocheting, making macrame or repurposing discarded items.

Making a difference: Active with Net Impact Club, part of Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business. It connects students, alumni and faculty members who are redefining the role of business in solving environmental problems; Habitat for Humanity volunteer.

49 JUNE 2024

2024 Power List Awards Dinner

April 25, 2024

Business North Carolina honored more than 100 members of the 2024 Power List at the Capital City Club in Raleigh. Ward Nye, Tom Pashley, Laura Niklason, Dee O’Dell, Chris Chung and Lance Trenary were among the leaders who attended the event. The event was sponsored by Brooks Pierce Law Firm and PNC Bank.

Photos by John Gessner


NC Leadership Conference

April 26, 2024

Business North Carolina and The N.C. Tribune partnered with Leadership North Carolina for a series of conference discussions covering statewide business, government and public policy issues. Speakers included N.C. Rep. John Torbett, Insightfinder CEO Helen Gu and Dick Baddour, former athletic director, UNC Chapel Hill. The event also featured the N.C. Leadership Awards of the Year. Winners were Christopher Chung, CEO, Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina; James Phillips, commissioner, Atlantic Coast Conference; and Igor Jablokov, CEO, Pryon. The event was sponsored by Catapult Employers Association. Photos by John Gessner

51 JUNE 2024


1,400 employees

Mike Mayer, CEO

Southern Pines | financial services

Workplace Options

Raleigh | workplace consultant

366 employees

Alan King, CEO

3 Kearfott

Black Mountain | manufacturer

417 employees

Ronald Zelazo, CEO

First Bank has more than 100 locations and 1,400 associates across the Carolinas. Employees get eight hours of volunteer time, and $20 to each employee to carry out a good deed in the community during its annual “Good Deeds Week.” First Bank matches employee donations to nonprofits quarterly, totaling more than $60,000 in matched contributions in 2023

Workplace Options offers an exchange program that allows an employee who has worked at the company for at least a year to work abroad for a month at one of its global offices. The company covers airfare, transportation, accommodation at company-owned property and a weekly living stipend for the employee.


Coastal Credit Union

Raleigh | financial services

629 employees

Tyler Grodi, CEO

Coastal Credit Union has a tuition reimbursement program in which the company reimburses employees half of their tuition. Coastal hosts an overnight retreat for employees who want to learn about credit union principles, and the company also offers employee leadership programs. Coastal often promotes from within the company. Over half of all leadership hires were internally promoted. Some employees are remote, while others have hybrid schedules.

After a year of service, Kearfott employees are eligible for full tuition refunds for undergraduate and graduate courses through the company’s tuition refund program. Kearfott provides two options for health insurance, dental and vision insurance and a 401(k) match and a profit sharing plan. The company has a 9/80 work schedule, which allows employees to work 80 hours over nine days, with one day off in each two-week period.


Barringer Construction

Charlotte | construction 171 employees

Tim Miller, Chris Butlak, Chris Frye (owners)

Barringer Construction offers 100% employer-funded health insurance, as well as life insurance and pet insurance. New parents can go on maternity and paternity leave. Barringer employees mentored an all-female team of high school carpentry students through Wake County’s Connect for Success program and also partnered with Shop Local Raleigh to help build its first brick-andmortar store. Employees receive discretionary annual bonuses, paid time off and 401(k) match.

2 LifeStore Financial Group

West Jefferson | financial services

115 employees

Robert E. Washburn, CEO

LifeStore Financial Group offers up to $3,000 in scholarship money for the children of company employees who want to go to college or a trade school. Employees receive up to eight hours to volunteer in the community during regular work hours, and they also can be found participating in staff book clubs. The company gives out an annual bonus and helps fund continuing education for employees. LifeStore offers employees health insurance, paid time off and a 401(k) with an employer match.

3 Burns & McDonnell

Raleigh | construction and design

94 employees

Leslie Duke, CEO

An employee-owned firm, Burns & McDonnell offers performance-based bonuses, health insurance and scholarship assistance. Employees get paid time off, a 401(k) and 30 days of remote work per year. Some locations have on-site fitness facilities. Employees who meet wellness goals can receive discounted medical insurance premiums. An employee assistance program offers free counseling to employees experiencing a crisis.


Bernard Robinson & Co.

Greensboro | accounting firm

200 employees

Alisa Moody, CEO

Bernard Robinson employees can choose between a hybrid work schedule, remote work or in-office work, and they can alter their work hours according to their needs. They receive unlimited paid time off and employer-funded health insurance, as well as pet insurance, and the company has a profit sharing plan. In addition, the company organizes initiatives that allow employees to participate in community service.

5 Bobbitt Construction

Raleigh | general contractor

104 employees

Brian Denisar, CEO

6 Clancy & Theys Construction

Raleigh | construction company

136 employees

Baker Glasgow, president

Founded in 1940 by brothers-in-law E.I. Clancy and Johnny Theys, this construction company offers medical, dental, vision and disability insurance, in addition to a mental health care program for employees. New parents receive paid maternity and paternity leave. The company offers a 401(k) match. It also has a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Council. They offer basic life support and CPR training to all employees.


Jackrabbit Technologies

Huntersville | software solutions

110 employees

Mark Mahoney, CEO & co-founder | Mike Carper, CTO & co-founder

Jackrabbit Technologies was a fully remote company prior to the pandemic and intends to stay that way. The company offers a 6% 401(k) match, and employees receive an annual allowance for professional development, in addition to health, dental and vision insurance. Employees also have access to flexible spending and dependent care accounts.

8 Champion Credit Union

Asheville | financial services

113 employees

Jake Robinson, CEO

Champion Credit Union offers a Business Associate Apprenticeship Program to graduating high school seniors, which offers selected students an opportunity to be paid to train onsite at Champion Credit Union branches. The company also provides financial education in local schools through a financial simulation called Mad City Money. The company provides health insurance and a 401(k) match, and some employees work remotely. Champion also offers a wellness plan to employees.

Through an employee stock ownership plan, Bobbitt Construction became 100% employee owned in the year 2000. The company pays for employees to continue their education and attend the professional development of employees by sponsoring their attendance at conferences and supporting their efforts at continuing education. The company offers health insurance, paid time off, spiritual support through a chaplain program and wellness incentives.

53 JUNE 2024

9 Gallagher

Morrisville | insurance firm

130 employees

J. Patrick Gallagher Jr., CEO

Gallagher employees receive an employer-match on their 401(k) contribution. In addition, they have access to a wellness program that offers workshops and digital fitness opportunities. New parents can take paid parental leave. The company offers employees health insurance, paid time off and a fitness incentive program.



Emerald Isle | business intelligence solutions

78 employees

Berkley Stafford, CEO

TransImpact’s Emerald Isle headquarters has an outdoor recreation area with cornhole boards, and employees can ride company bicycles on bike paths during lunch. The company offers employees reimbursement for their gym membership, and holds quarterly events that have included an island-wide scavenger hunt, a fishing trip and bowling. The company covers 85% of employee premiums for medical insurance, and it provides a 401(k) company match. TransImpact has pledged to provide 1% of employee time and 1% of company profit to the community.

11 Smith Anderson Law Firm

Raleigh | law firm

250 employees

Byron B. Kirkland, managing partner

The law firm was founded in 1912 and is one of only eight in the world to be recognized in the Agribusiness chapter of the Chambers Global 2024 guide. The company offers health insurance, as well as profit sharing and a 401(k) match. Some employees have a hybrid work schedule.

12 Aspida

Durham | insurance company

120 employees

Lou Hensley, CEO

Company culture attracts employees to Aspida. It has three committees, including a wellness committee, that holds fun employee events. Employees work three days in the office, where they have on-site yoga and gym facilities. In addition to health, dental and vision insurance, the company offers pet insurance. Twenty days of paid time off are granted at the start of the year, and the company offers up to 12 weeks paid maternity leave. It also offers a 401(k) plan.

13 HonorBridge

Winston-Salem | nonprofit organ donation and tissue recovery

180 employees

Danielle Niedfeldt Bumarch, CE

HonorBridge, the state’s largest organ-procurement organization, offers employees offers employees 100% employer-paid medical insurance and pays just over half of the cost of insurance for spouses and dependents. An employee assistance program offers short-term, confidential counseling, and HonorBridge reimburses employees for professional counseling services. Employees who have been at the company more than five years receive an annual longevity bonus.


Summit Credit Union

Greensboro | financial services

112 employees

Sam Whitehurst, CEO

Originally called Tri-City Telco Credit Union, Summit Credit Union was founded in 1935 and served telephone workers in Greensboro, Burlington and Reidsville. Employees receive a pension and medical, dental and vision insurance, and the company offers an employee wellness program in which employees are reimbursed up to $100 annually for specific health-related products and services. The company rewards outstanding performance with contests, employee appreciation events and summer cookouts.


200 employees

Brunswick Electric Membership

Supply | electric cooperative

Josh Winslow, CEO

This member-owned electric cooperative offers employees 30 days of paid time off and 11 paid holidays, in addition to tuition assistance, a fitness incentive and health insurance benefits. Employees can be found giving back to the community through beach cleanups, blood drives, Habitat builds and other volunteer opportunities. The company also hosts events like family bowling nights and photos with Santa, and it has been known to bring ice cream trucks to the office. The company’s most recent food drive collected more than 15,000 pounds of food, and the company provides more than $160,000 in funding for community grants, teacher grants, college scholarships and programs that help members who are struggling with their utility bills. The 401(k) plan offers base contributions and an employer match.


165 employees


Greensboro | tax and accounting firm

Michael Gillis, CEO

For 24 consecutive years, a DMJPS team of plungers has taken part in the Triad Chill for Special Olympics and the firm has contributed more than $190,000 to the cause. Happy hour outings and community service days also help in team building. The tax and accounting firm offers health insurance, paid time off, tuition assistance and some remote or hybrid work. It has a profit-sharing program and a 401(k) plan with an employer contribution whether the employee contributes or not.

16 Insightsoftware

Raleigh | software company

195 employees

Michael Sullivan, CEO

Insightsoftware is a remote-first workplace, but the company has more than 40 locations globally available to employees who wish to work in an office. The company offers medical, dental and vision insurance, as well as accident and critical illness insurance, pet insurance and a health savings account with an employer match. Employees have “flexible time away,” with no cap on days off. They can also buy into the company equity plan with an employer match.

17 Epes Logistics Services

Greensboro | cargo transportation

177 employees

Jason Bodford, CEO

This cargo transportation company holds seasonal events for employees, as well as team building activities throughout the year, and some employees have hybrid schedules. In addition to health insurance, wellness discounts and a health savings account, employees have access to a fitness facility. The company also pays for disability insurance and offers a 401(k) plan with an employer match.



Arco Design /Build

Charlotte & Raleigh | design-build construction

45 employees

Rob Steigerwald, CEO

A design-build construction company known for its industrial projects, Arco Design/Build offers a 100% company-funded employee stock ownership plan, tuition reimbursement for employees, scholarships for their children and a merit bonus program. After five years, each Arco employee receives a 30-day paid sabbatical and a $5,000 bonus. Arco offers vacation time, profit sharing and a fitness incentive program. Arco will match employee donations to a cause of their choice.

Graham Personnel Services

Greensboro | employment agency

45 employees

Gary Graham Jr., CEO

Graham Personnel Services matches jobseekers to employers nationwide. The company offers 15 PTO days a year and a full benefits package, including health, dental, vision and life insurance, and a 401(k) with a company match. Employees work remotely at least some of the time, and they have free access to a gym in the office’s business park.

3 Blackman and Sloop

Chapel Hill | accounting firm

39 employees

Andrea Woodell Eason, president | managing principal

An accounting firm founded in 1973, Blackman and Sloop employees enjoy a variety of benefits, including half-day Fridays from May through December, an employee mentoring program, the opportunity to work remotely, paid community service hours, firm-funded professional and civic memberships and finder’s fees for new business.

4 Carolina Therapy Connection

Greenville, Goldsboro, New Bern | health & wellness

58 employees

Cindy Taylor, CEO

Carolina Therapy Connection offers children and adolescents physical, occupational and speech therapy, as well as therapists specializing in mental wellness and educational specialists. The staff is offered flexible scheduling options with four-day work weeks, weekly and monthly bonuses, a mentorship program, monthly, company-sponsored events, and the company covers annual licensing and professional liability costs.

5 Hylaine

Charlotte | technology consulting service

62 employees

Adam W. Boitnott, CEO

A technology consulting service, Hylaine employees enjoy a range of perks, from an average of five weeks per year of paid time off to a four-week, paid sabbatical after seven years of service. The company also offers medical, dental and vision insurance and a 401(k) match program.

6 Zoe Dental

Asheville | dentist

31 employees

Perry Stamatiades, founder and CEO

Zoe Dental holds an annual philanthropic event that offers a day of free dentistry to people in the Asheville area. Additionally, staff sponsor children from Eliada Children’s Home each Christmas, and the practice sponsors the Manna Food Bank’s annual empty bowls event. Staff, along with their spouses and children, receive free dental care and opportunities to go on mission trips.

Employees receive health insurance, paid time off, a 401(k) plan and fitness-related incentives.


Martin Starnes & Associates, CPA

Hickory | accounting firm

67 employees

Victoria A. Martin, managing partner and president

Employees at Martin Starnes & Associates often eat lunch together, participate in philanthropic work and win prizes for fitness challenges. Employees also can work remotely, and there are dinners and retreats for staff, as well as opportunities for continuing education, seminars and conferences. Employees get financial assistance for CPA license fees, and a bonus once licensure is achieved. They offer employees health insurance, profit sharing, paid time off and a 401(k) plan.

55 JUNE 2024
Charlotte team Raleigh team


Highland Roofing

Wilmington | commercial and industrial roofing

62 employees

Jeanette Omdalen, CEO

Employees at this woman-led construction company enjoy weekend barbecues, and they drive vehicles that they can take home. Top-level employees receive additional, performance-based compensation through the company’s master technician program. The company also provides medical, dental and vision insurance and a 401(k) with a company match. A career path program focuses on individual coaching, which enhances employees’ skills and has become a retention tool.

9 WingSwept

Garner | business services

64 employees

Jay Strickland, founder and CEO

This IT services provider offers an employee stock ownership plan, performance bonuses and compensation for professional development. Currently, 49% of the company is employee-owned, and within the next several years, the company intends to be 100% employee-owned. Each year, eligible employees receive stock in the company. When not serving clients, employees can be found building camaraderie by playing pingpong, bowling, go-karting or enjoying an employee camping trip and monthly potluck lunches. Wingswept also offers a corporate chaplain, a monthly bonus pool and a well-stocked employee kitchen.


Granite Insurance

Granite Falls | insurance company

30 employees

Cameron Annas, CEO | Chase Keller, president

Granite Insurance provides ongoing risk management advice specific to the individuals and businesses that it serves. A Path to Partnership program offers qualifying employees the opportunity to earn equity in the company over time. The company covers 100% of licensure and professional development expenses. The company also offers health insurance, paid time off, 401(k), stock options and profit sharing. A wellness team organizes health-related challenges to employees, as well as educational lunch and learns. In 2023, Granite awarded about $130,000 to area nonprofits.

11 The Pelora Group

Charlotte | business services

43 employees

Tim Flanagan Jr., president

This financial services firm provides resources and support to businesses aiming to increase profitability and build equity. Flexible scheduling, hybrid work options, and clear boundaries around working hours contribute to work/life balance for employees. Employees receive opportunities for professional development, medical and employerpaid dental insurance, employer-paid short- and long-term disability, paid time off, maternity leave and a IRA match. The company also organizes volunteering events and offers paid time off for volunteer work.

12 Davenport & Company

Charlotte, Greensboro, Raleigh, Sanford | financial services

31 employees

Lee Chapman, CEO

Davenport & Company is an employee-owned wealth management firm based in Richmond, Virginia. It was formed in 1863 and has more than 450 employees, including about 200 financial advisers, according to its website. The company has a flexible work schedule. Its workplace practices have also received awards from Virginia Business magazine.


Williams Mullen

Raleigh | law firm

62 employees

Calvin “Woody” Fowler Jr., CEO

David Paulson, Jr., managing partner, Carolinas

Williams Mullen attorneys are encouraged to start their own practices. Staff are asked on their first day what community organization they are passionate about, and Williams Mullen supports them as they contribute to that cause, providing financial support to nonprofit organizations where staff members help lead. The company regularly recognizes internal efforts with monthly and annual awards, including the Spotlight Award and the Sean Miles Teamwork Award.


Golden Corral

Raleigh | restaurant franchisor

58 employees

Lance Trenary, president and CEO

The largest buffet-style restaurant chain in the United States, Golden Corral offers a team-oriented environment with remote work opportunities, paid wellness days, bonuses and opportunities for professional development. Golden Corral employees have quarterly outings to activities such as Carolina Mudcats games, axe throwing and bowling. Employees also have access to the GC Cares Assistance Fund, a nonprofit that assists employees who are experiencing emergencies. They can also take advantage of a 401(k) plan and paid vacation time.

15 Wetherill Engineering

Raleigh | engineering firm

65 employees

Debora Wetherill, president

This woman-owned engineering firm provides structural and roadway services to clients across the Carolinas. Health insurance is free to employees, and the company also offers dental, vision and life insurance. Employees have access to both an employee stock option plan and a 401(k), and the company pays new employees to relocate and reimburses employees for membership in professional associations and re-certifications.

16 The Nottingham Company

Rocky Mount | financial and administrative operations support

32 employees

Frank “Kip” Meadows III, CEO

A fund administration and accounting firm, The Nottingham Company allows employees to work both remotely and in the office. The company provides health insurance and continuing education assistance. Employees volunteer for a Meals on Wheels delivery team and have annual drives to support three other nonprofits. Employees bond through monthly birthday lunches and semi-annual dinners.


17 Swinerton

Charlotte | construction company

54 employees

Kevin Smith, vice president, division manager | Dave Callis, CEO

With 21 offices nationwide, this construction company is 100% employee owned, offering an employee stock ownership program, profit-sharing and a 401(k) match program. Swinerton also offers a variety of training programs for employees, including a diverse offering of online courses, leadership training and opportunities for networking and professional development.

18 Golf Pride

Pinehurst | golf club grip brand

53 employees

Jamie Ledford, president

Golf Pride is a leading distributor of golf grips. Founded in 1949 in Cleveland, Ohio, the 75-year-old company recently unveiled a retail lab in Pinehurst, offering more than 100 different products. The company has a program called “E-Stars” that offers employees rewards for performing well, and the company holds all-employee meetings every six to eight weeks. Employees have one-on-one meetings every week with managers.

19 National Coatings

Raleigh | commercial and industrial painting

49 employees

Zeb Hadley, CEO

New employees at National Coatings are eligible for a $10,000 sign-on bonus. Employees who recruit friends to work for the company receive $2,500 if that worker stays for six months and another $2,500 if they stay a year. The company pays 95% of employee-only insurance coverage, and will do a dollar-for-dollar match on the employee’s health savings account. They also offer a 401(k) plan.

20 Cornerstone United

Hickory | insurance agency

55 employees

Keith Townsend, president

Headquartered in a historic building in Hickory, Cornerstone United provides protection in the automobile, RV, powersports, marine and HVAC industries. The company offers health insurance, a 401(k) match plan and employees have a hybrid schedule according to department needs. Cornerstone also gives employees paid time off.


Wake Plastic Surgery

Cary | medical practice 15 employees

Dr. William Stoeckel, CEO

Dr. William Stoeckel serves on medical mission trips to Formosa, Argentina and Bolivia. Employee perks include health insurance, a fully funded dental and vision plan and a corporate membership to a yoga studio. Employees get paid time off, a 401(k) match and profit sharing after they’re vested. Full-time employees get at least one rotating Friday off a month. The company holds annual team appreciation celebrations.


Cube Creative Design

Asheville | inbound marketing

7 employees

Adam Bennett, founder and CEO

Cube Creative Design helps mostly small businesses and K-12 schools drive traffic to their websites using a combination of search engine optimization, web design and content writing. The company’s flextime schedule combined with a work anywhere culture makes it easy for employees to make the job their own. The company also offers a matched IRA and paid time off.


Parrish & Partners

Charlotte | engineering consultant

23 employees

Jeff Kirby, president

Senior leadership at Parrish & Partners have engineered designs for roadways, bridges and other transportation projects since the 1970s. Projects include work at the Asheville Regional Airport, the Statesville Regional Airport and the Piedmont Triad International Airport. Employees bond over regular office lunches and happy hours as well as an all-out Christmas party. The company offers employees health, dental and vision insurance. Some employees work remote, others have a hybrid schedule. Employees get vacation pay and a 401(k) match.

57 JUNE 2024


Karma Wallet

Wake Forest | financial service 10 employees

Jayant Khadilkar, CEO

Karma Wallet clients use prepaid, reloadable debit cards that offer discounts at selected companies. Data collected is then used to evaluate businesses on their sustainability. Karma Wallet is a 100% remote company. The company offers health and dental insurance and unlimited PTO days to its employees. Staff has in-person team meetings every quarter in Raleigh. culture makes it easy for employees to make the job their own. The company also offers a matched IRA and paid time off.

5 Tayloe Gray Agency

Wilmington | PR and marketing 15 employees

Nathan Tayloe, CE0

Tayloe Gray Agency is a full-service marketing and design agency. Employees have the option of remote work or coming into the office. The company offers a 401(k) match, health insurance, paid time off and assistance with tuition or scholarships. Each year, the company offers its services for free or at a heavily discounted rate to nonprofit organizations.ia. Employee perks include health insurance, a fully funded dental and vision plan and a corporate membership to a yoga studio. Employees get paid time off, a 401(k) match and profit sharing after they’re vested. Full-time employees get at least one rotating Friday off a month. The company holds annual team appreciation celebrations.


Global Tax Management

Wilmington | corporate tax services firm

5 employees

David Sekula, CEO

Global Tax Management serves mid-size and large multinational corporations. The company is 100% employee owned, and it offers employees a hybrid-remote schedule, paid time off and health insurance benefits. The company’s employee stock ownership plan requires no contribution from the employee and exists in addition to the 401(k) match offered to staff. Employees can also get tuition assistance, scholarships and take advantage of a fitness incentive program.

7 Johnson Insurance

Mocksville | insurance agency

20 employees

Wes Johnson, CEO and co-owner

Jessica Yarbrough, COO and co-owner

Johnson Insurance employees spend two days in the office and three days working remotely. The company offers employer-paid healthcare, life and disability insurance and a 401(k) match program. Employees who take less than three hours off in a day do not have to use their PTO hours to cover that time.

8 Formation PR + Brand

Hendersonville | PR and marketing

10 employees

Erica Allison, CEO

9 Gibson Consultants

Wilmington | recruiting firm

7 employees

Jim Gibson, president

Gibson Consultants is a fully remote company that offers employees an IRA plan, health insurance and reimbursement for a gym membership. Gibson Consultants holds a weekly company-wide meeting in which employees can provide agenda topics about which they want to learn more.

10 STG Solar

Pisgah Forest | solar energy contractor

25 employees

Mike Kilpatrick, CEO

STG Solar partners with engineering procurement contractors to build solar farms, specializing in electrical, mechanical, medium voltage and fiber optic installations. The solar farm installer partners with local animal shelters to find dogs their forever homes. Employees receive paid time off and have a 401(k).


Accelerate Therapy and Performance

Salisbury | physical therapy clinic

14 employees

Delaine Fowler, CEO

Accelerate Therapy and Performance offers health insurance, reimbursement for continuing education and a 401(k) match program. New employees receive one-on-one training to learn the daily operations of the company. The company has offices in both Concord and Salisbury.


Xtern Software

Greensboro | software development

12 employees

Keir Davis, president

Xtern Software offers a flexible schedule with the option of hybrid remote work. Nine of its employees are UNC Greensboro graduates. The staff has weekly team lunches and volunteer work at civic organizations. The office is located at the edge of Greensboro’s historic Fisher Park neighborhood, across from Latham Park, and the staff helps maintain the park through the city’s Adopt-a-Park program. Xtern also takes part in home repair with Community Housing Solutions and hosts site visits for UNC Greensboro students interested in technology.

Formation PR offers public relations services to clients that include nonprofit organizations, educational institutions and healthcare organizations. Some employees have a hybrid schedule, and all employees, including part-time staff, have an employer-matched 401(k). Employees receive paid time off and can receive tuition assistance.



PRESPRO Homes and Neighborhoods

Harrisburg | custom home builder

25 employees

John Sears, CEO

The custom homebuilder attracts employees who value work-life balance and a friendly work environment. All employees get paid time off, and leadership participates in profit sharing.


Marcellino & Tyson

Charlotte | law firm

18 employees

Matthew Marcellino, Jennifer Moore, Bryan Tyson, equity partners

Marcellino & Tyson provides all attorneys a monthly budget for client development, as well as funding for their participation in professional organizations and continuing education courses. The law firm provides a 401(k) with employer match, 15 days vacation time, health, dental and vision insurance, a fully paid gym membership and a paid parental leave policy. Attorneys are encouraged to work a 9-to-5 schedule, leaving time for them to spend with their families. They can also take advantage of a fitness incentive program.

15 Dry Otter Waterproofing

Denver | Waterproofing, remediation and foundation repair

20 employees

Kevin Sanders, Mark Johnston, owners

Dry Otter Waterproofing has about 25 employees, most of whom have been with the company for a few years. It’s a tough job that involves crawling underneath homes that have water problems. The company bought a life-sized otter costume, and “Drysdale” the otter is known to visit fairs, festivals and other events.


Apparo Solutions

Charlotte | nonprofit

16 employees

Kim Lanphear, CEO

Apparo Solutions employees have the flexibility to adjust their schedules to accommodate personal commitments and to work remotely when necessary. Apparo employees gather weekly to build relationships with one another, and once a month, they share a meal to celebrate their accomplishments and plan for their future. Apparo also offers medical insurance, paid time off and a retirement match program.

17 The Brooks Group

Greensboro | sales training services

21 employees

Spencer Wixom, CEO

The Brooks Group offers training programs that help sales teams develop the necessary skills to generate revenue. The company offers unlimited time off. Some employees work remotely, others work-from home one day per week. The company also offers a 401(k) match, health insurance and a yearly wellness stipend. An activities committee plans company parties, game lunches, work anniversary recognitions and contributes to office morale.

18 VPC Builders

Banner Elk | builder

27 employees

Matt Vincent, manager

Employees at this High Country-based home builder receive 16 hours paid time off per year to volunteer at a community nonprofit. The company offers health insurance and a hybrid work schedule. Additionally, the employee-driven VPC Builders Care Team offers employee emergency assistance funding, disaster relief funding, community giving and community service projects and scholarships.


Heritage Signs & Displays

Charlotte | commercial signage

20 employees

Joe Gass, CEO

Heritage Signs & Displays is a veteran-owned commercial printer with production facilities in both Charlotte and Washington, D.C. Employees receive health insurance and a 401(k) match, along with 15 to 20 days of PTO depending on longevity, and seven paid holidays. A percentage of Heritage’s net profits go to domestic and international Christian missions.

20 HITT Contracting

Raleigh | commercial construction

25 employees

Kim Roy, CEO

Through decades-old traditions such as company-wide happy hour hosted by a new hire every Friday afternoon, family picnics in the summer, annual Subcontractor Appreciation Days, and food drives for community members in need, HITT Contracting prioritizes team building and camaraderie through special events and volunteerism. Employees can work remotely one day per week, receive up to $300 per year in wellness reimbursements and are offered medical insurance. The company has a 100% match of the first $4,000 an employee contributes to their 401(k) plan.

21 Red Shark Digital

Greenville | digital marketing agency

20 employees

Spencer Bunting, CEO

Red Shark Digital is welcoming to those early in their careers, offering both internship and professional development opportunities. Employees have access to ongoing educational opportunities, including webinars and online courses, and some employees are able to work remotely. The company offers health, dental and vision insurance benefits, as well as a gym membership allowance.

59 JUNE 2024


Williams Mullen is a business law firm with 440 employees in offices across North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia. Our clients’ success is at the forefront of what we do, and we are proud to have a strong team of attorneys and staff committed to providing exceptional client service. We know that Williams Mullen only succeeds when we foster an inclusive environment where our team feels supported, can contribute meaningfully and be their authentic selves. We offer our employees opportunities to learn, grow and find their own yes.

We celebrate the inclusion in Business North Carolina’s Best Employers.

At First Bank, we believe in the power of people in our community. For nearly 100 years, we’ve been changing lives by giving the communities we serve access to the financial services and education they need in order to thrive. Rooted in the Carolinas, our goal is to help our customers with their financial needs and build relationships with them and our neighbors. We invite you to learn more about us at any of our First Bank branches or



DMJPS is celebrating!

For 75 years, DMJPS CPAs + Advisors has been helping to create greater opportunities for its clients, people, and communities. As a U.S. Top 200 tax, assurance, and advisory firm, DMJPS routinely solves complex financial matters for individuals, privately-held businesses, nonprofits, and corporations.

Proudly located from North Carolina’s mountains to the coast, the DMJPS team of 165+ serves local, regional, statewide, multistate, and international clients in a wide range of industries.

DMJPS is a future-focused firm that uses advanced technologies, specialized industry knowledge, and a strong commitment to meaningful client relationships to create clientspecific tailored solutions.

DMJPS is celebrating its people: DMJPS’ #1 asset is its people within the firm and their commitment to firm clients, their communities, profession,

and one another. A team that feels connected can accomplish great things.

DMJPS utilizes a variety of tools, including interactive online platforms, to make work life more fun and to keep its team updated and engaged.

Team members stay connected with frequent events such as onsite putt-putt and tug of war, show-off your pet day, online game contests, back-to-school supply fundraisers, and volunteer service days, just to name a few.

Benefits include an open PTO policy, flex work schedule, reduced work schedule from mid-April through


Dec. 31, 100% paid health insurance and 401(k) match, to name a few.

DMJPS is celebrating its clients: DMJPS values its clients’ success. Using client-specific tailored solutions, DMJPS has an uncompromising commitment to being a trusted advisor with comprehensive solutions that extend beyond numbers and compliance.

Be Greater.

DMJPS is celebrating its communities:

DMJPS invests time and energy to make each of its seven community locations to be a better place to live and work.

DMJPS is celebrating!

75 years of helping to create greater opportunities for its clients, people, and communities.

Formed to make a positive impact by one guiding principle: Be Greater.

Learn more at



Davenport & Company is proud to be included on Business North Carolina Magazine’s 2024 Best Employers in North Carolina list. At Davenport, we believe that wealth management is timeless. Opportunities arise, trends change and technologies evolve — but the fundamentals of investment research and management remain. With an emphasis on building wealth together, our financial advice and personal service are the foundation of our success with individuals and institutions across generations.

Davenport is an independent, employee-owned firm, founded in Richmond, Virginia, in 1863. Since our founding, we have experienced nearly every kind of financial market and we have learned the importance of balancing stability and innovation in a dynamic environment. We recognize that there is more to our business than delivering high-quality financial services; it is about building meaningful relationships. Our more than 450+

associates, across four states, maintain a discipline of putting our clients’ needs ahead of our own and delivering products and services that meet their goals.

We offer a comprehensive set of resources including financial and retirement planning, asset management, stock and bond brokerage, research, public finance and corporate finance. Our boutique money management division, Davenport Asset Management, has emphasized long-term investing across a variety of disciplines in separately managed accounts for more than 30 years, and offers six publicly available mutual funds, recognized in The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal.

We are committed to the communities in which we live and work. Davenport Shares, our employee-run philanthropic initiative, actively supports local organizations and dedicates company time and resources to projects that enhance the vibrancy and quality of life in our communities.


Charlotte - Public Finance Office

101 N. Tryon Street, Suite 1220

Charlotte, NC 28246

Phone: (704) 375-0550


628 Green Valley Road, Suite 306

Greensboro, NC 27408

Phone: (336) 297-2800


3605 Glenwood Avenue, Suite 310

Raleigh, NC 27612

Phone: (919) 571-6550


201 Chatham Street, Suite 1

Sanford, NC 27330

Phone: (919) 777-9823


Abingdon • Charlottesville • Danville Farmville • Franklin • Fredericksburg Harrisonburg • Kilmarnock

Lynchburg • Marion • Newport News

Norfolk • Richmond • Roanoke

Staunton • Suffolk • Virginia Beach Williamsburg

Public Finance services offered in Atlanta, GA; Leesburg, VA; Towson, MD



At National Coatings, our legacy extends over two decades, yet every day presents a new opportunity to progress our company’s vision. Each day, our team of over 100 professionals is committed to embodying our core values: dedication, integrity, teamwork and the pursuit of excellence. These values are the bedrock of our operations, enabling us to deliver superior professional painting, wallcovering, sandblasting and industrial coating services across the nation.

Last year, from our offices in Boise, Bozeman, Denver, and Raleigh, we successfully executed projects in 32 states for clients across sectors including retail, government, hospitality, healthcare and education. This success underscores the importance of our most valuable asset — our team members.

Our company culture is deeply rooted in our core values, which are crucial not only for our professional operations but for fostering a universally positive environment. This alignment ensures that every team member shares a common vision and is inspired to contribute meaningfully. We go beyond merely displaying our values on a wall; we live them, creating a strong, inclusive community within our workplace.

We treat our team members with the same respect and care we expect to be extended to our clients, thereby nurturing a culture of excellence and empathy that benefits all stakeholders. We focus on building a strong internal community through various activities and incentives,

emphasizing the importance of each individual’s contribution.

At National Coatings, we strive to improve by 1% each day, believing that incremental progress contributes to significant impacts for our consumers, communities and partners. Ultimately, our relationships are at the core of our business, starting with our team and extending to our clients — many of whom have become like family.

At National Coatings, our work is about more than just outcomes; it’s about nurturing lasting relationships, creating a network of trust and mutual respect that spans across all our projects and partnerships.


Raleigh, North Carolina

Denver, Colorado

Boise, Idaho

Bozeman, Montana

Raleigh, N.C. Team Bandwidth Headquarters in Raleigh, N.C.


For 75 years, Golf Pride® has believed in the importance of developing the most innovative golf grips for the hands of all golfers. Because the grip is the only piece of equipment that touches every golfer, we are obsessed with the connectedness of the hands to the club. This drives us in everything we do. As golf begins to reflect the diversity of the world we live in, so must our teams that inspire those leading golf’s transformation. We aspire to lead our industry by investing in our world class team that represents the future of the game we love.

Curious trailblazers, please visit to find our available opportunities.

Committed to a brighter energy future, Brunswick Electric provides safe, reliable and affordable energy to the homes, schools, farms and businesses in eastern North Carolina. Since our founding in 1939, we’ve added 110,000 accounts while maintaining our commitment to enrich the lives of those living and working in the community we serve.

Thanks AGAIN to our employees for making Brunswick Electric one of North Carolina’s best employers two years in a row.



Founded in 1949, Clancy & Theys Construction Company is a cornerstone of excellence in North Carolina’s construction industry. As a private, family-owned company headquartered in Raleigh, Clancy & Theys has evolved from a small operation with a single office to a leading force in the Southeast’s construction market. With more than 400 employees across the Southeast, including North Carolina’s Raleigh, Charlotte, and Wilmington divisions, as well as our South Carolina, Virginia, and Florida divisions, the company’s footprint reflects our enduring commitment to quality and innovation.

Over the past 75 years, Clancy & Theys has established itself as one of the top three general contractors in North Carolina, as well as one of the top 100 green builders for sustainability, according to Engineering NewsRecord. The company’s projects span a range of sectors, including hospitality, sports facilities, multi-unit residences, and life and health science buildings. This versatility, alongside a presence in nearly 20 states, showcases the company’s adaptability and durability for ongoing success.

Central to Clancy & Theys’ growth is our commitment to our people.

The company’s core values –safety, stewardship, passion, and collaboration – create a workplace where employees succeed and grow. “Our employees’ passion and dedication make Clancy & Theys the successful company we are today,” says President Baker Glasgow. While the industry is ever evolving, these pillars continue to guide decisions made at each level of the organization, from job sites to leadership, and heavily influence the reason why team members of Clancy & Theys invest decades of their careers here.

Beyond the workplace, Clancy & Theys extends our values to the broader communities in which we serve. Through charitable initiatives and community engagement, we encourage our team members to give back, reinforcing our mission to be a good neighbor and steward. By creating a sense of purpose in the communities in which we serve, the Clancy & Theys team has identified a stronger workforce by creating a positive impact.

Through upholding our legacy and values, we have established a reputation for doing the right thing, the right way, further paving the way for growth and success in North Carolina for generations to come.


For over 50 years, we have maintained our tradition of providing a pleasurable dining experience for our guests by preparing delicious food in a family-friendly atmosphere at an incredible value. Our success is a tribute to our employees who strive daily to create experiences that bring happiness to our people and our guests. We also strongly believe in giving back to many national and local notfor-profits. Service to others is a hallmark of the brand. Our restaurants have long served our guests, U.S. military members, veterans, their families, and our employees. This is done through our annual Military Appreciation Night, which, to date, has served over 6 million free meals to military members. Golden Corral is also the founding partner of Camp Corral, a nonprofit organization that provides a free, one-of-a-kind summer camp for children of our nation’s wounded, ill, and fallen military heroes. Through the generosity of guests, franchisees, and employees, Golden Corral restaurants, in partnership with Disabled American Veterans, have raised over $34 million for military families.



ARCO Design/Build is the leading design-build construction company in the United States, simplifying the building process with national reach and local expertise. Our streamlined approach ensures efficiency and accountability offering one budget, one contract, and one cohesive turnkey project delivery. You’ll find ARCO Design/Build locations in some of the fastest-growing and most populated areas in the country. But, our work isn’t confined to city or state limits; we travel to wherever a project takes us.

At ARCO, we embody a “work hard, play hard” ethos that extends beyond our status as a top design-builder in the state. It’s our diverse and talented team that truly sets us apart, bringing varied perspectives and skills to every project. Our fast-paced and challenging work environment is balanced with ample opportunities for fun and relaxation, ensuring that every team member not only fits in but thrives.

Through our Employee Stock Ownership Program (ESOP), eligible full-time associates have the opportunity to become shareholders and owners of the company, sharing in our success and reaping the benefits

of our profitability. Competitive salaries, merit bonuses, tuition reimbursement and a scholarship program further demonstrate our investment in our team’s financial well-being and personal development.

At ARCO, we recognize that rest isn’t a luxury, it’s a necessity. Every five years, associates earn a 30-day paid sabbatical with a $5,000 bonus to fund their travels or adventures. Additionally, we provide one week of paid volunteer time each year, complemented by a dollar-for-dollar matching gift program to support causes close to our team’s hearts.

ARCO Design/Build is not just a construction company; it’s a dynamic and rewarding place to work with a positive company culture, innovative projects, strong leadership, focus on safety, and commitment to fairness. From opportunities for growth to competitive benefits package, ARCO is dedicated to valuing our people and doing right by them.



2100 S Tryon St Suite 205

Charlotte, NC 28203



4000 Westchase Blvd Suite 450

Raleigh, NC 27607



226 N Front St Suite 127

Wilmington, NC 28401


To learn more about ARCO Design/Build and our career opportunities, visit: D


Business NC and East Carolina University are announcing an inaugural conference dedicated to businesses in rural North Carolina.

Our N.C. Rural Economic Summit will take place October 1 – 2, 2024 in Greenville at the Main Campus Student Center.

The N.C. Rural Economic Summit aims to build powerful networks of passionate, engaged, innovative business leaders in rural North Carolina willing to share ideas and resources and take action to strengthen their small communities across the state.

The summit will consist of a two-day conference focused on addressing the challenges, opportunities and collaboration of businesses and business supporters in rural North Carolina. Business North Carolina’s annual Trailblazers award winners will be honored at a gala, and programming will include important topics to rural businesses.



Marcellino & Tyson, PLLC is a trusted Charlotte, NC-based law firm providing representation in the areas of Family Law, Business Law, Employment & ERISA Law and Civil Litigation.

Our Employment & ERISA attorneys are highly experienced with a successful track record of helping our clients get the benefits they deserve. Our Family lawyers are

known for strong advocacy for their clients both inside and outside of the courtroom and can answer your family law, divorce, child custody, child support and alimony questions.

Our Business and Litigation attorneys help companies and individuals in North and South Carolina avoid and resolve legal issues. The attorneys at Marcellino & Tyson, PLLC are here to Protect What’s Yours.


A Legacy of Innovation Launching Your Success

The aerospace industry soars on a foundation of constant progress. At Piedmont Triad International Airport (PTI), we mirror that spirit. We are more than an airport – we’re a vibrant hub fostering groundbreaking innovation in aerospace. From established world brands like Honda Aircraft Company to the recent groundbreaking by Boom Supersonic for their revolutionary zero-carbon supersonic jet, PTI is a launchpad for industry leaders.

Understanding the critical role of location and preparedness, PTI provides an unparalleled advantage. Our central East Coast positioning offers direct access to major interstate highways, streamlining logistics and ensuring seamless transportation for your business. Equally important is being ready to support your vision by planning for the future. Over a decade ago, we implemented a visionary master plan to position PTI as the prime location for the aerospace industry. This foresight has resulted in a dedicated 1,000-acre “mega-site” specifically designed to accommodate the needs of industry leaders.

Several parcels within this mega-site are already graded and boast easy access to both the interstate and runways, primed for immediate development. Three components guide these projects: Scope, Budget and Schedule. We have the ability to provide you the site you need, at low cost, and on a schedule that cannot be replicated elsewhere.

At PTI, success takes flight in a collaborative environment. Over 50 established companies already call PTI home, generating nearly 9,000 jobs. Global brands, such as Honda Aircraft, Marshall Aerospace, HAECO North America, Cessna/ Textron, FedEx and now Boom, are among a robust network of nearly 200 aerospace companies thriving across the surrounding Piedmont Triad region, offering invaluable resources and potential partnerships.

The future of aerospace is brimming with exciting possibilities. PTI is positioned to be at the forefront of these advancements. At PTI, we’re passionate about propelling the future of aerospace. Our unwavering commitment to innovation, strategic location, and state-of-the-art infrastructure make us the ideal partner for your company’s growth. Let’s discuss how PTI can take your business to new heights.



A look at N.C.’s Piedmont Triad and its Carolina Core

Lexington, county seat of Davidson County, is a town of 20,000 at the crossroads of U.S. 64 and Interstate 85, halfway between Salisbury and Thomasville, in the middle of the state. It has a walkable downtown, half-dozen wineries, the Bob Timberlake gallery, family-friendly parks and a nickname –Barbecue Capital of the World. Its annual October barbecue festival lures enough visitors to double the town population.

But lately Lexington has been discovered by more than food enthusiasts.

In April, steel-production company

Nucor announced its next micro mill plant, a $350 million manufacturing project intended to create 180 jobs with annual wages of $99,066, will be built just east of town on U.S. 64, about three miles from a 761-acre plot rezoned in April for industrial use.

Within Lexington city limits, Siemens Mobility’s $220 million railcar factory will create 500 jobs at a 200-acre lot in the Lexington Industrial Park on Brown Street.

“They’re completing utility permits and are on track for campus completion by March 2025,” says Jason Martin, Davidson’s assistant county manager, of the Siemens site. “It’s great for the county and the city of Lexington, because it’s a strong capital investment. We pride ourselves on a low tax rate, and that helps. Plus the wages will be over the county average.”

Nucor and Siemens join a lengthy list of manufacturers settling in the N.C. Triad, a 12-county group of Alamance, Caswell, Davidson, Davie, Forsyth, Guilford, Montgomery, Randolph, Rockingham, Stokes, Surry and Yadkin with a midsection of Greensboro, High Point and Winston-Salem sewn together by a half-dozen crisscrossing highways.

Spanning the Triad like a landlocked peninsula, the Carolina Core is a 120-mile-long industry-saturated swath of the Piedmont from Surry and Yadkin counties in the west to Cumberland, Sampson and Johnston in the east. Inside, 2 million people

live among industrial tracts covering 7,200-plus acres of certified land.

“We’re at a time when the county and all its municipalities are in harmony,” Martin says. “There are a lot of positives.”

“We like to tout ourselves as the third economic engine for North Carolina,” says Mike Fox, president of the Piedmont Triad Partnership, an economic development influencer in Greensboro. “The Charlotte region has its success and its own niche. The Raleigh area has been enormously successful. In order for North Carolina to prosper, you have to have more than two areas. That’s not to say Asheville and Wilmington aren’t doing well. One of the best things about the Core is the choices you have and the diversity in where you can live, work and play.”

The Triad and Core boast a myriad of tourism attractions, a fistful of four-year universities and community colleges, and a city, High Point, that is the first Certified Autism Destination on the East Coast accredited by the

73 JUNE 2024

International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards.

Its Piedmont Triad International airport has a $9.3 billion economic impact, aerospace cluster and a plane-inthe-making that will dash through the stratosphere at 1,304 mph.

There’s baseball’s High Point Rockers, of the South Division of the Atlantic League, and professional soccer, Carolina Core FC.

There’s a Pottery Tour in Seagrove, in Randolph County, that boasts 50 pottery shops; and the Uwharrie National Forest, in Montgomery County, with 50,000 acres of serenity, mountain biking and horseback rides.

“With a growing tourism economy, the county’s natural beauty shines with the Uwharrie National Forest, Tillery and Badin lakes, offering residents and visitors plentiful outdoor recreation and scenic views,” says county economic development director

Savannah Heath. “The charm of small-town living contributes to the area’s exceptional quality of life.”

Infrastructure – pavement – is imperative to Core counties. Interstate 40 and U.S. 421 meander from WinstonSalem to Greensboro to Sanford and Dunn, with the Greensboro-toSanford segment soon to be designated Future I-685. From Winston-Salem westward to Yadkinville, 421 could evolve into Interstate 777.

“Having I-777 in ‘future interstate status’ allows your local economic development professional to appeal for more projects. Many companies don’t have to be right on the interstate; they say they have to be within 10 miles,” Fox says. “And if you can’t provide that, you may be eliminated.”

Last fall, leaders gathered to address another mission: housing. With major incoming industries committed, the PTP initiated a study to focus

on “which type of housing can go where,” according to a report.

“First and foremost,” High Point University President Nido Qubein says, “our goal is to ensure that people acknowledge this is a great place to live, a wonderful place to build a business and a terrific place to raise a family.”


The Piedmont Triad Partnership encourages blending assets of education, infrastructure and buildable land with a business community focused on job generators. Nineteen counties market the Core brand to attract business.

“The Partnership has been a wonderful fellowship of focused leaders across the region,” says Qubein, who is one of three co-chairs. “We have seen megasites come to be, and they have attracted companies like the Toyota battery plant (5,100 jobs in Randolph County) and created an enormous number of jobs.”


Qubein is a former board member of Piedmont Triad International Airport, which holds multiple onsite aerospace companies and manufacturers in addition to having nationwide flights through four major airlines.

“We brought FedEx there (in 2003). Today that looks like a small advancement,” Qubein says. “Now, we’ve advanced to a much higher level with the megasites and can be sure that there are 50,000, 100,000 positions that can be created with reasonable amounts of compensation.”

Major investments and announcements are, often, credited to the diligence of individual counties’ EDCs, Fox says. “We meet with them monthly to promote the brand, which is the Core, and we celebrate all the victories. We do get involved in projects when they’re being recruited, because a CEO might say, ‘Hey, do you have a person we can talk to about what it’s like to run a business in this area?’ So, we work to provide that.”


When “Carolina Core” became a term in 2018, Fox’s predecessor Stan Kelly expressed a goal of 50,000 office and industrial jobs in 20 years. Success –and money in the billions – came fast.

The PTP announced at the end of April that its 50,000-job milestone has been met – with 50,300. “We knew we were close last year,” Fox says, “so we raised the goal to 100,000 by 2038. We doubled our goal.

“We’ve also been very blessed in that Duke Energy has been a great partner to work with in that they have an excellent grid and can provide for these companies as well.”

The biggest names announced in the megasite game:

• Toyota battery: $13.9 billion in an increasing presence at the Greensboro-Randolph Megasite; 5,100 jobs.

• Wolfspeed: 1,800 jobs, $5 billion investment at Chatham-Siler City.

• VinFast: $4 billion investment at Triangle Innovation Point ; 7,500 jobs.

• Boom Supersonic ($500 million) and Marshall Aerospace ($50 million) are constructing facilities at Piedmont Triad International Airport and intend to hire 2,400 and 243, respectively.

• Chatham-Siler City has 1,400 acres remaining, and the Person County Mega Park just over Caswell’s eastern side has 1,350 acres ready to develop.

“We see companies that don’t care if they’re in Lexington, or out in Davidson County; they care about the site and their workforce,” Fox says. “So realizing that has allowed our elected officials and our government to see a regional approach, and that brings you strength. It’s a collaboration, working with the megasites and landing these big projects and the smaller ones that we get literally every single week.”

Part of the PTP’s housing study addresses neighborhood needs throughout its territory.

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5,954 square miles; 12 counties


33rd-largest CSA in the United States

Manufacturing 4th-largest manufacturing center in Southeast


Aviation, advanced manufacturing, life sciences, furniture, logistics


Four within a 120-mile path

• Greensboro-Randolph

• Chatham Advanced Manufacturing

• Triangle Innovation Point

• PTI Aerospace


Several interstates, rail routes and airports

Acreage 7,200 acres available for advance manufacturing

Education 30 colleges and universities

Business sectors

Aerospace, automotive, biomedical and life sciences, entrepreneurship, logistics


Toyota batter y: $13.9 billion presence at Greensboro-Randolph

Wolfspeed: $5 billion at Chatham-Siler City

VinFast: $4 billion at Triangle Innovation Point

Boom Supersonic and Marshall Aerospace: Piedmont Triad International Airport

800,000 Size
Population 1.6 million Workforce
79 JUNE 2024

“Some like a downtown environment, others like a traditional neighborhood, and some like a small town, like Madison in Rockingham County,” Fox says, “and they can say ‘Hey, my job is in Winston-Salem, but I can get there in 25 minutes.’ You can have choices; you can have 40 acres with horses and still be able to have a quick drive to work.”

“Despite its rural nature, Montgomery County is investing heavily in infrastructure, making it a prime location at the heart of North Carolina, with easy access to major metropolitan areas,” Heath says. “The county’s Economic Development department is focusing on developing pad-ready sites featuring rail access, capitalizing on its interstate access on its eastern portion (I-73/I-74), and enhancing its appeal to businesses seeking convenience and connectivity.”


Thirty community colleges and universities fill the Triad, pairing resources with major industries, CTE training and helping promote host towns and counties.

High Point’s Qubein has business partnerships in banking, real estate, publishing and retail. His approach at HPU is to prepare students for postcollege careers, both personally and professionally. “Our values are ‘God, family, country’ and what makes it special is our focus on life skills. That’s not branding; it’s the mission in every major, every department, and every school has national leaders in the field who come to guide and mentor our students,” he says. “We’ve had chairs of the board at AT&T, founders of Apple, of Netflix, all are our Innovators in Residence, so our students are able to get the ammunition they need to understand life and the applications that are involved.”

Innovation Quarter High Point University Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine NC A&T State University Nursing Lab

Newly added programs at HPU include degrees in health and wellness, oral health, applied physics and women’s leadership development. The Workman School of Dental Medicine opens this fall offering a doctor of dental medicine degree. The only private dental school in North Carolina, it already has more than 1,000 applications. HPU will begin accepting applications Sept. 1 for its School of Law; its planned School of Optometry will be the 10th school established since Qubein became president in 2005. HPU has 14 academic schools.

Called “The Premier Life Skills University,” the campus since 2005 has expanded from 91 acres to 560 and from 18 to 128 buildings, a $3 billion transformation. Qubein, who leads a freshman Life Skills course, says the university has welcomed $800 million in philanthropy, $320 million of it in the last 15 months.

“We have relationships with 4,800 organizations where we can guarantee each student an internship, and we have an amazing career services organization that is a byproduct of the extensive research we did,” he says.

HPU, he says, has “close to a $1 billion economic impact” on the city of High Point.

“The city of High Point is a remarkable story. The city, the business leaders and the Chamber of Commerce have

always come together, and they’ve said it’s time to build a better future for our city,” he says. “And that, we are doing, in tremendous amounts.”

In Troy, Montgomery County’s two public high schools – Montgomery Central and the Early College High School – are located at the community college campus.

“Montgomery County’s commitment to education is evident in its innovative approach, consolidating high schools to create a state-of-the-art high school conveniently located on Montgomery Community College’s campus,” Heath says. “This shared campus includes a Career Technical Education building and Montgomery Early College, providing students unparalleled access to college and CTE classes and pathways, paving the county’s way to a skilled workforce.”

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Thirty community colleges and universities fill the Triad, pairing resources with major industries, CTE training and helping promote host towns and counties.

High Point University High Point University Innovation Quarter


The PTI campus has about 9,000 employees – 8,000 in jobs not related to terminal operations and commercial service aircraft.

Expansion continues. “We’re in the design phase of a terminal modernization project that will include heavy renovations and reconstruction of the terminal,” says Executive Director Kevin Baker of PTI’s three-and-halfyear upfit. “There will be growing pains, but it’s not going to interrupt flights.”

PTI has about 900 ready-to-build acres remaining in its aerospace cluster of HAECO Americas, Honda Aircraft, Cessna and VSE Corp. Baker says Boom Supersonic’s facility construction should be complete in a few months, and Marshall Aerospace has a January target.


“Our deal is to get them to market faster,” Baker says. “If we didn’t have the grading done, we’d still be moving dirt. We have sites ready to go, and that puts us in a good competitive position.”


High Point hosts more than 815,000 direct visitors annually, says Melody Burnett, president of the Visit High Point CVB. The High Point Market furniture extravaganza brings an estimated 75,000 home furnishings professionals

to town twice a ye ar. And High Point University attracts more than 100,000 annual visitors for events such as orientation and graduation, family weekends, Presidential Scholar Weekend and Big South Conference sports.

“High Point has a town-and-gown relationship with HPU,” Burnett says. “Our local businesses, especially in the hospitality sector, understand the value in aligning their products and services with the standards set in place connecting those visitors to great experiences while in town. HPU continues to set the bar high, enhancing High Point’s abilities to secure more visitors through educational, spor ts and social events on campus.”

Visit or scan the code above to go directly to the nominations page.

The city’s overnight and day-trip guests, Burnett says, “enjoy exploring the area including our N.C. Visitor Attraction of the Year, the Nido & Mariana Qubein Children’s Museum, and our Labor Day Weekend tradition, the John Coltrane International Jazz and Blues Festival. We are hyper focused on our guest experience, elevating the home furnishings and design branding, generating consumer traffic and awareness to our new downtown, and positioning our mission as a community of shared values that benefits visitors and residents.”

Being a Certified Autism Destination is new. Mesa, Arizona, is the only other U.S. city that can claim certification. The purpose is to make venues comfortable and welcoming for people with autism. “Currently, there are no venues outside the city participating, but there have


We are looking to find the best Tar Heel small businesses.

2024 marks our 29th year of honoring the contributions small businesses make to our state’s economy. Help us to fi nd the small businesses that best represent North Carolina. The winners will be profiled in the December 2024 BUSINESS NORTH CAROLINA magazine. Please submit your nominations by June 18, 2024

High Point × Design

1 in 6 people have a sensory need or sensitivity


32 Million trips are taken annually by travelers with disabilities are autistic but were never formally diagnosed

1 in 36 children are diagnosed with autism in the US (varies globally)

87 JUNE 2024

been some exploratory conversations with some neighboring partners,” says Nancy Bowman, Visit High Point’s vice president of branding. “(Venues) have been working diligently to create programming, events, sensory guides and additional resources to ensure autistic visitors not only feel welcome

but have time to prepare for what they are getting ready to experience.

“We are leveraging our mission as a community with shared values to drive the visitor economy, support local businesses, improve quality of life for our residents and lift up our destination’s branding of being kind and inclusive,

while enhancing High Point’s visibility as a destination to live, work and play.”


“I think our greatest achievement (at the PTP) is just bringing the region together. And that’s occurred in the last 10 years,” Fox says. “Our folks work collaboratively and cooperatively to make this a great place to live, and bring jobs. So, building this regional community and the brand of the Carolina Core has been our most remarkable contribution.”

Adds Qubein: “The Triad really is the giant that has been awakened recently. It’s an exciting time in the Core, and in the Triad, because everyone is excited about the potential that lies ahead.” ■

— Kathy Blake is a writer from eastern North Carolina.



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BUSINESS IS BIG BUSINESS. We are looking to find the best Tar Heel small businesses.

2024 marks our 29th year of honoring the contributions small businesses make to our state’s economy. Help us to fi nd the small businesses that best represent North Carolina. The winners will be profiled in the December 2024 BUSINESS NORTH CAROLINA magazine. Please submit your nominations by June 18, 2024 .


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To the horizon, in strikingly straight rows, stretch sweetpotato vines with their spade-shaped leaves. “I’m a fifth-generation farmer,” Cliff Pilson says, continuing the family heritage here in the dark soil of the Sandhills in Cameron in Moore County. Now, he’s one of the largest producers in the nation’s biggest sweetpotato-producing state.

This was not always ordained.

Around 2008, sweetpotatoes were small potatoes in North Carolina’s agriculture scheme. Then, an active effort to change things gained momentum with the introduction of French-fried sweet potatoes in more U.S. restaurants, says CoCo Daughtry, spokesperson for the 400-plus growers, allied members and others who make up the N.C. Sweet Potato Commission.

Today, more than 70,000 U.S. restaurants offer sweetpotato fries, according to Tastewise GDP, a Chicago-based organization that tracks dining industry trends. North Carolina is the nation’s leading sweetpotato producer, with more than 78,000 acres and annual output topping $300 million. That’s double nearest-competitor Mississippi’s 30,000 acres. Nutritionists says sweetpotatoes are generally seen as better for gluten-free diets, a growing food trend.

In Raleigh, a similar strategy worked for the pork industry, which seized on health and nutrition concerns, marketing pork as “the other white meat,” says Robert Brown, a spokesman for the N.C. Pork Council. The state’s pork industry supports 19,000 jobs with revenue of more than $10 billion a year.

Efforts to expand North Carolina agriculture are one enigma after another, concedes N.C Commissioner of Agriculture Steve Troxler. The state’s largest industry has more than $103 billion in annual revenue and employs about 728,000 workers, surpassing

finance, pharmaceuticals and others that often seize the spotlight.

“We can thank our tremendous diversity,” says Troxler, who grew up on a tobacco farm. He was elected in 2005, and the economic impact of agriculture has doubled since then. “We can thank our recruiting for that.”

The surprising wallop of agriculture comes from crops such as cucumbers, sweetpotatoes, and protein such as chicken, pork and turkeys, along with timber and Christmas trees.

It all is about to get new wind.

The 2023 state lawmakers created the N.C. Agriculture and Processing Initiative to promote value-added agricultural manufacturing and food processing. It’s intended to fill existing gaps in agricultural processing and create more wallop for the sector. “For the first time ever, that will be $10 million this year and $10 million for next year for agribusiness recruitment to incentivize companies coming to North Carolina,” Troxler says.

But it’s not easy. No other sector of the N.C. economy faces the daunting challenges of agriculture, says Tim Ivey, the agriculture department’s agribusiness developer.

That’s a profound statement, but consider how the state has overcome the decline of its once-powerful tobacco industry.

North Carolina’s giant ag industry stays alert to industry trends. Steve Troxler
the state’s

“Look back 100 years, and we had a crop called tobacco that enabled us to grow and be as diversified as we are,” says Troxler. Tobacco hasn’t gone away, with exports of more than $500 million a year, more than any other state.

He’s referring to the conundrum of how health concerns caused by nicotine consumption have generated a major economic-development resource for the state.

In 1999, the nation’s cigarette makers agreed to set up a fund worth billions, settling myriad lawsuits related to the health impact of tobacco consumption. Since then, North Carolina has received more than $2 billion, with the money directed to the state’s general fund and the Golden LEAF Foundation, a Rocky Mount not-for-profit.

Last month, N.C. Attorney General Josh Stein announced the state had received $139 million for 2024. About $17.5 million was funneled to the foundation, whose mission is to assist formerly tobacco-dependent areas with economic development assistance. The settlement was initially split 50-50 between the fund and state coffers for initial decade, but the lawmakers have since sharply reduced the amount sent to Golden LEAF.

While it’s granted more than $1 billion since inception, the foundation retains a $1.3 billion investment portfolio intended to help fund positive efforts for decades to come.

Recruiting can backfire, at times. The state worked hard to attract Enviva, a Maryland-based maker of pellets created from scrap wood from the forests of eastern North Carolina. Pellets are exported to mainly Europe and Asia for power plants and heating, but the company has drawn criticism from environmental groups that accuse it of stripping forests in an unsustainable industry. Enviva filed for bankruptcy in March, citing debts of more than $2.6 billion.

In Raleigh, Troxler says the state constantly looks for new markets. “We would like to have North Carolina milk branded as with all dairy products. We are already talking to some companies about it.”

At Granville Equipment in Oxford, salesmen recently were showing machines that look similar to those that plant and harvest tobacco to potential customers. A closer look shows that the planters have the spike leaves of industrial hemp, a crop North Carolina promotes to supplement tobacco.

“We try to recruit to fill gaps in our supply lines,” says Ivey, the recruiter. “We don’t just do shotgun recruiting.”

A key focus is seeking better ways of boosting economic activity, such as products developed at the N.C. Food


State lawmakers allocated as much as $20 million to the N.C. Agriculture Manufacturing and Process Initiative over two years. These are the four key goals:

– Support ag process projects that add jobs and boost tax revenue.

– Find opportunities to boost commodity processing across the state.

– Recruit and market facilities to fill gaps in ag processing.

– Offer funding support for promising ag manufacturing projects.

Innovation Lab in Kannapolis, which researches plant-based products.

The state’s thriving aquaculture industry recently courted Hima, a Norwegian fish company, to build a $60-million trout farm and processing complex in eastern North Carolina. The state’s aquaculture industry is among the nation’s largest, says Pete Anderson, who heads the state’s warm-water aquaculture division. North Carolina is the second-largest trout producer, adds Troxler. The state also aggressively promotes farm-totable production of beef and other protein.

“The good news is, we have all these new people moving into North Carolina,” Troxler says. “The bad news is, we are losing farmland at the second-fastest rate of any state in the nation,” an estimated 1.8 million acres by 2040.

There’s one thing that Troxler insists won’t be altered by recruiting. “Agriculture has always been a family enterprise,” he says. “It still will be.” ■

Hima Seafood trout farm to be built in the Telemark region of Norway.

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