Business North Carolina August 2022

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THE SCOOP ON THE STATE’S 75 LARGEST PUBLIC IS COMPANIES AND THE STATE’S TOP-RANKED HOSPITAL ... BOONE’S MR. ROGERS HOUSING TACKLES ECU’S DILEMMA CHALLENGES • ROY CARROLL • ONLINE SELLERS TAKES ON GRAB LESOME MANS SPACE • ERNIE • BOOM PITT’S RINGS IMPACT TRIAD

Pasture-fed livestock from the Ager family and other N.C. farmers grows in popularity.

AUGUST 2022 Price: $3.95 businessnc.com

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+ DEPARTMENTS 4 UP FRONT 6 PILLARS

AUGUST 2022

Ernie Pitt’s pioneering career in North Carolina journalism.

12 NC TREND

Roy Carroll markets his storage space at Le Mans; Most lucrative hospitals; How COVID changed a mountain golf development; Tractor politics; Investigators drill into dental equipment supplier; Leo Daughtry’s switch.

+ SPONSORED SECTIONS 24 CORPORATE MEETING GUIDE Meeting and convention destinations are nearing, or topping, pre-pandemic activity.

36 ROUND TABLE: MANUFACTURING Manufacturing experts discuss supply chain challenges and new technologies.

67 BEST EMPLOYER PROFILES A closer look at some N.C. companies highlighted as top spots for talented workers.

78 COMMUNITY CLOSE UP: NASH & EDGECOMBE The Rocky Mount region shows resilience in responding to a fast-changing economy.

CO V E R P H O TO B Y M I K E B E L L E M E

88 SCENE SETTERS Photos from the MFGCON gathering in Durham.

August 2022, Vol. 42, No. 8 (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. Fax: 704-523-4211. 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 circulation@businessnc.com.

COVER STORY

PASTURE PROFITS Small farmers’ grass-fed livestock is in high demand, but the trend is straining meat processors BY EDWARD MARTIN

NO ROOM ON THE MOUNTAIN Median home prices have soared 22% in a single year in Boone as demand skyrockets. BY CONNIE GENTRY

TOP 75 PUBLIC COMPANIES Economic anxieties create a rough ride for investors in North Carolina public companies. BY DAVID MILDENBERG

2022 BEST EMPLOYERS BNC’s annual list of companies making a difference by motivating their teammates and attracting talent.

Start your day with business news from across the state, direct to your inbox.

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UPFRONT

David Mildenberg

PASSIONATE LEADERSHIP

PUBLISHER

Ben Kinney

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rank A. Daniels Jr., the longtime publisher of the News & Observer of Raleigh who died last month at 90, positively affected dozens of organizations across the state. Business North Carolina is fortunate to have been one of them. Indeed, no one has been a bigger backer of this publication since its formation 40 years ago. The ▲ Frank A. Daniels Jr. N&O, which he led from 1971 to 1996, owned BNC from 1985 until the corporate sale to California-based publisher McClatchy in 1995. Three years later, Frank and an investor group joined BNC Publisher David Kinney and his son, Ben, to buy the magazine. In 2006, the Kinneys bought out the other investors. Then, in 2015, the Southern Pines-based publishing company, which was principally owned by Frank, bought Business North Carolina. Frank was an unceasing supporter of the magazine. Receiving suggestions, critiques or encouragement meant the world to all of us because of his insight and welldeserved reputation for candor. Our company’s top executive, David Woronoff, noted this in a tribute to his uncle: “Frank Jr. loved his family, North Carolina and publishing — usually in that order. With Business North Carolina, he was able to combine all three of his passions. We plan to continue his legacy unabated.”

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NBC ranked North Carolina No. 1 in its annual “Top States for Business” study in July, a first since the list debuted in 2006. The news sparked fist bumps and smiles all around from business and political leaders, along with some criticism from progressive-leaning groups that suggest lower-income workers aren’t sharing in the economic gains.

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North Carolina has won repeated kudos in similar economic development reports for many years. But such success hasn’t always been the norm. In 1996, former Duke Energy CEO Bill Lee said the state “was getting our clock cleaned” by Southern states that were having more success attracting major businesses. North Carolina was resting on its laurels, he and others complained. A chart accompanying a 1997 Business North Carolina story about the state’s recruitment efforts noted that only one of the 28 largest new-job projects in the Southeast landed here in 1995. By comparison, 12 went to Virginia, eight to Georgia and four to South Carolina. Those projects each involved promises of at least 450 jobs. A quarter-century later, North Carolina has the momentum: Over the past five years, 19 companies have pledged to add at least 1,000 jobs, according to BNC research. Some have made good on those promises, a few have nixed their deals, while others are question marks. The trend is positive. The historian Tacitus’s comment on war — “Victory is claimed by many, failure to one alone” — clearly applies to economic development. CNBC’s reporting on the No. 1 ranking featured Gov. Roy Cooper, who cited his ability to “stop a lot of bad legislation.” It was the Republican-dominated General Assembly that passed tax cuts, regulatory reforms and turbocharged incentives programs, benefiting large corporations looking for expansion sites. Considerable credit for the state’s success also goes to the public-private Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina, which was created under Gov. Pat McCrory’s watch. Cooper hasn’t messed with the group’s structure as it maintains an image as a bipartisan advocate for all of North Carolina.

bkinney@businessnc.com EDITOR

David Mildenberg

dmildenberg@businessnc.com ASSOCIATE EDITORS

Jennings Cool Roddey jcool@businessnc.com

Colin Campbell

ccampbell@businessnc.com

Cathy Martin

cmartin@businessnc.com SENIOR CONTRIBUTING EDITOR

Edward Martin

emartin@businessnc.com SPECIAL PROJECTS EDITOR

Pete M. Anderson

CONTRIBUTING WRITERS

Connie Gentry, Vanessa Infanzon, Ted Reed, Michael J. Solender CREATIVE MANAGER

Peggy Knaack

pknaack@businessnc.com ART DIRECTOR

Ralph Voltz

CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHER

Mike Belleme

MARKETING COORDINATOR

Jennifer Ware

jware@businessnc.com

ADVERTISING SALES ACCOUNT DIRECTOR

Melanie Weaver Lynch, eastern N.C. 919-855-9380 mweaver@businessnc.com

ACCOUNT MANAGER AND AUDIENCE DEVELOPMENT SPECIALIST

Scott Leonard, western N.C. 704-996-6426 sleonard@businessnc.com

CIRCULATION: 818-286-3106 EDITORIAL: 704-523-6987 REPRINTS: circulation@businessnc.com

BUSINESSNC.COM OWNERS

Jack Andrews, Frank Daniels III, Lee Dirks, David Woronoff PUBLISHED BY

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Contact David Mildenberg at dmildenberg@businessnc.com.

PRESIDENT

David Woronoff

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ERNIE PITT The veteran Winston-Salem newspaper owner kept issues of the city’s Black community front and center.

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harisma and certitude led Ernest Pitt to start a four-page weekly in Winston-Salem as the city’s only Black-owned newspaper in 1974. He’d been frustrated that no one would publish his article about why Black law students at North Carolina Central University were passing the bar at a lower rate than their white counterparts. So he started The Chronicle in Winston-Salem with no money or investors. Unsure of his ability to be editor-in-chief and publisher, he begged Dbubisi Egemonye, an African shop owner on Chapel Hill’s Franklin Street, to take the publisher title. Pitt says he needed emotional support. For more than 40 years, The Chronicle has tracked the Twin City’s Black community, earning Pitt, 76, national recognition as a leading publisher. In April, Pitt was inducted into the North Carolina Media and Journalism Hall of Fame. The Raleigh native moved to Greensboro with his family when he was in elementary school. He graduated in 1964 from James Benson Dudley High School and started as an architecture student at North Carolina A&T State University but left to enlist in the Army. As a member of the transportation corps, he was stationed at Fort Dix, New Jersey, after serving one tour in Vietnam. Pitt admits to having a wild side. He went to prison a couple of times in his early 20s. While he was locked up, he earned an associate degree from Rockingham Community College. Gov. Jim Hunt eventually pardoned Pitt, and Pitt later was a commencement speaker at the Reidsville college. After earning his two-year degree, he entered UNC Chapel Hill, where he credits admissions counselor Hayden Bently

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“Benny” Renwick with giving him a chance. Pitt graduated in 1974 with a degree in journalism. When he and his former wife, Elaine, started The Chronicle that same year, Pitt was a full-time education reporter at the Greensboro News & Record. They struggled to sell ads for their paper, so he enrolled in a sales seminar in Wheaton, Illinois. The only Black man in the class, Pitt learned not to take rejection personally. Contracts with Flow Motors and Crown Drug Stores helped provide enough revenue to enable Pitt to leave the Greensboro paper in 1978 and focus full-time on The Chronicle. In addition to the weekly paper, he printed college and high school papers and published the Black College Sports Review, an insert included in 200 Black newspapers featuring sports highlights from historically Black colleges and universities. Beyond his publishing work, Pitt chaired the WinstonSalem Housing Authority for seven years. That stint led to controversy when he was convicted in 2009 on two counts of mail fraud involving a land deal with the authority. After serving 10 months in jail and paying $90,000 in fines, Pitt’s guilty verdict was overturned by a judge who concluded the jury had not been properly instructed. He sold the paper to Chronicle Media Group in 2017. Pitt and Elaine Pitt have one daughter, two sons and three grandchildren. Pitt plays golf, stays active in Winston-Salem and travels to Charlotte to see his grandchildren. Comments are edited for length and clarity.

PHOTOS COURTESY OF WALI PITT

By Vanessa Infanzon

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I went to Vietnam in 1965. I didn’t have any money. I wasn’t on scholarship (while at North Carolina A&T). My folks didn’t have any money. I was drifting. The Army seemed to be a holding ground: ‘Go to the Army and get yourself together.’ When you have no guidance, no guardrail, you’re a teenager making major decisions. It’s hard. When I got out, I got in a lot of trouble. My roommate was involved in drugs. I didn’t know he was dealing. They tried to set him up, and I got caught. They tried to get me to testify against him, but I couldn’t do it. I went to prison for two or three years at Central Prison in Raleigh. Then, I was moved to a prison farm in Caledonia [in Halifax County]. I taught school to the inmates. I went back to prison a time or two. However, I have no criminal record. A friend of mine, Ben Ruffin, was a special assistant to Gov. Hunt, and he got me a pardon. When I was at N.C. A&T, I found out I could write. I had this English class, and the professor would put a topic on the board and you’d have to write an essay. I was getting A’s, and then one day, he gave me an A-plus-plus-plus-plus. I had an investigative reporting class (at Chapel Hill). The assignment was to find a topic, investigate and report it, and get it published. I noticed how many Black folk from (North Carolina) Central’s law school were failing the (bar) exam. Sometimes it would take them three or four times to pass. I was curious about that. The basics of what I found out was that even though Central had white students, they didn’t use the law library at Central. They went to Duke and Carolina. And the significance of that is that Carolina and Duke had a much larger law library than Central.

▲Ernest Pitt founded The Chronicle in September 1974 and sold the paper in 2017 to Chronicle Media Group.

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▲In April, Pitt, 76, was inducted into the North Carolina Media and Journalism Hall of Fame.

I started The Chronicle in September 1974 with blood, sweat and tears and help from a lot of people. I chose Winston-Salem because it was the only one of North Carolina’s major cities without a Black newspaper. I had so many motivators, serious things and obstacles that were trying to keep me from doing this. It only fueled my desire to do it because I saw that it needed to be done. I kept calling on (auto dealer Vic) Flow, and he kept telling me no, no, no. One day I went by there, and Mr.

Flow said, ‘I’m so glad you came by. I’m going to buy an ad from you.’ I was so happy. My selling skills were getting so much better. When Keith Pitts from Crown Drug Stores hid from me in the storage room, I sold him an ad. The Pitts family and I got to be tight. We’d have dinner together: They’d call me their longlost cousin. I was pushing homeownership. I started a company, East Pointe Developers, and I developed two housing neighborhoods. I got the YMCA to build a center out here, and Forsyth Tech built a satellite campus. So, they got me. I was just trying to do God’s will. I don’t want to paint myself as a saint. I wasn’t a crook; I wasn’t a criminal. I was genuinely concerned. I wasn’t trying to make any money. I was spending money. That’s why I’m broke now, helping people.

▲The National Newspaper Publishers Association recognized The Chronicle as the best Black-owned newspaper in the nation.

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There’s a thing called resurrection. You can only be resurrected when you’ve gone through the fire. And I’ve been through the fire several times. It just signifies the goodness of God; he always gives you a chance. I had everything. I threw it away because I didn’t understand the spiritual world and the material world. ■

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116 South Franklin St, Rocky Mount, NC 27804

■ 800.525.3863 ■ 252.972.9922 ■ ncfunds.com A U G U S T

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ROCKY MOUNT: AN ENDURING N.C. BANKING TRADITION

Since acquiring RBC Bank (USA) ten years ago, PNC has stewarded Rocky Mount’s established banking tradition, while facilitating continued growth and impact for local customers and the community.

This is the twenty-first in a series of informative monthly articles for North Carolina businesses from PNC in collaboration with BUSINESS NORTH CAROLINA magazine.

TIMELINE: A LOCAL BANKING LEGACY Rocky Mount’s rich banking legacy dates back to 1899, when Planters National Bank was established to serve the needs of local farmers, manufacturers and merchants of tobacco and cotton products. In 1931 – on April Fool’s Day, no less – Peoples Bank & Trust opened its doors. Despite the uncertainty and instability that characterized the economic climate of that era, more than 100 people opened accounts during that first day of business, with an average deposit of more

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than $550 – an amount equivalent to more than $10,000 in today’s dollars. The stability of these deposits gave the community something to believe in, a reason for confidence and optimism. During World War II, the Rocky Mount community rallied to support the nation, with both hometown banks selling Liberty Bonds to finance the war effort, while investing in agricultural and manufacturing interests. Advancements in technology have since transformed banking, as well as key industries served by local banks, such as agriculture. By the late 1960s, for example, tobacco harvester machines presented an alternative to the grueling manual labor of harvest. By investing in the manufacturing of this machinery and extending loans to farmers to purchase these innovations, local banks played an important role in providing access to these tools. Banks also introduced new technologies for convenience and efficiency. In 1974, Peoples Bank & Trust introduced its first ATM, which it affectionately named “PAT.” In 1990, Planters National Bank and Peoples Bank & Trust merged to form Centura, a name connoting the combined banks’ 100-year tradition of service to the communities of eastern North Carolina. RBC purchased Centura Bank the following decade, with PNC Bank acquiring RBC Bank (USA) in 2012.

PARALLEL PATHS: FAMILY AND BANKING For Lowry Perry, PNC Bank’s SBA East territory sales leader, the various organizational iterations of PNC Bank in Rocky Mount align neatly with generations of his family, beginning with his great-grandfather, who was a director of Planters National Bank. After graduating from North Carolina State University, Perry returned to Rocky Mount to embark on his banking career at Peoples Bank & Trust. He and his wife, then a banker at Planters National Bank, welcomed their first child just days after the two institutions merged. “Our family was, quite literally, the personification of the merger that brought Rocky Mount’s hometown banks together and created a

ROCKY MOUNT PHOTO CREDIT: CARL LEWIS

When Jeff Taylor, a fourth-generation Rocky Mount resident and local PNC Bank leader, reflects on his childhood, regular visits to the former Sears department store on Church Street rank among his most cherished memories. For the past 28 years, Taylor has frequented that same block of Church Street – not far from the site where his favorite retail display of riding lawnmowers once stood – in his capacity as a senior operations manager for PNC Bank and previous roles with predecessor financial institutions. Taylor is one of approximately 500 PNC employees who call the Twin Counties home and contribute to the region’s significant banking tradition that began more than 120 years ago. Since its rise to prominence as a regional center for agriculture and textiles, Rocky Mount has benefited from a robust banking sector, which has helped fuel local innovation and the city’s present-day reputation as a transportation hub and leader in manufacturing and logistics. Thanks to a longstanding cultivation of local banking talent and infrastructure, together with the expanded reach and capabilities afforded by an increasingly virtual and techenabled world, the contributions and impact of PNC’s Rocky Mount employees – many of whom support operations for the entire enterprise – extend beyond the scale and scope of the Twin Counties. “I will always call Rocky Mount home, and I’m fortunate to lead a team that contributes to making this community a great place to live and work, while also making an impact for PNC customers throughout the country,” says Taylor.

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LIVING ITS MAIN STREET VALUES “When PNC entered the market, its leaders told us they were committed to Rocky Mount,” says Jeff Taylor. “They’ve repeatedly demonstrated that commitment by providing career paths and advancement opportunities for local employees and investing in the community through volunteerism, charitable funding and support for local economic development initiatives.” PNC’s Rocky Mount-based employees have logged more than 2,600 volunteer hours in support of local early childhood education and development organizations, in alignment with PNC Grow Up Great®, a $500 million, multi-year, bilingual initiative to help prepare children from birth to age 5 for success in school and life. Meanwhile, PNC Bank and the PNC Foundation have distributed more than $2 million in charitable funding to empower the efforts of local nonprofits, including the United Way of the Tar River Region and Down East Partnership for Children of Nash and Edgecombe Counties. “Throughout the past decade, PNC has consistently

new organization that has continued to grow and thrive,” says Perry. Lucy Rose, PNC’s board governance manager and assistant corporate secretary, relocated to Rocky Mount early in her 25-year banking career. Centura appealed to her because of the wide range of professional opportunities available, which only became more diverse and plentiful as the organization evolved. And the Rocky Mount community, where her husband grew up, felt like home. When RBC Bank acquired Centura, Rose excelled in managing the bank’s implementation of corporate governance priorities. And when PNC Bank acquired RBC Bank (USA), she brought to PNC her skill and passion for this critical

and generously funded impactful programs and efforts that reach our community’s children, ultimately helping shape the future of our region,” says Henrietta Zalkind, executive director of Down East Partnership for Children of Nash and Edgecombe Counties. Shortly after PNC established a local presence, leaders from the PNC Foundation traveled to Rocky Mount to see first-hand the opportunities for maximum philanthropic impact. Among the organizations they visited was Down East Partnership for Children of Nash and Edgecombe Counties. Output from those conversations resulted in the development of Discovery Park, which was funded by the PNC Foundation and has since fostered countless learning interactions and opportunities for children, caregivers and educators. As a major employer and facilitator of regional business growth, PNC continues to champion economic development in the Twin Counties through its support of local initiatives and collaboration with organizations such as Carolinas Gateway Partnership and the Rocky Mount Area Chamber of Commerce.

management function. While the breadth of PNC Bank’s footprint has grown to become a coast-to-coast franchise, Rose marvels at how deeply embedded the bank is in each the unique communities it serves, including Rocky Mount. Following PNC Bank’s acquisition of RBC Bank (USA), PNC curated a PNC Legacy Project exhibit at the Imperial Centre for the Arts & Sciences to honor the legacy of banking and predecessor financial institutions in Rocky Mount. Rose was among the employees who visited the exhibit. “I appreciated the installation because PNC acknowledged the importance of banking to the history of Rocky Mount,” she says. “Ten years later, PNC has continued to respect this legacy and make meaningful investments in this community.”

REGIONAL PRESIDENTS: Weston Andress, Western Carolinas: (704) 643-5581 Jim Hansen, Eastern Carolinas: (919) 835-0135 The PNC Financial Services Group, Inc. is one of the largest diversified financial services institutions in the United States, organized around its customers and communities for strong relationships and local delivery of retail and business banking including a full range of lending products; specialized services for corporations and government entities, including corporate banking, real estate finance and asset-based lending; wealth management and asset management. For information about PNC, visit www.pnc.com. PNC and PNC Bank are registered marks of The PNC Financial Services Group, Inc. (“PNC”). ©2022 The PNC Financial Services Group, Inc. All rights reserved. A U G U S T

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Sports marketing

Sports marketing Health care Real estate Farming Corporate governance

RUE AWAKENING

By Edward Martin

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he sun has set, and ahead stretches a ribbon of darkness. In the Ferrari 488’s cockpit, web-belted into a cocoonish seat, Felipe Fraga, his helmeted face lighted by dozens of glowing instruments, chatters in his Brazilian accent with Roy Carroll and his crew in the pits. Engine screaming, the $400,000 Ferrari streaks down the 3.7-mile Mulsanne Straight, the world’s most famous stretch of racing pavement, where cars exceed 200 mph. Except for this special week every June, culminating in this once-around-the-clock race for 62 of the world’s fastest cars, it’s merely part of France’s public road system. Tonight, only the lightning streak of Fraga’s taillights is visible, not the piercing shape of the Ferrari or, on its side, a feisty cartoon bee with the lettering, “Bee Safe Racing.” It’s 4,000 miles to Greensboro, headquarters for Carroll, whose Carroll Cos. has made him one of the state's largest real-estate developers. His latest venture is the 40-location Bee Safe Storage

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and Wine Cellar chain, and this, he says, is marketing at its best. “We’re getting far, far more exposure than the several million dollars we put into Le Mans,” he says. Building, crewing and fielding a typical Le Mans pro entry might cost $20 million, but he says it’s impossible to put a value on its boost to the team spirit of his company’s 500 employees. Nor Carroll’s need for speed. Though his Le Mans entry was driven by pro Fraga, alternating with Brit Sam Bird and New Zealander Shane van Gisbergen, Carroll, 59, is a successful amateur racer, trained at Ferrari’s Italian driving school and competing in the Ferrari Challenge series, racing mainly against other business executives. For the 24 Hours of Le Mans, arguably the world’s most famous race, he teamed with his friend Bill Riley. Mooresville-based Riley Motorsports sells racing technology such as a Formula 1 race car steering wheel that controls 25 functions and exceeds $100,000. It has fielded winning cars for marques like Mercedes and Ferrari in events such as the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona, America’s premier sports-car race. Carroll got plenty of exposure for his money in June, drawing worldwide laurels. The Bee Safe car finished fifth in the GTE-Pro class, the second-fastest competition at Le Mans. It was impressive

PHOTOS COURTESY OF THE CARROLL COS.

Roy Carroll takes to the streets of France’s Le Mans to promote his Greensboro storage business.

▲ In June, Roy Carroll, founder and president of The Carroll Cos., sponsored a Ferrari in a world-famous race.

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for a “privateer,” the racing term for cars that are not financially backed by automakers. The class was won by a factory-sponsored Porsche that covered 2,951 miles in 24 hours. The overall race was won by a Toyota in a class called Hypercar that covered more than 3,100 miles. Carroll says his team “did excellent, but we just didn’t have a fast car. We just didn’t have the horsepower.” The Greensboro native and 1985 graduate of UNC Greensboro rarely lacks horsepower. In 1989, he bought the business his father started six years earlier and has since amassed more than $4 billion in assets. His portfolio includes more than 8,000 apartments, 2,000 singlefamily homes, business parks, office buildings and now, storage centers. The Bee Safe brand is growing particularly in the Southeast, he says, one of the nation’s most avid racing regions. Carroll and Riley developed a racing team in the Ferrari Challenge series, which includes a half dozen U.S. races and one in Italy. It isn’t a high-stakes competition. “We’re racing for basically a $100 plastic trophy,” Carroll laughs. Nevertheless, his performance there attracted corporate Ferrari, resulting in its suggestion and support for the Bee Safe Le Mans entry. “People ask me, ‘Is this on your bucket list?’ I say, 'Absolutely not.' It fell into our lap and I talked it over with my wife, Vanessa, and said this will be part of history. It’s far-fetched, like a sports team that gets asked to go to a championship. In my mind, there’s no bigger race. But that was the easy part.” The hard part included recruiting top drivers, like Bird, Fraga and van Gisbergen, and “going squarely head-to-head” with General Motors’ Corvette, Porsche and Ferrari. While North Carolina has long been known mainly as ground zero for NASCAR, its presence in top-level international racing has been growing for two decades. At Haas Formula in Kannapolis, California industrial tools magnate Gene Haas has pumped more than $1 billion into a Formula 1 team, considered the world pinnacle of racing. Mooresville-based Penske Racing is a leading owner in global sports car and opencockpit racing.

▲ Roy Carroll has assembled a large real-estate portfolio.

“There is a lot of other motorsports in North Carolina, other than NASCAR,” says Carroll. “In Le Mans, I met a lot of Rick Hendrick people who tell me Rick plans to have a car there next year.” Hendrick Motorsports, based in Charlotte, is one of NASCAR’s most successful owners. The lure of speed and the marketing potential of racing will remain pervasive, Carroll says. “People say you’re not a real athlete, but I run a couple of laps and get out, just drained, exhausted, from working the car, the brakes, the steering.” Carroll says the closed Ferraris, with roll cages and other safety technology, minimize the obvious risk. “I tell people I know a lot more people who’ve been injured playing golf than racing Ferraris,” he says. ■

▲ The 24 Hours of Le Mans is the world's oldest active endurance racing event.

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Health care

HEALTHY GAINS Taking care of North Carolina pays for the state’s big hospitals. By David Mildenberg

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orth Carolina’s seven largest hospital systems reported about $160 billion in revenue and $14.5 billion in profit over the past six years, according to a report by N.C. State Treasurer Dale Folwell. Profit was particularly strong in 2021 for the not-for-profit systems, which were buoyed by federal support related to the COVID-19 pandemic and strong investment returns. Hospitals make money through operations and from their portfolios of stocks and bonds. While Folwell criticized the profits as excessive, the systems said strong financials are necessary to meet unprecedented challenges of the pandemic. Hospitals nationally struggled to retain and recruit nurses and other front-line workers. This year’s stock market slump is likely to depress hospital system profits. The report, which is a first for N.C. state government, showed that the four largest systems operate more profitably and benefit from bigger balance sheets than their three smaller peers. Durham-based Duke Health was the most profitable system with an average net income margin of 17.6% over the past five years. (It did not provide data for 2016.) Its flagship medical center in Durham often ranks among the nation’s 20 top hospitals. By comparison, Greenville-based Vidant Health reported an

MOST PROFITABLE INSTITUTIONS (Ranked by average net profit margin – 2016-21)

average net income margin of 5.3% and average operating margin of 2.5% over the past six years. Folwell says the report supports his view that not-for-profit hospital systems should provide more charity care and reduce prices. The State Health Plan, which Folwell oversees, is the biggest purchaser of medical care in North Carolina. The report noted that HCA Healthcare, a Nashville, Tennessee-based for-profit system that owns western North Carolina's main hospital in Asheville, returned $6 billion in federal pandemic relief funds in 2020. HCA said it “was the socially responsible thing to do.” The other big N.C. systems didn't return funds. HCA declined to disclose its North Carolina finances to Folwell.■

LARGEST INSTITUTIONS (Ranked by total revenue – 2016-21)

Duke Health........................ 17.6 %

Atrium Health .................... $ 46.7 billion

Atrium Health .................... 9.3

Novant Health .................... 32.4

UNC Health ........................ 9

UNC Health ........................ 25

Novant Health .................... 8.3

Vidant Health ..................... 11.2

Vidant Health ..................... 5.3

Wake Health ....................... 8.3

Wake Health ....................... 5.2 Cone Health ....................... 4.5 (Reports from Duke Health and Cone Health cover 2017-21.)

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▲ Duke Health is the state's most profitable hospital system.

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(Duke Health and Cone Health didn't share 2016 data. They would rank fourth and sixth, respectively.) Source: N.C. State Treasurer's Office

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Vidant Health

N.C. HOSPITAL FINANCIALS Atrium Health Operating revenue 2016-21

$46.7 billion

Net income (2016-21): . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ..$4.6 billion Average net profit margin: . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9.3% Average operating profit margin: . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3.5% Total cash & investments, 2021: . . . . . . . $12.5 billion

Novant Health Operating revenue 2016-21

$32.4 billion

Net income (2016-21): . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $2.7 billion Average net profit margin: . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8.3% Average operating profit margin . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4.3% Total cash & investments, 2021: . . . . . . . . $4.7 billion

UNC Health Operating revenue 2016-21

$25 billion

Net income (2016-21): . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $2.3 billion Average net profit margin: . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9% Average operating profit margin: . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4.7% Total cash & investments, 2021: . . . . . . . . $2.7 billion

Duke Health Operating revenue* 2017-21

$19 billion

Net income (2017-21): . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $3.5 billion Average net profit margin: . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17.6% Average operating profit margin: . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5.8% Total cash & investments, 2021: . . . . . . . . $5.7 billion

Operating revenue 2016-21

$11.2 billion

Net income (2016-21): . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $600 million Average net profit margin, 2017-2021:. . . . . . . . . 5.3% Average operating profit margin: . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2.5% Total cash & investments, 2021: . . . . . . . $1.16 billion

Cone Health Operating revenue* 2017-21

$10.8 billion

Net income (2017-21): . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $492 million Average net profit margin: . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4.5% Average operating profit margin: . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2.6% Total cash & investments, 2021: . . . . . . . . $1.6 billion Total cash & investments, 2021: . . . . . . . $1.6 billion

WakeMed Health Operating revenue 2016-21

$8.3 billion

Net income (2016-21): . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $430 million Average net profit margin: . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5.2% Average operating profit margin: . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2.7% Total cash & investments, 2021: . . . . . . . . $1.1 billion

*2016 was not included

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Real estate

COURSE CORRECTION

▲ Springdale offers scenic views of Cold Mountain, which is about 35 miles west of Asheville.

By Michael J. Solender

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orth Carolina’s Haywood County holds a special allure for fuel supplier Lex West, who has enjoyed visits to the mountainous region throughout his life. In 2018, the co-owner of Hartsville, South Carolina-based West Oil bought Springdale, a golf resort 20 miles west of Asheville where he and his father have played since the mid-1990s. The golf course was started and owned for decades by New Yorkers Fred and Eunice Tingle. They bought 550 acres, used for many years as a girls camp, at a courthouse auction in the late 1960s. The couple built 18 holes in the valley below Cold Mountain, a place made famous by Charles Frazier’s novel and a film starring Nicole Kidman and Jude Law. West’s initial goals for Springdale were to “polish the gem of a property in decline” and offer locals and vacationers a great golf and mountain experience like he had enjoyed over the years. Many years earlier, West’s parents had bought about 200 acres atop Dream Mountain, about a mile away and just over the ridgeline from Springdale. “Throughout the years, my dad and I would come down to Springdale, play golf and be joined after our round by my mom and sister for a casual dinner at the tavern here,” West says. “We’d enjoy the porch, the view, and the sound of the crickets and just

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relax in the quiet. There’s such an emotional feeling [of contentment] in the mountains. My plan for Springdale was to make that experience available for others to enjoy.” But West couldn’t have foreseen the COVID-19 pandemic and a catastrophic flood that would prompt a recharting of his passion project. West spent about $2 million buying the property and adjacent land, giving the family a combined 1,000 acres or so. He has invested more than $15 million in the golf course renovation, upgrades to the 19 residences that each accommodate four people and construction of Springdale Village. It includes the Village Grill restaurant, Rocky Face Tavern, a fitness center, pool and indoor-outdoor event space. “The first pivot came just as we began to enter into COVID in late 2019,” recalls West. “I came to understand it was going to take more than a renovated golf course to make the property economically viable and sustainable.”

Reimagined resort

The original plan for a new Springdale called for “an old-school style design with a pro shop, clubhouse and banquet rooms — all under one roof,” West says. “As COVID evolved, we were uncomfortable with that approach and shortly before breaking ground, we took a pause.” West reimagined Springdale as a resort destination for groups, events and weddings. His plans expanded to include a consolidated kitchen and dining and banquet facilities.

PHOTOS COURTESY OF SPRINGDALE

The pandemic prompts a change in plans for a Haywood County golf development.

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With people seeking outdoor, socially distanced recreation, the number of rounds played at Springdale soared in 2020, as it did at golf clubs nationally. West and General Manager Buddy Lawrence concluded that buffets, family-style dining and compact indoor spaces weren’t appropriate. “We knew we needed to rethink the original concept and have a facility that offered more outdoor space,” says Lawrence, who arrived in 2019 after working at various golf courses in Eastern North Carolina. West hired Asheville-based contractor KDC to create the village concept. The buildings retain a mountain-lodge style with the main dining and tavern hosting a wrap-around porch overlooking the closing holes. A central lawn accommodates receptions and seated affairs. As West’s team soldiered on with upgrading facilities and the golf course, Mother Nature dealt a cruel blow in August 2021 when Tropical Storm Fred caused massive flooding. Nearly 10 inches of rain was recorded in less than 24 hours in nearby Cruso, where six senior citizens died as water surged through the valley. The course-fronting Pigeon River crested at 19.7 feet in Canton, its highest level since 2004. Haywood County experienced $300 million in damage with 225 structures destroyed by the two-day storm. “We had seven holes completely underwater and lost every bridge on the course,” says Lawrence. Springdale was closed for two months after the storm. Upon reopening, West committed 50% of the resort’s revenue for the next few months for community relief efforts. “It was an easy decision to support our neighbors and the community, many who’ve been instrumental in building Springdale, and extending hospitality to our guests." Springdale has much land available for new homes, but West says he’s in no hurry to sell lots. “The slow feel and relaxed pace are part of the appeal to being here. There’s a special emotion here we want people to experience whether golfing, hiking, fishing or just enjoying the quiet pace.” There will be time down the road for new homes. For now, West views Springdale at Cold Mountain as “a gem waiting to be discovered.” ■

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Farming

REPAIR RUCKUS

Legislators plan hearings to mediate a flap over farmers' ability to fix tractors. By Colin Campbell As agricultural equipment gets increasingly complicated with electronics, some farmers complain that they aren’t able to make minor fixes and instead have to haul machinery to a dealership. “I see struggles every day where farmers … have problems with tractors breaking down in the middle of the field, and they don’t have the diagnostic software to read the codes,” says David Daniels, who owns a repair shop in Nash County. But a legislative proposal aimed at addressing the issue quickly proved contentious, prompting a delay for farmers wanting an end-run around the dealers. The original version of the annual farm bill would have forced agricultural equipment manufacturers to make repair and diagnostic information, as well as parts, available directly to customers. The N.C. Farm Bureau voiced support for the idea, but tractor and farm equipment dealers descended on a Senate Agriculture, Energy and Environment Committee hearing to oppose the measure. They argued that it would open the door to potentially dangerous do-it-yourself modifications. “Over 98% of all repairs can be completed by the owner,” says Matthew Liles of Southeast Farm Equipment in Laurinburg. “Even if you have the software, you have to know what to do with it.” A representative of James River Equipment, an Ashland, Virginia.-based John Deere dealer with more than 20 locations across North Carolina, pointed out that the equipment it sells is

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carefully calibrated to comply with the federal Clean Air Act’s emissions rules and unauthorized modifications could raise environmental concerns. He added that the right-to-repair proposal would lead to unknown liability questions as equipment is resold. John Deere and other manufacturers say tech innovations are needed to boost agriculture productivity and overcome labor shortages. The initial proposal didn’t require equipment makers to “divulge trade secrets, except as necessary to provide access to necessary repair materials or processes on fair and reasonable terms.” The bill also blocked farmers from deactivating safety mechanisms or changing settings needed to comply with emissions laws. Those caveats didn’t change the minds of the equipment dealers. Bill sponsor Sen. Brent Jackson, a Sampson County Republican, concluded more studies and public hearings are needed before the law is changed. “That way, we can go to the farmers where they live and breathe and work and see what we can do,” he says. Jackson owns a farming company in Sampson County that specializes in melons, sweet potatoes and other produce. He stressed that the right-to-repair proposal is “nothing personal to me for our operation.” The final version of the farm bill — signed into law by Gov. Roy Cooper in July — tasks the legislature’s Agriculture and Forestry Awareness Study Commission with overseeing the review. The commission will seek input from “farm-equipment manufacturers, independent repair providers and owners of farm equipment, the Department of Justice, and the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.” It will recommend legislation to be considered during next year’s long session.

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Corporate governance

DENTAL PROBLEMS Two top executives who helped move a big public company to North Carolina face questions over stock incentives. By Ted Reed

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▲ Dentsply headquarters in South Charlotte.

the challenges posed by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Dentsply Sirona bifurcated its annual incentive plans for executives into two six-month periods.” The Los Angeles-based Portnoy Law Firm, which is preparing a separate lawsuit, says, “Defendants orchestrated a scheme to inflate Dentsply's revenue and earnings by manipulating its accounting for a distributor rebate program in order for senior executives to be eligible for significant cash and stock-based incentive compensation.” It adds that Dentsply's financial statements were not prepared in accordance with SEC rules and “Dentsply's common stock traded at artificially inflated prices.” Casey and Gomez worked at medical products manufacturer Cardinal Health before joining Dentsply in 2018 and 2019, respectively. Casey had spent most of his career at Johnson & Johnson. From 2019 to 2021, Dentsply paid Casey total compensation of about $27 million, including $22 million in stock and option awards. Gomez got more than $17 million in that same period, including about $13 million in similar awards. Dentists Supply was formed in New York City in 1899, while the predecessor of Sirona Dental Systems was founded in Erlangen, Germany, in 1877. Innovations include the first dental drill and motorized root canal file. Dentsply bought Sirona for $5.5 billion in 2015. Casey credited Dentsply’s move to Charlotte to the city’s talent pool and big airport, according to the Charlotte Business Journal. But in March 2021, it canceled its incentives agreement with the state, and said wouldn’t meet the initial job and investment targets. Dentsply remains “well-positioned amid rising adoption of digital dentistry,” a Morgan Stanley analyst report noted in April. It predicts “above-market growth along with margin expansion going forward.” Groetelaars isn’t seeking a permanent post as Dentsply’s board looks for new leadership. ■

PHOTO COURTESY OF DENTSPLY

entsply Sirona moved its main U.S. hub to Charlotte in 2018 and 2019 from York, Pennsylvania, adding to the large public companies based in the Queen City. Plans called for adding more than 300 jobs, aided by $4 million in state incentives. But recent news about the world’s biggest dental equipment supplier, with $4.2 billion in annual revenue, has been about as satisfying as a toothache. On April 11, Chief Financial Officer Jorge Gomez left Dentsply for a similar post at biotech company Moderna. In a prepared statement, CEO Don Casey praised Gomez for “his many contributions.” Eight days later, Dentsply said Casey was also departing. No other information was shared. His interim successor was John Groetelaars, an industry veteran who had joined the company’s board in early April. Then, on May 10, the company shared a Securities and Exchange Commission filing that said an internal committee was investigating if unnamed current and former senior managers improperly directed incentives be paid to distributors to stimulate sales. Dentsply also released unaudited first-quarter results that disappointed investors, with profit declining 44% and sales decreasing 6% from a year earlier. Final audited results, which could change based on the investigation, are scheduled to be released in August. News of the probe prompted Gomez’s quick removal at Moderna. At a May 11 meeting, “the board made the determination that it was appropriate to separate Mr. Gomez from Moderna,” a company spokesperson told EndPoint News, a biotech industry newsletter. Dentsply officials won’t comment. Efforts to reach Gomez and Casey were unsuccessful. During a May earnings call with analysts, Groetelaars said the investigation is studying “the use of incentives with dealers, and the implications of those incentives” during the last half of 2021. Meanwhile, a series of shareholder lawsuits suggest Casey and Gomez were motivated by incentive compensation plans. Such lawsuits are common in cases where corporate probes trigger share price declines. On April 18, the day that Casey departed, Dentsply shares tumbled 13%, from $48.55 to $42.05, on April 18. On May 10, the date of the SEC filing, shares declined 7% to $36.25. The stock was trading for $35 in late July, having traded between $34 and $67 over the last year. In a prepared statement, the law firm representing the city of Miami’s retirement fund notes Casey and Gomez were eligible for “significant cash- and stock-based incentive compensation. Given

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Public affairs Our paid daily newsletter provides detailed interviews with key lawmakers, Q&As of other political leaders, and stories on 2022 election news and campaign finance. Plus lots of stories tracking daily happenings at the state legislature. Here’s some of what you missed. Sign up today at nctribune.com.

NEW FERRY PLAN GETS FUNDING

FORMER LEGISLATOR LEAVES UNC BOARD

ive small towns in the state’s “Inner Banks” region are hoping to take better advantage of their waterfront locations around Albemarle Sound. The recently passed state budget includes a $5 million grant to a group called Harbor Towns Inc., which for years has proposed a new passenger ferry service to connect the towns. The service will connect the towns of Columbia, Plymouth, Edenton, Hertford and Elizabeth City, with plans for a future stop in Manteo. The money will fund the initial launch of the service next spring, covering the costs of two “fast” ferries and a dinner boat for special events. The hope is to bring tourists inland and spur development in towns that lack the visitors of their Outer Banks neighbors. According to UNC Business School professor Nick Didow, who helped develop the proposal with local leaders, the hope is to attract Outer Banks vacationers who “might like a little change of pace from getting sunburned at the beach,” Didow said.

ormer Rep. Leo Daughtry’s sudden departure from the UNC Board of Governors left some wondering if he was forced off the board. He said that he wasn’t asked to resign but alluded to the recent controversies he’d spoken out about. “I believe I had done about all I could do on the Board of Governors, ▲ Leo Daughtry my influence had waned,” the longtime Johnston County legislator told me. House leaders offered him a spot on the N.C. Board of Transportation, which he accepted. Daughtry’s exit from the UNC board comes after he strongly criticized the UNC System Office’s move from Chapel Hill to downtown Raleigh — something that was mandated by legislative leaders without much discussion by the BOG. It’s part of a $250 million project to also house offices of the community college system and the departments of Public Instruction and Commerce. Former BOG Chairman Harry Smith said legislative leaders “pressed [Daughtry] out because he was making the right points and asking the right questions.”

NEW SOURCE FOR TRANSPORTATION FUNDING

FEDERAL DOLLARS JUMPSTART SMALL DOWNTOWNS

For years, state leaders have discussed how to handle declining revenues from the gas tax. Legislative leaders want to address the issue in the state budget by shifting revenue from the sales tax to fund transportation needs. They’d start small, redirecting 2% of sales tax receipts in fiscal year 2023 (generating around $193 million), bumping up to 4% the following year and 6% in subsequent years. That would mean an estimated $628 million by 2025. For comparison, the gas tax brought in $1.9 billion during fiscal year 2020. The N.C. Chamber worked with legislators on the proposal.

Gov. Roy Cooper recently announced the first $20.1 million round of Rural Transformation Grants, aimed at helping communities spruce up their downtowns and neighborhoods. The list of recipients shows that places like Valdese, Old Fort and Spencer are getting similar grant amounts as larger communities like Greenville. For Spencer, the $900,000 downtown revitalization grant could be a major catalyst. Located near Salisbury in Rowan County, Spencer draws lots of visitors to the N.C. Transportation Museum, but it struggles to convince them to stick around for shopping, dining and other activities. Town leaders want to change this by converting a strip mall parking lot directly across from the museum into a park and event space.

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PHOTO COURTESY OF VISITNC.COM

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CORPORATE

MEETING GUIDE

GOOD TIMES RETURNING ssociation executives, lobbyists and hospitality professionals mingled with lawmakers at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh last June. Hosted by trade group Association Executives of North Carolina, the gathering was the first time that they were under the same roof since before COVID-19 arrived in early 2020. Attendees saw the meeting as a sign that North Carolina’s meetingsand-conventions business is bouncing back from pandemic-induced restrictions that stalled business travel and closed venues. AENC Executive

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Director and CEO Rich Phaneuf is optimistic that the state’s hospitality industry is nearing pre-pandemic levels of business. “I wouldn’t say we are 100% back yet, but we are quickly moving in that direction,” he says. But it won’t be an entirely smooth path. Hotels and convention centers continue to face challenges, especially when it comes to hiring staff and creating space for social distancing. But Phaneuf says they are adjusting. “Meeting planners and convention services teams are beginning to get a handle on how to manage conferences rather than focus on complying with state COVID protocols,” he says. “And at this moment, I don’t know of

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any associations that have made the decision not to meet in person going forward.” Many convention and meeting space operators used the down time during the pandemic to renovate and expand their offerings. AENC, for example, recently held a convention at New Bern Riverfront Convention Center. It not only closed for a time because of the pandemic, but it had to undergo extensive repairs after a stormy 2018. “We did a great job putting our best foot forward after Hurricane Florence, then COVID hit,” says Melissa Riggle, executive director of Craven County Tourism Development Authority. “We had this

Photo credit: naturalsciences.org

As COVID restrictions wane, business at North Carolina’s meeting and convention destinations is nearing, and in some cases surpassing, pre-pandemic levels, thanks to updates and additions.

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Photo credit: charlottemeetings.com

beautiful building, but no one could come to see it.” New Bern has been a popular destination during the pandemic. Its abundance of outdoor activities and fresh air offered people socially distant escapes. “We had a strong leisure business and were able to sustain ourselves at a time when people wanted to be in the rural and coastal communities, where they felt safe,” Riggle says. Craven County has more than a dozen bed and breakfasts, hotels and motels. Many also offer meeting space. They, along with local businesses, governments and others partners, are working to bring that business back. “We realize we overlap and spill out into each other worlds and industries, and if one of us is having a challenge, eventually it will affect everybody,” Riggle says.“ So, we are all at the table collaborating to find creative and effective solutions.” Despite travel restrictions and stay-at-home orders that shuttered restaurants and gathering places, North Carolina’s rich natural resources and its favorable climate helped travel and tourism stay strong through the height of COVID-19. Wit Tuttell, executive director of Visit North Carolina, the tourism promotion arm of Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina, says as pandemic protocols wane, conference-andmeeting space near leisure activities is rebounding strongest. He says about 6% of the state’s overnight visitors are conducting business travel, which includes conventions, meetings and sales calls, and about 40% of them are adding leisure time to their trips. “It’s not a large percentage, but it’s an important percentage,” he says. Tuttell points to two Piedmont cities as examples of destinations that are experiencing a post-pandemic surge because their hospitality partners added leisure experiences to their

meetings-and-conventions business. In Charlotte, the rebound began when NASCAR Hall of Fame re-opened about six months after the pandemic shutdown began. “When we started re-opening, business came back in segments, starting with the leisure sector, which came back strong,” says Tom Murray, CEO of the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority. “We believe we really turned the corner last April,” he says. “For our current fiscal year, which started in July, we predict we will be at an all-time record for revenue across the history of our organization.” Out of the 20 highest hoteloccupancy days in Mecklenburg County history, Murray says 18 occurred over the last 12 months. That news bodes well for filling the Charlotte Convention Center, where a recent $126.9 million expansion added about 50,000 square feet of meeting room and prefunction space. Winston-Salem recently completed an expansion of its Benton Convention Center, says Christian Schroeder, director of sales and services at Visit Winston-Salem. Marking the first major expansion in more than 35 years, the $20 million project increased the convention center’s meeting space

to 150,000 square feet. The Marriott Hotel adjacent to the convention center offers an additional 12,000 square feet. Schroeder’s challenge is to fill the space. “Last summer, after working our way through the gradual lifting of mass-gathering limitations, we were able to get the convention business back up and running,” he says. And business remains strong, despite lingering problems such as labor shortages, staggering inflation and high gas prices. “We’ll monitor things, but overall, we’re optimistic about 2023,” he says. “We have groups under contract that are experiencing an increase in participation and adding room nights.” Phaneuf believes the hospitality industry’s resilience and commitment to innovation has played a large role in its rebound. And that will go a long way toward preparing it for the next yet to be seen emergency. “As a state that has endured a tremendous amount of pain, we’re emerging stronger than we were before because we have stuck together,” he says. “I think our future is bright.” — Teri Saylor is a freelance writer from Raleigh.

The new expansion of the Charlotte Convention Center created an overstreet pedestrian walkway to the Westin Charlotte hotel and a light rail stop, providing connectivity to a Whole Foods Market, Center City’s 200-plus restaurants and 5,600 hotel rooms.

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estinations for your next corporate meetings and events: CHARLOTTE GREENSBORO GREENVILLE PINEHURST

MEETINGS WERE HELD HERE LONG BEFORE CLUBS. Pinehurst may be known for twosomes and foursomes, but we’ve been hosting successful meetings and events for companies large and small since 1895. And we’d love to host yours. Consider Pinehurst for your next corporate function. We promise an experience as legendary as our golf.

RALEIGH 80 Carolina Vista, Pinehurst 800-659-4653 | pinehurst.com

WINSTON-SALEM WILMINGTON

CHARLOTTE BORN & BREWED

SEE OUR AD ON PAGE 2

BUSINESS OR PLEASURE, THE CHOICE IS YOURS.

Planning a company event? The spacious Fest Halls at The Olde Mecklenburg Brewery could be the perfect place! Alongside the largest Biergarten in the Southeast and an epic covered patio, our indoor event spaces can accommodate parties and gatherings of all sizes. Contact Brooke Harty for more info: BHarty@oldemeckbrew.com, 704-525-5644 ext.119. Prost!

Discover Grandover Resort’s 244 renovated guest rooms, 45,000 sq feet of refreshed meeting space, 36 holes of world-class golf, luxurious day Spa and more.

4150 Yancey Road, Charlotte 704-525-5644 | oldemeckbrew.com

Greensboro 336-294-1800 | grandoverresort.com

SEE OUR AD ON PAGE 32

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The Getaway that’s Minutes Away.

SEE OUR AD ON PAGE 5

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ELEVATE YOUR EXPERIENCE

WHERE ARTS & INNOVATION MEET

Imagine conversing among dinosaurs and mingling with live animals as you enjoy a special evening at one of the most striking event venues in downtown Raleigh. Choose from a variety of unique spaces perfect for meetings, receptions, and corporate parties with up to 2,200 guests.

Visit Winston-Salem is the official sales and marketing agency for the Winston-Salem and Forsyth County tourism industry. A sophisticated meeting destination, Winston-Salem is conveniently and strategically located at the epicenter of North Carolina’s Piedmont Triad region.

11 West Jones Street, Raleigh 919-707-9891 | naturalsciences.org

200 Brookstown Avenue, Winston-Salem 336-728-4200 | visitwinstonsalem.com

SEE OUR AD ON PAGE 21

SEE OUR AD ON PAGE 23

MEMORABLE EVENTS START WITH THE CAROLINA COASTAL EXPERIENCE

FIND YOURSELF IN GOOD COMPANY

There are many destinations for hosting meetings but only one offers the quintessential Carolina Coastal Experience – Wilmington, NC and Beaches. Anchored by the only convention center on NC’s coast, Wilmington’s riverfront Convention District is home to a new Aloft hotel and Riverfront Park, featuring a Live Nation-managed outdoor amphitheater, plus restaurants, an event pier and more.

Greenville-Pitt County is the economic, education, medical, and entertainment hub of Eastern North Carolina. Greenville is a growing destination situated conveniently between Raleigh and the NC beaches, where from our Greenville Convention Center campus, to East Carolina University, to our Uptown District, you will always find yourself in good company!

Wilmington and Beaches CVB 800-650-9064 | nccoastalmeetingsbusiness.com SEE OUR AD ON PAGE 21

Rachel Whitten, CMP, director of sales and services 252-329-4244 | visitgreenvillenc.com SEE OUR AD ON PAGE 17

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Statewide

“KIND OF AN OLIGARCH” We love getting feedback from our readers. Here’s a sampling of what you had to say about Business North Carolina on social media last month.

Delta Dental

Curt Ladig What an uplifting moment shared by david mildenberg at Business North Carolina! David, I’m glad you were able to experience what I mean when I say “we are in the smilemaking business” at DDNC – we believe everyone deserves a healthy smile! Here is the link to the daily digest: https://lnkd.in/ gzpUJ6aF #communityoutreach #oralhealtheducation

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Dale Folwell

NC Department of State Treasurer Dale Folwell has put himself in collections. It’s not that the North Carolina state treasurer necessarily objects to paying the charges he incurred for a checkup at a Winston-Salem hospital; it’s more that he wants “to see exactly what a person goes through when they don’t pay their medical bills.”

Power List

Triangle Environmental @Tri_EHI Check out this shoutout in the @BusinessNC July 2022 Magazine highlighting our @EPAresearch SBIR work and the great support we received from the NC SBDTC! Check them out if you’re a small business in NC looking for free resources! https://bit.ly/3bXLR5d

SCAN ME

to find Business North Carolina online or go to linktr.ee/businessnorthcarolina.

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By David Mildenberg

ruton Smith died in June at 95, having helped make NASCAR a national sports phenomenon. “Never afraid to take a chance, Bruton will go down as one of the greatest promoters and innovators in the history of motor sports,” Charlotte auto dealer and racing industry icon Rick Hendrick said. Smith’s flamboyant business style made him an unforgettable force in North Carolina for generations. Business North Carolina had a blast writing about him over the years. Perhaps the most powerful story was Ed Martin’s August 2013 feature, “Car Czar: Age hasn’t mellowed Bruton Smith. He still musters bluster at age 86.” The cover graphic was an unappealing drawing of Smith holding a sandwich board sign reading, “Vegas or Bust.” The story focused on Smith’s threat in May 2013 to move a NASCAR race from Charlotte Motor Speedway to his new track in Las Vegas, where city leaders dangled big incentives as a carrot. That story came as Smith feuded with the France family, which has long controlled the NASCAR circuit’s schedule, and Cabarrus County officials, whose actions prompted his threat to move the track elsewhere. “He’s just bluster on that one,” longtime speedway president Humpy Wheeler told Martin. “Bruton is kind of an oligarch who doesn’t like people to say no to him.” While Smith didn’t talk for that story, his longtime lawyer Bill Diehl provided BNC with juicy content. Asked why Smith didn’t tell Wheeler an office was being built for Smith’s son, Diehl said, “I’d take anything Humpy says with a large grain of salt. If they have anything good to say about each other at this point, I don’t know about that.” At times, a lot of people didn’t have good things to say about Smith. His purchases of stock from minority investors in Charlotte Motor Speedway, a bitter takeover battle for Albemarle-based North Carolina Federal Savings and Loan and other disputes sparked negative reviews. He was inducted into Charlotte’s NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2016, while Bill France Sr. and Bill France Jr. were in the inaugural class six years earlier. But Smith’s death prompted widespread appreciation of his career building two major businesses, Speedway Motorsports and Sonic Automotive, now both led by his sons. His rise from modest roots in Stanly County to periodic rankings on Forbes’ list of the 400 richest Americans was an unpredictable, remarkable story. Famous racer Darrell Waltrip summed it up: “When I think about Bruton Smith I can’t help but think about the song, ‘I Did It My Way.’ Boy did he ever!” ■

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CHARLOTTE CHARLOTTE Developer Smoky Bissell and his wife, Margaret, gave about 330 acres and undisclosed funds to Charlotte Country Day School, one of the city’s largest private schools. He helped develop SouthPark and Ballantyne Corporate Park. She was Country Day’s head of school for many years. Truist is increasing its minimum wage to $22 an hour, following similar increases by other banking peers. About 14,000 employees will be affected. Previous minimums were $15 to $18 per hour. The Kirkland Co. brokered the $90.8 million sale of Amaze @ NoDa, a 298-unit apartment community. St. Petersburg, Florida-based Stoneweg bought the property, which was built in 2020. The seller was Neyland Apartment Associates of Knoxville, Tennessee.

CHARLOTTE Lincoln Harris plans a 24-story, 415,000-square-foot building at the downtown Legacy Union site. It is expected to open in late 2024 and complement three existing towers that have a combined 1.5 million square feet.

PHOTO COURTESY OF LINCOLN HARRIS, ATOM POWER, CPCC

Atom Power, which is developing technology for electric vehicle charging, expects to raise $20 million, topping its previous combined fundraising since its start in 2014. Ryan Kennedy is the founder and CEO.

CHARLOTTE Charlotte’s Central Piedmont Community College opened its largest building to date, a $113 million center that will include a 3-story library, student center and theater. The 183,000-square-foot Parr Center is funded by a 2013 bond issue that approved $210 million for projects across Charlotte and Mecklenburg County.

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HICKORY Food wholesaler Merchants Distributors plans to add 125 jobs and invest $35 million to expand its operations here with an additional 250,000 square feet of space. The company is receiving about $5 million in state and local incentives after the company considered sites in South Carolina and Georgia.

EAST

FAYETTEVILLE For the second consecutive year, Fayetteville State University is applying pandemic relief funds to clear outstanding debt for students. The university applied more than $1.6 million to clear the balances for 1,178 students, enabling them to return to school this fall.

FAYETTEVILLE The Walsingham Group received a $23.8 million contract from the Defense Logistics Agency. The aerospace company based here will provide ground fuel services and storage and distribution services at Sheppard Air Force Base in Texas.

PEMBROKE UNC Pembroke’s American Indian Heritage Center will be named in honor

of Curt and Catherine Locklear. The couple’s ties with UNCP date to the 1930s.

WILMINGTON Novant Health and MedNorth Health Center are expanding services in some of the city’s low-income neighborhoods. Novant will build a new community clinic funded by Michael Jordan, while

MedNorth plans to expand its 25-year-old facility on North Fourth Street. Banking software company Apiture raised $29 million, which it will use to expand sales and marketing efforts. It has raised $69 million since its inception in 2017.

WILSON

WILMINGTON Duke Energy Renewables Wind of Charlotte and Total Energies Renewables, a division of France’s Total, signed 33-year leases to build wind farms off the coast of Wilmington after winning a federal auction. The action came before the start of a 10-year federal moratorium on new wind farms.

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PHOTO COURTESY OF FAYETTEVILLE STATE UNIVERSITY, DUKE ENERGY

Federal regulators pressed the 300-bed Wilson Medical Center to fix health and safety problems or lose its access to Medicare funding. The hospital is 80% owned by Duke LifePoint, a joint venture of Duke University and LifePoint Health of Tennessee.

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Craven & Parker Development of Wilkesboro purchased six tracts of land, totaling almost 19 acres, near the FedEx facility at Piedmont Triad International Airport for $4.65 million. Craven & Parker is managed by Steve Davis, a FedEx Ground contractor.

GREENSBORO Cone Health was recognized as one of the nation’s 15 top-performing health care systems by Merative, an Ann Arbor, Mich.based company that was formerly called IBM Watson Health. The list evaluated 349 systems and 3,206 hospitals. Fortune magazine published the rankings.

HIGH POINT Forward High Point, a downtown revitalization organization, named Rebekah McGee as its new president and CEO. She previously served as director of Downtown Asheboro since its inception in 2020.

WINSTON-SALEM Plakous Therapeutics received $310,000 in funding during the last few months through North Carolina Biotechnology Center programs.

TRIANGLE CHAPEL HILL TrueBridge Capital Partners, a venture capital investment firm based here, plans to raise as much as $200 million for a new fund. Founded in 2007 by Mel Williams and Edwin Poston, TrueBridge has $5.5 billion in assets under management. Federal regulators threatened UNC Health’s main hospital here with the termination of Medicare funding over patient safety issues. System officials said they had responded promptly with action plans to resolve the complaints before the late July deadline imposed by regulators.

DURHAM

North Carolina Central University appointed Malik Edwards interim dean of its law school. Edwards will report to Provost David H. Jackson, Jr. A national search for the next dean is under way.

▲Malik Edwards

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PHOTOS COURTESY OF CONE HEALTH, NORTH CAROLINA CENTRAL UNIVERSITY

Waya Health will be adding a virtual reality component to its systems in medical centers, including the Durham Veterans Affairs Medical Center. Such therapies can be used to assist in physical, emotional, psychological and social rehabilitation.

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RALEIGH Private equity firm QHP Capital, based here, has acquired Lexitas Pharma Services, a Durham-based contract research organization. The management company that spun out of NovaQuest Capital Management’s private equity unit said the acquisition will support Lexitas’ development of ophthalmic drugs. Tanya Parrish Grace, CEO of Atlantic Brace in Raleigh and Blue File in Dunn, pleaded guilty to a federal charge of health care fraud. She was accused of filing phony Medicare bills for more than 400 dead people and bilking the agency out of $17 million. She faces as many as 10 years in prison. Five new television and film projects were approved to receive N.C. Film and Entertainment Grant funds. The projects are expected to produce direct in-state spending of $107 million and create more than 4,900 jobs. Enact Holdings entered into a five-year, $200 million senior unsecured revolving

BRYSON CITY Visitors to national parks spent $1.7 billion in North Carolina last year, more than any state except for California, according to the National Park Service. The strong tourism performance is mainly due to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Blue Ridge Parkway. credit facility. The insurance company based here intends to use the funding for working capital needs and general corporate purposes.

WEST ASHEVILLE

RALEIGH Advance Auto Parts won’t hire hundreds for new jobs in North Carolina, changing plans that had sparked major state incentives in 2018. It employs more than 700 at its headquarters here, while it is adding more jobs in India and Taiwan, the company said. It is the only Fortune 500 company based in the capital.

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PHOTOS COURTESY OF VISITNC.COM

The Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority Board passed a $30.6 million operating budget. Asheville’s lodging industry reported a 48% increase in revenue during the first five months of the year compared with the same period last year.

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MAKE SOMETHING NEW Manufacturing is a cornerstone of North Carolina’s economy, and it has been for decades. But it’s evolving. The COVID-19 pandemic choked supply chains and altered customer bases, adding business for some manufacturers in the process. Workforce needs, in terms of number of employees and skills, are growing. And new technologies are making factories more like spaceships than Henry Ford’s repetitive grind. Business North Carolina magazine recently gathered leaders and experts from the industry to discuss these changes, how manufacturers are stepping up to meet them and how they’ll affect this important part of the state’s economy in the long run.

Geoff Foster

Patrick Jacques

Phil Mintz (moderator)

president and CEO, Core Technology Molding

program director and apprenticeship coordinator, Robeson Community College

executive director, N.C. State University Industry Expansion Solutions; director, North Carolina Manufacturing Extension Partnership

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Forvis, Robeson Community College and Pitt County Economic Development sponsored the discussion, which was moderated by N.C. State’s Phil Mintz. It was edited for brevity and clarity.

WHAT ARE THE CURRENT CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES FOR NORTH CAROLINA’S MANUFACTURING INDUSTRY?

as we’ve ever been, but we can have big projects that we can’t ship because we lack a motor or computer chip, for example, to finish them. It keeps a million-dollar machine from supporting a manufacturer. It seems like it would be easy to find these parts somewhere in the world, but it’s not. We use eBay and other nontraditional sources to find them. It’s a struggle, but our employees are getting it done.

college enrollment typically decreases. People think they can skip school and go directly to work because of the plentiful opportunities. But we want to retain our students, so they can finish their degree or program, which set up successful futures. So, we’re expanding our apprenticeship programs, which allow them to work and study. Many students already have a job, so it’s an attractive option compared to a minimum wage job that barely pays the bills. An apprenticeship gives students the opportunity to learn fundamentals in the classroom and polish their skills with on-the-job training. They can apprentice in an industry of their choosing. The college also has discussed scheduling classes for students working traditional second- and third-shift schedules.

FOSTER: This is the busiest we’ve been in our 16 years. We saw 300% growth last year, and we doubled the first half of this year compared to last year. While being busy is a good problem to have, it’s still a problem that needs to be managed. Lead times are longer in the supply chain. Getting new machines, for example, now takes 12 to 24 weeks, when it used to take four weeks. Hiring has been a challenge since COVID arrived. We are adding robotics and automation to compete with China and other countries, where production costs are less.

WOOD: The industry is strong. Our companies are watching their top lines grow, and they’re forecasting that to continue. But attracting and retaining talent is difficult. Sourcing materials to make products is difficult. And even if they can be made, the shipping logistics are difficult to coordinate. Flexibility and adaptability are characteristics that I see manufacturers embracing. Their executives have to be optimistic, too. Many times, that optimism carries the day as their company searches for ways to do things differently. It may have been easier in the past, but now they need a different way to get that same answer.

PEDLEY: Manufacturing is strong and struggling. Many of our customers make fuel systems for gasoline engines, and they’re not buying much right now. Life science and consumer goods seem to have picked up. We’re probably as busy

JACQUES: Almost every manufacturer in and near Robeson County needs a large number of employees. Their demand often outpaces what the community college can produce. As the number of jobs increases, community

PAYNTER: Universities and community colleges need to have their ears to the ground, listening to industry experts. They need to understand the everyday problems that folks face on the factory floor. We need to use old tools in new ways, along with new tools, to solve problems. How can we use technology? How can we use innovative discoveries to address problems? One lesson from the COVID-19 pandemic is that supply chain squeeze is a bigger issue for the global economy than we ever anticipated. How can the university help

Sharon Paynter

Jerry Pedley

Matt Wood

acting chief research and engagement officer and associate professor, East Carolina University

president, Mertek Solutions

national industry leader of commercial products practice, Forvis A U G U S T

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our partners assess the strengths and weaknesses of their supply chain? And what platforms can we help deploy to eliminate cybersecurity vulnerabilities associated with manufacturing? We’re in a new era. HOW CAN THE STATE GROW ITS MANUFACTURING WORKFORCE? JACQUES: Most people don’t have a clear understanding of modern manufacturing. They have no idea how pervasive technology is at the Campbell Soup factory in Maxton, for example. We need to make more people aware of the improved working conditions and pay of modern-day manufacturing jobs. The days of standing on an assembly line, completing the same task over and over, day in and day out, are gone. Manufacturers need people to program, design and build assembly lines, most of which employ robotics. We recently added a mechatronics program, for example, to bulk up automation training in our industrial systems curriculum. We must work hand in hand with local manufacturers to ensure we evolve with them. EV manufacturing, for example, has to be brought into our curriculum, so graduates are prepared to enter that workforce. They need to know about batteries and other EV-specific components. PAYNTER: North Carolina is a competitive environment for manufacturing for many reasons, including diverse sectors. Eastern North Carolina’s strength, for example, resides in its density of pharmaceutical companies. We provide workers specifically to them. But now we have to pivot, equipping workers with skills that are applicable across myriad sectors, including pharmaceutical, automotive and aerospace. The ability to use those skills, such as analytical, collaborative, soft and project management, in different environments is vital. At ECU, we talk a lot about being flexible, nimble and quick, so we

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can respond to each of our industry partners’ specific needs with curricular and noncurricular learning opportunities. There are adult learners, for example, who can’t or won’t invest four years in a traditional university education. So, we have options. They can work while they are in the classroom. We can develop credentialing programs that reskill or upskill people. Those offer cutting-edge training and experiences that put workers who complete them in a different category than other equally credentialed job applicants. PEDLEY: We host an annual open house on National Manufacturing Day, which is the first Friday in October. Hundreds of students from several counties attend. We show them what we do, explaining along the way that modern manufacturing is a good way to make a living. North Carolina is blessed. Its high schools have specialized academies, which focus on preparing students to work in fields such as engineering, hospitality and life science. We call it customized training. It starts in middle and high school and continues into community colleges and universities. We need it more than ever as we grow. We have an apprenticeship program, which can be designed to fit any company. Ours is a two-year program — Automated Equipment Engineer Technician. It’s 8,000 hours, a combination of work and classroom time. You can train and offer education to your existing employees. We’re excited about all of that. FOSTER: I’ve been an adjunct professor at North Carolina A&T State University for 17 years. I get to see students day in, day out for 16 weeks, allowing me to get to know them and pick the best future employees. Can they present to a customer? Do they play nicely in the sandbox with their teammates? We continue to hire graduates from the community colleges, particularly Alamance and Guilford Technical. We’re helping build better schools

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and students by providing feedback in return. Curriculums need more robotics, for example, because that’s what our international customers want. We also work with N.C. State’s IES program. It helps with workforce development for our professionals. With all the opportunities coming to North Carolina, companies need a fast-track approach to earning certifications. IES helped us get ISO 14001, which is for environmental, IATF 16949, which is for automotive, and ISO 13485, which is for medical devices, within a year and a half. Without IES, it probably would have taken us three to five years to be certified. IES rounds out all the other programs that help our company be successful. It’s important to us, and made us more attractive to some of our existing customers. WOOD: In our company, the manufacturing vertical is our largest focus. And one of my favorite things to do is visit a factory and watch things being made. It’s what America is built on. It’s tangible. You can wrap your brain around it. We need to continue to create that level of excitement, driving our students to be involved in something special. It creates opportunities for everyone in the state. WHAT IS MANUFACTURING’S ROLE IN ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT? PAYNTER: Communities need a regional perspective when envisioning economic development. Build a workforce that’s willing to commute across county lines. Build partnerships with industry that allow each community to take advantage of its strengths. Large manufacturers need infrastructure such as water and sewer. One community may be able to develop that, while a different community may be better suited to hosting less resourceintensive companies, which make up a manufacturer’s supply chain. We need to look at talent as a driver of economic health. As communities develop quality

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of life amenities, such as greenways and revitalized downtowns, their goal should be creating places where people want to live and work. It takes a holistic perspective. Partnerships make North Carolina a rich state for business to thrive. Whether it’s Pitt County Economic Development, NCEast Alliance, Greenville ENC Alliance or any of the others across North Carolina, we need to work together, considering big- and small-picture strategies. ECU has partnered with four counties — Beaufort, Martin, Hyde and Pitt — to support small businesses and entrepreneurs. Owners of one small business, for example, had all their assets wrapped up in the business, but they were eager to move to something else. So, we helped them figure out how to sell it. We also are investing in RISE29, a Golden LEAF-funded program

that assists entrepreneurs coming out of university. Communities pitch them on why they should be the home to their company. Communities can’t view their situation with a deficit mindset, all the things they lack that prevent people from living and working there. PEDLEY: A regional approach is important. Lee and Chatham counties, for example, collaborated to bring the state’s first EV manufacturer, VinFast, to Triangle Innovation Point megasite, where it’s expected to create up to 7,500 jobs. In this case it was with sewer and water; they’re sharing the associated revenue. That’s good to see. It says a lot about our state and how we do things. I remember a sign that hung on the wall years ago. It read, ‘Education equals economic development.’ The state’s educational assets attract many

manufacturers to North Carolina. We have the best universities in the world. We have the best community colleges and the best high schools. That’s what it’s all about — bringing in resources and training. If a manufacturer wants to learn about ISO, team building or some other skill, our community colleges and universities will set up instruction at your campus. JACQUES: I’ve been in education for 30 years. And one thing that I’ve noticed the past 15 to 20 years is the collaboration between community colleges, universities and businesses in North Carolina. It allows us to build a strong system. When I went through the community college system, all associate degrees were terminal degrees. You earned one and went to work. They didn’t lead to

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something else. Now ECU and other universities offer transfer programs, where community college students can build on their associate degree. We’re working to add articulation agreements, so more students can further their skills. Education needs to be flexible, embracing what will make us better as a whole. We need to make the improvements that keep us going in the right direction. We work hand in hand with economic developers, government officials and community members as manufacturers look at moving to our region. We assess their needs and identify where we can help, preparing residents to work.

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WHY ARE MANUFACTURERS MOVING TO NORTH CAROLINA? WHERE ARE THEY MOVING FROM?

family and live, from Murphy to Manteo. You spend a ton of time at work, but you also want things to do outside of work.

WOOD: We’re seeing foreign and domestic investments. I see more foreign investment coming, but the global economy is becoming complicated. Do you want to onshore or offshore sources of products? You need the ability to pivot based on the latest happenings. Many real estate developers and government agencies have done a great job preparing shovelready sites. That’s easier said than done, especially when multiple tracts of land are in play. But that removes some of the burden from investors, allowing them to come in and decide this is where they want to locate. I was born, raised and continue to live in North Carolina. It’s a great state to raise a

FOSTER: COVID has impacted many of our European competitors differently. Some have closed. We’re pretty heavy with the European automakers, who were scrambling to find local suppliers at the height of the pandemic. The keyword is localization. Manufacturers in the United States, for example, want a regional supplier. We make parts for Sweden-based Husqvarna, for example, which wants local suppliers for its South Carolina factory. If that’s you, and you have quality parts, the capacity to make more and deliver on time, then the sky is the limit. You’ll have to stop them and say no more. It’s a good problem to have. You can be a bit aggressive, as long as you’re cautious. And it trickles

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down to other companies in the state, including Mertek. We approached it pre-COVID as we moved to localize our suppliers. It turned out to be a brilliant move. We would’ve been in trouble if we chose a foreign supplier. We need more companies like it in the region. IS IT A GOOD TIME FOR MANUFACTURERS TO EXPAND? FOSTER: We doubled cleanroom capacity to accommodate biopharmaceutical work last year. This year we’re expanding again, adding brick and mortar to our factory to accommodate new business. And we’re already talking about our next expansion, which is two years out, for business we’ve already been awarded. The industry will see more brickand-mortar additions. It also will see

more strategic partnerships between manufacturers and their suppliers. We’re going to fill them up with work, which is a great thing. You’ll see other companies post triple-digit growth. WOOD: It is expensive, but many companies are expanding. You need to know what’s needed, be able to forecast and have a plan. There are many people selecting sites, trying to decide where the right place to be is, which often includes proximity to suppliers. There are many incentives for expanding. They can be through various agencies or special tax deductions. I do think there are many companies in expansion mode, even if they’re doing it quietly because they are cautiously optimistic about what lies ahead, including inflationary costs and concerns.

JACQUES: Demand for good employees is growing. Higher education, especially community colleges, will need to become more creative to meet that demand. Businesses call me every day, needing to hire 15, 20, 30 or more people. We don’t have that many students. Community colleges have done a lot with continuing education, quickly filling skill gaps. We always look for ways to be flexible, working around the needs of students and employers. So, for us, it’s how to get those folks, including nontraditional students, who are in their late 20s or early 30s, to return to school to learn additional skills. We’re going to have to figure out how to adjust to and meet their needs. That’s the tough part. COVID taught us that more classes, or at least parts of them, can be taught online. So, we’re offering more blended

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or hybrid courses, when the lecture and day-to-day instruction is done online, and students come to campus a day or two each week for laboratory and hands-on instruction. That helps students maintain a job and cash in on educational benefits. WHAT IS MANUFACTURING’S FUTURE IN NORTH CAROLINA? JACQUES: When textiles folded up in Robeson County, it was a dark time without much hope. But slowly, more and more manufacturers have arrived. Robeson and Lumberton have developed an industrial park at the intersection of interstates 74 and 95. Elkay Plumbing Products is building a distribution center there. It’s expected to open by the first of next year. Many companies have approached the community college about creating a supply of skilled workers. It’s promising. We need to do a better job of preparing students and connecting with industry so our product — workers — are prepared to smoothly transition to the workplace from the classroom. WOOD: I’m excited where we are, and I hope we continue on that path. Companies’ strategies will continue to evolve. Research and development will remain important to manufacturers. Many are taking advantage of a research

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and development tax credit. If you’re not taking advantage of it, you should. There are tax rule changes coming on research development expenses, too. They’re going to start being amortized as opposed to being expenses. Companies have to undertake research and development to remain competitive. But they have to mind the tax landscape, especially when it comes to cashflow and where they can spend their dollars. Technology has been the focus of manufacturing for years. Increasing budgets for technology and research and development will be the mainstay. It’s exciting. It’s doing something different. It also has the minds of young people. They’re graduating from school and searching for something that’s cutting edge, different and exciting. PEDLEY: Manufacturers in the market for automation and robotics are investing less in making parts for fueldriven cars. They’re spending more to make EV parts. There’s a shift underway, but we’re still making standard parts, and that market seems busy. VinFast’s EV plant will be a big difference to the region and state. Many small companies will be needed to support it. We’re excited about having that nearby. All in all, automotive seems good.

most of them are sold in Germany, China, Russia and South Africa. And with Volvo’s new factory in South Carolina, we’re working on its S60 and XC90. Volvo will only manufacture EVs by 2025. It’s a real shift. We won’t be doing any gas-powered vehicles, only hybrids or EVs. MINTZ: We provide a lot of professional development training, but you have to work with people who are innovative and want to improve. That’s what makes North Carolina manufacturing really great. I’ve been doing this work for almost 25 years. It’s exciting to see companies start, grow and prosper. I recently received an email from the founder of a Raleigh-based company that makes electric charging stations. He wanted to know how we could help make his company better. It’s crazy. We’re doing a bit of everything in the state. We’re making all kinds of things. One of the wonderful things in this line of work is seeing people make these exciting and innovative things. It keeps me interested and excited about what’s happening in North Carolina. ■

FOSTER: EV manufacturing is growing. We’re working on BMW’s X3 hybrid;

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Raising grass-fed livestock proves lucrative for more N.C. farmers

By Edward Martin | Photos by Mike Belleme

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ails lazily swish flies from their black coats as docile, 1,200-pound Angus cattle graze in grass up to their bellies. Carolyn Bradley is fencing this afternoon, repairing barbed-wire strands that stand between them and the steep, forested Madison County mountains. A footpath meanders down a hillside to a deep vale and the front porch of a white, 1910 farm house. Fit and trim in her 60s, Bradley says it seems that from surrounding mountaintops she can see forever — 28 peaks, including fabled Grandfather Mountain. “This farm has been in my family as far back as records go. I grew up here, and went off to college and became a school teacher.” Her parents farmed until poor health drove them off the land 20-odd years ago. Bradley and her husband Mike, an engineer, moved back to the 130-acre farm seven years ago. Agriculture is a $92 billion annual slice of North Carolina’s economy, employing one in five workers. One of the state’s biggest meat producing employers is 300 miles east of Bradley’s farm in Bladen County, where 4,000 employees process 35,000 hogs daily at a Smithfield Foods plant. The Bradleys’ Farm House Beef sells grass-fed beef directly to consumers who are increasingly bypassing industrial behemoths like Smithfield and the supermarkets they supply. Such pasture-to-plate farms range from beef to pork, bison, lamb, goat, poultry and other meats, but all promise more-nutritious meats and humanely raised animals, like those of the Bradleys. Agricultural economists say the movement, also known as regenerative farming, is helping families preserve hundreds of North Carolina’s 46,000 farms once destined to be parceled into lots for houses and shopping malls, swallowed by urban sprawl. The pasture-raised movement has boomed since the COVID-19 pandemic, so much so that its success threatens to overwhelm its infrastructure. Several slaughterhouses, for example, are begging for skilled butchers and other workers to meet surging demand. The number of Tar Heel farms certified to handle their own meat has soared in the last two decades, now totaling 1,600. Sales are believed to exceed $200 million, though it’s tough to track with farms running the gamut of size and offerings.

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▲ Interns Trinity Gilliam, left, and Greg Hunter are learning the trade at the Ager family’s business.

Farm House Beef, one of the state’s largest pasture-raised operations, is about 35 miles from Hickory Nut Gap Farm in Buncombe County’s Fairview community, another mountainous terrain. There, on a recent sunny afternoon, Jamie and Amy Ager wait for their sons Cyrus, Nolin and Levi to come home from school. The couple met at nearby Warren Wilson College 20-odd years ago. The boys help on the farm, giving Jamie Ager hope that they will someday take over. The farm has been in the Ager family since 1916. Jamie’s father, John, is stepping down this year from the N.C. House of Representatives after serving since 2015. Jamie’s brother, Eric, is running to succeed their father. Hickory Nut Gap had overall revenue of $11 million last year. It produces its own grass-fed beef, pasture-raised pigs, turkeys and other animals, selling about $1.5 million through its on-farm store last year. With 18 employees, it also wholesales meat to food-service distributors such as Sysco, US Foods and Performance Food Group, a channel that has grown at a double-digit pace for eight straight years. As an aggregator, the farm also collects and markets meats from other like-thinking area farmers. Across the state in Durham County, Valarie Jarvis, a nurse, and her family make up Jireh Family Farm. Like many smaller pasture-to-plate farms with revenue from a few thousand dollars to $100,000 or so annually, her farm supplements sales of grass-fed beef, a dozen or so goats, pork and other meats with

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herbs and produce. The 4-acre farm also offers summer children’s camps and tutoring for “homesteaders,” whom Jarvis defines as folks bent on starting similar farms. “I’ve become a full-time farmer and part-time nurse,” laughs the 2000 graduate from the University of Virginia School of Nursing. She grew up on a Virginia farm. In Eastern North Carolina’s Kenansville, Master Blend Family Farms has about a dozen employees, including owners Ron Simmons and wife Laurita. Its pasture-raised, hormone- and antibiotic-free pigs run free in grassy fields. “Consumers are becoming more and more interested in where their food comes from,” says Simmons, who recently bought two more farms for expansion. Master Blend has a food truck, sells to restaurants and has a retail store, in addition to selling on social-media platforms. Last year’s sales topped $250,000. It’s among a dwindling 1,600 African American-owned farms left in North Carolina. Master Blend is 20 acres, once too small to be self-sustaining. But online marketing and other trends have made such plots viable. Another factor are aggregators including Durham-based Firsthand Foods, now in its 12th year. Its network of 35 farms in a dozen central North Carolina counties includes some with only a few acres and handful of animals, to other operations that market 70 or more animals a year. “We do only red meat such as beef, pork and lamb, raised

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with no hormones or antibiotics,” says co-founder Jennifer Curtis. “We work with USDA-inspected processing plants where the farmers drop their animals off. It frees up the farmers to be farmers.” Firsthand Foods counts Duke University and independent restaurants as anchor customers, but also supplies about 25 independent grocery stores, including sites in Fayetteville, Greenville, S.C., Greensboro and Wilmington. About half of its projected $2.5 million in sales this year will come from independent restaurants, caterers and institutional customers. “Chefs, local grocery stores and caterers might want local meats but don’t have the time to work with all the different farmers,” she says.

If pasture-to-plate farming evokes images of bib-overalled rustics eking idyllic livings from the land, the reality is far different. Rather, it’s becoming a key force in feeding U.S. consumers, according to researchers at N.C. State University and N.C. Agricultural & Technical University in Greensboro. A&T’s Chyi Lyi Liang is director of the Center for Environmental Farming Systems and chair of the College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences’ sustainable community-based food systems. “We’ve got a new generation of young people – the so-called XYZ generation – that really appreciates the roots of agriculture, and have a sense of the gap between what they see in the super-

market and what agriculture is all about,” Liang says. “They’re passionate about coming back to sustainable farming practices.” Master Blend’s Ron Simmons is 40. Jamie Ager is 44. The average age of North Carolina farmers is 58. Propelling the movement, too, is the enormous cost of industrial-scale farming and that most pasture-to-plate farms are already owned by families, often for generations. Many owners also hold off-farm jobs. In 2019, a typical Tar Heel farm was 168 acres, and average farm land sold for $4,180 an acre — an initial land cost of nearly $700,000, not including buildings for housing animals. Large farm tractors, some now autonomously guided, top $200,000. Farms producing animal protein would then need livestock, including brood animals, easily pushing costs for a conventional startup to more than $2 million. “Land access is an issue for anyone wanting to get into farming, but in regenerative farming, you don’t need 200 acres or half-million-dollar tractors to get started,” says Liang. “On our research farm in Goldsboro, we have tractors I can operate. I’m a woman about five feet tall, and we have small, compact tractors suitable for women and aging farmers and those with disabilities.” N.C. State University, A&T and the N.C. Department of Agriculture maintain a 2,245-acre farm in Wayne County that concentrates on small, sustainable livestock and produce operations. Liang trains about 350 small farmers a year, and her workshops and lectures attract another 1,000. Regenerative farms and grass-fed animals also preserve land

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▲ Hickory Nut Gap says its hogs don’t receive antibiotics or added hormones to supplement their grain diet.

that more-intensive crop farming destroys. “Grazing builds more organic matter,” Ager says. “Organic matter is carbon, and products of the industrial meat market are power-processed. Grass-fed is not only healthier for you but sequesters carbon.” At Farm House Meats, Bradley says cattle rotate among 14 paddocks, preventing overgrazing. Marketing experts say consumer tastes, though notoriously fickle, are clearly revving the push for pasture-to-plate products. Most consumers perceive pasture-raised animals as healthier, and are willing to pay a premium over supermarket prices, says Carrie Balkcom, president of the Colorado-based U.S. Grassfed Beef Association. It has several thousand members nationwide, including North Carolina. Studies also show grass-fed animals contain higher levels of omega-3 fats, believed to lower heart risks.

Whole Foods Market Inc., the Amazon-owned, 500-store chain that advertises healthy food, focuses on smaller, local suppliers, says William Betts, vice president of local merchandising.

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The Austin, Texas-based company has 10 Tar Heel stores. It recently began a Local and Emerging Accelerator program, aimed at boosting such sales. “We’re looking to facilitate a higher level of partnership between suppliers and Whole Foods,” he says. The grassfed trend, he adds, received another shot in the arm when pandemic-related supply-chain issues began to surface two years ago and consumers encountered empty supermarket meat coolers. In Fairview, Hickory Nut Farm’s Ager praises Whole Foods and Black Mountain-based Ingles Markets for efforts to sell local meats. But a number of pasture-to-plate farmers and state agriculture officials say other chains have mostly rebuffed farmers, citing their inability to satisfy volume and uniformity requirements. Officials at Matthews-based Harris-Teeter Supermarkets, Greensboro-based The Fresh Market and Salisbury-based Food Lion declined to discuss sales of local products. Many pasture-to-plate farms also carry endorsements from animal-welfare organizations. Industrial-scale farming captured headlines earlier this year when billionaire investor Carl Icahn criticized McDonald’s for buying pork from companies whose contract farmers use crate gestation. The practice confines pregnant pigs to small crates, which the pork industry says is necessary to rein in costs. Icahn’s effort to add corporate directors who share his view failed, though the restaurant giant says its suppliers are phasing out the use of crates. The NC Choice program has promoted the small-farm concept for about 20 years, says Sarah Blacklin, director of the program that is linked to N.C. State. She works with hundreds of niche meat producers, meat processors and others. “We try to grease the supply chain for local, pasture-raised meats,” she says. “It’s not an integrated, top-down industry. It’s a very lateral supply chain and it takes a lot of businesses to make it work. We’re fortunate we have a tracking system, more or less, because the N.C. Department of Agriculture registers meat handlers.” Most states don’t. The state has 1,615 such certifications, most of them small farms, adds Jack Nales, the agriculture department’s senior marketing specialist. That’s up from 1,200 as recently as two years ago. Blacklin and others say pasture-to-plate farmers often feel ignored, particularly by federal agriculture officials, and can find financing startups and expansions hard because lenders shy away from small operators. “The field has evolved so much over the last 20 years as farmers make a business out of pasturing meat and direct marketing it, but it’s pretty wild,” Blacklin says. “There’re still a lot of growing pains.”

One outcome is clear here in a low-slung, windowless red-brick building in Asheboro owned by Piedmont Custom Meats. In cool, spotless stainless-steel rooms, employees carve beef, pork, lamb, mutton and goat that was slaughtered at another site in Gibson-

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▲ Hickory Nut Gap’s store near Fairview makes up a small fraction of the farm’s revenue.

ville for farmers who raised it and delivered it there. It’s one of the Southeast’s largest processing houses, and among about 190 licensed by federal and state agencies. Only about 15 make up the core of the pasture-to-plate industry, Blacklin says. Demand is so great that some of the processors have two-year waiting lists of farmers seeking help. About 180,000 pounds of meat processed here each month emerges as packaged steaks, sausage, bacon, lamb chops and other products such as bison brisket, lamb hot dogs and mutton baloney. It then returns to the farm where it originated, for sale to the public. Waste is minimized. Excess fat becomes lard, for example, expanding on an old adage that savvy farmers used “everything but the squeal.” Some consumers buy in bulk, for example, a quarter of a cow – typically about 100 pounds and $900 – to be parceled out for home freezers. It’s part of the necessary customer re-education that’s taking place, says N.C. A&T’s Liang. Until 2014, owner Donna Moore was a customer at Piedmont. “I grew up around cattle” on a beef farm in Stanly County, she says. When the previous owner retired, she bought Piedmont and began expanding and modernizing. She laughs easily at the suggestion that it resembles a hospital, with its white-coated, hooded and heavily masked butchers. “People want to be assured their food comes from a clean place,” she says, adding that Piedmont Custom uses vacuum-

sealing and other techniques. The 35,000-square-foot business, she adds, is one of the largest processors with USDA inspectors in the Southeast. “We started with about 200 customers, and now have over 600 from North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and Georgia,” she says. “We noticed an extreme surge, about March of two years ago, related to the pandemic, because people suddenly couldn’t find meat in the grocery stores. They’d say, ‘Hey, I have a neighbor down the road who grows animals,’ and started reaching out. We’d usually been booked three or four weeks ahead, and the next thing we knew, we were booked for the remainder of 2022 and beyond.” While she has a training program for butchers, hiring is hard because skilled meat cutters are scarce. “I could increase capacity another 30% if I had another seven or eight more people.” Master Blend’s Simmons, who says he learned much of his work ethic at his grandfather’s knee, says pasture-to-plate farming is a welcome return to old-fashioned farming. In the lengthening late-day shadows of the Madison County mountains, Carolyn Bradley gets philosophical. “Land in this area is at a premium, and sure, it would be a lot easier to just sell it,” she says. “But this is a way to save it for our children, our children’s children, and our grandchildren’s generation.” ■

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Too much demand, too little supply create a thorny housing squeeze in Boone.

By Connie Gentr y or Boone, one of North Carolina’s quintessential mountain towns, too much prosperity comes with a price. A thriving tourism industry, an expansive university, and a growing second-home community that draws affluent retirees, investors, and work-from-anywhere professionals has made the High Country unaffordable for many. The historically tight housing market in many cities across North Carolina and the U.S. sparked a record acceleration of prices over the past few years. Boone was no exception with the median price of homes sold in the city soaring 22% to $427,500 during the year ended March 31, according to the High Country Association of Realtors. In mid-May, the Multiple Listing Service cited five homes available in the city with an average price of $975,000, says Bill Aceto, managing partner of Blue Ridge Realty and Investments. “An already popular area became more popular for a variety of reasons, some pandemicinduced and some not, but that has put a strain on the housing options for people who live here year-round,” says David Jackson, CEO of the Boone Area Chamber of Commerce. “Both on the sale side and the rental side, it has drastically moved the prices up.” Boone is the economic and employment center for the seven-county High Country region, according to a November study by an affiliate of UNC Chapel Hill’s Kenan-Flagler Business School. The city has long been a favorite for visitors who enjoy exceptional views across the Blue Ridge Mountains, abundant outdoor recreation and an authentic Appalachian heritage. Its economic base is Appalachian State University, where enrollment has grown by more than 3,000 students, or 17%, in the past decade to about 20,640 as of fall 2021. Like scenic mountain towns nationally, Boone also got more popular as the pandemic prompted many property owners to shift from leasing apartments and homes to locals for yearlong rentals in favor of short-term contracts. “We saw a flood of folks up here that were looking for different options for staying,” Jackson says. “People that traditionally held on to investment properties to use occasionally themselves or rent to somebody working at the hospital or university shifted and made their property a week-to-week Airbnb rental. That’s taken away a lot of our capacity.”

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PHOTOS COURTESY OF BLUE RIDGE REALTY AND INVESTMENTS

▲ Single-family homes in Watauga County sold for a median $535,000 in the first four months this year, a 24% increase from a year earlier.

Appalachian Regional Healthcare System, which serves four counties with nearly 3,200 employees, feels that pain. “Forty percent of their [Boone] staff comes from outside the area to work. That tells you how little workforce housing there is in this community,” Jackson notes. The same is true for Appalachian State University, the largest county employer with 3,200 staffers. About 30% commute from outside Watauga County, living in adjacent Ashe, Avery, Caldwell or Wilkes County, along with Johnson County in Tennessee. Only about 13% of the 12,000 people employed in Boone as of 2018 lived within the city limits. Lack of affordable housing is more than an inconvenience. It’s the reason people are leaving jobs or declining offers. That was a finding in the recently released Housing Needs Assessment for the High Country prepared by Bowen National Research, a Columbus, Ohio-based business. Boone and other local municipalities paid for the study, which also covers Alleghany, Ashe and Avery counties. The Bowen study reported there were only 20 homes priced under $150,000 throughout the region in mid-October. The median listing price was $475,000, and 75% of the homes for sale were listed for more than $300,000. Based on 2021 estimated census figures, the report concluded that fewer than 7% of households could buy a median-priced home. “Availability of housing is the key to the area’s housing issues. This means the development of new housing units is paramount,” says Patrick Bowen, president of the Columbus, Ohio, firm that has conducted about 30 studies of North Carolina communities.

Who wants to grow?

But not everybody is ready to sign up for that obvious response to a housing shortage. Adding more housing requires expanding existing water and sewer lines, of course. But Boone has no plans

for extending utilities within the town’s jurisdiction or in unregulated areas of Watauga County. “When you reach the capacity of the town, you have to expand utilities to accommodate growth,” says Todd Rice, managing partner and co-owner of Blue Ridge Realty and Investments, which has operated for more than 40 years. “If we could run water and sewer farther out, it would spawn neighborhoods.” Not so fast, says Jane Shook, a town employee for 22 years including six in her current role as director of planning and inspections. Over the past 20 years, the town’s population has grown by about 5,500 people, or about 40%, to about 19,500. “Any extension of services has to be done in a thoughtful way. We wouldn’t want to just extend services to encourage sprawl,” she says. Still, she says the town views housing as a top priority as it starts updating its formal land-use plan. The Boone 2030 Land Use Plan was completed in 2009, while the next version is expected to be unveiled next February after lots of analysis and community input. Studying where different housing types can be located and whether short-term rentals are having a negative effect are important parts of the planning process, she says. “We’ll carefully look at where the biggest benefit to our community would be in [doing] future extensions.” Rice wants a reasonable path forward for developers, noting that the town has many ways to support cost-effective development that could lead to more moderately priced rental and for-sale properties. “The town charges impact fees to developers that get rolled into the price of the housing and make it less affordable,” he says. He cites the $500,000 impact fee levied at The Peak of Boone, a 113-unit housing development for App State students. “That fee has nothing to do with labor or hook-up to water and sewer; it’s

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The town likes to talk about affordable housing, but you need to reduce regulation and reduce fees to developers so they can make it more affordable. Todd Rice, Blue Ridge Realty and Investments

Like everywhere, Boone is impacted by supply chain disruptions, labor shortages and higher costs for construction materials. Some townhome projects aimed to deliver more affordable homes, he says, “but those prices are inflated now and may not be hitting that target.” Recruiting businesses to the area has always been a challenge because Boone lacks an airport and is about 50 miles from the closest interstate. Mountainous terrain also limits the potential for development. “The two biggest limitations to our housing development are infrastructure and topography. We can’t do much about the latter, but getting infrastructure to underserved areas would provide that higher-density development,” says Aceto, who is Rice’s business partner.

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▲ Boone private student housing includes The Finmore at 241, a $35 million project by Murfreesboro, Tenn.-based Front Street Partners.

Furman supports extending utilities to expand housing options, including multifamily projects outside the town’s limits. “It is an issue, how much we can promote and recruit, knowing that people moving here will have a difficult time finding a place to live.” Boone has modified two zoning rules in the past year to encourage denser housing, Shook notes. It adopted a district that allows smaller homes and smaller lots and it established a zone to allow construction of housing targeting adults 55 and older. While zoning changes have been approved, she’s not clear if projects are underway. “We’re not going to get the developments of 60 or 75 [singlefamily] housing units that you see in larger jurisdictions because we just don’t have the land area for that,” Shook says. Rather, the town’s fundamental goal is maintaining neighborhood integrity. The Housing Forum united the community and the university with a realization that it’s time for developers and the community to look beyond student housing. Between 2009 and 2021, the Town of Boone added 119 multifamily buildings including 2,031 housing units. The lion’s share of development involved off-campus student housing, but multifamily housing construction barely kept pace with the university’s growth. The Bowen housing report found a 99.9 % occupancy rate among 38 off-campus housing projects surveyed, encompassing 2,350 units. Housing needs extend beyond the student population. The Bowen report projects Boone’s under-25 demographic will remain grow by about 2% from 2021 to 2026. But the 35-44 age group, representative of the workforce population, is projected to grow almost 25% in that five-year span. Similarly, the senior population is growing in Boone: The 65to 74-year-old demographic is projected to increase by 17.2% from 2021 to 2026 and, most notably, the 75+ cohort is expected to expand by 32.7%. Workforce housing and housing for seniors on fixed incomes will become an increasing concern. The Kenan-Flagler report noted making progress on affordable housing in Boone has long faced challenges because of tensions between town and county officials and the perception “among some locals, leaders, and development community that the Town of Boone is ‘anti-development.’”

PHOTO COURTESY OF THE BLUE RIDGE REALTY

just a fee for the right to hook up. The town likes to talk about affordable housing, but you need to reduce regulation and reduce fees to developers so they can make it more affordable.” Talk about affordable housing in Boone dates to at least 2009, when the chamber had a two-day meeting on the topic and authorized a housing trust, says Economic Development Director Joe Furman, who has worked for the county since 1984. “We tried quite a few things but had no money and no staff so we didn’t accomplish a lot. The trust went into inactive status in 2018,” says Furman, who is retiring at the end of the year. Conversations escalated over the past year as the lack of affordable housing progressed from a concern to a crisis. “Even people who make 80% up to about 120% [of the area median income] can’t afford a house here,” Furman says. After four community meetings of the Watauga Housing Forum in March and April, officials agreed to revive the housing trust with a temporary board to be appointed. There’s been no commitment of money, however. “Hopefully the revised and reimagined housing trust will be a vehicle to get something done,” Furman says. “I’m encouraged by the renewed interest and the fact that many more people are participating in the discussions; the local government seems more inclined [to be supportive], and I like the direction things are headed.”

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But Kellie Ashcraft, an emeritus professor at App State who organized the Watauga Housing Forum meetings and now leads the newly formed Housing Council, is optimistic that progress is being made because more people are engaged. “Affordable housing is a crisis across the country, so we’re at this opportune moment: A crisis is when people are most likely to try alternative ways of doing things,” she says. Jackson sees big opportunities for developers. “We need stock in every category and we need awareness that — while student housing has been the primary focus the last five or six years — there are other categories that might not be as lucrative as student housing development but that would be rented just as quickly as it is built.” If someone built housing for the medical center community, he says, “it would go in a second. You wouldn’t be hedging bets on leases, this would be a sure thing.” The question he raises: Can developers who see beyond

student housing or $1 million-plus retirement properties be found? “For the last decade, when we’ve talked about [senior] housing it has been around that transplant group, people who are retiring and moving here. We haven’t paid enough attention to the aging population within our own community,” Jackson says. “We have a renewed partnership between our town and our county, so the [local] governments have gotten back to the table. If we’re going to get the housing stock and the development we need, while maintaining the integrity of why people want to be here in the first place, we have to have some willing partners.” Ashcraft expects some tough decisions ahead as Boone manages inevitable growth. “As I listened to folks, it occurred to me that there are a lot of people who have a lot of reasons why we can’t do certain things. It’s going to take the commitment and the will of a lot of people who are willing to give up political power and economic power.” ■

Growth gains and pains

PHOTO COURTESY OF APPALACHIAN STATE UNIVERSITY

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hile Appalachian State University is about a lot more than football, gridiron success has clearly had a profound effect in raising awareness and popularity of the Mountaineers. From 1986 to 2012, the team won 12 Southern Conference championships. Since stepping up to the Sun Belt Conference in 2014, it has won four more titles and ranked several times in the AP’s top 25 best football teams in the nation. But bigger conferences aren’t pursuing the school because of Boone’s small population and distance from a major city. It’s an amazing growth story: Since 2003, student enrollment has surged 44% to about 20,640, while the number of on-campus beds increased 26%. The expansion has been a bonanza for Boone apartment owners. Between 2009 and past December, the town added 119 multifamily buildings including 2,031 housing units. A survey of 38 off-campus projects showed virtually all — 99.9% — of units were leased,, according to a study this year by Bowen National Research. App State has replaced its aging dorms. A 2005 report shows the campus had 18 residence halls and nearly 4,900 beds. Now, completion of New River Hall slated for July 30 will give App State

20 residence halls with about 6,150 units. Four buildings totaling 2,300 beds have opened in the last two years, spokeswoman Megan Hayes says. While on-campus housing provides only for about 30% of App State’s total enrollment, more students are taking online classes and don’t necessarily need to live in Boone. The university wants to add another 2,000 students over the next three years, mostly through digital courses and in Hickory. It bought a 225,800-square-foot building there from optical-fiber maker Corning earlier this year. So far, there are no plans for university housing in the Catawba County city, which is 40 miles southeast of Boone.

Watauga County’s relatively high-cost housing market makes it challenging to attract faculty members, Hayes says. Earlier this year, the university said it might build as many as 140 housing units for faculty and staff at a campus site. Hayes declined to discuss those plans. “The university told us they needed as many as 40 houses right away for faculty and staff,” says Todd Rice, managing partner of Blue Ridge Realty in Boone. “If they were built today, the university would consider leasing all of them.” Meanwhile, the Mountaineers open the football season on Sept. 3 by hosting UNC. The Heels are 3-point favorites. ■

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Stocks got slammed as fears of a recession mounted By David Mildenberg

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t was a bloody year for investors in North Carolina public companies. Shares of companies based in the state generally got slammed in the 12 months through June 30, perhaps an inevitable reversal after stunning advances in the previous year. Only 12 of the 75 largest N.C.-based public companies reported higher share prices on July 1 than a year earlier. Thirtythree stocks declined at least 20%, including 12 that lost more than half of their value. Five companies bucked the odds with gains topping 20%, including grocery chain Ingles Markets, beverage seller Coca-Cola Consolidated and building products distributor Cornerstone Building Brands, which is being acquired by a private equity company. The bitter performance mirrored the overall stock market. The S&P 500 Index declined 21% during the first six months of the year, its worst first-half performance in more than five decades. Blame for the selloff has many sources: inflation spiked to the fastest pace in decades, prompting the Federal Reserve to aggressively ratchet up interest rates. Supply chain issues continue to disrupt many industries, while the ongoing war in Ukraine has contributed to higher food and energy prices. Many experts expect a recession. It’s a very different picture than a year ago when shares of 57 of the state’s 75 biggest public companies had increased by at least 30% over the past 12 months. It was a rebound from early 2020 when pandemic fears caused many stocks to slump. Ten new companies appear on the Top 75 this year, led by No. 28 Enact Holdings of Raleigh, a private mortgage insurer spun off by Richmond, Virginia-based Genworth Financial in September. Two newcomers are headquarters relocations: No. 48 Extreme Networks and No. 69 Marrone Bio Innovations. Both moved to Wake County from California. Meanwhile, 13 companies on last year’s list are also missing. Five were acquired, while others didn’t make the market cap limit of $145 million after their stocks slumped. Read more about the Top 75 in the report that follows. We are appreciative of Matt West of Capital Investment Cos. for his work on this list.

Best 5-year returns Old Dominion Freight Line

309%

Ingles Markets

170

Wolfspeed

157

Coca-Cola Consolidated

149

Iqvia

142

Lowe’s Cos.

138

Worst 5-year returns Aerie Pharmaceuticals

-86%

CommScope

-84

LendingTree

-75

G1 Therapeutics

-72

Chimerix

-62

Akoustis Technologies

-58

Best 1-year return Liquidia

51%

Ingles Markets

49

Coca-Cola Consolidated

40

Cornerstone Building Products

35

Albemarle

25

Curtiss-Wright

12

Worst 1-year return Avaya

-92%

Bandwidth

-86

LendingTree

-79

G1 Therapeutics

-77

Chimerix

-74

Akoustis Technologies

- 65

Source: Capital Investment Cos. and Nottingham

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2022 2021 Firm Name

Industry

Market value

Price and stock performance

Net income

6/30/22 Value Change from (Billion) 6/30/21

Stock Price

1-Year Total Return

5-Year Total Return

Latest Fiscal Change from Year (Million) Year Before

1

1

Bank of America, BAC, Charlotte

Financial services

$250.8

-29.4%

31.13

-23.5%

42.2%

31,978.0

79%

2

2

Honeywell, HON, Charlotte

Diversified services

118.3

-22.5%

173.81

-19.9%

45.2%

5,542.0

16%

3

3

Lowe’s Companies, LOW, Mooresville

Retail

111.6

-18.7%

173.29

-9.9%

138.4%

8,442.0

45%

4

4

Duke Energy, DUK, Charlotte

Utilities

82.5

8.7%

107.21

10.7%

50.8%

3,802.0

199%

5

5

Truist Financial, TFC, Charlotte

Financial services

63.1

-15.3%

47.43

-12.8%

23.3%

6,033.0

35%

6

6

IQVIA, IQV, Durham

Pharmaceutical services

41.4

-10.7%

216.99

-10.5%

142.4%

966.0

246%

7

7

Trane Technologies, TT, Davidson

HVAC systems

30.4

-31.0%

129.87

-28.7%

90.3%

1,423.4

66%

8

8

Old Dominion Freight Line, ODFL, Thomasville

Trucking

29.1

-1.3%

256.28

1.2%

309.1%

1,034.4

54%

9

9

Nucor, NUE, Charlotte

Steel

27.8

-2.9%

104.41

9.9%

94.6%

6,827.5

846%

10

14

Albemarle, ALB, Charlotte

Chemicals

24.5

24.7%

208.98

24.5%

105.0%

123.7

-67%

11

10

Laboratory Corp. of America Holdings , LH, Burlington

Medical testing

21.7

-19.3%

234.36

-15.0%

52.5%

2,377.3

53%

12

12

Martin Marietta Materials, MLM, Raleigh

Building materials

18.7

-15.0%

299.24

-14.6%

39.2%

702.5

-3%

13

13

Ingersoll Rand, IR, Davidson

Industrial goods

17.1

-16.6%

42.08

-13.7%

133.1%

562.5

1805%

14

17

Advance Auto Parts, AAP, Raleigh

Specialty retail

10.5

-21.9%

173.09

-14.2%

55.2%

616.1

25%

15

22

First Citizens BancShares, FCNCA, Raleigh

Financial services

10.4

27.3%

653.78

-21.5%

77.6%

528.9

8%

16

11

Qorvo, QRVO, Greensboro

Semiconductors

10

-54.6%

94.32

-51.8%

49.0%

1,033.4

41%

17

21

Sealed Air, SEE, Charlotte

Packaging

8.4

-6.4%

57.72

-1.9%

36.6%

506.8

1%

18

18

Wolfspeed, WOLF, Durham

Semiconductors

7.8

-30.6%

63.45

-35.2%

157.4%

(523.9)

-173%

19

16

Dentsply Sirona, XRAY, Charlotte

Medical supplies

7.7

-44.3%

35.73

-43.1%

-41.8%

421.0

607%

20

20

Syneos Health, SYNH, Morrisville

Pharmaceutical services

7.4

-20.0%

71.68

-19.9%

22.5%

234.8

22%

21

33

Coca-Coca Consolidated, COKE, Charlotte

Beverages

5.3

40.5%

563.90

40.4%

148.6%

189.6

10%

5.1

4.2%

132.06

11.5%

47.5%

267.2

33%

22

28

Curtiss-Wright, CW, Davidson

Aerospace and industrial equipment

23

27

Driven Brands, DRVN, Charlotte

Automotive services

4.6

-10.5%

27.54

-10.9%

n.a.

9.6

329%

24

31

Premier, PINC, Charlotte

Health care services

4.2

-1.2%

35.68

3.7%

3.4%

304.6

4%

25

26

Vontier, VNT, Raleigh

Industrial machinery

3.7

-32.7%

22.99

-29.3%

n.a.

413.0

21%

26

29

Highwoods Properties, HIW, Raleigh

Real estate

3.7

-21.9%

34.19

-22.1%

-13.8%

310.8

-11%

27

23

Hanesbrands, HBI, Winston-Salem

Apparel

3.6

-44.9%

10.29

-43.3%

-42.6%

77.2

202%

28

-

Enact Holdings, ACT, Raleigh

Financial services

3.5

n.a.

21.48

n.a.

n.a.

546.7

48%

3.4

-40.5%

30.92

-48.4%

n.a.

(49.4)

-22%

29

25

nCino, NCNO, Wilmington

Computer software: Prepackaged software

30

24

Hayward Holdings, HAYW, Charlotte

Electronic components

3.1

-47.7%

14.39

-44.7%

n.a.

203.7

370%

31

44

Cornerstone Building Brands, CNR, Cary

Building supplies

3.1

36.5%

24.49

34.7%

46.6%

658.0

236%

32

32

Brighthouse Financial, BHF, Charlotte

Financial services

3.1

-21.4%

41.02

-9.9%

n.a.

(197.0)

81%

33

40

SPX, SPXC, Charlotte

Industrial equipment

2.4

-12.6%

52.84

-13.5%

110.0%

425.4

338%

34

37

Krispy Kreme, DNUT, Charlotte

Specialty retail

2.3

-24.2%

13.60

-19.6%

n.a.

(24.5)

60%

35

39

BioCryst Pharmaceuticals, BCRX, Durham

Pharmaceuticals

1.9

-30.1%

10.58

-33.1%

90.3%

(184.1)

-1%

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2022 2021 Firm Name

Industry

Market value

Price and stock performance

Net income

6/30/22 Value Change from (billion) 6/30/21

Stock Price

1-Year Total Return

5-Year Total Return

Latest Fiscal Change from Year (Million) Year Before

36

35

Kontoor Brands, KTB, Greensboro

Apparel

1.9

-42.4%

33.37

-38.7%

n.a.

195.4

188%

37

46

EnPro Industries, NPO, Charlotte

Industrial equipment

1.7

-14.8%

81.93

-15.1%

21.9%

177.2

-4%

38

51

Ingles Markets, IMKTA, Asheville

Grocery stores

1.6

48.2%

86.75

49.4%

170.4%

249.7

40%

39

-

N-Able, NABL, Morrisville

EDP services

1.6

n.a.

9.00

n.a.

n.a.

0.1

102%

40

47

Tanger Factory Outlet Centers, SKT, Greensboro Shopping centers

1.5

-18.3%

14.22

-22.5%

-24.8%

9.1

125%

41

43

Live Oak Bancshares, LOB, Wilmington

Financial services

1.5

-41.3%

33.89

-42.5%

42.5%

167.0

180%

42

48

Sonic Automotive, SAH, Charlotte

Car dealerships

1.4

-22.1%

36.63

-17.0%

99.1%

348.9

779%

43

36

Phressia, PHR, Raleigh

Managed health care

1.3

-57.8%

25.01

-59.2%

n.a.

(118.2)

-333%

44

42

Jeld-Wen, JELD, Charlotte

1.3

-51.2%

14.59

-44.4%

-55.1%

168.8

84%

45

30

CommScope, COMM, Hickory

1.3

-70.8%

6.12

-71.3%

-83.9%

(519.9)

9%

46

50

First Bancorp, FBNC, Southern Pines

Building products Telecommunications equipment Financial services

1.2

6.7%

34.90

-13.6%

21.4%

95.6

17%

47

-

AvidXchange, AVDX, Charlotte

1.2

n.a.

6.14

n.a.

n.a.

(224.3)

-35%

48

-

Extreme Networks, EXTR, Morrisville

1.2

n.a.

8.92

-22.6%

-3.3%

1.9

102%

49

58

Barings BDC, BBDC, Raleigh

Electronic payroll services Telecommunications equipment Financial services

1

50.6%

9.31

-7.4%

-22.2%

77.7

850%

50

-

Snap One, SNPO, Charlotte

Electronics distribution

0.77

n.a.

9.17

n.a.

n.a.

(36.4)

-46%

51

60

Insteel Industries, IIIN, Mount Airy

Building materials

0.66

5.3%

33.67

4.9%

17.5%

66.6

250%

52

49

Piedmont Lithium, PLL, Belmont

Precious metals

0.65

-46.9%

36.41

-53.3%

n.a.

(20.0)

-224%

53

38

LendingTree, TREE, Charlotte

Financial services

0.56

-80.2%

43.82

-79.3%

-74.6%

69.1

243%

54

34

Bandwidth, BAND, Raleigh

Software

0.48

-86.3%

18.82

-86.4%

n.a.

(27.4)

38%

55

56

ChannelAdvisor, ECOM, Morrisville

0.44

-39.0%

14.58

-40.5%

26.2%

47.2

151%

56

52

Bioventus, BVS, Durham

0.42

-58.2%

6.82

-61.3%

n.a.

19.4

342%

57

64

HomeTrust Bancshares, HTBI, Asheville

Software Medical/dental instruments Financial services

0.39

-15.2%

25.00

-9.7%

7.0%

15.7

-31%

58

-

Sunlight Financial, SUNL, Charlotte

Financial services

0.39

n.a.

2.95

n.a.

n.a.

(153.4)

-1544%

59

66

Southern Bancshares, SBNC, Mount Olive

Financial services

0.39

-8.7%

4,750.00

-8.7%

126.0%

44.6

0%

60

54

Aerie Pharmaceuticals, AERI, Durham

Biotechnology

0.37

-51.4%

7.50

-53.2%

-85.7%

(74.8)

59%

61

-

Humacyte, HUMA, Durham

Biotechnology

0.33

n.a.

3.21

n.a.

n.a.

(26.5)

60%

62

61

Glatfelter, GLT, Charlotte

Paper/engineered products

0.31

-50.5%

6.88

-48.7%

-51.1%

6.9

-67%

63

69

Investors Title, ITIC, Chapel Hill

Specialty insurance

0.3

-10.0%

156.89

-9.6%

13.4%

67.0

70%

64

80

Liquidia Technologies, LQDA, Morrisville

Biotechnology

0.28

88.7%

4.36

51.4%

n.a.

(34.6)

42%

65

-

Gambling.com, GAMB, Charlotte

Gambling data

0.28

n.a.

7.87

n.a.

n.a.

12.5

-18%

66

65

Unifi, UFI, Greensboro

Textiles

0.26

-42.3%

14.06

-42.3%

-54.4%

29.1

151%

67

67

Cato, CATO, Charlotte

Retail

0.24

-36.1%

11.61

-29.2%

-1.4%

36.8

178%

68

-

Science 37, SNCE, Morrisville

Prepackaged software

0.23

n.a.

2.01

n.a.

n.a.

(94.3)

-198%

69

-

Marrone Bio Innovations, MBII, Raleigh

Chemicals

0.21

n.a.

1.16

n.a.

-10.1%

(16.6)

18%

70

53

G1 Therapeutics, GTHX, Durham

0.21

-77.1%

4.94

-77.5%

-71.7%

(148.4)

-49%

71

62

Akoustis Technologies, AKTS, Huntersville

0.21

-61.6%

3.70

-65.5%

-57.7%

(44.2)

-22%

72

45

Avaya, AVYA, Durham

0.19

-91.6%

2.24

-91.7%

n.a.

(13.0)

98%

73

59

0.18

-73.6%

2.08

-74.0%

-61.8%

(173.2)

-298%

74

79

Financial services

0.15

2.9%

27.16

7.2%

5.3%

15.1

33%

75

76

Chimerix, CMRX, Durham Peoples Bancorp of North Carolina, PEBK, Newton Fennec Pharmaceuticals, FENC, Durham

Pharmaceuticals Telecommunications equipment Computer software & peripheral equipment Pharmaceuticals

Pharmaceutical services

0.15

-21.4%

5.58

-23.5%

-12.1%

(17.3)

4%

provided by: Capital Investment Cos. and Nottingham

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A Top 75 Primer A volatile stock market led to lots of change among the state’s public companies.

Top movers

Departures from the top 75

No. 31

Cornerstone Building Brands

up 13 spots

No. 38

Ingles Markets

up 13 spots

No. 21

Coca Cola Consolidated

up 12 spots

No. 37

Enpro Industries

No. 49 No. 51

Five companies were acquired. No. 15

Sales price $17.4 billion

No. 19 PRA Health Sciences

Raleigh

Icon plc

$12 billion

up 9 spots

No. 41 SPX Flow

Charlotte

Lone Star Funds

$3.8 billion

Barings BDC

up 9 spots

No. 68 BioDelivery Sciences

Raleigh

Collegium Pharmaceuticals $604 million

Insteel Industries

up 9 spots

No. 71 Select Bancorp

Dunn

First Bancorp

in 2021

PPD

$325 million

Newcomers to the Top 75 list

Market cap movers

Six companies had initial public offerings.

Three companies had unusual transactions affecting their rankings.

IPO price

6/30/22 price % change

No. 28 No. 39 No. 47 No. 50 No. 65

Enact Holdings N-able AvidXchange Snap One Gambling.com

Raleigh Morrisville Charlotte Charlotte Charlotte

$19 13 25 18 8

$21.48 9 6.14 9.17 7.87

13% 31 -75 -49 -0.2

No. 68

Science 37

Raleigh

10

2.01

-80

Two companies were part of SPAC conversions. (Special purpose acquisition companies) No. 58

Sunlight Financial Charlotte

No. 61

Humacyte

Durham

10

2.95

-71%

10

3.21

-68%

Two companies moved to North Carolina. Extreme Networks Marrone Bio Innovations

San Jose, Calif. Davis, Calif.

Marrone is expected to be acquired later this year by Bioceres Crop Solutions.

No. 15 First Citizens Bancshares The Raleigh bank bought CIT Group and issued shares. The stock had a negative return, but the company’s market value increased 27%. No. 49 Barings The Charlotte investment company merged with Sierra Income, sparking a 51% market cap increase, while the stock’s return was negative. No. 64 Liquidia

IPO price 6/30/22 price % change

No. 48 No. 69

Buyer

Fisher Wilmington Thermo Scientific

Morrisville Raleigh *

The Morrisville biotech issued $57.5 million in shares, boosting its market value.

Top-performing CEOs Best returns over the past five years No. 8 Old Dominion Freight Line Greg Gantt – 309% return (CEO since 2018) No. 38 Ingles Markets James Lanning – 170% (CEO since 2016) No. 18 Wolfspeed Greg Lowe – 157% (CEO since 2017) No. 21 Coca-Cola Consolidated Frank Harrison III – 149% (CEO since 1996)

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T

he battle for talent has never been more intense, making it more important to provide excellent employee benefits and creating a workplace culture that helps retain skilled employees and recruit new ones. Business North Carolina’s annual list of Best Employers aims to highlight the state’s companies that rank

highly when it comes to motivating their teammates and attracting good employees. Business North Carolina recognizes the state’s best places to work with a unique awards program for small, medium and large companies. We partnered with the DataJoe market research company to create and implement a survey that polled employers and their employees. The survey covered a variety of essential workplace topics, including organizational health, engagement, leadership, work-life balance, training, pay, benefits and corporate social responsibility. Employment numbers are as of Jan. 1, 2022.

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LARGE employers (50+) Edward Jones various locations | financial services 1,470 employees Penny Pennington, managing partner Nearly 75% of Edward Jones’ general partners have taken its diversity, equity and inclusion foundations course. The St. Louis-based brokerage has more than 15,000 offices in North America.

Coastal Credit Union

Gallagher

Raleigh | financial services 596 employees Chuck Purvis, CEO The credit union surpassed $4 billion in assets and 300,000 members last year, while its auto lending program ranked first in its 16-county market. The credit union’s foundation surpassed $3 million in grants.

Bobbitt Construction various locations | insurance 135 employees Patrick Gallagher, CEO Gallagher’s North Carolina teams implemented a new work model geared toward flexibility, while ensuring coverage and access to clients. This includes a hybrid schedule, no meetings on Fridays, one summer workfrom-anywhere week, and enhanced technology and communication tools. Raleigh | construction 76 employees Brian Denisar, CEO

Olly Olly Charlotte | digital marketing 82 employees

HonorBridge Winston-Salem | nonprofit 144 employees Danielle Niedfeldt, CEO The group, which arranges organ and tissue donations, broke ground on a new Chapel Hill office. It implemented more flexible work options and provided a “thank you bonus” for all colleagues.

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Epes Logistics Services Greensboro | transportation 205 employees Jason Bodford, president In May, the transportation company expanded in Georgia by acquiring A Cooper Logistics, based about 45 miles north of Atlanta.

TransImpact

Dauntless Discovery

Emerald Isle | supply chain 176 employees Berkley Stafford, CEO

Pella Windows & Doors of North Carolina and Southwest Virginia various locations | manufacturing 175 employees Lee Way, owner Chad Chimiak, general manager and vice president A candidate reached out to Pella through social media and said he wanted to be employed in some capacity after observing employee engagement posts.

National Jewelry and Pawn

Morrisville | consulting 85 employees Peter O’Hara, CEO and co-founder Jonathan Hanks, COO and co-founder Dauntless Discovery doubled the size of its workforce in the past year, despite the ongoing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

L.J. Electrical Co. Kinston | electrical contractor 260 employees Warren B. Hudson, president and managing partner The company partnered with a national contractor for a multitude of technical installations at a silicon carbide wafer plant.

various locations | pawnshops 150 employees Bob Moulton, president

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Ekos

National Coatings

Charlotte | craft beverage software 85 employees Josh McKinney, CEO The company raised $21 million in a fundraising round completed in December.

Raleigh | commercial painting 117 employees Zebulon Hadley, president and CEO National Coatings implemented an entrepreneurial operating system, allowing it to redefine core values. The system also encouraged employees to hold each other accountable, finish internal projects with accurate deadlines and create a defined culture of success.

MEDIUM employers (25-50) Lee & Associates Raleigh | commercial real estate 37 employees Moss Withers, CEO and principal Founded in 2018, Lee & Associates was named the second-largest commercial real-estate broker in the area by the Triangle Business Journal in 2021.

Independent Insurance Agents of North Carolina

The Brooks Group

Cary | trade association 31 employees Aubie Knight, CEO In 2022, the association celebrates one year of InsurAcademy, a program to recruit people from diverse backgrounds into the insurance industry and provide them with scholarships for licensing certification.

Greensboro | sales training 33 employees Gary Fly, CEO The Brooks Group has retained all but one of its top performers and has continued to grow, adding talent to its team.

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Martin Starnes & Associates, CPAs, P.A. Hickory | accounting 67 employees Victoria Martin, president and managing partner The accounting firm has retained a majority of its employees by adapting to changing expectations as more work is done remotely. It also has met client needs among varying tax and accounting law changes and regulations.

Blackman & Sloop, CPAs, P.A.

Williams Mullen

Chapel Hill | accounting 38 employees Andrea Woodell Eason, managing partner Blackman & Sloop has focused on employee needs and improving benefits while continuing to expand the firm.

Graham Personnel Services

various locations | law firm 64 employees Calvin W. Fowler Jr., president and CEO David F. Paulson Jr., managing partner, Carolinas The law firm received its fifth consecutive perfect score on the 2022 Corporate Equality Index, a benchmarking survey on corporate policies and practices related to LGBTQ+ workplace equality. Greensboro | staffing 53 employees Gary Graham Jr., CEO and president Will Graham, COO and vice president In 2021, the staffing company placed 6,000 people in jobs, had double-digit percentage revenue growth and opened a new office in High Point. This year, it opened its Asheboro office.

Dummit Fradin Attorneys at Law

Burns & McDonnell various locations | construction and design 61 employees Ray Kowalik, CEO Last year, the Kansas City, Missouri-based construction company had a record-breaking $5.7 billion in sales and worked on nearly 17,000 projects, supported by the growth of nearly 650 employees

various locations | law firm 47 employees Jessica Culver, managing partner

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Cornerstone United Hickory | warranty services 62 employees Richard Swartzel, CEO During the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, Cornerstone United moved its operations to be fully remote, allowing it to keep all employees on staff. It more recently implemented a hybrid schedule based on employee feedback.

DMJPS

Wetherill Engineering

various locations | accounting firm 48 employees Ben Hamrick and Mike Gillis, Co-CEOs Formerly Johnson Price Sprinkle PA, the firm merged with DMJ & Co. on June 1 to become a statewide CPA and advisory firm.

Raleigh | structural engineering 65 employees Debora Wetherill, president; Eddie Wetherill, vice president Working with the N.C. Department of Transportation, Wetherill is striving to provide more opportunities to small engineering firms in the state.

Stitch Golf Holdings

All American Entertainment Durham | talent booking 35 employees Greg Friedlander, co-founder and CEO All American Entertainment is celebrating its 20th year in business. The company was listed in Inc Magazine’s Best Workplaces.

STG Solar Co.

Apex | golf gear and apparel 50 employees Brad King, CEO Stitch Golf Holdings prides itself on its employees’ loyalty to one another.

Pisgah Forest | solar energy contractor 30 employees Mike Kilpatrick, CEO This year, STG Solar achieved 720 megawatts of construction projects and expanded its services to include commercial rooftop solar.

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SMALL employers (1-25) Huck Cycles Cornelius | electric bikes 15 employees Brett McCoy, founder and CEO The electric bike retailer recently added a board of directors and new investors.

Dry Otter Waterproofing

Tayloe Gray Agency

Denver | waterproofing 20 employees Kevin Sanders, CEO Despite inflation and weather challenges, Dry Otter Waterproofing still reports growth in 2022.

Wilmington | digital marketing 22 employees Nathan Tayloe, CEO Tayloe Gray celebrated 13 years in business and purchased its 12,000-square-foot building in downtown Wilmington.

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United Way of the Greater Triangle Durham | nonprofit 24 employees Eric Cuckian, CEO United Way raised $10.1 million for grassroots organizations in the Triangle fighting poverty and increasing social mobility.

Apparo Solutions Inc.

McIlveen PLLC

Charlotte | IT consulting 16 employees Kim Lanphear, CEO

Charlotte | law firm 21 employees Angela McIlveen, CEO The family law firm navigated work-from-home policies and online work, along with the court system’s changing COVID-19 rules and regulations.

FX Airguns USA

PresPro Custom Homes

Harrisburg | home builder 26 employees John Sears and Josh Collins, co-CEOs PresPro is on track to more than double its new home construction this year. Wilmington | air gun manufacturer 24 employees

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Mackenzie Ryan Raleigh | staffing 15 employees Ryan Carfley, CEO

Parrish & Partners

Granite Insurance

Charlotte, Raleigh, Greensboro | transportation engineering 19 employees Ed Parrish, president Parrish & Partners was selected to handle the civil engineering and site planning for a new jet manufacturing facility.

Granite Falls | insurance agency 24 employees Cameron Annas, CEO; Chase Keller, president Granite Insurance’s commitment to leadership development has created strong leaders within the company, contributing to a culture of accountability.

Gibson Consultants

Bespoke Sports & Entertainment

Wilmington | staffing 11 employees Jim Gibson, president; Margaret Stamatis, COO Gibson Consultants has been included in the Inc. 5000 Top Private Companies list for five consecutive years.

Work’s new look These are key workplace trends identified by Brian Kropp and Emily Rose McCrae, two executives at the Gartner consulting firm, in

▪ ▪ ▪

Fairness and equity will be defining issues for organizations.

▪ ▪ ▪

Tools enabling remote work will be used to measure performance.

▪ ▪

Chief purpose officer will become a new senior post at some corporations.

Diversity, equity and inclusion outcomes may worsen because women and people of color prefer to work from home more than white men, data shows.

a Harvard Business Review story earlier this year:

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Charlotte | sports marketing 16 employees Mike Boykin, CEO

Companies will offer shorter workweeks rather than increased pay. More managerial tasks are being automated. More employers will require full-time work at offices. Companies will add measures to assess workers’ mental, physical and financial health. Businesses increasingly view sitting as “the new smoking” and will press for more physical movement.

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BUILDING COMMUNITY. ENRICHING LIVES. PRESPRO creates homes and neighborhoods with a dedication to beauty, functionality, thoughtfulness, and relationship. We inspire good things between walls and influence what happens beyond them. As one of NC’s top-20 fastest growing mid-market companies, we are proud to hold the title of one of North Carolina’s Best Employers! Visit us at prespro.com to see our inventory of new homes or to start the journey of building your dream house.

6549 MOREHEAD ROAD | HARRISBURG, NC 28075 | 704-453-2700 | PRESPRO.COM

RIDE THE RAD In 2019, hellbent on quality, veteran Brett McCoy set out on a quest to build a powerful, street-legal electric motorbike. Along the way, he built one of the region’s most-innovative startup companies, Huck Cycles. Each Huck is custom-built to order here in North Carolina. The Rebel Series (pictured) is a tribute to classic mopeds. The Overland is a well-crafted workhorse for riders with delivery, transportation, and next level utility gigs. Every bike is hand-built, using as many locallysourced materials as possible. No detail is spared. Think leather seats, sturdy stitching, retro styling, and an undeniable attitude. And, for a limited time, BNC readers can save 10% by calling 704-218-9497 and mentioning this ad. Visit huckcycles.com to schedule your test ride. Huck Cycles. Where the rubber meets the road. 11020 BAILEY ROAD, UNIT D | CORNELIUS, NC 28031 | 704-218-9497 | HUCKCYCLES.COM S P O N S O R E D

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INNOVATIVE PRODUCTS IN AN EXCEPTIONAL WORKPLACE FX Airguns was originally founded in Sweden in 1999. Over the years, FX Airguns quickly became a dominating force and an industry leader in the airgun world due to their constant innovations and cutting-edge technology. Inevitably FX grew into a global brand and in 2017, Evelyn Elvegaard (from Norway) with her husband Jonathan Tueller (from the US), visited the FX manufacturing plant in Mariestad, Sweden to inquire about their options for a potential collaboration with FX. Quickly the idea of expanding the FX customer base in the United States ensued and a partnership was formed. FX Airguns USA was established in 2018, with Mrs. Elvegaard and Mr. Tueller at the helm. Their only employees were

CFO Alberto Gomez (with an extensive background in operations) and Ernest Rowe, a previous Navy engineer and a well renowned YouTube airgun tech. Evelyn and Jonathan (with their entrepreneurial mindsets) had already built and managed several successful businesses in multiple industries. Including the food industry, marketing and media productions, the music industry, talent management, restaurant ownership, and property investments, when they decided to start up FX Airguns USA. Early on, when Mrs. Elvegaard and Mr. Tueller joined forces and ventures, both having experienced toxic work environments, they agreed to one day create a foolproof system for procuring and nurturing a highly productive yet

happy workplace. The motivation for this was clear. “When I moved from Norway to America, I saw how stressed people were about keeping or losing their jobs. Too many lacked confidence in their job security, which I’d never experienced before. It was disheartening to see. In Norway, it’s hard to fire someone after they’re hired. For an employer, this has its pros and cons, but job security certainly removes much fear and allows for confidence in an employee and likely more honest dialogue between worker and management. This honest feedback is really a priceless commodity for an employer. The workplace becomes a breeding ground for progress when a job feels safe. Not to mention creating employee loyalty and talent retention.

FX AIRGUNS USA | 3030 HALL WATTERS DRIVE | WILMINGTON NC 28405

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Unfortunately, American companies in growth are vulnerable because most larger operations are often hurting from a lack of downward transparency without even knowing it. For a company to be nimble, quickly progress, and move with the trends of its industry, it is imperative always to have the finger on the pulse of what the customer needs and wants. And what better way to learn that than through open dialogue between employees and management”. So, when Mrs. Elvegaard and Mr. Tueller sat down to map out their future plans for FX USA, they established three goals: #1. Hire highly capable talent to keep up with the high standards that FX Sweden was displaying. #2. To become a $50M company in 5 years, and #3. With Evelyn being from Norway and FX located in Sweden, they would build a company inspired by Scandinavian labor practices, creating a workplace where people would

be excited to come to work and know they had job security. These days, the growing FX base in Wilmington, NC is the hub for all North and South American imports, R&D, customer service, warranty, and repairs, as well as having an expert team taking care of the global marketing of the FX Airguns brand. With doubling sales numbers year over year since its inception, constant positive feedback from their now 28 employees, and rapid expansion into a 27,000-square-foot building, they are well on their way to reaching their milestones. Their proudest accomplishment though is the outstanding work environment at FX Airguns USA. “Everyone visiting our premises tells us how impressed they are with our workers, the professional standard they exhibit, and the genuine kindness they are met with. And as much as Jon and I work hard for the sake of our children and family, the

responsibility for our workers’ safety and happiness rests on our shoulders, and that responsibility is something we take very seriously”. From the beginning, the ElvegaardTueller couple was always looking for people aligned with their vision of building something extraordinary. They needed exceptional workers, to build a workforce that would run with them and not stumble along the way. And with that in mind, they set out to hire the best and the brightest. “In all departments we hire for, we always look for positive, resourceful people with a problem-solving mindset. You don’t necessarily need a university degree to get our attention, but you sure need to display resilience and grit! It’s not an easy feat to be hired by us, but if you’re in, rest assured, you are safely a part of a hard-working, united and exceptional team.” — Written by Jamie Eichler

866-639-0772 | FXAIRGUNS-USA.COM S P O N S O R E D

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WORK-LIFE BALANCE At IIANC, we strive to offer a great work environment so that our employees can provide the best service to our nearly 1,000 Trusted Choice® independent insurance agency member locations around the state. With a large focus on shared company values, office culture and morale, we ensure that our staff can achieve the ultimate work-life balance, including a flexible schedule with both remote and in-office work, fantastic benefits, an in-office gym, fun staff outings, and more. This year we are celebrating the first birthday of our initiative, InsurAcademy, where we recruit people from diverse backgrounds into the insurance industry and provide them with scholarships for licensing certification/vocational training to prepare them for their new careers while promoting them for employment opportunities with our members. Our staff is passionate and fully engaged in our mission to help independent agents grow their businesses throughout North Carolina. 101 WESTON OAKS COURT | CARY, NC 27513 | 800-849-6556 | IIANC.COM

PROUD TO HELP CONSTRUCT THE FUTURE OF NORTH CAROLINA Burns & McDonnell is a family of companies bringing together an unmatched team of 10,000 engineers, construction and craft professionals, architects, and more to design and build our critical infrastructure. Over the past 10 years, we’ve established roots in North Carolina serving a wide variety of industries with an integrated construction and design mindset. From life sciences and mission critical to electrical transmission and distribution and renewables, we are proud to serve clients throughout the state and provide our full suite of consulting, engineering and construction services across their project timeline.

5511 CAPITAL CENTER DRIVE, SUITE 450 | RALEIGH, NC 27606 | BURNSMCD.COM

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DEDICATED TO FAMILIES The McIlveen Family Law Firm was founded by husband-and-wife team, Sean and Angela McIlveen. The foundation of the firm is a team of great people who give their all each and every day. McIlveen is committed to providing employees with a stable, healthy, challenging, and fun workplace. We provide employees with health insurance, dental insurance, malpractice insurance, pet insurance, 401k match, FSA, student loan assistance, tuition reimbursement, and unlimited paid time off. We also offer our own program, McIlveen Cares, where we provide employees with $100.00 a month, they can use towards several things including dry cleaning, house cleaning, and a dog walker. With 8 family law attorneys, dedi-

cated to only practicing family law, the firm has decades of combined legal experience. The team of family law attorneys handles all types of NC family law cases including divorce, child custody, mediation, high asset divorce, alimony, equitable distribution, property division, separation agreements, prenuptial agreements, grandparents’ rights, domestic violence, adoption, surrogacy, and more. Our attorneys also handle other family matters including estate planning, wills, trusts, power of attorney, and probate. Recognizing that most people going through a divorce or family law case, feel like everything in their life is out of control, the firm set out on a mission to educate our clients about the law, so that

they could make good decisions about their case. McIlveen clients have a team working on every case. The McIlveen Family Law Firm is committed to maintaining a reputation for excellence and is focused on serving clients throughout North Carolina. The team is experienced in mediation and is often able to help you settle your NC divorce family law case without going to court. However, if a trial is necessary the experienced trial lawyers at the McIlveen Family Law Firm are ready to take your case to court and always strive to get you the best outcome possible. The McIlveen Family Law Firm has offices in: Gastonia | Charlotte | Raleigh

174 S. SOUTH STREET, SUITE 301 | GASTONIA, NC 28052 | 704-865-9011 | MCILVEENFAMILYLAW.COM S P O N S O R E D

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DRIVING VALUE. CREATING NEXT TransImpact is an industry leader in supply chain and transportation solutions that optimize operations, create efficiencies, and improve margin to transform business performance. With the combination of our team’s market expertise and our SaaS technology, we deliver practical, value-driven solutions including parcel contract negotiation, business intelligence analysis, and demand planning software. We are relentless in driving bottom-line business impact and turning our clients into raving fans by providing the tools and exceptional service they need today with the pioneering ideas and innovations of tomorrow. Kimberly Ladenthin, director of human resources | 252-764-2885 8921 CREW DRIVE | EMERALD ISLE, NC 28594 | TRANSIMPACT.COM

FULL SERVICE ELECTRICAL & UTILITIES CONTRACTOR LJ Electrical is one of the leading Electrical Contractors in the Southeast, providing technical solutions to our clients in the federal, commercial & industrial fields. LJ Electrical Company provides the desired results whether it’s Electrical Installations, Renovations, Telecom., Underground infrastructure, hard bid or design/build. We deliver what clients need and satisfy those rigid demands in order to keep projects on schedule and within budget. Kinston | Raleigh | Wilmington

2131 WALLACE FAMILY ROAD | KINSTON, NC 28501 | 252-520-7592 | LJELECTRICALCOMPANY.COM

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DMJPS + BE GREATER Two North Carolina CPA & advisory firms have become greater as one. Johnson Price Sprinkle PA (JPS) and DMJ & Co., LLC (DMJ) merged to become DMJPS PLLC on June 1, 2022. JPS, now DMJPS, is honored to be named a 2022 Best Employers in NC. DMJPS is a tax, assurance, and advisory firm that routinely solves complex matters for individuals, privately-held businesses, not-for-profits, and corporations through a wide range of specialized solutions. With a NC mountains to the coast footprint, the team of 140+ is taking DMJPS into the future using advanced technologies, specialized industry knowledge, and a strong commitment to meaningful client relationships.

Formed to create greater opportunities for clients, people and communities, the DMJPS culture is impressive. DMJPS places a priority on its people. Team members enjoy shortened Fridays from mid-April through December 31 to promote work/life balance. Firmwide, individuals are supported and encouraged through an engaging team approach. And, with the new statewide footprint, the ‘culture committee’ is busy bringing opportunities for fun connection through new traditions and employee engagement apps. DMJPS clients enjoy the benefits of a firm dedicated to remaining updated on timely and influencing laws and interpretations; using advanced technology; and, providing exceptional skill and knowledge with a

personal approach. At DMJPS, there is an uncompromising commitment to help position clients for success. Community engagement is important at DMJPS. Each of the 7 offices are firmly rooted in their communities and value each community’s well-being. Consequently, each office location determines its own focus areas based on their unique, local needs. The firm offers paid volunteer time and encourages individual team members to volunteer in areas of personal interest – from food drives to serving on nonprofit boards. DMJPS is committed to be greater. Learn more about how they’re positioned to lead into the future at dmjps.com. DMJPS formed to make a positive impact by one guiding principle: be greater.

ASHEVILLE | GREENSBORO | BOONE | MARION | DURHAM | SANFORD | WILMINGTON | DMJPS.COM S P O N S O R E D

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FINDING YES 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.

williamsmullen.com/careers

301 FAYETTEVILLE STREET, SUITE 1700 | RALEIGH, NC 27601 | 919-981-4000 | WILLIAMSMULLEN.COM

BUILDING LASTING RELATIONSHIPS Martin Starnes & Associates, CPAs, P.A. (MSA) is a premier CPA firm providing accounting and business advisory services to clients across the nation. Established in 1987, MSA serves both individuals and businesses including specializations in government, estate planning, manufacturing, family business and high net worth clients and is a leading provider of audit, tax, consulting, estate planning and financial accounting services. At MSA, our philosophy of success stems from Doug Conant’s quote, “To win in the marketplace, you must first win in the workplace”. Our professionals are passionate and dedicated to delivering quality service and operate within a casual, corporate, collaborative and team-based environment with cutting-edge technology. MSA provides employee flexibility as well as wellness, community outreach and First 15 reading programs. MSA builds lasting relationships based on mutual trust and proven results one client at a time. EXPERIENCED | LEADERS | KNOWLEDGEABLE | PROGRESSIVE | PARTNERS | MARTINSTARNES.COM

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CHANGING THE PERCEPTION OF THE PAWN INDUSTRY SINCE 1987 National Jewelry and Pawn is a Triangle-based pawn retailer with 23 locations and 175 team members across North Carolina. For over three decades, National Pawn has been an industry leader, thanks to world-class customer service, bright modern stores, quality products, and countless satisfied customers, over 50,000 of whom have left positive Google Reviews. They were recently named the 2022 winner of the Outstanding Community Relations Award by their industry’s only trade association, the National Pawnbrokers Association. This

recognition stems from their commitment to community and a guiding principle of working to change the perception of the pawn industry one customer at a time. They were also named to the 2022 Best of Pawn Awards. In 2011, they won the Torch Award for Ethics in Business from the Better Business Bureau. Other past awards for the organization include Wells Fargo Integrity in Business Summit Award and Fastest 50 Companies in the Triangle. Since 2012, National Pawn has donated tens of thousands of dollars and thousands of instruments to students in the communities where their stores

are located. These instrument donation events are always a highlight for the employees who attend them. Members of their team often say that the company’s commitment to the community is one of the many reasons they love working at National Pawn. National Pawn’s services include buying, selling, and making collateralized loans on a wide variety of items, including fine jewelry, tools and equipment, electronics, luxury handbags, designer watches, and more. nationalpawnshops.com

MORE INFORMATION IS AVAILABLE AT NATIONALPAWNSHOPS.COM S P O N S O R E D

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EMPOWERING YOU TO BE SUCCESSFUL Granite Insurance has been in business since 1936, proudly and happily serving the Catawba Valley, High Country, and beyond, by assisting them with their personal and commercial insurance needs. Helping families and businesses achieve financial success is our passion. Our primary goal at Granite Insurance is to help you, or your business, accomplish your goals and realize your dreams, even during unexpected events. Our team is here to help you analyze, design, execute, and monitor your risk management and insurance program. If you are simply looking to purchase insurance with no questions asked and no future follow up, we may not be the best fit for you. However, if you are looking for a true risk management relationship, with ongoing risk management advice specific to you or your business, you may have found yourself a new partner! We are an independent insurance agency with one priority – you. We are here to make sure that the things that are the most important to you are protected through comprehensive risk management

and insurance coverage. Over the past seven years we have continued to grow our business by investing in quality team members who strive to empower our clients. We have found that a team approach can be an effective method of helping clients with a wide variety of needs as they navigate the complex world of insurance. We invite our clients to discover and experience the benefits of a diverse team that brings different educational interests, experiences, and strategies together for the benefit of our clients. Our business insurance team serves a wide variety of industries, so we understand that one-size-fits-all does not apply when it comes to insurance. Some of the industries we work with daily include: • Adventure & Entertainment Operators and Outfitters • Professional & Amateur Sport Leagues and Clubs • Haunted Attractions • Contractors • Manufacturers • Trucking & Transportation • Senior Living

Granite Insurance has been recognized as a 2022 North Carolina Best Employer. Management is excited for this accolade, and attributes it to an amazing team and wonderful clients and partners. As we continue to grow, we look forward to helping the members of our communities accomplish their goals and realize their dreams! GRANITE FALLS, NC 56 N. Main Street Granite Falls, NC 28630 BOONE, NC 895 State Farm Road Suite 402 Boone, NC 28607 ROCKINGHAM, NC 565 Rockingham Road Rockingham, NC 28379 GREENVILLE, SC

828-396-3342 | GRANITEINSURANCE.COM

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The team at the New Bern office (above) and a recent commercial project completed in Colorado (right)

INTEGRITY, EXPERIENCE & QUALITY For over 25 years, National Coatings has provided our customers premier, professional painting, sandblasting, and industrial coating services. We’ve worked on projects that cover a wide range of industries including retail, government, hospitality, healthcare, universities, schools, and multi-family. With our offices located throughout the US in Denver, Boise, Bozeman, and Raleigh, we are able to cover the nation. Some of our top jobs include Spanish Peaks in Big Sky, Montana; ENT Credit Union Headquarters in Colorado Springs, Colorado; and Cone Health Medical Center in Greensboro, NC. Though we pride ourselves on the quality of services we provide, our quality of work is only possible because of the dedication and integrity of our employees.

At National Coatings, we believe our team is our greatest asset, and we take pride in the work we do every day. Each of our valued employees brings a unique background and skillset, enabling us to serve customers with distinction through every step of our projects. As a company we strive to stand by our core values: team player, integrity, dedication, and the pursuit of excellence. It’s a way of life for us and it carries into everything we do. We’re not just a company, we are family. Investing in our employees means more than just offering a competitive salary; it means providing them a good work-life balance and ensuring they are successful on and off the clock. Offering flexible scheduling, access to benefits, annual team building activities, weekly lunches, holiday celebrations, and company-wide

recognition awards are just some of the ways we try to make certain our employees know how much they are appreciated and that we are investing in them. We are only as successful as the employees on our team. Without them, we would not be able to provide our customers with the first-class service that we perform.

LOCATIONS: Raleigh – Corporate Office Raleigh – Operations Office Denver, Colorado Boise, Idaho Bozeman, Montana

5115 NEW BERN AVE, STE 110, RALEIGH, NC 27610 | 919-755-1400 | NATIONALCOATINGSINC.COM S P O N S O R E D

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TWO SIDES OF THE SAME STORY

ROCKY MOUNT PHOTO CREDIT: CARL LEWIS

Nash and Edgecombe counties are writing a self-made tale. They already have completed the first chapters of a bright future by developing business opportunities and creating welcoming communities.

Rocky Mount is about an hour car ride east of Raleigh on U.S. 64, where the piedmont becomes the coastal plain. The city, where the U.S. Census counted almost 55,000 residents in 2020, is split by the Tar River and the county line shared by Edgecombe and Nash. Through its center runs a train track, which binds the sides like a closed zipper. “My office is in the Helen P. Gay train station,” says David Farris, president and CEO of Rocky Mount Area Chamber of Commerce. “The train comes through numerous times a day. That’s the sound of commerce, and it’s music to my ears.” Amtrak uses the station’s main

building. It’s adjacent to the bus terminal used by Tar River Transit and Greyhound. Across from Farris’ office is home base for Carolinas Gateway Partnership, which promotes economic development in Rocky Mount and Edgecombe County. Nash County Economic Development markets its namesake county, including its county seat, Nashville. Both say that business recruitment is doing well. Tenants are occupying shell buildings. Big money is being invested. The sounds of commerce are becoming louder. But it hasn’t always been a happy tune. The region’s economy recently

took two major blows. The first was television shopping network QVC’s 1.5-million-square-foot distribution center in Rocky Mount, which burned in December. Crews worked 10 days to contain what is the state’s largest structure fire. QVC announced it wasn’t rebuilding earlier this year, snuffing out 2,000 jobs in the process. China-based Triangle Tyre, which committed to investing $580 million and creating 800 jobs at the Kingsboro Business Park, a 1,500-acre site Carolinas Gateway Partnership had been marketing for nearly two decades, canceled its plans in May. Published reports

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was that the U.S. in that period of time lost $45 billion in Chinese investment during the previous administration.” N.C. Department of Commerce annually ranks the economic health of the state’s 100 counties.

PHOTO CREDIT: VISITSANFORDNC.COM

say several issues refocused the manufacturer’s efforts on its business needs in China. “They couldn’t resolve the politics and neither could we,” says Carolinas Gateway Partnership President and CEO Norris Tolson. “What we learned

Edgecombe and Nash were branded Tier 1 — among the 40 most economically distressed — this year. Two years ago, Commerce labeled Edgecombe the state’s most economically distressed county for the fourth consecutive year. “[Edgecombe County has] high unemployment,” Tolson says. “But we are one of the most aggressive counties, and that’s important because you also have to close projects. [In mid-June], we were working 84 projects. And [Carolinas Gateway Partnership Vice President Oppie Jordan] is getting one or two projects a week. The minute word got out that Triangle Tyre was leaving, we had eight people looking.”

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BUSINESS BOOM Nash County Economic Development Director Andy Hagy has felt the winds of economic change the past two years. They blow in large part because of the COVID-19 pandemic. “We’re realizing that what is actually produced internationally and not here at home, that shift is coming, where even international companies — and we’ve just located two international companies — are realizing that if they’re going to do business with the U.S., they’re going to have to do their manufacturing here,” he says. “And U.S. companies are realizing that, too. Countries are realizing they have to make their products here, and we can’t risk losing that.” South Korean pipe manufacturer

Cosmoind, for example, announced a $12.8 million investment in May. It will build its first plant in North America and create 168 jobs at the Middlesex Corporate Centre in southern Nash County. “I think it was a combination of location [in landing Cosmoind], and they liked our presentation,” Hagy says. “We had a major communication problem — no one with them was fluent in English. So, we had a translator, and that helped bond our relationship. That comfort level was 100%.” Companies are expanding elsewhere in Nash and Edgecombe counties. They include LS Tractor in Rocky Mount; LS Cable & System USA, a Korean company that’s investing $27 million and adding 86 jobs to

its 188-person workforce in Tarboro; and Crump Group, a Canadian manufacturer of natural ingredient pet treats, which is investing $13.2 million to establish its first U.S. factory in Nashville, creating 160 jobs in the process. Raleigh-based food processer SinnovaTek was the first to set up shop at the Middlesex site. That was in April. The development has a 1-million-square-foot site ready for development. “We also have a 1-million-square-foot site under contract that a developer is going to build up, and that would be for distribution,” says Susan Phelps, Nash County’s economic development manager. “They’re in the due diligence phase. If you don’t have a

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shell building or industrial site ready to go, then you’re not even in the ballgame. You’re in the dugout with no uniform. You can’t get up to bat because you’re totally out of the game. You have to have existing buildings and be ready to go.” The region is ready to go extra innings. The Tarboro Commerce Center near U.S. 64 and future Interstate 87, for example, has added a 65,000-square-foot shell building designed for manufacturing or warehousing. “There are a lot of different moving parts,” Hagy says. “There’s a backload from COVID-19 that are projects in delays. I think a lot of different industries now are worse than they were before COVID, but they are trying to get ahead of the game. We in Nash County are open for business, and you’ll see that with the companies we’re working

with and will announce later on.” The N.C. Division of Motor Vehicles moved its headquarters and 500 jobs to Rocky Mount in 2020. Farris remembers how that deal began. “I read an article that said the state would consider locating it outside of Raleigh, but in the general vicinity of Wake County, and would consider a county that was impoverished,” he says. “I was on my way to North Carolina Wesleyan [University in Rocky Mount], and I’m going by what used to be the world headquarters for Hardee’s before they were bought out by Carl’s Jr., then PNC Bank located there before moving to Raleigh. The building was empty, and the campus has a five-story black-exterior building and several out buildings. And I thought, it’s right off [U.S. 64], and there are no stoplights between there and Raleigh.”

Farris met with Tolson, and they discussed the site’s potential and the impact of having DMV’s headquarters. “And we went after it,” Farris says. “It’s a great deal for the state. Even after up-fitting, the cost would be a fraction of what it would be [to repair the building] in Raleigh. So, it’s a win-win for the taxpayer, the employees and the Twin Counties. And it’s something we — Norris and Andy and Susan — can point to and say, this is what we do. Success breeds success.”

FEELS LIKE HOME The region’s recruitment hook is baited for businesses. But there also is plenty to hook people seeking a family-friendly quality of life, low cost of living, and quick and easy access to one of North Carolina’s largest metropolises. And there’s top-shelf

Kingsboro Business Park, located on 1,961 acres next to the CSX rail line, is strategically located in the heart of the eastern seaboard, just off U.S. 64 and 10 minutes east of Interstate 95.

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health care and educational connections, whether they’re in search of a degree or adding a skill or credential. Phelps says it’s all about the big picture. “We aren’t just providing location,” she says. “We have the whole package. The hospital system, which is UNC [Health Care], is a good selling point. We have quality schools and high school [career and technical education] training, and [Nash Community College] offers Career and College Promise, so they’re getting an associate degree, and they’re guaranteed a partnership in what they choose.” Nash Community College in Rocky Mount offers corporate and customized training, Career Readiness Certificate courses, Career in a Year training for in-demand fields and other options, including Ed2Go online learning. “There’s a cultural change right now about children going into debt and going to college,” Hagy says. “The parents don’t necessarily need to go into debt sending their kids to a four-year school.” Carolinas Gateway Partnership’s Jordan says the state’s future opportunities for growth reside in rural North Carolina. “There’s a tremendous amount of purchasable land,” he says. “The labor shed is pretty doggone good, and our community college system is one of the best in the world. It would be hard to go to Wake County and find a 500-acre building site. It would be equally hard to go to Mecklenburg or Guilford [counties] and find affordable housing. Right now, Nash and Edgecombe have something like 600 houses coming out of the ground. So, you have a migration of not only industry, but you have affordable housing in an area that will provide the labor force.” A U G U S T

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Tarboro adopted its Residential Development Investment Ordinance in 2019. It reimburses developers 50% of infrastructure costs after certificates of occupancy are issued. “The ordinance has stimulated the development of over 30 single-family housing units thus far and has gained a lot of interest,” says Tina Parker, Tarboro’s commercial development and Main Street coordinator. She says with sales and relocations, the town Planning Department has issued more than 200 permits for single-family homes since 2020, and a new internet service is coming online for residents and businesses. Rocky Mount Mills, 82 acres of mixed-use development at the site of the state’s second oldest cotton mill, stands next to the Falls of the Tar River. It’s home to entertainment venues, office space, restaurants, retail and residential. “[It’s] fully leased out on the residential village part,” Farris says. “The mill homes have been restored. It looks like a Norman Rockwell painting, and the suites and offices that overlook the river are like

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being in the Blue Ridge Mountains. That whole campus was repurposed about five minutes before COVID came. They put in 21 tiny homes you can rent for the weekend. They have fire pits outside, and it’s right across from the main campus, where the craft breweries are. Nothing else in the state compares to it.” Rocky Mount Mills reportedly has become one of the state’s favorite workfrom-home spots. “And it’s helped bring young people to the area,” Farris says. “We’ve had people who have sold their homes and moved in.” Nash UNC Health Care, which operates 280-bed Nash General Hospital, outpatient provider Nash Day Hospital and a variety of specialty centers, has initiatives to make care easier to access in a social-distancing society. A community paramedic program, for example, began last September and is funded by grants to the Nash UNC Health Care Foundation. It provides at-home care for high-risk patients, including ongoing home wellness visits to check vitals and discuss care,

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reducing the likelihood of hospital readmission. An inpatient food pantry opened about a year ago. Eligible patients receive food boxes customized to their medical and dietary needs, so after discharge, they can heal at home without worrying about what they will eat. “Twenty-three percent of the population in our service area is food insecure,” says Kirby Slade, Nash UNC Health Care’s community development director. “That means 23% of our neighbors have limited access to food for themselves or their families. That’s 7% higher than the state average and thus is a key social determinant of health we should work to address in our community.” The hospital’s emergency department is implementing a concept endorsed by the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services. EMS personnel, physicians, nurses and other medical professionals work in collaborative settings, an effort to improve patient care. “Our department’s ability to hire paramedics

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to support our nursing staff with patient care right here in the hospital has allowed us to expand our ability to care for our patients throughout the department, from the lobby to patient-care rooms,” says Dr. Alex Warren, emergency department medical director. Improvements are being made elsewhere at Nash General Hospital. Lab equipment upgrades, including a blood-culture test that identifies issues in less time, helped save the life of a 10-month-old baby in April. “The laboratory team, nurses, infection-prevention professionals, physicians and many others did a great job working together,” says Shairee Taylor, the hospital’s laboratory manager. “It takes all of us to care for our patients.” The hospital system is in the stakeholder input phase of its next strategic plan, which should be ready in July. Feedback was sought from the community, staff and medical personnel and a plan will be developed this fall, according to a news release.

LOOKING AHEAD Edgecombe and Nash are working toward a bright future. It’s a collective effort. As part of its Planet 2050 initiative, Cummins, for example, added a solar array at its Rocky Mount Engine Plant, creating the manufacturer’s second-largest solar installation. Its largest powers its Beijing plant. “We have made a valiant effort to create a product and market our county as a place to grow your business,” Phelps says. “And we’ve done a good job of that coming out of COVID. I don’t think we’ve ever been busier.” Train and truck traffic has been busy at Carolina Connector, a 330-acre intermodal terminal near CSX railroad’s main line and Interstate 95 in Rocky Mount. CCX has three cranes capable of moving more than 100,000 shipping containers between rail and road every year. It opened in November and is one of 40 such terminals CSX operates east of the Mississippi River. Tolson says CCX has already proven its benefits to the region.

“It’s become a safety valve for all the ports congestion on the East Coast, Savannah, Norfolk … ,” he says. “It’s driving a lot of the activity that’s going on in this region and not only in Edgecombe and Nash but in Bertie and Halifax and Martin and Pitt.” The state Commerce Department announced in June that Tarboro will receive an $875,000 Rural Transformation Grant. Parker says the money will be used to stabilize the banks of the Tar River and create pedestrian access to its waters in downtown Tarboro. Other community improvements are receiving support. “Tarboro has received [Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality] funding through the NCDOT for the construction of sidewalks and multiuse pathways in critical areas,” she says. “There has been a combined total investment of $1.5 million over two projects in the past two years adding value to our community’s walkability and safety.” Tarboro’s Main Street Program has earned full accreditation. “The Town Council invested in a plan to renovate

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Courthouse Square, a public community space within the center of downtown Tarboro’s business district, providing a safer, more usable community space for community conversation, small events and public concerts,” Parker says. Farris says Rocky Mount’s Central City Revitalization Panel handles conversations about downtown buildings. Some are being renovated, creating what community leaders hope will be vibrant retail at street level. Condos upstairs have already opened. Farris calls them gorgeous. “It’s kind of evolving a little bit more,” he says. “A lot have been vacant for several decades, and we want to assist an investor in making the right choice, how you can repurpose them.” Farris points to several things that make this corner of North Carolina special. “We laugh and think maybe it’s in the water coming from the Tar River or in the barbecue,” he says. “But we are a community that’s developed leadership and entrepreneurship. Rocky Mount is a wonderful community where people care about one another. I can be in Raleigh in 45 minutes. But I like being able to walk in somewhere where everyone knows your name.” ■

ROCKY MOUNT PHOTO CREDIT: CARL LEWIS

— Kathy Blake is a writer from eastern North Carolina.

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2022 EVENTS

SCENESETTERS May 18-19, 2022 In its seventh year, North Carolina’s premier manufacturing conference featured the most up-to-date and relevant topics from North Carolina’s most influential manufacturing thought leaders. MFGCON 22 focused on addressing and sharing solutions to take advantage of the opportunities and combat the challenges presented in modern manufacturing.

Photos by John Gessner

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