Business North Carolina September 2022

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How John Townsend left his small town to hit it big on Wall Street — then painted a path to help UNC Chapel Hill raise $ 4.6 billion . Price: $3.95 SEPTEMBER 2022 HENDRICK AUTO & EPIC GAMES TOP 125 PRIVATE COMPANY LIST BEEF AT A CHICKEN & BBQ CHAIN • THE CARTERS’ PACKAGE DEAL • ANONYMOUS TRUST REVEALED


Hendrick Automotive Group tops our annual list of the state’s big closely

Surging home and more sustainable wraps accelerate Atlantic



held firms.

3SEPTEMBER 2022 September 2022, Vol. 42, No. 9 (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 Start your day with business news from across the state, direct to your inbox. SIGN UP AT BUSINESSNC.COM/DAILY-DIGEST. SEPTEMBER 2022 COVER STORY PERFECT TIMING A Lumberton native with prime Wall Street credentials plays a key role in support of UNC Chapel Hill. BY DONNIE DOUGLAS + DEPARTMENTS + SPONSORED SECTIONS 4 UP FRONT 6 POINT TAKEN A new industrial park sparks optimism in southeastern North Carolina. 10 NC TREND A foundation’s quiet style; Defending execs becomes a big legal play; Leaders promote more K-12 spending; Universities tune in to the potential of esports; The Presidents Cup wants to transform the state; What you missed from the N.C. Tribune 80 GREEN SHOOTS For a century, Winston-Salem’s Pine Hall Brick has paved the way across North Carolina. 26 ROUND TECHNOLOGYTABLE: Five technology industry leaders discuss balancing needs of companies and their staffers. 60 MEDICAL: HEART & CANCER CARE Positive medical advancements offer hope for challenging patients. 66 HIGHER EDUCATIONCONTINUINGED: Filling the gaps in the state’s workforce and the power of online and hybrid MBA programs. 72 COUNTYCLOSECOMMUNITYUP:ROWAN The Piedmont county’s prime location helps attract significant development projects.





A venerable North Carolina restaurant chain gets grilled after canceling a pact.

■ I watched my family members pull in wahoo from the Gulf Stream on a charter and dine on them that same night.

I was lucky enough to spend a lot of this summer with some dear folks around the state. Here’s a little taste:

■ I spent a long weekend with my wife of 25 years near Floyd, Virginia, where we visited a local brewery and listened to a band play old Grateful Dead songs while we drank pilsners.

Please know I’m not telling you all this to brag. I think it’s a good exercise to take stock of the positive things in your life and use them to reflect on every now and then. There’s enough bad news that we are confronted with on a daily basis, so I like to go back to these reflections from time-to-time.

Kinney PUBLISHER Ben Kinney David Mildenberg ASSOCIATEdmildenberg@businessnc.comEDITORS Colin Campbell Cathy Martin SENIORcmartin@businessnc.comCONTRIBUTINGEDITOR Edward Martin SPECIALemartin@businessnc.comPROJECTSEDITOR Pete M. Anderson CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Neill Caldwell, Donnie Douglas, Billy Ingram, Mike MacMillan, Tucker JenningsMitchell,CoolRoddey CREATIVE MANAGER Peggy Knaack ARTpknaack@businessnc.comDIRECTOR Ralph Voltz CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHER Andrew Sherman MARKETING COORDINATOR Jennifer Ware ADVERTISING SALES ACCOUNT DIRECTOR Melanie Weaver Lynch, eastern N.C. AUDIENCEACCOUNTmweaver@businessnc.com919-855-9380MANAGERANDDEVELOPMENTSPECIALIST Scott Leonard, western N.C. CIRCULATION:sleonard@businessnc.com704-996-6426 818-286-3106 EDITORIAL: 704-523-6987 REPRINTS: OWNERS Jack Andrews, Frank Daniels III, Lee Dirks, David Woronoff PUBLISHED BY Old North State Magazines LLC PRESIDENT David Woronoff VOLUMEBUSINESSNC.COM42,NO. 9 FOND MEMORIES Contact Ben Kinney

■ I got to play a new golf course with my two boys and watch the sun set over eastern North Carolina.

■ I got to sit on the banks of Lake Gaston with friends and family and play guitar with a buddy who was 10 when we started playing together; he’s now 26.

4 BUSINESS NORTH CAROLINA UP FRONT Welcome to September. The summer is coming to a close, and we are all looking back on it thinking “man, that went quick.” Seems like the older I get, the more I say that.

■ I visited an old friend at his mountain house in Mitchell County and hiked a portion of the Appalachian Trail.

Also, how lucky are we to be able to do things like this and all within a day's drive at Imost?always keep harping about our state and how incredible it is, but it bears repeating because we should never take this place for granted. I hope you had a similar experience this summer and are looking back on it fondly. Here’s to fall and hoping you can do the same.

■ I went on a crazy Myrtle Beach golf weekend for the first time in 20 years with about 50 people (45 of whom I didn’t know) I made a lot of new friends and a little bit of money.



▲Sink maker Elkay’s $5.5 million distribution center will launch a corporate park, spurring growth in Robeson County.

Another interstate, east-west I-74, intersects with I-95 on the southwest side of Lumberton — the county seat — and that has set up an interesting story about a new 215-acre industrial park that will be able to send trucks to much of the nation’s population in less than a day. The first building, a distribution center, is going up right now.

Its construction also frees up space at the manufacturing plants that had been used for distribution, which could mean more jobs. More important, perhaps, is that the distribution center made the park possible, and the park helps create a new narrative. Earlier this year, Site Selection Magazine ranked Lumberton one of the nation’s top 10 micropolitan areas — small urban areas — because of its economic development activity.

That’s what I did last April, when I was working on a story about a Robeson County company called the Emerging Technology Institute, which turned an old, empty textile plant in Red Springs into a test facility for defense contractors. That led me to talk to more folks in Robeson, and that led me to the industrial park and Channing Jones, the county’s economic development director.

I asked Ken Blazer, Elkay’s director of global distribution and logistics, what makes the site so good, because it would also give a window into what other companies might think about Robeson County in general. Here is what he emailed me:

The new distribution center will employ about 40 people when it opens in the first quarter of next year.



A new industrial park sparks optimism in southeast North Carolina.


And, so, recently I was walking around the park with him, where Elkay Manufacturing’s new southeastern distribution center is being built, a 388,000-square-foot facility. Elkay, a centuryold business based in a Chicago suburb, is the leading manufacturer of sinks, water fountains and bottle-filling stations in the country. It has been manufacturing in Lumberton for more than 40 years. In the early 1980s, Elkay Southern had 50 employees. Now it has hundreds in buildings a few miles from the industrial park, folks who make more than 1 million sinks a year.

What you know about Robeson County may be out of date. It is a county that has struggled economically, but there are good things happening. You have to go see them.

obeson County is where Interstate 95 enters North Carolina from the south, and that is relevant, because in economic development as in real estate, location matters.

“The transportation ecosystem starts with a strategic location midway between New York and Florida along I-95, and the I-74 corridor forms an ideal east-west crossroads. This unique location is served by excellent trucking and rail lines, nearby major airports, and easy access to deep-water ocean ports, so critical to our international supply chain.”

Team sport

Discussions started heating up in October 2020, with a deadline. Elkay wanted to make a decision by December. “So, from October to December, the county and the city, in joint partnership, said that we will make this a reality. If you decide to come here, we’ll figure it out.”


The industrial park exists because Lumberton and Robeson County officials worked together to make it happen, along with a big assist from the state Department of Commerce. You will hear that economic development is a team sport; the park is an example of how government agencies, public utilities and nonprofits come together effectively.

“We showed them a host of sites,” Jones says, but not what would become the industrial park. “We got it to three and whittled it down to one.” But Elkay’s project engineer had concerns about water pressure for fire protection — concerns that proved ultimately to be unwarranted, but it looked like a poten tial“Anddealbreaker.hecalled me and said, ‘Well, Channing, what’s Plan B if this doesn’t work out the way we hope it will?’ I said, ‘Well, you’ve seen the other sites. We’ve done due diligence. You know everything that’s out there. Except for one thing. Historically, there’s been this conceptual idea of developing a new park. And the problem is, we have to get funding because we’re a very rural area. We can’t spend all the millions that it takes to develop a park on a whim.’”

But it takes millions of dollars for land, roads and utilities.

It is a way that rural counties benefit when wealthy urban counties like Wake land a big project like Apple. When the state promises these companies big incentives, a portion of the grants is diverted into the rural development fund.

“And, of course, you can go from Maine to Miami on 95. The park is completely surrounded by interstates. You don’t have to worry about the zoning.”

Lumberton and Robeson County needed state support, but to get folks in Raleigh interested, they needed a live prospect to anchor the project.

In December, the state awarded a $3.7 million grant to put water, sewer and roads in the 215-acre site. The money was coming from the state’s Industrial Development Fund — Utility Ac count, which is what Poole worked on. This is a program that is significant in the politics of economic development in this state.

“It’s just a matter of putting the resources together and having ▲Channing Jones leads Robeson’s economic development effort.

Every time a big economic development project is announced in a wealthy county, the press release always mentions the cut this rural account is receiving, because the political challenge of sustaining support for tax incentives is trying to make the case that the benefits are statewide. But that works only if there are rural projects to fund, and folks like Jones and Lumberton City Manager Wayne Horne to bring them along.

Not long after becoming economic development director, Jones started working with Elkay, which planned a new southeast distribution center. This was serious stuff because of the potential for a big project and the competition. Elkay was looking in other places, like South Carolina. And that was a problem. If Elkay built somewhere else, it might also move some existing Robeson County jobs out of state. It wasn’t just about a single building but also about retaining jobs a few miles away.

Jones arranged for some drawings of what a park surrounded by the two interstates would look like — “again, it’s still agricultural and [we] didn’t own it.”

In 2018, Jones was hired as county economic development director. A 1999 graduate of UNC Pembroke, Jones had been a senior executive of a plastics company, so he understood manu facturing. He was recruited back to the county in 2011 to become a vice president at Robeson Community College in charge of workforce development, so he knew that part. Jones is on the Pembroke Town Council. His grandfather, the late English E. Jones, was the first member of the Lumbee tribe to be president of what was then called Pembroke State College.

“And so, very, very fortunately, he said, ‘We’re willing to look at it if you are.’”

When Apple announced last year plans for a major Research Triangle Park campus, for example, it was noted that some of its incentive money would be reserved for grants to rural counties. It’s a lot of money: as much as $112 million over the life of Apple’s potentially $845 million tax reimbursement.

The location makes it a logical place for a park. “So, this is one of the few parks to have access to an east-west [highway] that goes all the way across the state and to the ports,” says Jones.

And they did, with help. A key player was Mark Poole, a fi nancial analyst at the Commerce Department who is now director of the department’s finance center. “Mark worked with us super-closely to guide the conversation about how to get this park developed,” says Jones.

“We have a really strong relationship with our county govern ment,” says Horne. “We meet regularly with Channing or the county manager, Kellie Blue.”

Deep roots

Veteran journalist Dan Barkin went to high school in Newton, Massachusetts, arrived in the South for college in 1971 and moved to North Carolina in 1996. He can be reached at

8 BUSINESS NORTH CAROLINA POINT TAKEN Dan Barkin a vision,” says Horne. “And our vision was this location, with two major interstates, 95 and the new Interstate 74. And if you look at the location, we’re only about 75 miles from the Port of Wilmington, straight down 74. Then, we’re only 30 miles from the inland port in Dillon, which is right across the South Caro lina line. The inland port serves about a 120-mile radius around the“So,location.”wefeel like companies coming here, that we’re working, that the inland port will be a great benefit to them. And then on the backside of the park is our regional airport,” adds Horne. “We just built a new terminal out there. That’s an attractive draw for companies that would be coming in.” can provide customized training while companies are in construction in the park, says Jones. “The community college can say, ‘OK, we have a 50,000-square-foot facility over here. Why don’t you start bringing some of your machines in here, setting them up and let us start doing training. And when you get ready, ship them over there and be done.’ So, they start ramping up their workforce before a single brick is laid or electrical line run.”

At the same time, the tobacco industry was shrinking, closing the warehouses that had brought farmers to towns like Fairmont. By the time the textile plant and tobacco warehouse closings were done, the Great Recession piled on. It was a rough couple of decades in the county, the 1990s and 2000s. That’s now in the rear-view mirror, I hope. The park is a symbol of a better future. As Horne, the Lumberton city manager says, “It makes a statement out on 95.” ■

Elkay’s building sits on 48 acres, so the park still has 80% of its land to market. Jones is in discussion with two other companies. When land and infrastructure costs are figured in, Jones figures there will be $12 million to $14 million invested.

“The rate of return that the taxpayers of North Carolina and Robeson County are going to get is an absolute no-brainer,” he says. “And the number of jobs that will be created by the time this is fully built out is a whole `nother level of economic activity.” He estimates 1,000 jobs. That may be conservative. When Horne and the city first submitted a grant proposal to the Commerce department four years ago, the forecast was that total investment in the park by tenants — land, buildings and equip ment— could reach $300 million and 2,300 jobs.

Meanwhile, Robeson Community College, nearby up I-95, is training an advanced manufacturing workforce. Aided by lobbying of college President Melissa Singler, the state budget last year committed $19 million for a new workforce development

In the world in which Robeson competes, it is important to be shovel-ready. Companies want to open fast and seize market opportunities. But workforce-readiness is critical; every conversation with a prospect starts with the workforce. Lessons of the past Robeson County is diversifying its economy. The companies that have been recruited to the county or expanded in the past decade are varied— food manufacturing, poultry, building components, and packaging. The county and many other rural N.C. areas were once heavily dependent on textiles and apparel, as were many other rural areas in North Carolina. In the early 1990s, the jobs started leaving for Asia and other low-wage countries, about 9,000 in Robeson by some estimates.

▲ Elkay workers will earn about $49,000 a year, topping the local average.

The wave of plant closings lasted a decade, 100, 200, 300 jobs at a time, and a few larger ones. Converse, the sneaker brand, had 650 workers when it shut down after employing 2,000 in the early 1990s. Some of this would have happened as automation replaces labor in many factories. But free trade was costly for Robeson County.

Lincoln National bought the company for $7.5 billion in 2006. Joseph Bryan married Kathleen Price in 1927 and helped ex pand the company into broadcasting. He died at age 99 in 1995, having set up charitable entities, including an eponymous foundation that was instrumental in attracting Toyota Motor’s big elec tric-battery plant under construction near Greensboro.

Anonymous also made a $2.9 million gift to UNC Pembroke for its Brave Scholars program, aimed at recruiting future teachers from and for Columbus, Robeson and Scotland counties. East Carolina University’s Partnership Teach Program got a $225,000 grant. The gifts were the trust’s answer to an obvious need, not a planned coming-out party, says Debbie Aiken, the executive director.

▲ Former wealth management banker Debbie Aiken is the trust's executive director.

“It’s no secret that education is a serious issue in eastern North Carolina and that there is a real scarcity of quality teachers in that area,” Aiken says. “We also hope this can drive an increase in the diversity of the teachers there. There was a need that fit with our mission. It made sense.”

Recently, the cage has rattled quite a bit. Over the past two years, the trust has awarded more than $15 million to public col leges in eastern North Carolina. That includes the fund’s largest gift, a $7.2 million grant to N.C. State University’s School of Education to enhance teacher training and diversity, and a $5.9 mil lion grant to Fayetteville State University for a variety of projects. It’s a record donation for the historically Black university.

Since its inception the trust has focused on education, though it now provides similar support for other human-service categories. Its first gifts included an unusual scholarship program that provides as much as $50,000 a year in need-based grants for a Samp son County student to attend a private, liberal arts college outside North Carolina. Multiple students receive awards each year.

Margaret Turlington, a CPA who was the trust’s only employee (and part-time at that) for its first seven years and is a program director, says the scholarship causes lots of double takes.

Sampson is the focus because it is Anne Faircloth’s hometown and current residence. She owns Clinton-based Faircloth Farms, an agriculture, real-estate and timber conglomerate developed by her father, former U.S. Sen. Lauch Faircloth. He is 94.

“When I’m at a national meeting, people always say, ‘Wait, can you tell me that again? The students have to leave the state?'” Turlington says. The point is to expand horizons beyond the Sampson County norm. More than 69 students have finished or are completing a degree through the program at a dizzying array of schools, including Abilene Christian, Brandeis, Harvard, Middlebury and the University of the Pacific. Among the scholarship winners was Jose


While Anonymous is bigger than Joseph Bryan’s main philanthropy, its profile is smaller — just the way Nancy Faircloth would have liked. She didn’t believe foundations should have fancy offices or bloated operating budgets lest they become “all puffed,” says her only daughter, Anne Bryan Faircloth.

Started from the estate of the late Nancy Bryan Faircloth, the trust has three employees, two board members and no formal office or website. Friends and family say the low-overhead, no-nonsense style would fit Faircloth, a resident of Raleigh and Greensboro who died in 2010 at the age of 79. She was the youngest daughter of Joseph M. Bryan and his wife, Kathleen Price, an heir to the fortune built by Julian Price starting after World War I. His linchpin was Greensboro-based Jefferson Standard Life Insurance, which became a national powerhouse.

10 Philanthropy 12 Legal affairs 14 School funding 16 Higher education 18 N.C. Tribune

10 BUSINESS NORTH CAROLINA NC TREND ››› After a dozen years under the radar, a Raleigh foundation is making some waves. By Tucker Mitchell The Anonymous Trust isn’t named Anonymous for noth ing. With $285 million in assets at the end of 2021, it ranks among the state’s 20 largest foundations. But since its launch 12 years ago, it’s kept a low profile and a keen focus on addressing the many human-service issues facing eastern North Carolina.

“The whole point behind the anonymity, behind the name, was to avoid that. Keeping your name out of it, that’s one way to stay humble,” Anne Faircloth adds. “She liked to keep her philanthropy low-key, thought that was the right way to do it, but she’d rattle the cage and make some noise when it was needed.”


“I’ve been on the investment committee of some other boards and there’s a great temptation to get excited about your bench marks, how you’ve grown,” says Faircloth. “And yes, it is good to make more so you can give more away. But if you’re more excited about total return than total impact, you’ve gone off track. So the plan here is to give it all away.”

As Anonymous gears up for a higher profile future, there are plans for a return to the truest possible form of anonymity: nonexistence.Faircloth says the long-term script calls for spending out the trust’s corpus — that is, giving away everything.

Matute, who became Ohio Wesleyan’s first DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) Dreamer student and its first Latino student body president.

When? Faircloth shrugs. She doesn’t know except the trust won’t be around forever. That’s not her mom’s style, nor hers. “I’d like to continue for a while because we’re just beginning to have a real impact,” says Faircloth, who is in her early 50s. “But we’re not going to have some perpetual monument to us. I can tell you that.”

“We manage it carefully,” says Aiken, a former wealth man agement officer at Fifth Third and SunTrust banks. “It’s been very much a ‘buy and hold’ strategy. We don’t do a lot of trading. We’re opportunistic and smart. It’s worked well for us.” Tax regulations require foundations to disburse at least 5% of the fair-market value of the estate annually. It has consistently exceeded that level, Aiken says. ■

Anonymous Trust opened with a corpus of $181 million around the time of Nancy Bryan Faircloth’s passing. A dozen years later, a long bull market pushed assets to $285 million last year, even as the trust has given away more than $88 million. The pace of giving is accelerating with more than $50 million in grants from Meanwhile,2017-21.thetrust is managed differently than many peers.

Dozens of North Carolina nonprofits receive Anonymous Trust grants. Teach for America in Rocky Mount got $800,000 in 2020.

The foundation recently partnered with Interfaith Prison Ministries of Raleigh to fund a new re-entry program to aid fe male prison inmates as they return to society. With more than $1 million of support from Anonymous, the program helps cover bills for housing and education Kim Breeden, a veteran nonprofit executive who is the trust’s senior program officer, is leading the initiative. She brought Interfaith together with other entities in a partnership that reflects the trust’s holistic view of problemsolving — gifts may be as much collaboration as cash.

Debbie Aiken and Anne Faircloth guide the investments with input from Paul Elam, principal of Raleigh’s Oak Harbors Wealth Partners, and Greg Gajowski, who works in Charlotte for the Min neapolis-based Piper Sandler investment firm. The funds are not held in discretionary accounts, and there are no management fees, a big expense for similar-sized foundations.

That happened at the Stewards Fund, a foundation Nancy Bryan Faircloth started and ran until Anne Faircloth took over in 2000. The Stewards Fund, which gifted more than $70 million during its life, gave away its last dime last year.

“So much of what we do is not about the gifts but about the relationships,” says Aiken. “We work very consultatively. It’s a lot of what we do. Nancy (Bryan) was known for that. I hope we are,Anonymous'too.” relationship work is especially meaningful to the dozens of small nonprofits it helps. Helping the “little guy” is a central mission, although it means extra hours for the staff since a small grant often requires as much work as a big one. It made gifts to more than 80 different grantees in the past three years.

Growing minus fees

“I think one of the reasons we don’t do much bricks and mortar (capital projects) is because if you’re an organization with the capacity to build a facility, our thought is that you probably don’t need us,” says Faircloth. “We like helping the smaller organizations that reach people one on one.”

* Shana Davis spent a dozen years at the U.S. Attorney’s office

The growth of white-collar defense work is an irony, says a veteran defense attorney in Charlotte, who asked to remain anonymous because of the confidentiality of his work. There was a time, not too long ago, when the state’s major law firms looked disapprovingly at lawyers who specialized in defending corporate executives and others accused of various misdeeds, heForwardsays. to 2022, and many of the biggest, most highly regarded Tar Heel law firms have tapped into white-collar defense practice. An early adopter was Greensboro’s Brooks Pierce, McLendon, Humphrey & Leonard law firm, which has made it a key emphasis, says Kearns Davis, who has worked there for more than 20 years over two stints.

▲ Kearns Davis of Brooks, Pierce, McLendon, Humphrey & Leonard.

By David Mildenberg N orth Carolina’s rising profile as a business center in recent decades has coincided with an increased number of legal controversies involving corporations and seniorMeanwhile,executives.federal law policing all sorts of business activities has expanded significantly in recent decades, creating greater de mand for lawyers required to provide defense for businesspeople and other “white-collar” clients facing investigations by the Department of Justice along with myriad federal agencies.

Examples include:

“There definitely is a greater interest in [white-collar] cases, and there’s been an uptick in prosecutions,” says Scott Harkey, a Winston-Salem lawyer who specializes in the field. He started his own firm last year after eight years at the North Carolina Conference of District Attorneys. He was a senior financial-crimes prosecutor who represented the state in dozens of major fraud cases.

“Doing what would be my own baby was very enticing,” he says.

Fifteen years later, Brooks Pierce has about 110 lawyers including a dozen whose main focus is white-collar defense work on both criminal and civil matters. They work in Greensboro, Raleigh and Wilmington and have a wide range of experiences.


Consider the Duke Energy coal-ash spills prompted grand jury subpoenas of unnamed utility company employees. The queries created under-the-radar work for many North Carolina lawyers. No employees were charged, though the company paid fines after negotiations with the government.

Davis left the firm in 2003 to join the U.S. Attorney’s office four blocks down the street in downtown Greensboro. It was a difficult decision, he says, because he’d recently been named a partner. But like many people in that era, the 9/11 tragedy spurred a desire to enter public service.

12 BUSINESS NORTH CAROLINA NC TREND ››› Brooks Pierce and other law firms step forward as demand for white-collar defense blossoms.

Davis earned a bachelor’s at Davidson College, a master’s at Duke University and a UNC Chapel Hill law degree, then clerked with U.S. Appeals Court Judge Sam Ervin III. He joined the firm in 1996 when a big chunk of its clientele was traditional textile, furniture and other manufacturers. “That was the economic base of Greensboro,” he recalls. Now, he says, the region’s economy is poised to accelerate with expected expansions by Toyota Motor and Boom Supersonic.

Four years later, he returned to Brooks Pierce, having gained insight and respect for the world of government prosecution. Senior leaders at the firm asked him to help start a white-collar defense practice, a first for a large business-oriented firm in North Carolina, he says.

* Justin Outling was a clerk for a federal judge and worked at a large Wall Street law firm before joining Brooks Pierce in 2012. He’s been on the Greensboro City Council since 2015.

* Tanisha Palvia is a former assistant district attorney in Manhattan who works mostly remotely from Charlotte, having joined the firm in 2019.


Former U.S. Rep. Robin Hayes

13SEPTEMBER 2022 in the District of Columbia, including stints as a deputy chief in the felony major crimes and general crimes sections.

“I’m very proud of what we’ve done here with a terrific group of lawyers who have practiced both here in North Carolina and those who have worked in large cities and come back here,” DavisTwosays.highly publicized cases have raised Davis’ own profile in recent years. He represented former U.S. Rep. Robin Hayes, who faced federal charges of bribery, conspiracy and false statements. An heir to the Cannon textile family in Cabarrus County, Hayes pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI related to his efforts as state Republican Party chair to allegedly help Durham insurance company owner Greg Lindberg receive favorable treatment from the N.C. Department of Insurance. In August 2020, Hayes was sentenced to a year’s probation and a $9,500 fine. He faced up to six months of prison. Former President Donald Trump pardoned him last year.

■ ▲

McGuireWoods Jonathan Ellis joined the firm’s complex commercial litiga tion department in Raleigh after serving as assistant to the U.S. Solicitor General from 2017-21. He is among five former Department of Justice lawyers who have joined the firm since 2020.

Womble Bond Dickinson James Quander joined the firm’s Winston-Salem office as an of counsel lawyer. He previously led his own firm and has been involved in more than 50 jury trials in the last five years.

* Edwin West III has worked on IRS cases and other investigations in North Carolina for more than 25 years.

The type of white-collar defense work in demand shifts with the political tides. Barack Obama’s administration put an emphasis on health care fraud amid the expansion of Medicaid through the Affordable Care Act. The Biden Administration has signaled an interest in cracking down on a wide range of white-collar crime, with a national emphasis on cases involving fraudulent activity related to Paycheck Protection ProgramHarkeypayouts.sayshe’s been equally impressed by Davis’ efforts with the N.C. Bar Association, where the two have served on committees together. Davis was the group’s president in 2016-17.

K&L Gates Bobby Higdon, a former U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina, joined in 2021. Nate Huff, a former pros ecutor in that office, joined earlier this year. Both are in the firm’s Morrisville office.

“We can’t get into particulars of the case, but we were able to persuade the U.S. Attorney that our case was different, so our outcome was different,” Davis says. Such high-profile cases attract lots of media attention, but they represent a small fraction of the work for most white-collar defense lawyers. The best outcome in almost every instance is to settle matters or avoid charges, thereby keeping the client out of the public eye.

Other North Carolina law firms have added veteran pros ecutors and white-collar defense attorneys in the past year. These are three examples:

“I’ve seen him having an impact beyond representing his clients and showing that it’s not just about him,” says Harkey. “He’s been extraordinarily selfless in trying to help improve ourWhileprofession.”gaining some public notice, Davis repeats the mantra of many of his peers in the white-collar defense specialty: “Our best work is the work that nobody ever knows about.”

“We were able to get a very positive outcome for him,” Davis Separately,says.Davis represented former Wake Forest University women’s volleyball coach William Ferguson, who was charged in 2019 in connection with his involvement in the college admission scheme led by William “Rick” Singer. Last October, the U.S. Attorney in Boston agreed to dismiss all charges against Ferguson — the only defendant in the Varsity Blues case to achieve that result.

While both cases attracted lots of media attention, the good news is that “what’s happening outside doesn’t change what is happening in the courtroom,” Davis says. “It’s the place where the lawyers, parties to the case and the court are focused on the facts, law and arguments that we have to make to try to get the best outcomes for our clients."

The initial brief’s list of supporters included Sepi Saidi, chair of the N.C. Chamber and owner of a Raleigh-based engineering firm. But the chamber said it shouldn’t be linked as a supporter of transferring $785 million.


“The separation of powers clearly directs this discussion to take place on Jones Street, not Morgan Street.”

Agroup of more than 50 business leaders filed an amicus brief in the Leandro education funding lawsuit, urging the N.C. Supreme Court to uphold a lower court’s decision to order the transfer of $785 million from state coffers to fund the remedial plan in the case to fund a “sound basic education.”


The General Assembly is on Jones Street in downtown Raleigh, while the Supreme Court is on Morgan Street. Ray Starling, the chamber’s general counsel, notified the court in a letter noting that Saidi was asked to sign the brief by former Raleigh Mayor Tom Bradshaw and Hancock. Saidi was asked to make a $1,000 contribution for legal fees, Starling said. The brief is one of several filed in recent months. The left-leaning N.C. Justice Center and a group of UNC law school professors filed briefs in support of a court-ordered funding transfer.

Names on the brief include SAS Institute co-founder Jim Goodnight, former Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx, former UNC System presidents Erskine Bowles and Tom Ross, former Blue Cross Blue Shield CEO Brad Wilson, Capitol Broadcasting CEO Jim Goodmon and former Bank of America CEO Hugh McColl Jr. “This plan is more than appropriate at this time; it is necessary to bring our educational services up to the standard required by our State Constitution,” the court filing says. “Our students need these improvements so that they can thrive and compete in a modern society and economy that demands more specialized skills. As a state, we need our students to realize these benefits so that we can collectively achieve the economic success that comes from adequateCharlotteeducation.”attorneyJohn Wester of the Robinson Bradshaw firm authored the brief. David Woronoff, an owner of Business North Carolina magazine, is among those who signed the brief.

The conservative John Locke Foundation and the N.C. Institute for Constitutional Law filed in support of the legislature’s argument. “The courts cannot claim ‘inherent authority’ to or der state officers and employees to draw money from the treasury, most especially where, as here, the legislature has acted,” their attorneys wrote.


The Leandro case started in 1994 when five poor school sys tems sued the state, contending it wasn’t meeting constitutional duties to provide equal education opportunities. It was named after a Hoke County plaintiff, Kathleen Leandro, and her son, Rob ert, who was a student at the time. Ever since, lawmakers, courts and education leaders have wrangled over how much money should be spent on the state’s public schools and who shall make that decision.

The Supreme Court set a late August timeline for holding oral arguments in the case. A decision is expected sometime this fall — ahead of the November election that could shift the partisan balance of power on the court away from Democrats.

Business leaders weigh in as the N.C. Supreme Court mulls a landmark education funding case.

School funding

By Colin Campbell

The group of leaders came together through an “organic process” in which each person invited others to participate, says Gerry Hancock, a Raleigh attorney who’s been involved in education issues for many years. “The business community has been a very strong advocate for public education for a long time.”

“It was never my intention to authorize my personal participation in this legal filing or the N.C. Chamber’s, especially when the primary issue is whether the N.C. Supreme Court has the authority to direct the appropriations process,” Saidi said in a comment released by the chamber.


▲ Passion for gaming is helping esports explode on campuses.

Universities tune in to the potential of esports. By Billy Ingram It seems every common word in the modern lexicon begins with an ‘I’ or an ‘E’, making esports inevitable. With billions of dollars of revenue up for grabs, esports rep resent a tectonic shift in popular culture. Rabid fans are selling out arenas like Madison Square Garden in a matter of minutes and tuning in by the tens of millions every month on Twitch and YouTube to watch their favorite video game e-thletes and teams battle one another in rounds of Rocket League, League of Legends or Starcraft AudiencesII.watching other people gaming, as opposed to partici pating themselves, isn’t anything new. Ever watch a round of golf? Kids at arcades and bowling alleys in the 1970s gathered three deep to gawk at players asserting dominance over a pinball machine. Through its university system, North Carolina is determined to take center stage for this burgeoning business. In 2020, UNC Wilmington became first in the state with an esports certificate program. N.C. State University has the win ningest collegiate team in the U.S. and received $16 million from state lawmakers earlier this year to build the nation’s biggest pub licly financed esports facility. Construction on retrofitting an existing campus building is now under way.


GAME ON Higher education

Raleigh will host Cary-based Epic Games’ 2022 Fortnite Champi on Series Invitationals in November. It’s Epic’s first in-person event since 2019, when Pennsylvania 10th-grader Kyle “Bugha” Giersdorf took home $3 million in winning the Fortnite World Cup. Now, UNC Greensboro is swinging for the fences on this digital field of dreams. This summer, the campus hosted four one-week esports and gaming summer camps for kids between nine and 14. In April, UNCG opened a 3,300-square-foot esports center that features four enormous video walls and eight large-screen video panels connected to 48 PCs, a dozen of which are competitive platforms capable of live streaming.

“If you think of this as a startup, our investment has been time more than treasure,” Chancellor Franklin Gilliam Jr. says. “Partners including Chartwells and Pepsi helped us build the arena, while campus staff did the wiring.”

When informed that a rival university requested a closer look at UNCG’s esports strategy, the chancellor chuckled. “My dad used to say, ‘dogs don’t bark at parked cars.’” ■▲ UNCG's Franklin Gilliam Jr.

UNCG’s nine esports teams have won seven Eastern College Athletic Conference titles over the last year or so.

“It’s hard to talk about

something when it's in its infancy,” Gilliam says. “But I know when I see potential in something. Esports is a thing. It's a risk and you have to be willing to take risks to win. So I live and die by a (NHL icon) Wayne Gretzky quote. His critics said, ‘You shoot the puck too much.’ And Gretzky said, ‘You miss 100% of the shots you don't take.’ You can't score if you don't shoot.”

The university’s Bryan School of Business offers a concentration in esports marketing, event planning and logistics as part of the hospitality and tourism management program. There's also a grant for the School of Health and Human Sciences to examine the physical effects of extreme gaming on players.


UNCG is “looking at esports from the event side and the event management side, understanding that there are nuances that we are just starting to comprehend,” says Eric Burns, associate athletic director of business operations.

“It’s been part of my challenge when I came here seven years ago, getting the campus to believe they are the best. I didn't come here to be just OK,” Gilliam says.

UNCG also received $2.4 million from the current state budget earmarked for esports ef forts. Campus officials credit support from N.C. Rep. Jason Saine, a Lincoln County Republican who is senior chair of the House Appropriations Committee — and a gam ingTheenthusiast.Greensboro school wants to turn video gaming into a money-maker that attracts interest and students.

A nother legislative session is over. That means, among other things, that we will spend yet another year with the literacy test enshrined in the North Carolina Constitution.


The State Board of Transportation got an update recently on the long-range plan, known as the State Transportation Improvement Plan, or STIP. DOT is in the process of developing a plan that will coverSTIP2024-2033.manager

— Christopher Cooper

Leigh Wing told the board that the legislature’s funding change will mean about $5 billion in revenue over the 10year period covered by the plan. DOT plans to reserve nearly a billion dollars of that money for expected cost increases due to inflation.

But while the funding shift and better-than-expected overall revenue projections are good news for DOT, Wing noted that “the combination is not enough to provide enough funding to help all of the previously committed projects.”

18 BUSINESS NORTH CAROLINA NC TREND ››› 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

State Treasurer Dale Folwell, whose name occasionally surfaces as a potential candidate for governor, raised just $7,200 in the same time period. By contrast, during the same campaign finance reporting period in the 2020 election cycle, Gov. Roy Cooper raised $865,164 and Lt. Gov. Dan Forest raised $404,980.MarkRobinson: Raised $1,534,527, has $2,113,675 on hand Josh Stein: Raised $1,952,981, has $3,430,917 on hand — Colin Campbell

Some may be surprised that a literacy test still exists in the North Carolina Constitution, but there it is, in clear language in Article VI, Section 4: “Every person presenting himself for registration shall be able to read and write any section of the Constitution in the English language.”

Because it is enshrined in the state constitution, the threshold for eliminating the literacy test is higher than it would be for other issues. At least 60% of the membership of both houses of the General Assembly must vote to place the question on the ballot and the majority of voters must then vote to eliminate the language.

hanks to the legislature’s decision to shift revenue from the sales tax to fund transportation needs, the N.C. Department of Transportation has had to revise its long-range plan for construction projects. Essentially, the infusion of $628 million per year by 2025 will mean more projects get done this decade, and many of them will get moving faster.

In 2013 and 2019, the N.C. House of Representatives passed bills to eliminate the literacy test, but the Senate never took a vote. In 2021, it was introduced once again, but despite a bipartisan list of co-sponsors, it never made it to a floor vote. Most political observers agree that the time is long past to eliminate the literacy test from the state’s constitution.


— Colin Campbell


That means the projects funded under the 2024-2033 plan will total $32.8 billion, up from $26.5 billion in the draft plan released this spring before the legislature’s funding change. Wing presented an estimate that 92% of projects will remain on schedule, up from 83% in the earlier draft plan.


N o one has formally announced their candidacy for governor in 2024 yet, but the latest round of campaign finance reports from the likely contenders shows the race is well underBothway.Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson and Attorney General Josh Stein raised well over $1 million in the first half of 2022, with Stein in the fundraising lead at just under $2 million. Both have amassed millions of dollars, the sort of war chest that could make other potential candidates reluctant to jump in.

online or go

The Presidents Cup will occur amid the biggest shake-up in pro golf in decades with Saudi Arabian interests luring away some of the sport’s most famous players by offering record guaranteed contracts.


Former UNC Board of Governors Chair Harry Smith gave a DOOZY of an interview to @BusinessNC’s Chatter podcast. Among other things, he said @SenatorBerger, who appointed him, told him to get rid of then interim UNC President Bill Roper.

Phil Mickelson, Brooks Koepka and other famous golfers signed on with the new LIV Golf tour and won’t be at Quail Hollow.

“Our collaboration with the city, county and state on the Presidents Cup is enabling us to truly take this to the next level in how we showcase Charlotte and North Carolina,” Johnny Harris says.Carolina

Johnny Harris says a significant economic impact is inevitable because of the expected attendance of many key corporate decision makers. They will learn about expansion opportunities in addition to enjoying the competition.

“I’m not very good at being obtuse. There will be a lot of prospects here,” heThesays.PGA Tour, which owns the Presidents Cup, hadn’t disclosed the sponsorship list at press time. But the cup’s key corporate partners are New York-based Citigroup, Teaneck, N.J.-based tech services group Cognizant, Swiss watchmaker Rolex and South Korean automaker Genesis, which is owned by Hyundai.

But the biennial competition that pits 12 top U.S. professionals against a dozen nonEuropean international golfers, many of whom are expected to be Asians, will raise the global profile of North Carolina significantly, say Johnny and Johno Harris, the father-and-son team leading the organizing effort. Indeed, they compare the opportunity to an Olympic Games.

Citi’s involvement is ironic, given that Quail Hollow has long hosted the PGA Tour’s annual Wells Fargo Championship, while Bank of America is based in Charlotte. The three companies, along with JPMorgan Chase, are the four megabanks that dominate U.S. banking.

Quail Hollow hosted the 2017 PGA Championship, one of men’s golf’s four annual major tournaments. But the Presidents Cup will be more impactful because of its international nature.

■ 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. SCAN ME to find Business North

#ncpol Rural broadband Brian Farkas I recently talked with Business North Carolina’s Dan Barkin about the Growing Rural Economies with Access to Technology (GREAT) program, which funds broadband projects across the state, and my efforts to boost both quality and competition in places like Pitt County with common sense legislation like the “Broadband Empowerment

Act.”Small Farms Hickory Nut Gap

ledges by Toyota, VinFast and other Asian-owned companies to invest billions of dollars in North Carolina weren’t ignited by the Presidents Cup golf tournament scheduled for Sept. 19-25 in Charlotte.

Big thanks to author Edward Martin and editor David Mildenberg for featuring Hickory Nut Gap in the August issue of Business North Carolina. This article follows the stories of NC farmers in the pasture-based agriculture movement, and showcases the photography of Mike Belleme, shot on our Home Farm in Fairview, NC.

The sport is about more than business for the Harris family. Johnny Harris’ father opened Quail Hollow on family land in 1961 after encouragement from Arnold Palmer. Johno Harris played on the UNC Chapel Hill golf team, while his father has been an active member at Augusta National, which hosts the Masters, and helped promote the sports’ expansion in Asia.

Johnny Harris declined to comment on LIV Golf. His son notes that the Presidents Cup “honors the true meaning of golf because it brings the best players together to have a competition.” There is no prize money with competitors showing up because they want to represent their nation. Any profit goes to philanthropies and programs to advance golf.




“The Presidents Cup has been held in New York City, Canada, South Africa and other locations. For it now to come to Charlotte is pretty exciting,” Johnny Harris says. “We will have 24 of the best players in the world show up to play and I think the potential is that 1 billion households could be Thewatching.”veteran Charlotte developer leads the Quail Hollow Club in south Charlotte that is hosting the event. PGA Tour executives say that this year’s event will smash records for corporate and general ticket sales and sponsorships with 40,000 people expected to attend daily. It has been held 13 times since 1994.


FAYETTEVILLE NVR, Inc., which owns Ryan Homes, is adding 189 jobs and building a 145,000-square-foot manufacturing opera tion here. The plant will be used to manu facture trusses, wall panel systems and other components. Wages will average more thanRenaming$45,000.



The Bank of London plans to hire about 350 people over the next four years at a new office. It projects an annual payroll impact of $33 million when fully staffed.

CHARLOTTE Tryon Medical Partners is leasing 25,000 square feet in Pineville, taking over space formerly used by the Black Lion home decor and furniture store. The partnership employs 105 physicians and has 185,000 patients.

The business, which launched last November, focuses on transaction services.

Fort Bragg as Fort Liberty would cost a total of $21 million, according to an independent commission. Fort Bragg was named after Braxton Bragg, a plantation owner and Confederate Army officer.

CHARLOTTE British electric bus and van maker Arrival plans to lay off 35 of its 95 employees here. The layoffs are part of Arrival’s plans to cut up to 30% of its global workforce due to slower sales.

GREENVILLE Australia’s Mayne Pharma agreed to sell drug manufacturer Metrics Contract Services, based here, to Somerset, N.J.based Catalent for $475 million. Mayne bought Metric in 2012.

ECU Health closed its COVID-19 testing sites in late July and plans to lay off 61 staffers starting Sept. 23. Sites at 13 medical group clinics are closed.

CHARLOTTE Stock-trading app service Robinhood is closing its office here as it reduces its head count by 23% throughout the company. It opened the office last year. The number of staffers was not disclosed.



GoHealth is laying off about 140 employees here as part of a 20% staff reduction nationally. The Chicago-based company provides health insurance benefits services.

A company owned by Carolina Panthers owner David Tepper plans to make $82 million available to pay creditor claims tied to the team’s failed headquarters project in Rock Hill, South Carolina. Tepper’s GT Real Estate Holdings filed for bankruptcy.


Zimmer Development and New Hanover County want Project Grace to spark downtown growth with a new library, a hotel and multifamily housing.



WILMINGTON nCino named SimpleNexus-founder Matt Hansen as its chief product officer and Jaime Punishill the chief market officer. A federal judge forced former Morgan Stanley financial adviser Shawn Good out of business. The Securities and Exchange Commission accused him of running a $4.8 million Ponzi scheme that bilked at least five clients.


Startup Ohanafy is releasing a brewery management system. The company expects to hire about 20 people over the next year and a half, led by CEO Natalie Waggett.

GREENSBORO North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University reported a record $97.3 million in contracts and grants to faculty. The school has had a 61% increase in total research funding over the past two years.

WINSTON-SALEM Enova Textiles, which imports cotton goods, filed for bankruptcy court protection after listing liabilities of $1 million to $10 million. The owner said a venture related to protective medical supplies caused financial problems.

Neighboring hotels near Hanes Mall, including a SpringHill Suites and a Home2 Suites, were sold for a combined $30 million, property records show. The buyer was a Charlotte LLC controlled by V.N. Patel of ABC Investments and Management.

MOCKSVILLE Motorsports parts manufacturer DME Racing plans to move its operations from Winston-Salem next year. The company bought 13 acres where it plans to build a 15,000-square-foot plant.

CARY MetLife announced plans to hire about 400 people for its Global Technology and Operations hub in Cary this year. The insurer is hiring employees with skills in software engineering, data science and cybersecurity.

Hanesbrands said income from continu ing operations was $93 million, down from $148 million a year earlier. The apparel maker said a ransomware attack caused losses of an estimated $100 million in net sales, $35 million in adjusted operating profit, and 8 cents in adjusted earnings per share.

HIGH POINT NorthState is being rebranded as Lumos, ending a corporate name used for decades here. The telecom, which is controlled by the EQT private-equity group, is expanding its fiber internet service to about 38,000 residents and businesses in Forsyth and Randolph counties.

A public-private plan to redevelop a key downtown block received a skeptical view from the N.C. Local Government Commission, which oversees municipal finance.


WakeMed Health wants to build a $142 million 150-bed mental health hospital in Wake County and a $214 million, 45-bed acute care hospital in Garner.

MONCURE Electric vehicle maker VinFast closed on the $44 million purchase of 1,765 acres in Chatham County for its planned 7,500-employee manufacturing facility. The seller is an LLC led by Sanford developer Kirk Bradley of Lee Moore Capital.

Apple is leasing Imperial Center’s 140,000-square-foot, 4-story Innovation I building, which was formerly occupied by Biogen. The tech giant has major expansion plans in the area.



WEST ASHEVILLE Beverly-Hanks Realtors, the largest realty here, was acquired by Allen Tate Realtors, the state’s largest residential real estate firm. The combined firms have more than 2,500 Realtors and 2021 sales volume of $9.4 billion. Terms were not disclosed.

The N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services levied fines to 61 stores from 32 counties statewide for price scanning errors found during inspections. The state conducts unannounced inspections to check the accuracy between advertised pric es and what customers pay at the register.

The UNC athletic department started a Carolina NIL Exchange online mar ketplace to connect student-athletes with businesses interested in creating name, im age and likeness deals. It is a partnership with INFLCR, which offers a content and compliance software platform.

Durham Coca-Cola Bottling plans to build a 170,000-square-foot plant in Chatham County. The site, which has an Apex address, will be used for distribution and company headquarters. About 180 staffers are transferring. CLAYTON Pharmaceutical manufacturer Novo Nordisk, which employs more than 1,600 workers in North Carolina, is looking to add 200 more at two plants here.

The former CFO of Mission Health told state regulators that Novant Health of fered to match HCA Healthcare’s acquisi tion bid in 2018, but was rebuffed. Novant, HCA and Advent Health are vying for 67 new hospital beds in the area.


The Triangle metro area needs nearly 45,000 more apartment units by 2035 to meet demand, according to the National Apartment Association and the National Multifamily Housing Council. Raleigh ranked ninth among U.S. metro areas.

BOONE Nigerian citizens Oludayo Kolawole John Adeagbo and Donald Ikenna Echeazu were charged with wire fraud conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy and aggravated identity theft for defrauding Appalachian State University of more than $1.9 million via a business email compromise scheme.

PITTSBORO The town board approved plans for Del Webb at Chatham Park, which will add 844 single-family homes on what was previously called the Townsend Tract. It will be a retirement community adjacent to the large Chatham Park project.

DURHAM Telecom Avaya reported a net loss of $1.4 billion in the second quarter as revenue declined 20% to $577 million. Its stock was trading for less than 60 cents per share in mid-August, compared with a 52week high of $22.61. CEO Alan Masarek replaced veteran leader Jim Chirico.




REWIRING WORK Technology has automated many of life’s tasks, whether at home or work. And at the other end of the wire, there’s someone writing code, engineering a device or selling its benefits. But as the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact lessens, technology companies, like those in other industries, are struggling to find workers.

Business North Carolina magazine recently gathered five leaders from the state’s technology industry to discuss workforce concerns, the ways technology companies are overcoming them and how these struggles will make the industry stronger.

Charles Gaddy co-founder and chief strategy officer, Global Data Consortium — an LSEG company

Jason deFreitas vice president of recruiting solutions, Greene Resources First Bank sponsored the discussion, which was moderated by NC TECH’s Brooks Raiford. It was edited for brevity and clarity.

RESNICK: I’m reminded of some thing the late comedian George Carlin said: “Your kids aren’t special, but they’re special to you.” It’s important to remember that your company looks Brooks Raiford (moderator) president and CEO, North Carolina Technology Association

Terrence Thomas chief information officer, First Bank Jared Resnick founder and CEO, Precision Fermentation like many others to candidates, at least at first. So, use its culture and other attributes to differentiate it. I want to understand why a transaction works for the other party. If it isn’t beneficial to the other side, then it ultimately is an extraction, which diminishes re sources. Discovering why an individual chooses a company is hypercritical to the success of that individual as they blend into the company.


Our vice president of engineering’s wife owns several local coffee shops. It’s important to him to have work-life flexibility, so he can help in the shops on a busy afternoon, for example, or accompany her on a buying trip. So, understanding a particular candidate’s needs is important, not only for hiring good employees but engaging them. It’s not only about the work. It’s about the other pieces, too.

THOMAS: Companies are fighting for talent. Before joining First Bank, I worked for multinational companies, most recently Goldman Sachs. Re cruiting for those large companies is different than recruiting for a midsize financial services company. It’s difficult to recruit really good talent against big tech companies. While many may be under a hiring freeze at the moment, that won’t always be the case. So, I’ve focused on building good relationships with local universities, creating a talent pipeline. Building it takes a team of others within the company such as the head of human resources.

GADDY: GDC was a self-funded start up, and now it’s part of London Stock Exchange Group, a large multinational company. We’ve lived through many recruiting challenges. How do you recruit when you’re tiny? How do you recruit when you’re big? If your com pany is small and doesn’t have much money to pay people, then you have to find candidates that fit your needs and understand what drives them.

Candidates have their choice of job opportunities right now. So, when it comes to attracting talent, companies need to be genuine and focus on their employment branding. Greene Resources’ recruiting division, for example, recently volunteered at a nonprofit. The team-building activity was a chance to blow off steam and do good work in the community. Our marketing person was all over it, high lighting the outing through posts on the company’s social media channels. That helped our employment branding and talent attraction. Many candidates are searching for companies that do good work internally and externally. As you get into the interviewing process, explain what’s in the job for candi dates beyond salary. While that’s an important piece, it’s not the only one. Candidates want to know how you’ll help them learn and grow and what that pathway looks like for them.

THOMAS: Companies have focused on setting standards for where their employees work. But it really depends on the employee’s personal life. Lives changed during the COVID-19 pan demic. Some people had children, for example, and others have a spouse who lost a job. Some companies have mandated that employees return to the office. There’s value in bringing people together. But there is a cost, too, such as what we’ve seen with spikes of new COVID variants, which potentially could come down to someone’s life. You have to consider all of this when creating return-to-office policies. We spend a lot of time thinking about the future of work, what it will look like and how we keep people engaged. Creating good experiences for em ployees and customers in the office is important. One reason behind getting people back in the office is the fact


RAIFORD: One problem of not being in the office is you don’t sense things. If you’re working with someone every day, you pick up on nuances. Are they stressed? How do they sound, look or feel? So, you can miss things when working remotely. And there’s no off button. The commute provided a transition period — a mental break — from where you live to where you work and vice versa. Lunch provided a natural break, too. No one expected you to be all over your smartphone while having lunch, though most of us were. Nowadays, I get on my com puter early and knock out emails. It’s shocking how quickly and how many responses I receive from people doing the same thing. But you never feel you can walk away for an hour at any point during the day. You work past when it would’ve been time to leave the office and go home.


NC TECH produces a monthly information-technology jobs report and a quarterly poll that presents questions to more than 300 technology leaders. Every poll includes these two questions: What percentage of your workforce is remote on any given day and what percentage of your employ ees have a say in where they work. We’ve seen a gradual shift back to in-office. It’s not dominant, but there is movement. Even though the percent age of those who had a choice remains high, the percentage that are out on a given day has shrunk. That tells us employees are choosing to come back. We’ll continue to follow that trend.

GADDY: We were working remotely well before the pandemic. And as our company grew, we created cultural points. Once you met your goals and that many big companies don’t own the buildings they use. They rent them, some in 50- or 100-year leases. That expense is a big driver for getting bodies in seats.

office. Recent graduates did a lot of their schooling virtually. And Millennials who are raising families want flexibility. We always advise clients that if there is workplace flexibility in a job, it needs to be advertised or it will cause retention issues. Completing work, meeting goals, satisfying customers — those need to be driving forces, regardless if work is done in person or virtually. Communicate it on the front end, and reinforce it as work is being completed.

DEFREITAS: Return-to-office strategies are varied. Being in the office brings value, whether that’s collaboration or training. But there needs to be a why behind individuals coming into an HOW IS THE WORK-FROMANYWHERE TREND RESHAPING THE RAIFORD:WORKPLACE?

RESNICK: Leaders must define the objectives of bringing employees back to the office. My company isn’t a large bank or has been recently acquired, so it can be a bit more flexible in how it does things. But at the end of the day, it’s all about deliverables. One hypothetical question that I always ask fellow CEOs concerns two teams. They each have a delivery deadline in 90 days. Team A delivers on the 90th day, and its work is excellent. Team B deliv ers a week before the deadline, while working only 25 hours each week, and its work also is excellent. So, how do you assign your next deliverable? Most everyone says give Team B more work. But why would you punish Team B, when it’s highly successful? You need to define your goals and objectives. One objective of people returning to the office is watercooler moments. You run into your chief development officer, for example, and share an idea that you have. Then that person walks back into his or her office and says, “Eureka!” They never thought about that problem that way. Those moments aren’t part of teleconferencing. What’s the point to getting people wholesale to come into the office three days a week? What’s the deliverable associated with that objective? That’s what I ask myself.

RESNICK: There was a podcast that examined social media’s psychological impacts on children. Unfortunately, we won’t know how it has embedded its hooks into their existence for about 15 years. Psychiatrists and psychologists are looking at how we can plan for it, but we don’t know the outcomes yet.

It’s a similar situation to what we’re dealing with in the workplace. Busi ness leaders are grasping at straws, trying to figure out the best possible solutions or outcomes. But we don’t really know. I do know that the whole structure of the way that we work has been forever changed by the pan demic. We’re searching for the best path forward. I’m trying to maximize employee output. That hasn’t changed.

Everyone talks about work-life balance. But I don’t buy into it. When are you able to separate them? It’s really about work-life integration. People need to understand that going on a hike with your smartphone is freedom. I’m not saying people should work all the time. But as part of the workplace shakeup, everyone needs to think differently.

It’s like someone said to me: You have unlimited vacation. But what if I return from a vacation and someone says I have two tickets to St. Croix, come along. Should I go on another vacation? I don’t know. Look at your deliverables. Look at your objectives and key results. If we’re truly deliverable based, and we’ve created reasonable goals that move the company forward, then ev erything else, such as what percentage of people are in and out of the office, are old ways of thinking about work. A friend of mine worked for a technology company out West. He had a work computer and a home computer. He told me that his work computer never left his office. He didn’t want his work life and home life to mingle. That’s not reality. The reality is devices, such as computers and smartphones, enable us to go play golf, for example, and still

29SEPTEMBER 2022 metrics, for example, you were free to move onto the next ones. No one’s looking to pay anything else on the first ones. You own your time. The company simply rents available pieces of it. We took to heart the idea that fun should not be forced. Many businesses, for example, say we’re all going for a beer after work, or we’re holding a virtual event at 9 p.m. so overseas colleagues can attend. Often those become less of a good thing and more of a burden. You need to decide if what used to be done in the office is a good thing when working remotely. Remote work requires building out the interconnec tions without imposing things that make the situation worse. It’s work-life respect. Work has to respect life, and life has to respect the work that needs to be done. Without that respect, you end up with an imbalance. If you don’t respect your work enough, then you’re going to suffer on the life side and vice versa.

RESNICK: We had nine employees 14 months ago. We’re at 39 now. We searched for a lead developer, who had a science background and was able to speak to fermentation analytics, for 12 months. It was difficult. Then we found someone to work underneath him in less than two months. I haven’t found any one thing that works. It’s all over the map. I’m always open to new ways for finding people. There’s a general tendency to elevate people from the thing that they’re talented at, then we’re shocked when it doesn’t work. The right person in the right seat is important. Be honest and upfront with people. Every relationship serves a purpose. You have to stay in touch with that purpose. Sometimes it changes; sometimes it ends. Every position has a lifespan. People will max out of them. You can’t start your administra tor at $60,000 then take him or her to $85,000, $90,000 then $95,000. That’s going to break your system. We tend to have an idyllic view of retaining every body and paying them more. That’s not reality. But if you’re honest and upfront with people, you have the opportunity to say here’s a move into a different group that focuses on your talents. You may not be totally comfortable, but I will ensure you’re supported. It’s like a 1031 exchange with real estate. They move and start again. There’s a mo ment in time when you realize that you have to let talent go. I love my people, but I also know when that becomes a disservice to them. I’m keeping them for the wrong reasons. I will help them find something else as much as I hate to see them leave.

RAIFORD: Early in my tenure with NC TECH, a company sent Starbucks gift cards to past employees who parted on good terms. It was a way to invite them to consider coming back to work at the company while enjoying a cup of coffee. It was amazingly effective. They received enough inbound feedback that made it worth sending out those $5 gift cards. ■

DEFREITAS: Companies that have created a geographically dispersed em ployee base have been rewarded with a larger candidate pool, especially with skilled workforce. We see that trend continuing. We heard about the Great Resignation, but we’re seeing signs of a Great Retirement. Baby boomers still make up a large portion of the workforce, and many are choosing to retire now or in the near future. They’ll take a lot of experience and knowledge with them. Maybe some of them aren’t ready to retire completely; maybe they’re open to consulting or contract work. Companies need to get creative, finding ways for that population to train entry level workers, who may lack the same level of enterprise or the specific experience that companies need.


THOMAS: It’s important to keep talent within a company. So, let them move around and grow within the company as opposed to letting them walk out the door. Give them a chance to work in different groups. Maybe they find a new niche. Then they become more valuable to the company because they know more. You need to create a good culture, then sell it. We have a great culture at First Bank. We have a commitment to service excellence and giving back to our community. Those are important to me. People ask me why I left Goldman Sachs to work for a smaller financial services institution in North Carolina. A big part was the leadership of the bank’s president and CEO, Michael Mayer. I saw a real opportunity in a great company with a great culture. That can be seen as valuable by many potential employees.

GADDY: There’s a concept that we’re all under the same tent. You may not work for us anymore, but we’ve built a relationship. That entitles us and you to certain things. I’ll help you find your next gig. I’ll be your reference. Building that keeps continuity, because that per son, even if they leave, is more likely to recommend your company to a friend. We’ve had three or four people refer three or four other people. And even though they left for other places, the connections remain. I go to weddings in India, because people that used to work with us were here on an H-1B temporary visa, and they had to return home. But they’re still under the tent. Understanding that social and emo tional construct and building it the right way helps you keep teams and fill the workforce pipeline with opportunities.



Lumberton native with impeccable Wall Street credentials — and a smart art collection — helps the UNC Tar Heels stay financially robust. HILLCHAPELANDREWS/UNCJOHNNYOFCOURTESYPHOTOS

By Donnie Douglas


New York investment firms were hiring MBAs at a record pace, aiming to keep up with the cascade of mergers and acquisitions spurred by Michael Milken, Henry Kravis and other big investors. “If I had gotten there five years earlier or five years later, I might have fallen on my face,” Townsend says. There would be no face-plant. Townsend, 67, spent most of the next four decades at leading U.S. investment firms, working alongside industry kingpins such as Dick Jenrette, Henry Paulson, Jon Corzine and Julian Robertson. He created major personal wealth along the way, leading to his current status as a major philanthropist whose biggest beneficiary is his alma mater.

His graduation timing proved perfect, with Wall Street on the verge of what Townsend calls “this great bull market that started in August of 1982. Business just took off.”

In 2017, the Townsends pledged $50 million to UNC, including $25 million in art that will be displayed at the university’s Ackland Art Museum. When announcing the gift, Townsend noted in a speech that he and his wife had often made donations that were “designed to be large enough so that the recipient would be grateful, very grateful, but maybe we could have and should have done more.”

Three years later, Townsend had learned enough about the challenges of farm work that he concluded that its risk-reward didn’t fit his ambitions. He decided to reroute his life, returning to UNC’s business school in July 1980 to seek an MBA.

The Townsends, who have been married for 45 years, initially considered a gift of $5 million to $10 million. Marree Townsend, who is a 1977 UNC graduate, is a longtime interior designer. Their donated art includes pieces by Alex Katz, Jasper Johns and Joan Mitchell.

“I didn’t want to look back and wonder what could I have done on my own,” he says. “I enrolled with the attitude that I was going to take two years out of life and work really hard, and I was going to go for it.”

“We challenged ourselves to get out of our comfort zone, and that is when we landed on this $50 million gift. It was the most liberating thing we have ever done. … You experience all these rewards, unanticipated, not tangible. I think that was a very defining moment for Marree and me when we made that commitment, very joyful.”

The couple built a home in Robeson County. “The plan was to spend the rest of our lives there,” he says.

Townsend urged others to make similar sacrifices, creating one of the sparks that ignited UNC’s Campaign for Carolina, which started in early 2015 and is scheduled to be completed by year’s end with pledges topping $4.6 billion — and perhaps more. That’s smashed the initial goal of $4.25 billion.

hen John Townsend graduated from UNC Chapel Hill in 1977 with degrees in history and English, he felt ill-prepared for the working world. He and his wife, Marree, returned to his Lumberton hometown to work in the hog, tobacco and car-sales business that his family had developed over a couple of generations.

It’s the largest completed university capital campaign in the Southeast, says David Routh, the university’s vice chancellor of development who is retiring in December.

“There is no better friend to UNC than John Townsend in giving his time, talent and treasure,” he says.


In 2002, he was ready for a change after an illness in his family served as a wake-up call. Many veteran Goldman partners left after the IPO, including fellow North Carolinian Robert Steel, who departed in 2004 after a 28-year tenure and later shepherded the sale of Wachovia to Wells Fargo.

Post-Goldman, Townsend became a member of the investment committee of Richmond, Virginia billionaire William Goodwin’s Riverstone Group real-estate company and was a senior adviser to Stone Point Capital, a $40 billion private -equity group in Greenwich, Connecticut. He was a director at Memphis-based International Paper from 2005-18 and Charlotte’s Belk department-store chain from 2005-15. His hiring at Tiger Management in 2010 attracted media attention, coinciding with Julian Robertson’s plan to expand the business, which owns partial stakes in hedge-fund managers whose businesses were partly launched with Tiger money. He also became more active in charitable ventures associated with his personal interests and the communities where Franklin Street turnaround David Routh may be the development world’s Michael Jordan, in the eyes of his Chapel Hill fans.

Over his nine years as vice chancellor for de velopment at the UNC campus, he led the biggest university capital campaign in the history of the South. About 675 people, corporations and founda tions gave at least $1 million, including 67 who gave $10 million or more.

Business North Carolina wrote about Routh in 2014, noting that philanthropy for UNC lagged key ri vals. Matt Kupec, the previous longtime fundraising chief, had resigned in 2012 amid athletic department scandals and controversy over personal expenses charged to the university.

Townsend says there was no acrimony. “My attitude was if you are 47 years old and you are financially independent and you’ve got your health, you look forward to how to be “Sopurposeful.Ineeded to find a balance between being purposeful and doing important things on my terms. That was another watershed event, and for the next eight years, I worked completely independently, investing, trying to become better.”


His first job in New York was at Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette, a major firm then led by Raleigh native and UNC grad Dick Jenrette. “He was a wonderful gentleman and a great supporter of mine, which enabled me to advance quickly at the firm,” Townsend says. His last Wall Street post was a stint from 2010-15 at Tiger Management, the New York hedge fund led by Salisbury native Robertson. “He was one of the legendary investors of the last 50 years,” Townsend says. “To start my career with one icon and end it with another, both from North Carolina, is a real highlight for me.”

“We need to do a significantly better job,” Routh said then. He brought Tar Heel credentials, earn ings his bachelor’s degree there in 1982 and having worked for UNC from 2006-09 between stints as a managing director at U.S. Trust Co., a Greensborobased investment advisory firm acquired by Bank of HeAmerica.rejoined UNC in 2013 to lead the big capital campaign. His success prompted UNC to bump his pay to about $850,000, including bonuses, in 2019, one of the university’s top salaries. Routh, 62, plans to retire at the end of the year. Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz says Routh “built a high-performing team that has gotten us to where we are today. I am incredibly grateful for his vision and leadership.”

Townsend’s jobs at Goldman included co-head of the Southern and Latin American regions and leveraged finance group. He was a member of the investment bank’s commitments committee, which placed the firm’s capital. He was among about 220 senior partners who shared Goldman’s profits before its 1999 initial public offering, which raised $3.6 billion. The IPO created eight- and nine-figure payouts for the famous bank’s senior leaders.

▲ Marree Townsend, John Townsend and Carolina donor Shannon Kennedy talk at a Chapel Hill event in 2017.

After five years with the firm often called DLJ, Townsend joined Goldman Sachs in 1987, becoming a partner in 1992, the same year as former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson. “It was like playing for the Yankees or the Celtics, or, better still, Dean Smith’s Tar Heels,” Townsend says.

Monied mentors

When discussing his success on Wall Street, Townsend repeatedly deflects the credit. He cites two mentors, both from North Carolina and fellow UNC alumni, who served as bookends to his Wall Street career.

Townsend helped lead UNC Chapel Hill’s record capital campaign and chairs the board of its main investment fund.

Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz first met Townsend while dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “His passion for Carolina, you can see it and feel it when you meet,” Guskiewicz says. “He is a very thoughtful individual, very strategic about how he gives.

“I think he wants to know that he and Marree are giving to areas of great need. He wants to embrace the rich tradi tions of UNC, and he also wants to make it a more contemporaryWhenuniversity.”formerChancellor

Winston-Salem kinfolk

Although his interests are varied, UNC is at the center of Townsend’s orbit. He had a term on the UNC Chapel Hill board of trustees and has been a longtime director on the UNC Management Co. board. He chairs the UNC Investment Fund, which totals $10 billion and has had performance rankings in the top decile of university endowments in recent years.

“I think UNC is one of the great public universities in the country and in many ways is the economic engine of the state,” he says. “It receives about $1.5 billion annually in research grants, which creates countless jobs and economic activity as well as planting the seeds for future growth in our economy. The future is very bright.”

Like his brother, he grew up in Lumberton and earned bachelor’s and MBA degrees from UNC ChapelDallas-basedHill. P10 Holdings acquired Five Points Capital in 2020.

Some of the initiatives underway include construction of a $150 million business school, with the cost split between private donors and state appropriations; and a new approach to teaching engineering skills even though UNC doesn’t have engineering majors. While Townsend’s work on various boards and private investing keeps him busy, he spends a lot of time hiking, skiing and playing golf, where he has a single-digit handicap. He’s not climbing as much these days after reaching the peak of Grand Teton about 10 times. “Outdoors is where I am happiest,” he says, “and a place I can stay out of trouble.”

he has homes: Greenwich, Connecticut; Jackson, Wyoming; and Wilmington, where he owns a Figure Eight Island property. He has had board seats with the U.S. Ski & Snowboard and Grand Teton National Park foundations; the Greenwich Hospital in Connecticut; Virginia Theological Seminary; and Episcopal High School, where he is an alum.

David Townsend worked in mergers and acquisi tions in Atlanta for Ernst & Young and Stephens before joining BB&T, which is now Truist Financial.

“We said Townsendyes.”pushed for a goal of $5 billion, which he called “impossibly large,” while Folt floated $4.25 billion, which he calls “sufficiently ambitious.” It’s a couple of billion more than any previous capital campaign at UNC and tops the $3.8 billion raised in Duke University’s most recent fundraising. With his family’s gift, Townsend asked UNC’s deans of the College of Arts and Sciences and Kenan-Flagler School of Business about their most urgent and strategic needs over the next decade, Routh says. Those meetings continue yearly.

For his philanthropy, Townsend shares the view of his friend Mike Bloomberg, the financial data billionaire and former New York mayor who quipped that he wanted his last check, written to an undertaker, to bounce.

Blue blood

David Townsend, John’s younger brother, has also had a major financial career, though more focused on the DavidSoutheast.Townsend helped Winston-Salem-based BB&T form BB&T Capital Partners in 1997. Since then, the private-equity group has raised and deployed more than $1.5 billion for institutional and high-net-worth clients.


Carol Folt asked Townsend to lead the Campaign for Carolina, Routh says the investment banker responded with a question that shaped the effort: “Are you prepared to run a campaign like no other that has been run anywhere else?’

The business rebranded as Five Points Capital in 2015 to “better reflect our broader investment platform and investor base,” the company said in a release at the time. It invests in equity and subor dinated debt in transactions involving lower middle market companies, according to Private Equity Professional, a trade publication.

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have over

For Nearly 30 Years Since 1993, the principals of Ridgemont Equity Partners have invested over $6 billion in 165+ companies. Ridgemont is the largest private equity rm in North Carolina and among the largest in the Southeast. e rm has been consistently named to Inc.’s list of “Founder-Friendly Private Equity Firms,” which recognizes Ridgemont for a track record of building leading middle market companies alongside outstanding entrepreneurs and management teams. the fourth year in a row, we are pleased to sponsor Business North Carolina’s “Top 125 Private Companies” list and wish to congratulate the honorees! For more information on Ridgemont’s team and investment strategy, visit the right alignment in vision and strategy, Ridgemont supports our management team partners in building leading growth-oriented businesses. of Ridgemont 250 the tripled size

. With

STRATEGIESTHEMATICALLY-DRIVEN We are sector-focused investors with experience in service, distribution and tech-enabled business models. STRATEGIESGROWTH-ORIENTED • Average EBITDA growth 100%+ on realized investments • $1B+ in growth capital expenditures since 2010 • 115+ add-on acquisitions completed over the last decade TALENT DEVELOPMENT • The Partners

years of collective private equity investing experience, and



firm has nearly


over the last decade • 125+ key management team members added and approximately 50% growth in employee base across realized Ridgemont portfolio companies

Many thanks to those who contributed to this report.

38 BUSINESS NORTH CAROLINA usiness North Carolina’s list of the state’s largest private companies includes 50 enterprises with revenue topping $500 million in 2021 and combined employment of more than 140,000 staffers.


While most of the closely held companies receive limited publicity, their critical role in North Carolina’s economy can’t be overstated. So we appreciate the many companies that provide revenue and employment information for the BNC 125. The list, which is based on many emails, phone calls and hours of research, also includes our best estimates for those employers that decline to provide those specifics. We try to make the list more comprehensive every year by adding businesses that we may have overlooked previously. Newcomers include Kinston-based private jet operator FlyExclusive, Charlotte law firm Moore & Van Allen, Wilmington retailer Reeds Jewelers and Dunn-based grocery chain Carlie C’s IGA. Departures from last year’s list include two prominent Charlotte-based companies: payroll software developer AvidXchange went public, while fiber network and telecommunications provider Segra was acquired by Atlanta-based CoxTheCommunications.listincludesNorth Carolina-based companies controlled by private-equity groups. But most of the businesses are closely held organizations, including many family-owned operations.

By David Mildenberg, Jennings Cool Roddey and Neill Caldwell BY



dealerships COO:




CEO: Jose Armario Employees: 9,000 National Gypsum  Charlotte Wallboard product manufacturer Thomas Nelson  Employees: 2,500 House of Raeford Farms Rose Hill Poultry Robert Johnson Employees: 4,500 Cars Auto Danny Williams  Employees: 1,800 (estimate) Auto Don Flow 1,700 Mount Airy Construction and engineering services J. Eric Pike Employees: 2,000 Golden Corral  Raleigh  Restaurants Lance Trenary 22,000 buffet chain rebounded after the pan demic slammed its business in 2020. More than 90% of revenue is from franchised stores. After losing about 85 restaurants in the crisis, it expects to end 2022 with about 400 locations, Trenary told the Eat Not That newsletter. AmWINS Group Charlotte Wholesale insurance provider Scott Purviance Employees: 3,634 SteelFab  Charlotte Steel fabricator CEO: R. Glenn Sherrill Jr. Employees: 1,200 Form Technologies  Charlotte Metal components manufacturer Global VP: Daniel Adam Employees: 8,800

processor CEO:



11. Leith







40 BUSINESS NORTH CAROLINA HOOSEARVANTODDBELK,OFCOURTESYPHOTOS $1 billion or more  1. Hendrick Automotive Group Charlotte Automotive dealerships CEO: Rick Hendrick Employees: 10,800




12. Flow Automotive Winston-Salem






The company, which operates 131 fran chises with 25 different nameplates, was named the top dealership in online repu tation for the third straight year, accord ing to an independent study of customer reviews by About 20,000 auto dealerships and brands were mea sured in the United States and Canada. Epic Games  Cary Video game software CEO: Tim Sweeney Employees: 3,118 American Tire Distributors  Huntersville Tire distribution service CEO: Stuart Schuette Employees: 4,700 Belk Charlotte Department store retailer CEO: Don Hendricks Employees: 17,000 Hendricks became the company’s leader in May after Nir Patel left to become chief operating officer at GameStop. Hendricks joined Belk in 2016, a year after Sycamore Partners bought the retailer. He became president in 2020. Alex Lee  Hickory Wholesale and retail grocer CEO: Brian George Employees: 14,850 SAS Institute Cary Software development James Goodnight  Employees: 11,952 Parkdale Mills Gastonia Textiles CEO: Anderson Warlick Employees: 15,000 Bojangles Restaurants


dealerships CEO:



13. Market America  Greensboro Digital marketer CEO: JR Ridinger Employees: 746 14. Pike

Founded in 2008 by President and CEO, John Treece, and company CFO, Steve Bertling, DMA Industries has quickly grown to become a trusted supplier to the automotive and heavy-duty parts aftermarket industry. Serving OES, big box retail, wholesale, and e-tail sales channels, DMA is a leading product development, engineering, and diversified manufacturer whose portfolio of product brands have become some of the most recognized and respected in their industry. In addition, DMA is a leading private label manufacturer with over 60% of its global revenues coming from products produced by them but under the customer’s brand.


Headquartered in Tabor City, NC, with over a 1,400,000 square feet of distribution space across its four facilities in North and South Carolina, DMA continues to deliver on its mission to provide innovation and value for its Customers. With growth in sales to soon approach over $200 million and no signs of slowing down any time soon, DMA is poised for continued success. “Our company has a dynamic, performance driven culture that embodies the entrepreneurial spirit from which we were founded. As an organization, our number one asset is our dedicated team of associates. It’s their hard work and collaboration that enables us to exceed

For the sixth consecutive year, DMA has been named to the prestigious Inc. 5000 list of the fastest growing private companies in America and to the NCFast40 of the fastest growing Mid-Market sized company in North Carolina. The company has won numerous national awards for its engineering innovations and brand marketing strategies. DMA is also a committed contributor, giving back to the numerous community events and charities over the years.


the service expectations of our customers. That’s why we say, we are a company that is built on passion,” said John Treece.

In July, the company owned by the Dowd family bought Wisconsin-based Neenah Enterprises, one of the largest U.S. manu facturers of manhole covers and other industrial castings. Neenah

has plants in Medley, Florida; Neenah, Wisconsin; and Lincoln, Nebraska. 28. Gregory Poole Equipment Raleigh Construction equipment dealer CEO: J. Gregory Poole III Employees: 1,350 29. Goldsboro Milling Goldsboro Turkey producer CEO: H.G. Maxwell III Employees: 800 30. CaptiveAire Systems Raleigh Manufacturer of kitchen-ventilation products CEO: Bob Luddy Employees: 1,250 31. MegaCorp Logistics Wilmington Logistics services CEO: Ryan Legg Employees: 530 32. Sampson-Bladen Oil Co. Clinton Petroleum products distributor CEO: Haddon Clark III Employees: 950 (estimate) 33. Liberty Healthcare & Rehabilitation Wilmington Nursing homes and health services CEO: John McNeill Jr. Employees: 5,500 (estimate) 34. Vannoy Construction Jefferson General contractor CEO: Eddie Vannoy Employees: 386 35. Concord EnterprisesHospitality Raleigh Lodging services CEO: Mark Laport Employees: 4,949 36. Shurtape Technologies Hickory Manufacturer of adhesive tape and office supplies CEO: Vuk Trivanovic Employees: 1,600 37. The Cook & Boardman Group Winston-Salem Distributor of doors, frames and related building products CEO: Darrin Anderson Employees: 1,300 (estimate) 38. True Homes Monroe Homebuilder CEO: Dan Horner Employees: 350 (estimate) FOUNDRY&PIPECHARLOTTEOFCOURTESYPHOTO

42 BUSINESS NORTH CAROLINA 19. Case Foods Troutman Poultry processor CEO: Michael Popowycz Employees: 3,200 Popowycz, who joined the company in 1987, was named to the top job in Febru ary. He succeeded Kevin Phillips. Owner Thomas Shelton called Popowycz integral to the company’s success. $500 million to $999 million 20. Variety Wholesalers Henderson Discount retailer CEO: Art Pope Employees: 7,000 (estimate) 21. CTE Charlotte Construction equipment dealer CEO: Ed Weisiger Jr. Employees: 1,590 22. Atlantic Packaging Wilmington Packaging materials distributor CEO: Russell M. “Rusty” Carter Employees: 2,000 23. Prestage Farms Clinton Poultry processor CEO: William H. “Bill” Prestage Employees: 2,600 24. Southco Distributing Goldsboro Convenience-store supplier CEO: Sherwin Herring Employees: 240 25. Shoe Show Concord Retailer CEO: Robert Tucker Employees: 10,000 (estimate) 26. Window World North Wilkesboro Window installation service CEO: Tammy Whitworth Employees: 2,000 (estimate) 27. Charlotte Pipe & Foundry Charlotte Pipe manufacturer CEO: Hooper Hardison Employees: 1,500 (estimate)

43SEPTEMBER 2022 Atlanta | Charlotte | Raleigh | Greensboro | Fayetteville | Hickory | Asheville | Greenville, NC | Wilmington | Outer Banks | Florence, SC | Greenville, SC SPONSORED

44 BUSINESS NORTH CAROLINA 39. Pink Energy (formerly Powerhome Solar)  Mooresville Solar energy and roofing CEO: Jayson Waller Employees: 2,100 The former Powerhome Solar rebranded as Pink Energy in April. CEO Waller says it reflects expected expansion into bat tery and lighting systems. The company opened in 2014. 40. National Coatings and Supplies Raleigh Paint distributor for collision-repair shops CEO: John Leavy Employees: 1,225 41. Mako Medical Laboratories  Raleigh  Medical testing CEO: Chad Price Employees: 1,500 42. Samet Greensboro General contractor CEO: Arthur Samet Employees: 330 (estimate) 43. Clancy & Theys Construction Raleigh General contractor President: Baker Glasgow  Employees: 385 44. ACN Concord Telecommunications services CEO: Greg Provenzano Employees: 1,100 (estimate) 45. Rodgers Builders Charlotte General contractor CEO: Patricia A. Rodgers Employees: 286 46. Eastwood Homes Charlotte Homebuilder CEO: Clark Stewart Employees: 306 47. RH Barringer  Raleigh General contractor CEO: Mark Craig Employees: 140 48. Barnhill Contracting Rocky Mount General contractor CEO: Robert Barnhill III Employees: 850 (estimate) 49. Inmar Intelligence Winston-Salem Retail data analytical services Interim CEO: Spencer Baird Employees: 5,400 David Mounts retired as CEO after 12 years leading the company as it shifted from coupon redemption to more digital and analytical functions. He had been a senior executive at Domino’s Pizza and UPS. Spencer Baird joined the company in 2020. 50. Snider Fleet Solutions Greensboro Tire distributor CEO: Marty Herndon Employees: 1,200 $200 million to $499 million 51. Flexential Charlotte Data center services CEO: Chris Downie Employees: 843 52. Renfro Mount Airy Sock manufacturer CEO: Stan Jewell Employees: 1,800 53. Tepper Sports and Entertainment Charlotte Professional sports teams CEO: David Tepper Employees: 350 (estimate) 54. Strata Clean Energy Chapel Hill Solar energy development CEO: Markus Wilhelm Employees: 450 (estimate) 55. D.H. Griffin Greensboro Demolition and environmental services CEO: David Griffin Employees: 1,000 (estimate) 56. Hog Slat Newton Grove Confinement equipment manufacturer President: Tommy Herring 1,000 (estimate) 57. Adams Beverages of NC Charlotte Beer and wine distributor President: Clay Adams Employees: 700 (estimate)  58. Insightsoftware Raleigh Software developer CEO: Jim Triandiflou Employees: 2,113 ENERGYPINKOFCOURTESYPHOTO


46 BUSINESS NORTH CAROLINA 59. Crowder Constructors Inc. Charlotte General contractor CEO: Lynn Hansen Employees: 862 60. Carolina Handling Charlotte Material-handling equipment distributor CEO: Brent Hillabrand Employees: 669 61. FlyExclusive Kinston Charter-flight service CEO: Jim Segrave Employees: 650 62. Shelco Charlotte General contractor CEO: Edwin Rose Employees: 135 (estimate)  63. Biltmore Co. Asheville Tourism and lodging CEO: William Cecil Jr. Employees: 2,000 The online travel booking service Park SleepFly picked the Biltmore Estate as the second-most beautiful landmark in the United States, trailing the Golden Gate Bridge. It was based on TripAdvisor reviews. 64. Boddie-Noell Enterprises Rocky Mount Hardee’s franchisee CEO: William Boddie Employees: 8,000 (estimate) 65. Prometheus Group Raleigh Software developer CEO: Eric Huang Employees: 800 (estimate) 66. Edifice Charlotte General contractor CEO: Gary W. Creed Employees: 116 67. Precision Walls Cary Building contractor CEO: Brian Allen Employees: 1,073 68. OrthoCarolina Charlotte Medical practice CEO: Bruce Cohen Employees: 1,000 (estimate) 69. Harvey Enterprises & Affiliates Kinston Distributor of farm equipment and petroleum products CEO: John McNairy Employees: 750 (estimate) In February, company owners John and Leigh McNairy donated $1 million to the Lenoir Community College Foundation to support student programs. It’s the oldest continuously family-owned private com pany in the state, company officials told the Neuse News. 70. Colony Tire Edenton Tire distributor CEO: Charles Creighton Employees: 744 71. Warren Oil Co. Dunn Petroleum products distributor CEO: Dan Owczarzak  Employees: 391 72. Blythe Development Charlotte General contractor CEO: L. Jack Blythe Employees: 900 (estimate) 73. Landmark Builders Winston-Salem General contractor CEO: Steve Stephens Employees: 120 (estimate) 74. JAGGAER Morrisville Automation-technology provider CEO: Jim Bureau Employees: 1,100 75. Moore & Van Allen Charlotte Law firm Managing Partner: Tom MItchell Employees: 650 (estimate) 76. Caffey Distributing Greensboro Beer and wine distributor CEO: Chris Caffey Employees: 500 (estimate) 77. Tencarva Machinery Greensboro Distributor of liquid- and air-handling equipment CEO: Ed Pearce Employees: 380 78. Baker Roofing Raleigh Roofing contractor CEO: W. Prentiss Baker III Employees: 1,000 (estimate) VISITNC.COMOFCOURTESYPHOTO

48 BUSINESS NORTH CAROLINA 79. Eagle Transport Rocky Mount Petroleum transportation services CEO: Don Stallings Employees: 1,100 80. Raymer Oil Co. Statesville Petroleum services CEO: Matthew Redmond  Employees: 400 81. Camco Manufacturing Greensboro Manufacturer and distributor of RV accessories CEO: Lisa Cook Employees: 1,200 (estimate) 82. Furnitureland South Jamestown Furniture retailer CEO: Jeffrey Harris Employees: 560 Sales soared 40% in the past year at the 1-million-square-foot store as more homeowners invested in upfitting their properties, Harris says. Six salespeople recorded more than $4 million in sales, according to Furniture Today. 83. Salem Holding Winston-Salem Transportation services CEO: Thomas Teague Employees: 923 84. Hickory ManufacturingSprings Hickory Furniture-equipment manufacturer CEO: Mark Jones Employees: 2,000 (estimate) 85. Reeds Jewelers Wilmington Jewelry retailer CEO: Alan Zimmer Employees: 800 86. American Welding & Gas  Raleigh  Manufacturer of gas and welding supplies CEO: Jason Krieger Employees: 593 87. Carlie C’s IGA Dunn Grocery stores CEO: Carlie ‘Mack’ McLamb Jr.  Employees: 1,500 88. Cookout Thomasville Restaurants CEO: Jeremy Reaves Employees: 13,000 $100 million to $199 million 89. JF Petroleum Group Morrisville  Petroleum services CEO: Keith Shadrick Employees: 900 (estimate) 90. Charlotte Hornets Charlotte Professional sports CEO: Michael Jordan Employees: 500 (estimate) 91. TrialCard  Morrisville  Pharmaceutical marketing services CEO: Mark Bouck Employees: 1,000 (estimate) 92. ECMD North Wilkesboro Molding manufacturer CEO: Kelly Hendrix Employees: 1,150 93. Carolina Beverage  Salisbury  Cheerwine manufacturer CEO: Cliff Ritchie Employees: 600 (estimate) 94. Epes Logistics  Greensboro Transportation services CEO: Jason Bodford Employees: 175 (estimate) 95. Omega Construction Winston-Salem  General contractor CEO: Barry Hennings Employees: 114 96. Smart Choice Insurance  Greensboro  Insurance services CEO: Douglas Witcher Employees: 70 (estimate) 97. Carolina Wholesale Group Charlotte Office supply distributor CEO: Larry Huneycutt Employees: 165 (estimate) 98. Electrical Equipment  Raleigh  Electrical equipment distributor CEO: Mark Holmes Employees: 250 (estimate) 99. Frank L. Blum Construction Winston-Salem General contractor CEO: Mike Lancaster Employees: 110 (estimate) 100. T.A. Loving Goldsboro  General contractor CEO: Samuel Hunter Employees: 275 SARAHROSEBUDDOFCOURTESYPHOTO


50 BUSINESS NORTH CAROLINA 101. Wayne Brothers Davidson  Concrete and site-work construction services CEO: Keith Wayne Employees: 511 102. Best Logistics Group Kernersville Transportation services CEO: Roy Cox Employees: 500 (estimate) 103. The Budd Group Winston-Salem  Janitorial and landscaping services CEO: Joseph Budd Employees: 4,000 104. Morrisette Paper  Browns Summit Distributor of paper, packaging and janitorial services CEO: Bill Morrisette Jr. Employees: 250 (estimate) 105. Spectraforce Raleigh  Staffing services CEO: Amit Singh Employees: 2,000 (estimate) 106. The N2 Co. Wilmington  Magazine publishing CEO: Duane Hixon Employees: 328 107. Smith Turf & Irrigation Charlotte Landscape and irrigation equipment distributor CEO: Stephen Smith Employees: 265 (estimate) 108. InVue Security Products Charlotte Security products for retailers CEO: Jim Sankey Employees: 275 (estimate) 109. Medstream Anesthesia  Asheville  Anesthesia services CEO: Douglas Ellington Employees: 90 (estimate) 110. Oliver’s Oil Lumberton Petroleum distributor CEO: Christopher Oliver Employees: 127 111. DMA Sales Tabor City Auto-body parts supplier CEO: John Treece Employees: 152 112. CEM Matthews  Laboratory instrument manufacturer CEO: Michael J. Collins  Employees: 350 113. Mickey Truck Bodies High Point  Manufacturer of truck bodies and trailers CEO: Matt Sink Employees: 375 (estimate) 114. McGee Brothers  Monroe  Masonry contractor CEO: Mike McGee Employees: 700 115. Carotek  Matthews  Industrial equipment distributor President: Stephen Bell  Employees: 150 (estimate) 116. Pine Hall Brick Winston-Salem Brick manufacturer CEO: Walt Steele Employees: 344 117. Pendo Raleigh Software developer CEO: Todd Olson Employees: 833 Less than $100 million 118. The Remi Group Charlotte Equipment maintenance contracts CEO: Brent Howison Employees: 200 (estimate) 119. Murphy Family Ventures Wallace Real estate, car sales, farming CEO: Wendell Murphy Jr. Employees: 1,000 (estimate) 120. Capitol Broadcasting Raleigh Media, real estate CEO: James Goodmon Employees: 250 (estimate) 121. CornerStone United Hickory Provider of warranties and service contracts CEO: Richard Swartzel Employees: 62 122. Allen Industries Greensboro Sign manufacturer CEO: Thomas Allen Employees: 350 123. Myers & Chapman Charlotte General contractor CEO: Marcus Rabun Employees: 65 124. Majestic Kitchen & Bath Creations Youngsville Manufacturer of natural and stone services CEO: Scott Byers Employees: 260 125. Systel Business Equipment Fayetteville Electronics dealer CEO: Keith Allison Employees: 250

BUSINESS NORTH CAROLINA By Mike MacMillan Photos by Andrew Sherman Surging home deliveries and more sustainable wraps accelerates the Carter family’s Atlantic Packaging.

With about 2,000 employees, including about 1,000 in North Carolina, Atlantic makes a lot of essential products that are rarely top of mind for the average consumer. In addition to air filter frames, Atlantic’s 10 plants churn out liners for packaged food products and the stretch wrap used for things shipped

▲ Scott, Wes and Rusty Carter share leadership at Atlantic Packaging.

Surf’s up

This willingness to evolve has helped build a client base that includes companies such as Coca-Cola, Procter & Gamble, Hanesbrands and Smithfield Foods.


“This was a game changer,” says Rusty, who credits Wes and Scott with the idea for the center. “The ability to isolate and measure the performance of certain types of packaging allowed us to validate the outcomes. It allowed us to sell from data. This was a huge transition in our industry.”

In 2017 it opened its Packaging Solutions Center in Char lotte, a $10 million, 80,000-square-foot plant that Atlantic says is among the industry’s most advanced testing and research sites. It’s a place designed to appeal to the packaging wonk, home to what Atlantic claims is the industry’s only “multi-axis transportation simulator,” an e-commerce solutions center, and “Stretch University,” where customers can learn the ins and out of stretch film used to wrap products on pallets.

ot everyone was blindsided when inflation shot up this summer to its highest level in 40 years. Rusty and Wes Carter, the father-and-son team who lead Wilmingtonbased Atlantic Packaging, saw it coming a mile away.

Atlantic is more specialized, focusing on what Rusty describes as the “highly consultative, technical” ends of the business such as paper conversion. That involves taking rolls of paper or paperboard from a mill and “converting” it into packaging products using die cutting and other techniques.

This data collection and analysis helped open the door to Fortune 500 consumer manufacturers. “Those companies respond to data,” Rusty says. “Small numbers get spread over a huge multiplier and get big fast.”

“COVIDpreviously.put a lot of focus on clean air,” Rusty says.

Atlantic, which celebrated its 75th anniversary last year, is weathering the storm. It’s closing in on $1 billion in annual revenue and is in the midst of its largest capital investment in two decades: the construction of a $40 million facility to manufacture air filter frames in Dallas. The pandemic era has sent filter demand soaring, with Atlantic’s sales of the paper framing expanding at a 30% annual clip compared with about 5%

“We saw [inflation] coming a year and a half ago and coming in double digits,” says Rusty, who is CEO. “Especially in paper, in lumber, in resin. And it has not slowed down a bit. Demand has been outrunning capacity.”

traces its origins to Rusty’s father, newspaperman Horace Carter, who started the Tabor City Tribune in Columbus County in 1946. Seven years later, the paper became the first weekly to be awarded the Pulitzer Prize, U.S. journal ism’s highest honor, for its multiyear campaign to expose the Ku Klux Klan. Tabor City is a town of 4,000 that is 70 miles from Wilmington and 45 miles from Myrtle Beach. Horace Carter parlayed his publishing expertise into related businesses printing booklets, menus and other materials for the emerging Grand Strand. When his son, Rusty, joined the business in 1971, it moved more aggressively beyond printing, add ing warehouses and paper distribution and acquiring companies in related businesses and new geographies. Atlantic now ranks as the nation’s biggest independently owned packaging com pany, family members say. Rusty and Wes followed Horace to UNC Chapel Hill, with each earning journalism degrees. So did Wes’ younger brother, Scott. Leigh, Rusty’s oldest daughter, also is a UNC graduate, while younger daughter, Ellen, earned a bachelor’s at the University of Denver. Leigh is the only sibling not active in theThebusiness.packaging industry is huge, but not especially fastgrowing. By one estimate it generated about $185 billion in 2021 in the U.S., and it is expected to reach $218 billion by 2027, roughly a 3% annual growth rate. The industry’s biggest companies produce corrugated cardboard and similar products.

Over the past two years, everyone from Amazon and FedEx to GrubHub and Instacart have been beating a path to the door of the U.S. consumer. This steady stream of deliveries has provided a vivid reminder of the integral role of packaging. From the first to the second quarter of 2020, the early stages of the pandemic, U.S. e-commerce retail sales grew by about 32% even as total retail sales fell by nearly 4%, according to the Census Bureau.

Once this might have been met with a shrug from those on the receiving end, but no longer. Sustainability is now top of mind, almost everywhere.

Discussions are underway with other suppliers of camping and outdoor gear. The goal is to “influence the big consumer products companies by telling the stories of these outdoor brands,” he says. “It’s a way to inspire people.”


But online delivery is the Russian Doll of packaging — boxes within boxes. As such, it leaves behind a trail of cardboard, bubble wrap, Styrofoam peas, air pillows and other assorted materials, some of which will be around for decades.

“Since COVID, the awareness of plastic pollution is at an alltime high,” Wes Carter adds. “Sustainability is becoming a brand attribute. Companies understand that consumers are judging them ethically based on how their products are packaged.”

Some of the challenge of reducing waste and improving recy clability exists on the design of products and systems. A case in point are mailers used by Amazon and others for home delivery. Mailers have been seen as a lighter, less expensive and less wasteful option than corrugated cardboard for shipping many types of products. But their earlier iterations often included plastic or some kind of filler that was not easily recyclable. To address this problem, Atlantic is working on a paper-fiber-based padded mailer, EverTech, that can be recycled. The company plans to begin manufacturing the product by the middle of next year.

It’s around this flag that the latest generation of Carters is rallying, led by Wes, 43, who is president. An avid surfer, he starred in a company-produced video last spring announcing the launch of the “New Earth Project.” It aims to explain the impact that mostly plastic waste is having on the world’s oceans.

To support this, Atlantic enlisted the support of a phalanx of outdoor companies starting with surfboard makers Pyzel, Firewire and Rusty, along with snowboard producer Burton.

The Carter family still owns the Tabor City Tribune, but the focus has been on on packaging for most of its 75-year history.

In the public company realm, environmental, social and governance, or ESG, matters are increasingly a part of how companies are perceived and valued by consumers and shareholders. “Companies are serious about their ESG strategies and their ESG scores,” he says. “Everyone now has a chief sustainability officer.”

Anyone who has wrestled with an impenetrable blister pack safeguarding a toothbrush understands the frustration some consumers feel with certain types of packaging. The packs often seem to be wildly over-engineered. Containers and packaging make up 28% of municipal solid waste, or about 82 million tons in 2018, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

On Black Friday that same year, online shopping sales increased by 21.6%, while in-store sales decreased by 52.1% compared with 2019. A Deloitte survey found that 22.5% of respondents increased the frequency of their use of fooddelivery services during the pandemic.

Waste management

While cynics suggest such efforts are driven as much by appearance as substance, appearance is increasingly important in a world where consumers want to feel good about the products they buy. And packaging is the face that many companies present to the public.

The focus on sustainability represents a generational change for both Atlantic and the packaging industry, driven by increas ing consumer concern for the environment. That’s fine with the 73-year-old Rusty Carter, who says he plans to continue working full time. “It will benefit the company, it will benefit our custom ers, and it will take us in the right direction if we help move the industry towards fiber-based packaging.”

To address this, Atlantic has developed a patented program, MOST, that optimizes the use of stretch wrapping systems. The effort cut film usage 30 million pounds this year with savings of 37 million pounds projected next year. Shrink and stretch film sales were $4.6 billion in North America last year, according to a report from the Modor Intelligence research firm.

Scottsays.Carter, 33, is vice president of strategic sales, which includes introducing sustainable materials to the company’s packaging line. He says companies are asking questions they didn’t ask before. “Why are you using the barrier packaging (plastic wrap to keep out moisture and oxygen in food) you’re using now? Can you move to recyclable material? That’s part of the over-engineering — this will last seven years on the shelf — but do you need that?”

Another central sector for Atlantic is palletized shipping, which makes up about 10% of sales. There are 5 billion pallets in use worldwide and 2 billion in the U.S. alone, according to Bloomberg. These 48-by-40-inch platforms are crucial to the movement of goods and play an unheralded, vital role in the global supply chain. Virtually every kind of smallish product imaginable travels on these platforms, and somebody has to wrap them. That somebody is often Atlantic. But the process has been less efficient than desired, including too much waste and in-transit damage. “With the right type of equipment and high-performance materials, you can use up to 20% to 30% less stretch,” Wes Carter says.

Breakage is a big problem for palletized shipping, resulting in industry losses of about $7.2 billion annually, company officials say. Improper stretch wrapping often gets the blame. “One day a light went off and we realized the money isn’t on the (production) line, it’s in the loss and damage companies experience when they ship out-of-specification product,” Rusty Carter says. Addressing that issue up front can save money and reduce waste. This summer, Atlantic rolled out a recycling program for stretch film that would help avoid filling up landfills. It has the capacity to recycle 10 million pounds of stretch film annually. That’s a drop in the bucket for an industry expected to produce 2.8 billion pounds in 2024, but it’s a start, the Carters say.

Staying the course

Many private-equity firms are active investors in the packaging industry, some of whom have shown interest in Atlantic over the years. So far, no sale. “We’re very happy being a private company,” Rusty says. “Having your family follow you in the business is extremely satisfying. I’m going to stay involved as long as Wes and Scott will let me.” ■

“There is little doubt that they’re going to replace all those bubble mailers and plastic mailers that you can’t recycle,” Rusty Carter

▲ Manufacturers, retailers and consumers are pressing for sustainable packaging that reduces environmental impact.


Mike Musselwhite and business partner Brian Cheshire invited owners to their diner for the regular antique car show. They knew car buffs would likely sample the restaurant’s menu of homemade pork-shoulder barbecue, fried chicken, potato salad and coleslaw.

By Edward Martin A North Carolina restaurant chain gets grilled after canceling a franchisee pact.

ike a marriage, there were happy times at the Smithfield’s Chicken `N Bar-B-Q in Leland. The town, just across the Brunswick River from Wilmington, was growing fast but maintaining its Tar Heel roots. Once a month, restored vintage cars such as ’66 Mustangs and ’55 Chevys would emerge from backyard garages set back in the pines to park with hoods open like hungry mouths in front of the restaurant that opened in 2009.

“We even make all the sauces,” Musselwhite would brag.

They were moneymakers, dishing up what some consider the state’s only truly native food, pork barbecue, while bearing the imprint of pork giant Smithfield Foods, which has its biggest plant in Bladen County. The Chineseowned company licenses its name but has no other role at the restaurant


Over the next 15 years, the Wilmington native and UNC Wilmington graduate with a culinary degree from Cape Fear Community College, and Cheshire would expand Whiteshire Foods to include four Smithfield’s restaurants in Brunswick and New Hanover counties.

The suit, says Musslewhite’s attorney, Brad Hill, contends Smithfield’s Chicken `N Bar-B-Q encouraged Whiteshire to invest millions of dollars and years of effort in the four franchises it operated between 2000 and 2014. That process of attracting loyal customers and taking necessary business risks came to naught when the franchisor allegedly cooked up excuses to end the franchise agreements and take over the


“The pressure to reinvest in the franchise gets greater and greater, and demands for different types of repairs, renovations and things of that nature grow until one of two things happens,” says Hill, a Raleigh-based lawyer. “The franchisee decides, ‘I can no longer make this a profitable endeavor,’ and surrenders the franchise, or the franchisor defaults the agreement and takes it back.”

Therestaurants.half-million-dollar award, Hill says, compensates for lost revenue and profit. It followed about six years of legal wrangling. Musselwhite now works in commercial real estate and as a restaurant consultant.

57SEPTEMBER 2022 chain, which is based in the Johnston County seat of Smithfield, 30 miles southeast of Raleigh.

“We’re not in a position to engage in ‘he said, she said,’ right now,” says Smith, citing the pending court challenges to the unfair practices ruling. In general, though, he says such disputes are not uncommon.

Musselwhite’s honeymoon formally ended in late June. That’s when a U.S. Eastern District Court judget awarded him and Whiteshire Foods $498,000 in a civil lawsuit, ruling that the chain, and its owners, Mid-Atlantic Restaurant Group and Cary Keisler Inc., engaged in unfair and deceptive trade practices when they terminated the Whiteshire franchises. Cary Keisler is a company affiliated with the chain.

“Any significant-sized franchisor has various civil matters going on all the time,” he adds. “For every case that goes to litigation, there may be a dozen or two dozen that don’t because whatever the issue was, it gets resolved by agreement.”

Smithfield’s disputes the ruling and hopes to overturn it in posttrial rulings, says Troy Smith Jr., a New Bern lawyer representing the company.

Some legal and hospitality-industry sources in eastern North Carolina say the Musselwhite judgment is significant because it may spur similar cases.

Zebulon’s David Harris, who has owned 11 Smithfield’s franchises — or about 25% of the chain’s outlets — has also filed lawsuits in Wake County. Smithfield’s terminated several locations for alleged faults such as the condition of its parking ▲ The 41-unit Smithfield’s chain is battling two veteran franchisees.

NCCLINTON,OFCITYOFCOURTESYPHOTO lots and drive-thrus, court filings show. The franchisor refused to renew Harris’ Havelock site last year, then terminated three more of his units in May. Harris’ restaurant in Havelock had been open for three decades and was known for, among other things, autographed photos of the Navy precision flight team, the Blue Angels. Team members ate there while training at nearby Cherry Point Marine Corps Air Station. The cases pit prominent players in eastern North Carolina politics and business.

▲ Clinton lawyer Lew Starling is Smithfield’s president.

The chain was founded in 1980 by Gregory Moore, whose parents, Junius and Maggie, had owned a barbecue restaurant in Smithfield. The chain parlayed blue-collar staples of fried chicken, pork barbecue, hushpuppies, slaw and similar dishes into homey restaurants. It operates 18 restaurants, while franchising the others. All but two are in eastern North Carolina; the exceptions are franchises in Charlotte and Greensboro.

Smithfield’s is one of North Carolina’s most successful fran chisors. Its 41 restaurants employ about 1,200.


A key to Smithfield’s growth has been its relatively affordable franchisee terms. The package involves a $50,000 fee for a 15-year pact with prospective owners required to have a net worth of at least $600,000, half of which must be liquid. That is much less than typically required by McDonald’s, Burger King or other quick-service food chains.

most franchisors don’t mistreat their businesses, but it does happen,” Purvin says. In the trade it’s called mining or prospecting territories. “The franchisor then comes back to own the franchise if it turns out successful. The most egregious case I’ve seen is a Subway franchisee who failed inspection because there were fingerprints on the front door. You’d certainly hope so if you had customers.”

Smithfield’s President Lew Starling is mayor of Clinton and managing partner of the law firm Daughtry, Woodard, Lawrence & Starling. His partner, Leo Daughtry, was a state lawmaker for more than 25 years. Troy Smith is a partner of Ward and Smith and a UNC Health board member and is often cited on best-lawyer lists. Musselwhite has held numerous local-government boardNationally,positions.the Federal Trade Commission says the pandemic has helped create strong demand for many types of franchises, along with corporate downsiz ings that cut loose senior employees looking to invest accumulated savings. About 40% of U.S. retail sales, or $800 billion annually, are made through franchises.

The franchisee also brings value to the deal. Robert Purvin, president of the 5,000-member American Association of Franchisees and Dealers, has practiced franchise law for more than four Franchiseesdecades.areusually local and more knowledgeable about the business lay of the land, and ultimately they take all the startup risks, says Purvin, who lives in Palm Desert, Califor nia. In the case of Smithfield’s, the buyer chooses the site — generally an acre to 1.3 acres — and is required to work in the“Thankfully,restaurant.

Few franchise owners have the patience or legal resources to pursue their claims, however. “They just throw in the towel,” he says. But Musselwhite stuck with his case that started wending its way through federal courts in 2015. It still holds lessons for today’s franchise buyers, Hill says.

Smith adds that franchisors such as Smithfield’s provide a recognizable brand that makes up a big part of a franchisee’s investment. Enforcing brand consistency is paramount.

Also, franchisees pay royalties to Smithfield’s representing 5.5% of sales, along with 1.5% for advertising expenses.

“Do your homework, understand what’s out there and look for similar things over and over.”

Moore remains chairman and an adviser to the chain. Starling was named president in 2018, while retaining his legal practice. He was the first nonfamily member to hold the post. Neither agreed to an interview for this story.

“Every case is factually different, but all franchises of any kind are based on certain rights to both parties,” he says. “If you grab a burger at Wendy’s in Raleigh and then go to Greensboro, you can expect the same consistency.” That also applies to cleanliness, upkeep, signage and other factors.

By David Mildenberg

Jeff Rigsby, owner of 100 Bojangles restaurants, is taking the biscuit chain northward.

Rigsby’s only equity partner is his wife, and he’s grown the business with limited debt. They live in a surburb of Spartanburg, South Carolina. One of his three sons works in the business, while he hopes his three grandchildren will sign on someday. “I think our brand is very strong,” he says. “There’s a craving all over the country for Southern food.” ■

eff Rigsby is proof that franchisees can thrive even as ownership of the franchise itself frequently changes hands.

His Arden-based company opened its 100th Bojangles restaurant in May. That’s about one of every eight units in the 780-store chicken-and-biscuit chain.

His love for Bojangles’ food extends to the 1980s when his family traveled from Ohio to vacation at the Carolina beaches. Stops at Bojangles were a regular part of the experience.

Like many in the hospitality industry, Rigsby says finding and retaining workers is more challenging than ever. His stores employ 4,000 people with starting wages of about $13 an hour, up from $10 before the pandemic.

“Our focus is on retaining employees by offering better benefits, having good managers and trying to help people advance their careers,” he says. “With the prices going up at gas stations and grocery stores, people are starting to see that, ‘Hey, I need to get back to work.’ The market will even itself out.”

Rigsby started his career with Bojangles as an area supervisor in Greenville, South Carolina, then launched his own franchisee business with six stores in the Asheville area in 2001. By 2015, the company had 50 locations. Growth accelerated when he bought 16 corporate-owned sites earlier this year.

Bojangles’ leadership listens to its franchisees, he says. “They know that it’s great food that has brought us to the dance.”

“It has kind of a cult following. That’s what attracted me,” heRigsbysays.

The company also respects Rigsby. “Jeff puts his people and his customers first,” CEO Jose Armario says. “He has fully bought into the growing consumer preference for chicken and that gamble has paid off in a big way.”

hands three times and operated as a public company for a couple of years. The corporate office has remained in Charlotte. Private-equity firms Jordan Co. and Durational Capital bought Bojangles in 2019. “[They] want it to be more of a national brand, and I think it has that opportunity,” Rigsby says. Rigsby is helping with that expansion, having bought the rights to develop 15 restaurants in the Columbus, Ohio, area. At press time, construction was expected to start on the first Bojangles in Ohio. It will be the sixth state in which Rigsby operates. Its biggest markets are western North Carolina and upstate South Carolina, including Clemson, where the chain gives a coupon for free sweet tea to the 82,000 who attend Clemson University football games, provided the Tigers score at least 28 points.

▲ Jeff Rigsby has made a living off biscuits since 1994.


His company expanded during the pandemic, opening four new stores and acquiring five more in 2020.

started working for quick-service restaurants at 16 in Columbus, Ohio, the city where Dave Thomas started Wendy’s. After working for the corporate owner of KFC, he joined Bojangles in 1994 when it had about 200 restaurants. It was then led by a former KFC colleague, Dick Campbell, and owned by a California private-equity group. The business has since changed


Heart disease killed about 700,000 U.S. residents in 2020, making it the leading cause of death

The search for better heart failure treatments led Cone Health researchers to participate in BeAT-HF, a national clinical trial of BAROTISM NEO, a device manufactured by CVRx, the study’s sponsor. The device sends

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in North Carolina. Researchers and medical professionals are dedicated to changing that.


T he numbers are staggering. One person dies of diseasecardiovascularevery34 seconds in the United States, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And about 800,000 people — about 605,000 for the first time — suffer a heart attack each year. Almost 20% of them don’t even realize it happened, though damage is done.

The state’s health care systems and research centers are striking back. They’re creating solutions and developing technologies to combat heart disease. Their goals are lowering death rates, relieving symptoms and acting fast in matters that are often life or death.Heart failure — when the heart can’t pump enough blood to meet the body’s needs — affects about 6.2 million adults nationwide. Treatments depend on its severity, but they include reducing sodium intake through diet, increasing exercise, and implanting a defibrillator or pacemaker. While these efforts can strengthen a patient’s heart, their success in reducing symptoms may be limited.


SPONSORED SECTION60 BUSINESS NORTH CAROLINA for men, women and people of most racial and ethnic groups, according to CDC. The numbers are slightly better for North Carolina, where its heart-disease death rate fell to No. 31 in 2019 nationally from No. 24 in 2015, according to JustusWarren Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention Task Force research, which was completed last year using the most-recent data. Still, heart disease and stroke are the No. 1 and No. 5, respectively, causes of death in North Carolina, according to CDC. The Justus-Warren study also found heart disease and strokes were the highest diagnostic categories when it came to hospItalization charges and Medicaid expenditures. These costs, along with the number of heart-disease and stroke deaths, hit the state’s minority populations the hardest.

Kim is an inter ventional and structural cardiologist with Pinehurst-based FirstHealth of the Carolinas and director of its Reid Heart Center Valve Clinic. He studies technologies that provide options for patients who are not good candidates for open-heart surgery. This shift in heart care isn’t necessarily new. He says the hospital has been doing minimally invasive transcatheter aortic valve replacements since 2015. But it also has added more recent innovations such as Watchman. It involves placing a device that seals off the left atrial appendage, where the vast majority of clots form. Once it’s isolated and the risk of clots is lowered, the patient’s risk of having a stroke falls,Kimtoo.and other FirstHealth cardiologists began using the minimally invasive Watchman procedure in October as a solution for those with atrial fibrillation — an irregular heartbeat that can cause blood clots. The standard treatment for atrial fibril lation has been prescribing blood thinners long term. But there has been no good option for a-fib patients who take certain medications or suffer from other certain medication conditions. The Watchman offers them a solution. “Our focus has shifted from doing everything the same way for every single patient,” he says. “Now the direction has been going toward individualized care.” Moving forward, Kim sees more minimally invasive procedures being used, including for patients outside of the high-risk category. But more than that, a year from now he expects heart care will become even more individualized for patients. This means taking a more holistic approach toward each individual’s health concerns and working as a team with other medical professionals. “We’re going to try to continue to push the boundaries of what community medicine can provide,” he says. “We’re going to try to provide comprehensive care more than anything.”

this year. UNC Health Southeastern, for example, was one of 81 hospitals nationwide to receive the American College of Cardiology’s NCDR Chest Pain — MI Registry Gold Performance Achievement Award in May. It places the health system among the top-per forming hospitals for treating heart attackUNCpatients.Health Southeastern had to meet top levels of performance indicators and be one of the top performers among all states for a longer period of time in order to receive the award. It had been recognized by American College of Cardiology in 2020 and CarolinaEast2021.Health System completed its 6,000th open heart surgery, 100th transcatheter aortic valve replacement procedure and 200th Watchman procedure in 2022.

Michael Smith, who was named the health care system’s president and CEO in June, says its CarolinaEast Medical Center in New Bern is one of the only hospitals in eastern North Carolina that does these types of heart procedures. “We have remarkable heart care here,” he says. “It’s a good place to have heart trouble. Our outcomes are really phenomenal.”

Some of the state’s smaller health care systems are marking milestones

Cone Health was one of the clinical trial’s largest enrollers. As part of the trial, Cone Health Drs. Vance Brabham and James Allred were among the first physicians to install a BAROTISM NEO in patients and the first to implant the device using the less invasive BATwirePatientstechnique.whoreceived a BAROTISM NEO have shown an 83% improvement in their capacity for exercise within six months, according to Cone Health. And 78% reported a significantly lower impact of symptoms in their daily lives, while 80% had a reduction in their hospitalization.Dr.SunMoon


electrical pulses to the patient’s neck, where cells sense how blood is moving through the carotid arteries. Those cells deliver information to the brain, which controls production of stress hormones that impact heart function. The device reduces heart-failure symptoms, which include shortness of breath, fatigue, weakness, swelling, chest pain and persistent coughing, by altering those signals. The device also allows patients to increase physical activity, a key factor in strengthening the heart and further preventing heart failure.

■ — Alyssa Pressler is a freelance writer in Charlotte. CarolinaEast Medical Center in New Bern is one of the only hospitals in eastern North Carolina performing many of the advanced heart procedures.

Christy enrolled in a six-month long City of Hope Intensive Course in Cancer Risk Assessment, which helped her better understand the needs of cancer risk assessment and genetic testing in and around Lumberton, home to Gibson Cancer Center. She found there was a need for cancer monitoring among those who were genetically predisposed to different cancers. Gibson Cancer Center expanded its offerings to meet the needs that Christy identified. “The High-Risk Screening and Genetic Testing Clinic provides cancer screening, chemoprevention and genetic risk evaluation for individuals at increased risk of certain cancers,” she says. These patients are called cancer previvors — a person who takes action to reduce or eliminate a genetic condition before cancerCancerdevelops.istheNo. 2 cause of death in North Carolina. It caused about 150 deaths per 100,00 residents in 2020, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But the fight is on to change that. Health care systems statewide are improving their cancer care practices by developing technologies and assembling more efficient and comprehensive treatment plans, which improve patient experiences.

Health care systems, doctors and researchers are taking on North Carolina’s No. 2 cause of death with new treatments and technologies.


Sintay says Fuse’s goal is to accelerate the timeline of cancer care by improving the disjointed technology already being used in the field. “We know health care takes a lot of time — a lot longer than we want,” he says. “Especially in cancer care, delays cause additional problems and even death. We have a goal of making care happen within 24 hours of someone


C ancer prevention takes many forms. But for Windy Christy, knowledge is No. 1.

A physician assistant at UNC Health Southeastern’s Gibson Cancer Center, Christy says between 5% and 10% of all cancers are thought to begin with mutations in certain genes. So, screening people to see if they carry hereditary cancer syndromes is an important first step.

Cone Health in Greensboro launched Fuse Oncology last year. It’s an independent company whose sole purpose is developing technologies that solve cancer-care issues.

BJ Sintay, Cone Health’s executive director of radiation oncology and chief physicist, is its CEO. Fuse raised $3 million in its first seed round with no additional funding from Cone Health.

AI proved successful. Hayes says when doctors were presented with treatment plans created by AI and plans created by doctors, about 90% chose an AI plan. From there they’ve explored using AI to develop treatment plans for other types of cancer, saving the most difficult regions for last: head and neck.

“It was a basic type of case to test our initial hypothesis about whether this AI engine could produce comparable or better plans on a more consistent basis,” says Lane Hayes, ROCI oncology physicist who worked on the technology. “That project is what motivated us to continue.”

SPONSORED SECTION64 BUSINESS NORTH CAROLINA MEDICAL HEART & CANCER CARE deciding to receive care. We can’t leave any provider or patient behind. We’ve got to get really innovative, and we have to say we know it’s hard and no one wants to bite into this challenging problem, but Fuse Oncology is doing it.”

Kuzma says FirstHealth Cancer Services sees about 1,500 patients annually, and she expects that number to grow once the new cancer center opens, expanding treatment space and adding practitioners. It will be run by a multidisciplinary team that includes surgeons, medical directors and radiation oncologists. “So often we operate in our own individual areas, and that just holds us back from innovation, because you need all parts of the machine operating together,” she says. “It’s very moving and inspiring to me that all these folks are working together.”

— Alyssa Pressler is a freelance writer in Charlotte.

These projects, funded through ROCI by Cone Health, have lifesaving effects and help patients feel calmer about their cancer diagnoses.

Fuse has already written software that tracks business and clinical information in radiation oncology practices, identifying missing documentation, incomplete tasks and orders, and wrong charges.

Named S!GNAL, it’s already in use at Cone Health and two other health careRadiationsystems.oncology is a complex treatment process, and the medical reporting for it is so involved that popular electronic health record services, such as Epic and Cerner, won’t work with the patient files it generates.

The FUSE team is working on a yet-to-be-named software that will provide medical professionals easier access to their patient’s charts and history without relying on faxed papers or other unwieldy systems. Medical physicists at Cone Health are expanding the use of artificial intelligence technology. AI has been used to develop treatment plans through the health system’s Radiation Oncology Center for Innovation — ROCI — for several years.

Cone Health’s AI research began in 2015, when the technology was explored as a means to develop treatment plans for prostate cancer.

“A study out of Cleveland Clinic showed that for every week we delay oncology care, it increases the chance of death anywhere from 1% to 3%,” Sintay says. “Not only that, but the patients tell us about how they worry in these moments, when they’ve received diagnosis but cancer care hasn’t been Pinehurst-basedinitiated.”FirstHealth of the Carolinas wants to speed up cancer treatment and make accessing it easier by putting all its services under one roof. It started work on its 120,000-square-foot cancer center in early 2020, and it expects construction on the four-story building will be complete by year’s end. Patient care is expected to begin in February. “It’s very unique to have this,” says Laura Kuzma, FirstHealth’s administrative director of oncology services. “It’s not often you find a facility this size with this many services in a small community like ours.”

Han Liu is a medical physicist with Cone Health and has been researching the use of AI to create cancer treatment plans since last year. He says researchers are now in the early stages of using the technology in clinical settings. “We’re trying to reduce planning time for head-neck [cancer] patients,” he says. “The head-andneck area creates fast-growing tumors, so time can reduce the death rate.”

Economic developers, businesses and community colleges are working together to fill critical gaps in North Carolina’s workforce.

TMP is part of Vision 2030, NC Chamber Foundation’s long-range plan, which was developed with the state’s job creators to secure a more viable future for the workforce. “We’re grateful to the business community for developing this kind of forwardthinking plan to make North Carolina more competitive,” Archie says.

North Carolina needs workers. The number of jobs has outpaced the size of the labor force in 78 of the state’s 100 counties over the last three years, according to a recent report from NC Chamber Foundation, an arm of the NC Chamber that searches for solutions to challenges faced by businesses and communities statewide. It expects that trend to continue. N.C. Department of Commerce reported that the state’s June seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 3.4%, which is less than what many economists consider full employment. In response to the shortage, efforts are underway statewide. Gaston Business Association, which promotes and supports companies and economic development in its namesake county, for example, is working with 24 manufacturers, who forecast they’ll need to fill 3,000 jobs — mostly machine operators, maintenance technicians, supervisors, electrical control technicians, inspectors and materials handlers — by the end of next year.

“We are seeing a 90% gap between job demand and talent supply,” says Vincent Ginski, GBA’s director of strategic initiatives. As a first step to meet workforce demand, he introduced the Talent Pipeline Management program to the county early this year.

Participation and engagement have been great. Our employers are excited and ready to get to work on building solutions. In the span of seven months, we’ve already done a good job of gathering and analyzing data and setting goals, and now it’s time to execute our strategies.”

As businesses within the TPM program identify their critical workforce needs and create solutions, N.C. Biotechnology Center is embarking on a similar journey for the life sciences industry. Its North Carolina Life Sciences Apprenticeship Consortium brings together life sciences companies to collaborate on developing opportunities for students and others to learn skills while working. Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies, Lilly, Pfizer, Novartis


TPM is an initiative of NC Chamber Foundation and U.S. Chamber Foundation, which is dedicated to strengthening the country’s long term economic competitiveness. TPM helps employers identify and fill skills gaps in their local workforce. “The TPM framework is a laser-focused employer-driven approach to increasing the quality and quantity of our talent supply,” Ginski says. “It leverages the collective voice of our industry partners, educators and workforce partners to build and improve talent pipelines.

Ginksi was one of 23 business leaders who attended a recent U.S. Chamber Foundation-sponsored TPM Academy. The month-long initiative drills down on strategies for driving workforce development, says NC Chamber Foundation President Meredith Archie. “When individuals graduate from the TPM Academy, they go back into their communities and bring employers together to explore the skills needed,” she says.


The Consortium will create standards for job competencies, promote apprenticeship opportunities to nontradi tional populations and sponsor mass recruiting events, says Laura Rowley, N.C. Biotechnology Center’s vice president of life science economic development. In addition, charter members will develop their own Registered Apprenticeship Programs.

“We had over 130 new apprenticeship programs last year, and there are even more employers today who are looking to apprenticeships to fill their workforce needs,” she ApprenticeshipNCsays. helps employers by teaching essential skills, under standing core competencies and training future fulltime workers. “We work with all business sectors — both small and large,” Castelloes says. Manufacturing, construction, cyber security and health care are among the industries with the largest labor needs.

Gene Therapies and Merck are among the major players in the Research Triangle Park region that have signed on as charter members.

The N.C. Community College System established ApprenticeshipNC to help North Carolina businesses and workers succeed. “Our statewide program offers consulting and support services for new, expanding, and existing businesses and industries in all 100 North Carolina counties through our network of 58 community colleges,” says Kathryn Castelloes, ApprenticeshipNC director. Its popularity is growing.

Last year, ApprenticeshipNC helped

The Consortium will start promoting its new RAPs this fall, sponsor pre-ap prenticeships early next year and start recruiting apprentices in spring and summer 2023. The state’s community colleges will provide the training component. Specific colleges will be determined based on the location of participating companies. “So far, Durham Tech, Wake Tech, Central Carolina Community College and Johnston Community College are on board, but we are looking to engage other community colleges as the number of companies participating in our Consortium increases,” Rowley says.

RAPs in North Carolina are overseen by ApprenticeshipNC, a program of the N.C. Community College System, on behalf of the U.S. Department of Labor. Recently the state’s community college system was awarded a $4 million grant to strengthen ApprenticeshipNC over the next four years through modernization, expansion and diversification of RAPs. The goal is improved completion rates for under represented populations and within underserved and rural communities.

KBI Biopharma and Novo Nordisk have joined the effort, too.

RAPs consist of supervised on-the-job training, classroom learning and a standard wage scale. Apprentices earn a portable, nationally recognized credential upon completion of the program, and some may have the oppor tunity to earn an associate degree.


MBA programs statewide were forced completely online by the COVID-19 pandemic. They aren’t looking back, much to the approval of students and businesses.

make learning more accessible. That was a big reason why UNC Wilmington’s Cameron School of Business decided to pivot its MBA program to online learning even before the pandemic arrived in early 2020. “We were lucky that we had already launched our online MBA program before COVID hit,” says Nivine Richie, Wilmington’s associate dean for graduate and international programs and a professor of finance. “We had decided how we were going to set it up and what the teaching model would look like, so we weren’t forced to build the plane while it was flying.” With courses and technology in place, Richie says all that remained was moving Wilmington’s face-to-face MBA program to the virtual world. It has been a popular decision. She says the school’s hybrid and face-to-face

Pembroke’s MBA program is seeing similar success. The school’s twodecades-old traditional MBA program started an online-virtual hybrid option in 2017. Jeff Bolles, interim MBA director and lecturer at Pembroke’s Thomas School of Business, says about 135 students were enrolled. Two years later, the university phased out the face-toface component and took the program exclusivelyPembrokeonline.struck a partnership


Clarke says GAP is built on a proven model that allows companies to take a proactive approach to workforce challenges and build reliable talent pipelines. While companies of all sizes and across myriad industries benefit from GAP, the flexibility of the apprenticeship model means it also can be tailored to specific company and industry needs.

HIGHER ED CONTINUING EDUCATION SPONSORED SECTION68 more than 13,000 individuals seeking apprenticeships and has experienced an increase in high school pre-apprenticeships, which help jumpstart the state’s talent pipeline. “The future is bright,” Castelloes says. “We’re hoping to make ApprenticeshipNC a household name in high schools, community colleges and universities.”

Guilford Technical Community College is taking apprenticeships to the next level with its Guilford Apprenticeship Partners program. GAP is spearheaded by local businesses, which determine labor needs. The college then provides education and training to ensure graduates meet them, says GTCC President Anthony Clarke. “We work with our

Many executive education programs have included online learning components for years. But the importance of attending virtual classes recently skyrocketed. The COVID-19 pandemic reshaped how we learn, live, work and play. Most of these changes can be traced back to stay-at-home orders, which kept people apart to slow the communicable virus’s spread. Many daily functions, from shopping to work, went virtual. A high-speed internet connection and smartphone, tablet or computer are all you need to Virtualparticipate.classrooms


corporate partners to develop classroom instruction and customized training courses to prepare employees and apprentices for the workplace,” he says. “Apprentices receive both a paycheck and schooling, and about 94% of them go on to fulltime employment after their apprenticeships end.”

As demand for highly skilled workers continues to grow, the list of participating industries will keep expanding as more companies invest in the apprenticeship strategy. “Each year, more companies in our area start new apprenticeship opportunities to fill skills gaps and stay competitive in today’s economy,” Clarke says. “This is a great program and a great partnership. We’re proud to play a role in building the workforce and helping young people start their careers.”

■ — Teri Saylor is a freelance writer from Raleigh. programs have ended because students are choosing the convenience of remote study. The program’s enrollment was 623 this year, up from 152 in 2019. ranked it the country’s third fastest-growing online MBA program in UNCMay.


When it comes to building diversity among its student population, N.C. State University’s Poole College of Management has taken an intention al approach. “The college recently appointed Tayah Lin Butler as its first assistant dean of diversity, equity, and inclusion,” says Michael Dixon, direc tor of admissions and recruitment at the college. It’s paying off. Bloomberg Business Week, in its first diversity ranking, named the Jenkins MBA pro gram tops in the country. It received a perfect score, which is based half on race and ethnicity and half on gender of participating students.

“We had an application increase over 300% among international students between fall of 2021 and 2022.”

SPONSORED SECTION70 BUSINESS NORTH CAROLINA HIGHER ED CONTINUING EDUCATION with Academic Partners, which helps universities develop online education, in 2019. It led to an accelerated MBA program, allowing students to earn a degree quickly by compressing the 36-credit hour program into seven weeks, making it less expensive and more efficient than traditional pro grams. “Many of our students work while going to school, and they, along with their employers, are keen for them to complete their degrees,” Bolles says. “Along with their MBAs come opportunities for career advancement.”Pembroke’sMBA program enroll ment reached 500 in 2019. Fueled by COVID-19, its reputation and an ac celerated option, enrollment has more than doubled to 1,100. “We are experiencing greater diversity among our students, including a number of them coming from the military and countries outside the United States,” Bolles says. “Our program also opens doors for people with disabilities who are flourishing in our online learning environment.”Lastyear,Pembroke’s accelerated online MBA was ranked the country’s ninth best one-year program by College Consensus, whose grades are based on publisher rankings and student reviews. Joining it on the list at No. 7 was the one-year MBA program at nearby Fayetteville State University’s Broadwell College of Business and Economics. The MBA@ FayState, which offers 12 concentra tions and eight graduate certificates, delivers a unique curriculum for all types of graduate students, including military, recent undergraduates and workingModernprofessionals.MBAprograms bring more than convenience and quality. They create diversity, too. Eric Gladney, assistant dean and MBA director at North Carolina A&T University, remembers when he received his MBA from University of Rochester; he was one of only three Black students in the program. Times have changed, and business schools, such as A&T’s Willie A. Deese College of Business and Economics, are educating a more di verse population. He says A&T doesn’t market exclusively to minorities. Instead, it strives to strike a balance and cater to a diverse student body. “This leads to more diversity in the marketplace, which is more reflective of what the United States looks like,” he says.

U.S. News ranked A&T’s business school among the top 100 in the country this year. “Typically, the MBA has not, unfortunately, been a degree where many African Americans and other minorities have gained entrance,” Gladney says. “We hope to open up that field, and I think corporations that come to us recognize our students make up under-represented populations.”

Dixon says the Jenkins MBA program offers options for students, and that fosters racial, gender and geographic diversity. Students can participate in classes solely online or take advantage of in-person evening classes. In fall of 2021, N.C. State’s online MBA program attracted 89 people. “[It’s] a good number, allow ing for smaller class size — normally between 20 to 30 students,” he says.

Most MBA students at Queens University in Charlotte are working professionals focused on career advancement, says Richard Mathieu, dean of Queen’s McColl School of Business. It offers a flexible MBA program, which allows students to complete their degree online or create a combination of on-campus and online courses. “This program transcends the traditional online education model and provides a transformational and rewarding experience through a collaborative and personalized approach,” he says. “We are experimenting with a residency program for both current students and alumni who will serve as guest lecturers and mentors.”

According to, an online resource for information on MBA programs nationwide, the average student pursuing an MBA degree is a working professional, approximately 36 years old. Most students are women and have at least 11 years of business experience. From 2016 to 2017, most of the students entered A&T’s MBA program as soon as they completed their undergradu ate degree. Today more people are enrolling with work experience. “We have an experienced faculty and align with business executives who bring a wealth of industry knowledge and experience to our classrooms and help students leverage their ca reers,” Gladney says.

Queens’ Executive Leadership Institute’s customized programs are tai lored to executives’ specific business.

“We also work with C-suite leaders in organizations to develop a learning program for their leaders,” Mathieu says. “And we customize that, too.”

— Teri Saylor is a freelance writer from Raleigh.

N.C. State offers a fulltime MBA program, which starts in the fall and lasts 21 months. Its classes are held five days a week, and it serves 40 to 50 students. “The fulltime program is our most competitive, and with its STEM designation, it is popular among our international students,” Dixon says.

The centerpiece of our diverse community is the Bell Tower Green Park in Downtown Salisbury. Funded by community donations, this three-acre common greenspace is the place we gather to find common ground and celebrate life together. The people of Rowan County are passionate, engaged and caring and we all know that a great community is not the sum of its parts, it’s the sum of its people. It is this commitment to our community that F&M Bank embraces as we continue to expand our brand in North Carolina—one relationship at a time.

Steve ChairmanFisher& CEO F&M Bank F&M Financial Corporation Chairman &

Steve Fisher is a third generation leader of family-owned F&M Bank and a native Rowan County advocate.

Built on the strong, pink granite foundation of Eastern Rowan County in 1909, F&M Bank remains a driving force behind the growth and quality of life in the Piedmont. For well over a century, F&M Bank has been honored to serve our neighbors in Rowan County.


Our community is home to four colleges, two regional medical centers and an entrepreneurial spirit that created the likes of Food Lion, Cheerwine, Stanback Powders, Power Curbers and F&M Bank. Our corporate citizens include: Daimler Trucks, Chewy, Hexagon Agility, Gildan and our newest addition, Macy’s. Rowan County offers more than just an excellent location, a diverse range of growing businesses and technological advancement—you’ll also find a better balance between your work and personal lives. We’re home to green spaces, a dynamic arts community, a historic cultural center and the charm of quaint, local and neighboring communities with amenities that will go hand-in-hand with your chosen lifestyle.

From the picturesque reflections of the Uwharrie Mountains on High Rock Lake to a stroll down Easy Street in beautiful historic Downtown Salisbury, Rowan County is a refreshing step back in time. But despite our laid-back lifestyle, our location in the Charlotte metropolitan region and easy access to the Triad put Salisbury and Rowan County in the heart of progress.

“[The plan] is striving, really, to bring more economic prosperity to our community,” he says. “Our history is Building mural on East Fisher Street in Salisbury

Department-storecommunities.chainMacy’s, for example, chose China Grove for a $584 million 1.4-million-square-foot fulfillment center, which is expected to open in 2024. And mail-order pet-supply company Chewy built a $55 million 700,000-square-foot distribution center off Interstate 85 near East Spencer. It’s expected to create 1,200 jobs by 2025. “We’ve waited so long for industries to come up I-85,” says Barbara Mallett, mayor of East Spencer, which used grants and other funding to prepare infrastructure and properties for Chewy. More businesses are expected to follow. “There’s between 15 million and 18 million square feet of development being planned, mostly along I-85 or in close proximity with access, and that’s from private developers building spec buildings,” says Rod Crider, president and CEO of the Rowan Partnership for Economic Development. “Thirty to 35 buildings are planned within that 18 million square feet. That’s like 20 Chewys.”

Salisbury is Rowan County’s seat and its largest city. More than 36,200 people lived there in 2020, according to the N.C. Office of State Budget and Management. So, a lot of business is done there. But lately, much of the biggest business is happening in the county’s smallest

Building on their location and assets, some of Rowan County’s least-populated communities are attracting large economic development projects. And they’re preparing for more.

The growth hasn’t been by accident or luck. Rowan EDC is in year three of its five-year Forward Rowan plan, which supports existing industry and markets the county to relocating and expanding companies. It has four parts: targeted economic growth, talent attraction and development, brand identity and storytelling, and high-performance service delivery.

“It’s a plan to advance the economy of our community, reduce poverty, and increase prosperity and the quality of life through economic growth,” Crider says. “For our biggest strength, I would rank location and transportation very high and workforce, depending on the company. We’re halfway between Atlanta and Washington, halfway between New York and Miami. Then we have I-85, I-77, I-40 and two nearby airports. In 45 minutes, we can be in Hickory. We could pull labor from three metroCriderareas.”says Forward Rowan has changed the county’s trajectory.



DEVELOPING CHINA GROVE China Grove, population 4,500, is in southern Rowan County. It hosts an annual farmers day, Easter egg hunt and Christmas parade. Visits by developers are now a regular happening, too. “Before the Macy’s announcement was made, our town council had approved about three housing developments, and we have two more on the books,” says China Grove Mayor Charles Seaford. “They’re coming at us left and right. Our county is changing. I think people are looking all around us. We want to have that balance between hometown and industrial, but I’d love to see all around I-85 industrialized with merchants and businesses.”


While large economic developments, such as Macy’s and Chewy, get the biggest headlines, Rowan County Commission Chair Greg Edds says small businesses deserves equal attention. “The EDC has a very robust small-business outreach program,” he says. “They’ve helped with expansion, and new-employee training and connections with the community college. It’s a great success story.”

In March 2021, the American Rescue Plan economic stimulus was signed into law, delivering $1.9 trillion of direct aid to U.S. communities, including several in Rowan County. China Grove was to receive $1.3 million. Its council approved moving its initial receipt of $672,451 into a special revenue fund and creating a project ordinance for spending the funds.

While Seaford welcomes growth, he wants to ensure it’s done the right way. “I just want to do what feels right and have a vision for our town that will put us in good shape for the future,” he says. “We had a developer who was looking at a place off Delta Street off I-85. But it’s not a good access, and they came to us with a housing request, and we turned it down, because it is next to two other parcels that are zoned for economic development. It could be a larger industrial site. Five days later, we had an offer double of what the housing was.”

NORTH CAROLINA not a pretty one. During the recession, as one of our county commissioners tells the story, Rowan has the record for losing the most jobs in one day in North Carolina history, when Pillowtex closed. Now, we’re a 20-year overnight success story.”

HOT ON CLEVELAND Cleveland, population 1,147, is in northwestern Rowan County, between interstates 85 and 40. “We always thought south Rowan would see the wave of development first,” Crider says. “The whole 85 corridor is hot. Our next corridor is four-lane U.S. 70. [Cleveland Truck

Seaford says statistics show some schools in Rowan County are under capacity. But he doesn’t expect it to stay that way for long. “That is going to be totally turned upside down,” he says. “I think the school system is going to be behind the 8 ball if we don’t get something on the books.” He says several other parts of town are looking at housing developments.

“One thing I keep touting and keep promoting and keep pushing is that, in my opinion, China Grove is the best small town in the USA,” he says. “We just need to make sure we can accommodate everything that happens.”

The N.C. Transportation Museum in Spencer is a historic site that was once home to Southern Railway’s largest steam-locomotive repair facility in the Southeast. The museum features the history of railroading along with automotive and aviation displays.

“And location — for me to [drive] to [Charlotte Douglas International Airport] is 50 minutes. Same for Piedmont Triad [International Airport]. We have a really good 140-acre industrial property on the edge of town that we haven’t annexed yet. You have to have some idea of what you’re going to get. Several businesses have looked — a server farm, where all their servers go, and it’s not Google, also an auto parts group that makes parts for different companies. It’s a Duke Power ready site, and everything’s there. It’s just a matter of people being happy with it.”

“With our designation as rural and a low-income community, we also were able to submit and get grants,” she says. “We worked on our water and sewer lines, and that means a lot to us. And we put a 12-inch water line in our extraterritorial jurisdiction on the outskirts of the city, so we were preparing for growth. When you extend water, you have residential, industry and other economic developmentEastfollow.”Spencer received approval from the state General Assembly to build a 120-acre parcel in its ETJ. Mallett says that work includes 120 townhomes and 70 to 80 singlefamily homes, each valued at about $350,000. “So, that was the plan for that water line,” she says. “It’s good to see that vision fulfilled.”

EAST SPENCER’S NEW LOOK East Spencer, population 1,550, was nicknamed Southern City. Its current slogan is The Original Southern City. “That’s our theme,” Mallett says.

“We have a soul music festival with three live bands. It’s getting so big. We may have to move it to a larger venue. We’re trying to draw people in, and it’s working.”

Manufacturing Plant, the largest Freightliner manufacturing plant in the country] is on that road. We think that’s going to be the next area to develop.”Cleveland Mayor Pat Phifer says it’s important that Cleveland retain its hometown feel. “We’re trying to find that happy balance,” he says. “We’re working on creating a West Rowan Chamber of Commerce, a West Rowan Business Coalition and putting together a website. It should launch in September. We want people to buy local and look after each other. We can’t endorse anyone, but we can put links [on the website] to let everyone get in touch with each other. It’s called connecting and creating. People who sell milk, produce, dairy cows, we’ll have a place where we can all connect.”Phiferexpects



Rowan leaders hope N.C. Department of Transportation will build an I-85 exit near East Spencer, creating a more direct route to High Rock Lake, a 15,180-acre reservoir on the Yadkin River that’s popular with anglers and boaters. “Then about three exits up by Chewy, they’re building seven spec buildings, and that’s why we’re seeing the influx of housing,” Mallett says. “We have a lot of people coming in from California and New York buildingMallettthese.”says the town has worked on its infrastructure and appearance for about eight years. She says it’s receiving $425,000 in American Rescue funds in two installments.

East Spencer also has been removing dilapidated buildings. “We were left with an old school building,” Mallett says. “In our community, you have the African American side and the Caucasian side. We were able to acquire the old school building that belonged to the white population for $10,000 and sold it to a developer for $450,000 and repurposed it into a senior citizen complex with an amphitheater theme on the front, so we’ll have activities and an outside venue.”

more businesses to land in his corner of Rowan County. The town is prepared. “The water and gas are there, the infrastructure is there except sewer, but Cleveland has its own sewer system,” he says.

READY FOR WHAT’S NEXT Edds says Rowan is positioned to pursue and accept larger investments. “We’ve described ourselves in the past as the doughnut hole of growth,” he says. “And in the last 18 months we’ve become the filling. But we can only rise to the job level as high as our education success will allow. So, if we want to have even higherpaying jobs, the skill level has to be produced in our colleges. We’re certainly interested in manufacturing and technical careers.”

Mallett has lived in East Spencer for more than 30 years, serving as its mayor for the past dozen. She’d like to see more changes, including a replacement for the Dunbar Center, a former all-Black school that had been repurposed as a community center. It burned to the ground in 2014. “And I’d like to see more businesses and a grocery store,” she says. “Now, everything’s across the bridge in Spencer. Our population is changing, with new homeowners and young people who are renting, not buying. It’s changing the demographics.”


Salisbury is home to two liberal arts colleges. Livingstone College is a historically Black Christian school started in 1879. It is affiliated with the AME Zion Church. Catawba College dates to 1851 and has more than 70 academic programs.

Edds says much of economic development success comes from making connections and anticipating what comes next. “It’s 24-hour-a-day planning,” he says. “So, one of the things we’re doing is reaching out to the colleges. As we see our kids, and outside kids coming in, we don’t want them to pick up and leave. So, how do we retain the talent that grows up here? We do that by connecting colleges to corporations that are here and with the corporations that we’re actively recruiting. We tell them we’re blessed with one of the top 10 community colleges in the state and two four-year liberal arts colleges. So, they can train who they hire. It’s part of our recruiting process.”

Rowan-Cabarrus Community College in Salisbury offers courses and training in HVAC, engineering, light duty diesel technology, computerintegrated machining, electrical systems, industrial engineering, mechanical engineering, welding and other fields. And four-year colleges Catawba and Livingstone, both in Salisbury, offer a variety of business courses. Catawba also has entrepreneurship studies, and its nursing program partners with major health care systems statewide, including Charlotte-based Atrium and Winston-Salem-based Novant.

Crider says prospective companies are interested in Rowan’s infrastructure, including its three interstates. But what they really want to know about is its workforce. “So, before they’re ready to locate here, I have to let them know that they’ll be able to hire the people they need with the skills they need,” he says. “We had an independent analysis done, and we came out really strong.”

Kansas City, Missouri-based NorthPoint Development, which brought Chewy to East Spencer, is bringing a second project, which covers 725,000 square feet, Edds says. And a South Carolina company with a regional office in Charlotte is planning a 379-acre industrial park with 2.65 million square-feet of commercial space off I-85, down the road from Chewy. “So, when you see those red dots on the map [of planned business sites on I-85] and combine that with labor studies that have been produced, Rowan County is the hub of where people want to be,” Edds says. “We have the blessing of almost unlimited water, a power plant, parks, colleges, 950 farms, location with highways, and low cost of living. So, when you get out the old grease board and start listing our challenges and our blessings, the challenge has just been putting it all together to bake a world-class meal. And we’re finally figuring that out, and we feel blessed and fortunate to be part of so many positive things.” ■ — Kathy Blake is a writer from eastern North Carolina.

Rowan has three colleges that support workforce development.



▲ Pine Hall says it ranks sixth in U.S. brick production.

Pine Hall is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, highlighting the Steele family’s longevity and impact. CIvil War veteran J.C. Steele founded J.C. Steele & Sons, a Statesville company that makes brickmaking equipment with operations in the U.S., Germany and Australia.

The Winston-Salem-based company, part of Business North Carolina’s Private 125 list of large N.C. private companies, has had a particularly big impact on Madison in Rockingham County. Its brick production plant employs 180 in the town of 2,100.

Fourth-generation family member Walt Steele, who joined the company in 2011, has been president and CEO since April 2021. He succeeded his father, Fletcher, who is executive chairman. Pine Hall’s plants in Madison and Fairmount, Georgia, remain busy by staying attuned to changing trends and technology. It is the leading U.S. supplier of clay pavers after being first to introduce permeable ones. They allow for efficient disposal of stormwater, sometimes reducing the need for large retention ponds. In recent years, the company has expanded production of thinner versions of pavers that are increasingly popular for homes and offices. Pine Hall promotes the idea that homeowners can use them to convert a concrete-slab patio into a more elegant setting. With different members of the Steele family in charge for more than a century, J.C. Steele & Sons and Pine Hall Brick remain key players in North Carolina commerce. ■


W alk around UNC Charlotte, N.C. State, Wake Forest and High Point universities and one can’t help but notice the vast number of bricks dotting the campuses. It’s one of the many ways that family-owned Pine Hall Brick has affected North Carolina.


Separately, J.C Steele’s son, Flake, bought a dormant brick company in Pine Hall in Stokes County in 1922, which has evolved into today’s Pine Hall Brick. At the time, bricks were made from shale mined from mud banks along the Dan River.