Business North Carolina September 2021

Page 1

STATE’S TOP 125 PRIVATE COMPANIES SUE COLE’S SAGA • A BREAKUP PRO’S TALE • HEAVENLY MARKETER • ENVIVA’S PELLET PROGRESS

SEPTEMBER 2021 Price: $3.95 businessnc.com

Cover_and_inside_cover_Sept2021.indd 1

After major success at Relias, Jim Triandiflou steps up the pace at fast-growing insightsoftware.

8/23/21 12:00 PM


Cover_and_inside_cover_Sept2021.indd 2

8/20/21 11:25 AM


Contents_Sept2021.indd 1

8/20/21 11:27 AM


2

B U S I N E S S

Contents_Sept2021.indd 2

N O R T H

C A R O L I N A

8/20/21 11:27 AM


+ DEPARTMENTS 4 UP FRONT 8 PILLARS

Veteran Greensboro civic leader Sue Cole is a pioneer in North Carolina banking and wealth management.

SEPTEMBER 2021

14 NC TREND

Yacht experience spurs cheese wizards; Enviva’s progress in pellets; Stuntman inspires new Ninjas; Duke research sparks promising startup; Roger Braswell’s passion for Haiti.

86 TOWN SQUARE

Local leaders position Dunn for a robust future as the Triangle sprawls south.

COVER STORY

GROW BABY, GROW

48

A billion-dollar investment from a PE company puts the heat on Raleigh CEO Jim Triandiflou. BY DAVID MILDENBERG

+ SPONSORED SECTIONS 32 COMMUNITY CLOSE-UP: CATAWBA COUNTY While staying true to its furniture-industry past, Catawba County is investing, upgrading and expanding for its future.

52

44 LAWYERS ON THE MOVE

New hires, promotions and other accolades from some of the state’s top law firms.

76 MEDICAL: HEART & CANCER CARE

CO V E R P H O TO B Y C H R I S T E R B E R G

The state’s community colleges and MBA programs enjoy a positive prognosis.

September 2021, Vol. 41, 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. Telephone: 704-523-6987. Fax: 704-523-4211. All contents copyright © by Old North State Magazines LLC. Subscription rate: 1 year, $30. For change of address, send mailing label and allow six to eight weeks. Periodicals postage paid at Charlotte, NC, and additional offices. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to Business North Carolina, 1230 West Morehead Street, Suite 308 Charlotte, NC 28208 or email circulation@businessnc.com.

Hendrick Automotive Group tops our list of the largest closely held N.C.-based firms.

STAYING IN ORBIT

68

Research, improved screening and better access to care.

82 CONTINUING EDUCATION

TOP 125 PRIVATE COMPANIES

Charlotte marketer Greg Johnson uses lessons from Nike and church to make a mark. BY MICHAEL J. SOLENDER

BREAKUP ARTIST

72

Mixing compassion and toughness helps Concord native Mitchell Kelling thrive in family law. BY PAGE LEGGETT

Start your day with business news from across the state, direct to your inbox. SIGN UP AT BUSINESSNC.COM/DAILY-DIGEST. S E P T E M B E R

Contents_Sept2021.indd 3

2 0 2 1

3

8/20/21 3:33 PM


UPFRONT

► David Mildenberg

VALUE CREATION

I

t takes decades to build a corporate culture, then a couple of years or less for that culture to change significantly. That is to be expected, perhaps, as the pace of change in business keeps accelerating at a dizzying pace. I’ve been thinking a lot about corporate culture ahead of Business North Carolina's 40th anniversary, which we will mark in next month’s magazine. But it's a theme that comes through every month as we chronicle corporate success and failure. Many groups on our annual list of the 125 biggest N.C.-based private companies have strong cultures that undergird their success. That seems obvious when I have my car serviced at a Hendrick Automotive dealership, grab a milkshake at a Cookout restaurant or watch a Capitol Broadcasting TV news program, to cite three well-known companies on the list. This month’s feature on Private 125 company insightsoftware cites the rapid success that CEO Jim Triandiflou has enjoyed in boosting internal growth at the Raleigh business now valued at $4 billion. With roots in a company that software pioneer Ron Kupferman started in the capital in 1971, insightsoftware has grown nearly tenfold by making 18 acquisitions in less than four years. That’s creating a culture on the fly. When considering more long-standing cultures in North Carolina, BB&T always pops up on my radar. In 1989, when John Allison became CEO, the company then based in Wilson was overshadowed by bigger, flashier rivals NCNB, First Union and Wachovia. Many leaders would have settled for fourth place. Instead, Allison and his successor, Kelly King, spent the next 33 years building an unusually distinctive culture. BB&T became a fast-growing, nationally prominent institution that delivered competitive shareholder gains. Allison and King rarely gave a speech without emphasizing the importance of

4

B U S I N E S S

Masthead_Up Front_Sept2021.indd 4

N O R T H

V O L U M E 4 1 , N O. 9 PUBLISHER

Ben Kinney

bkinney@businessnc.com EDITOR

David Mildenberg

dmildenberg@businessnc.com MANAGING EDITOR

Taylor Wanbaugh

twanbaugh@businessnc.com ASSOCIATE EDITOR

Cathy Martin

cmartin@businessnc.com SENIOR CONTRIBUTING EDITOR

Edward Martin

emartin@businessnc.com SPECIAL PROJECTS EDITOR

right values, high integrity, and moral principles in all facets of life, including running a massive bank. This month, King is stepping down after 13 years as CEO, having engineered the 2019 merger with SunTrust Banks to create Truist Financial. Former SunTrust CEO William Rogers, a UNC Chapel Hill grad who grew up in Durham, will lead the seventh-largest U.S. bank. He's charged with melding the cultures of two big organizations with different histories. The departures of many senior BB&T executives in recent months suggests a significant cultural shift is inevitable. How that works out will be fascinating to watch over the next few years.

Pete Anderson

CONTRIBUTING WRITERS

Bryan Mims, Mike Solender, Ebony Morman, Taylor Rakestraw, Connie Gentry, Page Leggett CREATIVE MANAGER

Peggy Knaack

pknaack@businessnc.com ART DIRECTOR

Ralph Voltz

CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHERS

Christer Berg, Alex Cason MARKETING COORDINATOR

Jennifer Ware

jware@businessnc.com AUDIENCE DEVELOPMENT SPECIALIST

Scott Leonard

sleonard@businessnc.com ADVERTISING SALES

T

his issue marks our goodbye to Managing Editor Taylor Wanbaugh, who is returning to the Triangle area for a communications job at N.C. State University and to be closer to her family. Taylor has been a terrific contributor to BNC, pitching in wherever necessary while leading our social media and podcast efforts. Her story this month on a former Hollywood stuntman’s career shift into helping people exercise their Ninja powers reflects her keen eye for compelling topics. Thank you Taylor and all the best!

ACCOUNT MANAGERS

Sue Graf, western N.C. 704-523-4350 sgraf@businessnc.com

Melanie Weaver Lynch, eastern N.C. 919-855-9380 mweaver@businessnc.com CIRCULATION: 818-286-3106 EDITORIAL: 704-523-6987 REPRINTS: circulation@businessnc.com

BUSINESSNC.COM OWNERS

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

Old North State Magazines LLC

Contact David Mildenberg at dmildenberg@businessnc.com.

PRESIDENT

David Woronoff

C A R O L I N A

8/23/21 10:59 AM


Masthead_Up Front_Sept2021.indd 5

8/20/21 11:29 AM


ESSENTIAL WORKERS Freelance writers and photographers play key roles at Business North Carolina. Here are bios of some of this month’s contributors.

CHRISTER BERG

BRYAN MIMS

After 25 years as a technology executive on both sides of the Atlantic, Berg felt it was time to do something different. In 2014 he rekindled his childhood passion to pursue a career as a professional photographer. He opened the Portraits With Purpose studio in Raleigh. While juggling corporate and editorial assignments, he has also completed personal projects such as The Fabric of Raleigh and The Fabric of Durham portrait series and books.

Mims is a 15-year resident of North Carolina who is originally from the other Carolina, where he notes cooks put mustard in barbecue. A reporter for WRAL-TV in Raleigh, he loves roaming the state from “Hothouse to Havelock” as author of BNC's Town Square feature. Researching towns to describe what makes the place tick is the magazine's best assignment, he says. “My favorite locale? Let's just say if the town has a brewery, a coffee house, an old-timey drugstore and a barbecue joint, it ranks high in my book.”

ALEX CASON As a visual journalist since 2012, Cason’s storytelling approach has given him closeenough-to-step-in-their-sweat access to NFL and NBA games, elevated him to capture the Queen City’s skyline and taken him behind the scenes at North Carolina businesses ranging from C-suites to creative studios. He’s an Elon University graduate.

CONNIE ROBBINS GENTRY

EMORY RAKESTRAW Wilmington 's Rakestraw has been a journalist for nine years covering arts, politics, features, business and travel. She loves being a storyteller and “finding intricacies that connect us all.” Writing about Port City restaurateurs Molly and Brendan Curnyn this month was a passion project. “Not just for cheese (huge passion) but fellow millennials paving their way in the form of entrepreneurship. If you find yourself in Wilmington, try a New G with ham, but you also can’t go wrong with a Buffalo Baby and beer cheese fries.”

PAGE LEGGETT

Solender's work has appeared in The New York Times, Smithsonian Magazine and other publications. He wrote a cover story for BNC on the Sherrill family that owns Charlotte’s SteelFab. He is a University of Minnesota graduate with a bachelor’s in communications and a master’s in industrial relations. He previously spent 25 years in corporate human resources and communications roles. Solender has lived in Charlotte for 21 years and is obsessive about his tomato garden.

B U S I N E S S

Digital-Comments_Sept 2021.indd 6

Morman is originally from Chicago and has lived in Charlotte for eight years. She says the city is just starting to grow on her. In her free time, she loves to travel, read, write, bake, and hunt for delicious food. Regarding this month’s profile of Give Hope Global’s service in Haiti, Morman says it “opened my eyes and inspired me in many ways. It truly touched my heart.”

Born in Blowing Rock, Gentry says “nothing teaches you the value of a great story like growing up in the North Carolina mountains, where almost everyone you meet is a master storyteller.” Her first senior editing job was with a Manhattan-based national news magazine. After stints in Texas, Florida, and Georgia, she and her family have lived in the Raleigh area for 20 years. This month’s story on a Durham medicalimaging company interested her because of the technology’s potential for addressing both long-haul COVID symptoms and chronic lung diseases.

North Carolina native and Charlotte resident Leggett is a Wake Forest University alumna whose work appears regularly in The Charlotte Observer, SouthPark magazine and other publications. Like the subject of her story this month, she's never seen an episode of Married at First Sight. She also says she’s never watched any reality TV. She is happily divorced and is known for making this toast at weddings: "I hope you'll be as happy as I thought I would be."

6

EBONY L. MORMAN

N O R T H

MICHAEL J. SOLENDER

C A R O L I N A

8/20/21 11:30 AM


13-14 SEPTEMBER

2021

Please join us for a day and a half of collaboration, learning, and networking featuring relevant panel discussions and speakers, as well as golf on Pinehurst No. 2 and the new Short Course The Cradle, and the Pinehurst Spa Experience. Lodging at the stately Carolina Hotel is included with your registration. Visit businessnc.com/ceosummit or more information.

Visit businessnc.com/ceosummit or contact Norwood Teague at 919.370.0627 or nteague@businessnc.com for more information.

2021 PRESENTING SPONSORS

Digital-Comments_Sept 2021.indd 7

8/20/21 11:31 AM


SUE COLE A pioneer in N.C. banking and investment management carves out a specialty in advising family-owned businesses.

S

ue Cole was one of few women in corporate lending when she started at North Carolina National Bank in Greensboro in 1973. Her steadfast manner has served Cole well; she’s had a more than 40-year career in banking, wealth management and consulting, always in Greensboro. Others noticed her leadership skills as she became the first woman to chair the city’s chamber of commerce and, in 2003, the NC Chamber.

8

B U S I N E S S

Pillars_SueCole_Sept-2021.indd 8

N O R T H

The Garner native is a graduate of UNC Greensboro, where she transferred from N.C. State University after her husband, Gordon, took a job in the Gate City. By 1981, she was managing NCNB’s Greensboro branches, later helping lead the bank’s local corporate lending during an era of great tumult at Burlington Industries and other local textile, furniture and tobacco companies. In 1987 she joined North Carolina Trust, a bank focused on investment management that Greensboro lawyer Steve Hassenfelt started a couple of years earlier. The company’s assets grew to about $2.5 billion when it was acquired by New York-based U.S. Trust in 1999. She stayed until 2006, then joined Granville Capital, a wealth manager also started by Hassenfelt. A desire to assist family-owned businesses led to Cole founding SAGE Leadership & Strategy in 2011. Cole, 70, specializes in advising familyowned companies such as High Point-based Marsh Furniture on corporate governance, leadership development and strategic planning. She’s helped attract independent directors to family-only boards and develop councils to encourage communications among various family members. Cole says she intentionally keeps her client list narrowed to a select group. Cole has been on more than two dozen corporate and nonprofit boards in her career, including a 19-year tenure as a director of Raleigh-based Martin Marietta, one of the world’s largest aggregates companies. She is also a director of Memphis-based Diversified Trust, a privately held investment-management company. When Cole talks about the Greensboro Science Center, 10 minutes north of downtown, her commitment to the museum, aquarium and zoo shines through. A Girls in Science scholarship was developed earlier this year to honor Cole for her work as the center’s board chair. Cole has served on the board for Greensboro-based Biscuitville since 2007. She’s not shy about her love for the family-owned company’s bacon, egg and cheese sandwich and strawberry muffins. Comments are edited for length and clarity.

PHOTOS COURTESY OF SUE COLE

BY VANESSA INFANZON

C A R O L I N A

8/20/21 11:32 AM


S E P T E M B E R

Pillars_SueCole_Sept-2021.indd 9

2 0 2 1

9

8/20/21 11:32 AM


governance. I think governance is critical in every single business, just like strategy is critical in every single business. When I was reinventing myself, I didn’t have that instant vision. It evolved over a period of a year or so. I had the luxury of letting it evolve. I think you have to have confidence that you can do it. You have to have flexibility because you are not going to turn on a dime. You have to be able to articulate what it is that you do. I think you have to be patient. It turned out that it was a lot of family businesses that wanted me to help them create an independent board, or the CEO needed someone to talk to. It’s lonely at the top. I could let them be in a risk-free environment as we talked about things. ▲ Cole was the first female president of the NC Chamber in 2003.

I began my career in corporate lending. It was a gift to be at an organization like NCNB, [which] became Nations Bank, [which] became Bank of America. I did that for 14 years. I’d helped with the startup financing for North Carolina Trust. A couple years later, they asked me to join the company as an investor and part of the executive team. While I didn’t know anything about investment management or trust services, I looked at it as a grand opportunity to be involved in a startup and learn something new. I’m a risk taker but not so much a personal risk taker as it related to my family. I had little kids at the time and a husband whose job was here [in Greensboro]. During that era, people were expected to move around. I sat down with the leadership and said, “I really don’t want to move. Let me make this the best office it can be.” They allowed me to do that. It meant I had to travel more, spend more time in Charlotte and other places. Hugh McColl has always been an outstanding leader. He was focused on building the bank and building Charlotte. He saw the two were interconnected. You didn’t see that many CEOs who had a genuine love for the arts. I think how lucky I was to join NCNB in 1973. He believed that you didn’t pay attention to the gender of the employee or color of skin. And back then, that was quite a statement. I think every leader has to have strong self-awareness. I learned through some of my experiences I wasn’t being challenged. While at Granville Capital, I loved the people, but I didn’t feel challenged. I wanted to create something. What I found was that I really loved helping successful businesses be more successful and helping them grow. I had this passion for

10

B U S I N E S S

Pillars_SueCole_Sept-2021.indd 10

N O R T H

I like the values of family-owned businesses. I think family-owned businesses are unique because they really do have strong values that are focused on work/life balance, doing the right thing, taking care of the people [and] taking care of the customers. It’s a joy to be affiliated with a business like Biscuitville. [The Greensboro Science Center] has had a tremendous economic impact. The recurring annual economic impact is currently $77 million and estimated to grow to $100 million. We’re expecting 500,000 visitors in 2021 and 750,000 for next year. We’re definitely in the top 10 of tourist attractions in the state. We have visitors from all the states and all over North Carolina. It’s a museum, a zoo and an aquarium. We are one of 200 that’s been approved by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums, which is a big deal. We recently doubled the size of the zoo. We kept building during the pandemic. We opened just a couple of weeks ago, and we are getting rave reviews. It’s a public-private partnership. The city of Greensboro owns the land. We’ve used bond money to build. We’ve combined that with private donations. Each of us has to be a continuous learner. The way I do it is lots of reading: I enjoy reading The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times. I don’t think you should get your news from just one thing. I’ve got my phone set up to send me articles on different industries that I am involved in. Webcasts are fabulous. I’m one of the founding members of the National Association of Corporate Directors Carolinas [chapter]. We do incredible research and education on corporate governance. We bring in futuristic speakers that really help you to think about what’s to come: What’s the labor force going to look like? What is artificial intelligence going to look like? You have to immerse yourself in these things to stay current. ■

C A R O L I N A

8/23/21 9:10 AM


S E P T E M B E R

Pillars_SueCole_Sept-2021.indd 11

2 0 2 1

11

8/20/21 11:33 AM


12

B U S I N E S S

Pillars_SueCole_Sept-2021.indd 12

N O R T H

C A R O L I N A

8/20/21 11:35 AM


S E P T E M B E R

Pillars_SueCole_Sept-2021.indd 13

2 0 2 1

13

8/20/21 11:36 AM


NC TREND

First take: Food

■ SUSTAINABILITY

■ ENTERTAINMENT

Page 18

Page 20

■ HEALTH CARE Page 22

■ PHILANTHROPY Page 24

■ STATEWIDE Page 26

DROPPING ANCHOR PREPARING FOOD ON YACHTS LED MOLLY AND BRENDAN CURNYN TO SET SAIL WITH THEIR GRILLED CHEESE DREAMS.

C

ombine creamy havarti cheese, braised buffalo chicken, house-made buttermilk ranch, pickled carrot and celery slaw, and you have the Buffalo Baby served at Wilmington’s CheeseSmith restaurant. It’s a sandwich that Fanny Slater, co-host of Food Network’s The Best Thing I Ever Ate, called an “out-of-body experience.” For CheeseSmith owners Molly and Brendan Curnyn, their quest for success in the food business didn’t start on land. “I started working in yachting in 2013,” Molly says. “A cousin of mine is a captain. I went down to Fort Lauderdale, [Fla.,] and helped on a 150-foot boat going from there to St. Thomas, [U.S. Virgin Islands]. I felt like I had hit the lottery. One year later, I worked on a 106-foot boat going to St. John, St. Martin, Tortola, Bermuda, most of the Bahamas and Antigua.” Alongside her now-husband, Brendan, the two held various positions on privately owned yachts, including stewardess and deckhand. Molly got her first taste of the food industry after a disappointing meal; the yacht owners were so upset they sent the chef packing in the middle of the night.

14

B U S I N E S S

Trend_Cheesesmith_Sept 2021.indd 14

N O R T H

They turned to Molly and asked, “Can you cook?” She replied, “I guess.” For Molly, cooking was an interest turned passion. She taught herself how to cook by watching The Best Thing I Ever Ate in her cabin whenever she had free time. When CheeseSmith food truck opened in 2018, a cult-like following emerged immediately, with lots of demand from hungry customers. Luckily, the two had familiarized themselves with sourcing alternative power and problem-solving on the fly and had a strong work ethic from grueling, nonstop labor while at sea. Brendan worked the grill, while Molly developed recipes and operated the cash register. “Boat power and food truck power are the same thing; generators are the same thing,” Molly says. “It’s all about thinking on your feet and solving problems. One boat I was a chef on, we pulled into a marina and had no power. I still had to make dinner — there [were] eight guests paying. I made a no-bake pie and scallop carpaccio. It was all madness.”

PHOTOS COURTESY OF MOLLY AND BRENDAN CURNYN

B Y E M O R Y R A K E S T R AW

▲ CheeseSmith built a following for three years as a food truck then opened a restaurant in Wilmington's Cargo District in July.

C A R O L I N A

8/20/21 11:37 AM


▲ CheeseSmith's trademark is adding pizzazz to grilled cheese.

Coming ashore

While working on the high seas has its perks, after three years of yachting, Molly and Brendan were ready to move on. “The drawbacks are missing holidays with family, spending time in places that don’t even have cell service to stay in touch with friends and family,” Molly says. “We were ready to return to a more normal life.” The couple picked Wilmington because of its mild climate, happening beer scene and proximity to the beach. Though they had left their on-deck jobs behind, they concluded that even a food truck should be a hospitality experience.

“We try to connect to every customer in some way,” Brendan says. “That’s a little thing that makes a big difference; that’s why you’ll come back.” Inspired by a love for traditional grilled cheese with tomato soup, the aptly named OG became their flagship sandwich. It ironically spawned from Molly’s disdain for the low-quality tomatoes found outside her home state of New Jersey. Boiling down, concentrating and adding spices gave the balance of earthy and sweet to the jam. The devil was in the details, including sourdough that mimicked white bread and even their Smith Sauce served with black truffle fries. Weekly specials like the Brie-topped Honey Pot paired with a personal approach to marketing piqued consumer demand. Wherever CheeseSmith went, a crowd followed. “Bobby Flay said, ‘If you don’t want to eat it again, why is it on your menu?’” Molly says. “So many places here have these huge menus with mediocre food. It’s lunch, it’s fine, but I don’t care if I eat it again. In the food industry, you have to want it again.” The show Molly watched daily in her boat cabin to learn how to cook later signified her food truck’s success when CheeseSmith was featured on The Best Thing I Ever Ate. “I was nominating dishes for an episode called ‘On Wheels,’ and I knew that literally the best thing I had ever eaten from a food truck was the Buffalo Baby sandwich. It was a no-brainer,” Slater says. “A lot of people have the passion to open a food truck, but they nailed the execution and were so deserving of that spotlight.” After building a mobile following, the Curnyns opened a 50seat brick-and-mortar location with indoor and outdoor dining in Wilmington’s Cargo District in July. The couple hopes to add cold sandwiches and a brunch menu. CheeseSmith has quickly become popular, which is a good thing because the Curnyns sold their food truck. “One of the best parts about food is that it often brings us back to childhood memories,” Slater says. “Taking a comfort food or something familiar and putting a twist on it will never get old. Who doesn't love grilled cheese?” ■ S E P T E M B E R

Trend_Cheesesmith_Sept 2021.indd 15

2 0 2 1

15

8/20/21 11:37 AM


RESPONSIBLE INVESTING INSIGHTS Responsible investing is on the rise, providing investors with opportunities to align portfolios with personal values.

This is the fourteenth in a series of informative monthly articles for North Carolina businesses from PNC in collaboration with BUSINESS NORTH CAROLINA magazine. In today’s world, the factors driving the consideration and adoption of responsible investing are countless. During the past year alone, the economic and social effects of COVID-19, the racial justice movement, and climate change contributed to a notable acceleration in the interest and implementation of responsible investing, say PNC investment strategists. Add to that gender and generational shifts in asset ownership and investment priorities – with women investors taking a more prominent role in investment decision-making and millennials poised to inherit trillions during the great wealth transfer – and the conditions are ripe for a continued rise in responsible investing.

DEFINING THE SPACE

Just as numerous as the factors contributing to the growth of the responsible investing space are the terms associated with it. Socially responsible, sustainable, socially conscious, green and ethical are just a few descriptors often ascribed to investment decisions that align with investors’ personal beliefs. To simplify, PNC has embraced the term responsible investing, or RI – meaning a goals-based investment strategy that proactively supports an investor’s values, excludes portfolio exposures that may conflict with those views, and/or allocates capital toward a targeted impact. “We view RI not as a distinct investment philosophy or asset class but as an implementation strategy,” says Nick Ashburn, head of Responsible Investing for PNC’s Asset Management Group. “It’s a lens, or filter, we can use to implement a portfolio that aligns with an investor’s goals, intentions, values or missions.” Ashburn is quick to point out that RI requires a keen understanding of values, coupled with portfolio knowledge and the ability to look beyond traditional portfolio construction. Additionally, not every issue or concern is always best addressed within an investment portfolio, but some may be. To that end, RI can be implemented in a variety of ways at the asset class, manager and security selection levels. And it’s possible for people to invest according to their principles at just about any allocation level, given how the suite of investment solutions has grown and evolved over time.

16

B U S I N E S S

PNC_spread_Sept2021_FINAL.indd 16

N O R T H

C A R O L I N A

From directing IRA contributions to mutual funds that specialize in RI to supporting women-owned startups as an angel investor, the options and flexibility to customize portfolios to investors’ unique values have never been more robust.

THE BEST OF BOTH WORLDS

There was a time not so long ago when the premise of responsible investing was widely viewed as an either-or proposition; the notion that an investor could introduce non-financial factors into the investment process – without negatively impacting financial performance – was novel and easily dismissed. In recent years, however, research findings from top business schools have challenged that assumption, demonstrating that these investment strategies do not inherently require tradeoffs, says Ashburn. Meanwhile, examples of individual and institutional investors achieving both financial and values-aligned goals abound. North Carolina State University made national headlines in 2018 when its “socially responsible” fund outperformed its main portfolio. “The dialogue has increasingly moved away from how RI might affect financial performance and is gravitating toward how investors can optimize a portfolio to achieve both long-term financial and values-based goals,” says Ashburn. “At the same time, investors should understand that implementing RI in portfolios won’t necessarily or consistently outperform or underperform across all market environments, just as there is no guarantee any traditional investment strategy should – or even could – produce the same results.”

FOUR WAYS TO IMPLEMENT RI

The key to successfully implementing RI in a portfolio, says Ashburn, is for investors to begin with a clear understanding of the areas that interest them most. “The array of investment options has evolved significantly over the past decade, so it’s important to identify and articulate RI goals early on,” he says. For asset owners looking to incorporate RI more intentionally in the management of their portfolios, Ashburn outlines the following basic methods for consideration.

SPONSORED SECTION

8/20/21 11:38 AM


1. POSITIVE & NEGATIVE OVERLAYS

Early adopters of RI primarily focused their efforts on exclusion – screening companies for qualities that didn’t align with their values. Screening applications, or overlays, are still commonly implemented in RI, informed by criteria reflective of the investor’s concerns and values. Negative screens apply a set of predefined criteria that might be counter to or misaligned with an investor’s mission or values. Negative screens might include ethically questionable industry classifications, such as alcohol, tobacco and firearms – or corporate practices, such as poor labor standards and human rights violations. Positive screens might look to increase specific RI exposures in a portfolio, such as renewable energy generation, sustainable land use practices, or companies that support diversity, equity and inclusion.

2. ENVIRONMENTAL, SOCIAL, AND GOVERNANCE (ESG) CRITERIA

Another popular measure is the integration of ESG metrics. Environmental criteria look at how a company performs as a steward of the natural environment. Meanwhile, social criteria examine how a company manages relationships with its employees, suppliers, customers and the communities in which it operates. Finally, governance addresses a company’s leadership, executive pay, audits and internal controls, and shareholder rights. At one time, ESG analysis was considered a standalone investment process. Today, says Ashburn, there is much wider

adoption and greater systematic integration of ESG issues and factors within the framework of comprehensive investment strategies.

3. PROXY VOTING

The past decade has seen a rise in shareholder activism, due in large part to the passage of the Dodd-Frank Act, which requires companies to disclose executive compensation. So it should come as no surprise that corporate governance matters, including senior executive pay package or board diversity resolutions, have been the focus of the majority of proxy issues. Detailed disclosures on political spending and lobbying also have been points of interest, while other popular proxy items include various environmental and social issues.

4. IMPACT INVESTING

In addition to proactively investing in companies that support RI best practices and voting proxies along ESG guidelines, some investors are interested in contributing more directly to solutions for social and environmental challenges through impact investments. Generally implemented through private investments (e.g., private equity and private credit), investors can pursue their impact objectives by supporting companies with innovative technologies that combat climate change or seek to improve learning outcomes with education technology. Impact investments also can provide opportunities to support entrepreneurs of color or access to financial services and affordable housing.

For more information, please reach out to your PNC Investment Advisor or contact responsibleinvesting@pnc.com.

Regional Presidents: Weston Andress, Western Carolinas: (704) 643-5581 Jim Hansen, Eastern Carolinas: (919) 835-0135 The PNC Financial Services Group, Inc. (“PNC”) provides investment consulting and wealth management, fiduciary services, FDIC-insured banking products and services, and lending of funds to individual clients through PNC Bank, National Association (“PNC Bank”), which is a Member FDIC, and provides specific fiduciary and agency services to individual clients through PNC Delaware Trust Company or PNC Ohio Trust Company. PNC provides various discretionary and nondiscretionary investment, trustee, custody, consulting, and related services to institutional clients through PNC Bank. PNC does not provide legal, tax, or accounting advice unless, with respect to tax advice, PNC Bank has entered into a written tax services agreement. PNC Bank is not registered as a municipal advisor under the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. “PNC” and “PNC Bank” are registered marks of The PNC Financial Services Group, Inc. Investments: Not FDIC Insured. No Bank Guarantee. May Lose Value. ©2021 The PNC Financial Services Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

PNC_spread_Sept2021_FINAL.indd 17

S E P T E M B E R

2 0 2 1

17

8/20/21 11:38 AM


NC TREND

Sustainability

CUTTING EDGE ENVIVA TOUTS BENEFITS OF BIOMASS FOR RURAL N.C. NOT ALL ARE ON BOARD.

B Y E D WA R D M A R T I N

T

his flat plain of ankle-tangling branches and stumps, remnants of a clear-cut forest in Northampton County near the Virginia state line, is not the stuff of postcards. It’s better described as a clear picture of a looming environmental issue. Enviva Partners LP is the world’s largest producer of biomass, or wood pellets mostly exported to warm homes and generate electricity in much of Europe and elsewhere. It says this North Carolina forest gave its life to produce clean, sustainable energy and advance environmental justice. “Our purpose is simple,” says John Keppler, co-founder and CEO of the Bethesda, Md.-based company. “That’s to displace coal, grow more trees and fight climate change.” Enviva’s operational headquarters is in Raleigh, and North Carolina is home to four of the 10 pellet plants it operates in the southeast U.S. It says it has invested $675 million in the state and supports 1,800 jobs. About 500 are full-time workers, mostly in rural areas with high unemployment and low wages. Several plants are near former paper mills. Another biomass company, the U.K.-based Active Energy Group, has delayed a $50 million Robeson County plant after residents complained to state regulators about its impact. Tar Heels are about to hear more about Enviva, which is punching back after years of being stung by negative publicity “We’re going to be more bullish about the sustainability thing,” spokesperson Jacob Westfall says, including extensive advertising in state media. “We’ve been doing good work nobody has noticed.” To critics such as Asheville-based Dogwood Alliance, the N.C. Coastal Federation and the national Rachel Carson Council, this clear-cut forest demonstrates how the process decimates Carolina woodlands and damages nearby communities. “Enviva is good at a couple of things,” says Erin Carey, coastal programs director of the North Carolina Sierra Club. “Cutting trees and greenwashing their image.” Donna Chavis, a member of Friends of the

18

B U S I N E S S

Trend_Sustainability_Sept 2021.indd 18

N O R T H

Earth environmental group, and other environmental advocates demanded at a summer rally in Raleigh that the state cancel plans to provide as much as $1.6 million in job incentive payments to Enviva. “Incentivizing this industry is absolute folly,” Carey says. A spokesperson for Gov. Roy Cooper did not return calls for comment. But Enviva has received bipartisan support from top state leaders since announcing its N.C. plans nearly a decade ago. Democratic Gov. Beverly Perdue initially welcomed the company. Successors Pat McCrory, a Republican, and now Democratic Cooper have christened new plants and heaped praise on the company. Enviva cites examples, too, of local politicians coming to its defense. In Northampton County, Enviva’s second N.C. plant near Roanoke Rapids opened in 2013. It can produce as much as 750,000 tons of pellets per year. Franklin Williams Jr., the county’s director of economic development, recently took a national news network to task for portraying Enviva as “marginalizing” the county’s majority Black population to provide green energy for Europe. “The company is well respected” in Northampton and has boosted the economic status of residents, Williams says. The state monitors its emissions and gives it a clean bill of health, he adds. Enviva says Census Bureau statistics show Northampton families below the poverty level have decreased by 15% since the company’s arrival. Enviva is a new player in North Carolina’s historic forestry

C A R O L I N A

8/23/21 9:27 AM


products industry. An early explorer wrote that a squirrel could walk from coast to mountains without touching the ground. In the 1700s and 1800s, the state's tar and turpentine industries dominated worldwide production. In the Piedmont, abundant hardwoods fueled a leading global furniture industry.

ENVIVA SHARES MARCH AHEAD 60 45 30

ENVIVA PARTNERS LP

15

REVENUE NET INCOME (MILLION) (MILLION)

2020

$875 $17

2019 684 (3) 2018 574

7

2017 543 14 2016 464 13 2015 457 17

source: Enviva Partners LP

An N.C. State University study says the state has 18 million acres of forest, mostly privately owned, and, contrary to common opinion, it’s expanding rather than shrinking. At last count, forest products were worth nearly $19 billion a year. However, harvesting trees is invariably messy, whether clear or selectively cut, and frequently provokes outcries from environmental groups. Enviva insists it makes its products from otherwise useless scrub trees, limbs and other debris from traditional lumbering and wood by-products from other industries. The company buys raw materials from private owners and requires them to replant cut-over acreage. In a statement to Business North Carolina, Enviva says that waste converted to biomass fuel “has been recognized and continues to be supported by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change,” as a source of low-carbon power, and that energy from wood bioenergy “when produced sustainably, is well established and remains unchanged.” Though the company backs up such claims with data, gaining wholehearted support remains a challenge. The Biden administration, like that of Cooper in North Carolina, has declined to issue

0 2016

2017

2018

2019

2020

source: Yahoo Finance

clear statements of support for biomass, as it does with solar and wind energies. North Carolina’s clean-environment plan, which excludes biomass, was created during Michael Regan’s tenure leading the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality. Regan now directs the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Enviva responds that the state requires it to test all emissions points, that its pellets are 100% plant matter with no chemicals, and that its visible emissions are mainly harmless steam. Major state and national environmental organizations dispute Enviva’s methodology showing that biomass can help ease climate change. “Cutting trees, making pellets, shipping them across the ocean and burning them in Europe seems like a terrible way to fight climate change,” says Carey of the Sierra Club. Replacing a 50-year-old tree with a tiny seedling is hardly carbon-neutral, she notes. Enviva says critics such as Carey are misinformed and unqualified to judge the company’s arguments. Such disputes are buried in research details, but Enviva is also zeroing in on the more volatile topic of social justice. Forest land often lies in the state’s most economically distressed counties with only about 2% owned by minorities. The pellet business provides a market for their otherwise waste or scrap wood, Westfall says. “Our goal is to help the landowner make money off their land while retaining ownership.” Enviva has worked with the national Sustainable Forestry and Land Retention Program since 2015. “We help [landowners] manage their property and have long-term wealth creation.” Environmental debate aside, investors are warming up to Enviva. Shares of the company traded at a record high in midAugust, putting its market value at about $2.3 billion. It has had a total return of about 120% over the last three years, boosted by a dividend recently yielding about 6%. The company’s main owners are private-equity group Riverstone Investment Group and hedgefund investor Jeffrey Ubben's Inclusive Capital Partners. The two New York groups controlled nearly half of Enviva's shares, according to a February filing. More pellet plants are in the offing, officials say, along with expansion of Enviva's terminals at the Port of Wilmington and other sites. ■

S E P T E M B E R

Trend_Sustainability_Sept 2021.indd 19

2021

2 0 2 1

19

8/23/21 9:28 AM


NC TREND

Entertainment

NINJA MODE HOLLYWOOD STUNTMAN KEVIN CASSIDY BANKS ON THE WARRIOR CRAZE TO LAUNCH AN OBSTACLECOURSE BUSINESS.

B Y TAY L O R WA N B A U G H

▲ Ninja Nation features a series of obstacle course challenges like those seen on NBC's American Ninja Warrior TV show.

20

B U S I N E S S

Trend_NinjaNation_Sept 2021.indd 20

N O R T H

▲ Kevin Cassidy opened the 11,500-square-foot Ninja Nation gym in Huntersville earlier this year.

His resume has as many twists and turns as his on-screen stunts. While a teacher in Baltimore, a sport called SlamBall featured on the Spike TV channel caught his eye. Combining elements of basketball, football, hockey and gymnastics, players score points by shooting balls into hoops while competing on trampolines. “I found out about a [SlamBall team] tryout in Philadelphia,” Cassidy says. “So we drove to Philly for the weekend and just kind of not taking it very seriously. I ended up making it to the next round of tryouts in L.A.” He played SlamBall in Los Angeles for six months, which led to his entry into the movie stuntman world. He was invited to try out for the 2005 remake of The Longest Yard, a sports comedy that starred Adam Sandler, Chris Rock and Burt Reynolds. “[It] was a really cool experience. I made more money in that movie than I did a whole year teaching.” After 17 years stunting for movies such as The Dark Knight Rises, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Ant-Man, Black Panther, and Avengers: Endgame, he decided to pursue his dream of starting his own business. With fond memories of growing up in Charlotte, he thought it would be an ideal place to raise his three daughters with his wife, Megan, while building a business that he enjoyed. He met with Wayne Cavanaugh, the CEO of Colorado-based Ninja Nation, and loved the concept of a gym franchise and the company’s philosophy on getting kids involved in fun physical activity. Despite challenges during the pandemic, Cassidy opened the state’s first Ninja Nation location in Huntersville in May. Founded in 2017, Ninja Nation has four other locations in Colorado and Texas with plans to add a site next year in Nashville, Tenn. “Well, it's definitely a wow factor,” Cassidy says. “It's big, it's shiny, it's nice, it's very, very clean.We pride ourselves on cleanliness. A lot of people compare it either to an urban air trampoline park or gymnastic studio — we're kind of a hybrid in between both.” Ninja Nation offers a variety of options including open gym times, classes, birthday parties, summer camps, and a professional team. The gym also sets up obstacles at outside locations and hosts

PHOTOS COURTESY OF NINJA NATION

I

n what looks like a massive warehouse, people climb, twirl and zoom above a padded gym floor at Ninja Nation in Huntersville, just north of Charlotte. One group scales the side of a looming rock wall while others swing across a set of brightly colored monkey bars in the 11,500-square-foot arena. It’s like a child’s playground on steroids. What might seem like bizarre and daring feats of physical prowess have quickly become more commonplace in the general public with shows like NBC’s American Ninja Warrior, in which elite athletes compete on extreme obstacle courses. (Now in its 12th season, the show still attracts more than 3 million weekly viewers, though that is fewer than half compared with its peak popularity in 2015.). So-called “ninja” or “parkour” gyms have popped up around the country, including Fuquay-Varina’s Rock Solid Warrior, Kinetic Heights in Charlotte, and Winterville’s Warrior Zone. For Ninja Nation’s owner Kevin Cassidy, 44, it feels like home. He spent more than 17 years bursting through windows, leaping from buildings, and sprinting from explosions during his Hollywood stuntman career that includes eight Marvel superhero films.

C A R O L I N A

8/20/21 12:10 PM


▲ Kevin Cassidy. shown with Burt Reynolds, worked as a stuntman for more than 17 years. He appeared in movies such as The Longest Yard and Ant-Man..

special events such as a class and meet-and-greet with Karsten Williams, a McKinney, Texas, personal trainer who has competed on American Ninja Warrior eight times. Prices range from $17 for a one-hour open gym pass to $350 for a week of summer camp. At this time, the business is mainly geared toward kids, though Ninja Nation does offer a few adult-only classes and will expand its services to include more adult training courses in the fall.

Cassidy says that although shows such as American Ninja Warrior sparked a renewed interest in obstacle courses, the concepts covered at the gym are nothing new. “Kids have been climbing on monkey bars for 100 years,” Cassidy says. “So they didn't reinvent the whee; they short of optimized the wheel … [to make] playgrounds kind of competitive and fun and had the right mentality.” ■

S E P T E M B E R

Trend_NinjaNation_Sept 2021.indd 21

2 0 2 1

21

8/20/21 12:11 PM


NC TREND

Health care

BREATHTAKING IMAGING A PUBLIC COMPANY SPUN OUT OF DUKE UNIVERSITY PROMISES TO AID THOSE WITH AILING LUNGS.

BY CONNIE GENTRY

T

22

B U S I N E S S

Trend_Polarean_Sept 2021.indd 22

N O R T H

▲ Polarean's machine transfers gas to a single-dose bag that is used for inhalation by patients undergoing MRI scans.

than 70 pence in October when the company disclosed successful clinical trials. It closed as high as 99 pence in June and was trading at about 90 in early August. Because of its London listing, most of its major investors are from outside the U.S., including Scotland’s Amati Global Investors, which has a 14% stake. Polarean founder and Chief Technology Officer Bastiaan Driehuys, an associate professor of radiology, medical physics and biomedical engineering at Duke University, controls 7.5%. Regulators have approved testing of the product, so about 25 Polarean units are in use at medical research centers around the world, including at UNC Health and Duke University Hospital. Research at the Durham medical center helped launch the company in 2012. An Oxford University study found that Polarean’s approach detected lung damage not found through traditional tests, and some

PHOTOS COURTESY OF POLAREAN IMAGING

reating pulmonary diseases was a $150 billion business in the U.S. long before the pandemic heightened awareness of breathing difficulties. But COVID-19 has created an even bigger market for treating asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and other lung deficiencies. A study of 1.9 million COVID patients found that 23% had at least one COVID-related condition more than 30 days after their initial diagnosis, according to FAIR Health, a New York-based nonprofit that tracks medical bills. Generalized pain was the most prevalent “long-haul” condition, followed by breathing difficulties such as shortness of breath, chest pain and coughs. Now, Durham-based Polarean Imaging thinks it has a better mousetrap than traditional scans or X-rays to give clinicians the most comprehensive view of a patient’s lung performance while quantifying the effects of COVID-19. Officials say they are hoping for U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval of the technology in October, opening the door to commercial sales of units that are expected to sell for about $500,000. Polarean’s technology, which started at Duke University, integrates two well-established medical tools — magnetic resonance imaging, used in radiology to capture pictures of the body, and Xenon gas, which is often used in larger doses as a general anesthetic. The inhaled gas provides ideal tracing to show how oxygen moves through the lungs and bloodstream. “Although MRI technology has produced revolutionary diagnostics for use in oncology, cardiology, orthopaedics and internal medicine, the pulmonary physicians were simply left behind and did not have the benefit of this technology,” says Richard Hullihen, CEO of Polarean Imaging. With his company’s offering, “all of a sudden we can completely explain pulmonary function to clinicians.” Polarean Imaging launched as a public company on the AIM London Stock Exchange in 2018 and has raised roughly $60 million from investors, including about $30 million in the past year. It has posted combined losses of about $18 million over the past three years with about $6 million in revenue in that period. Shares began trading at 15.5 British pence, then shot up to more C A R O L I N A

8/20/21 12:11 PM


long-haulers are coping with lung problems for as many as nine months after contracting COVID. “Lung disease is such an extraordinary challenge for so many people, and our technology allows us to visualize lung function three-dimensionally, non-invasively, rapidly, and comprehensively,” says Driehuys. “In many ways, the ability to study COVID is a natural culmination of all the fundamental research we’ve been doing in other [pulmonary] diseases.” Driehuys says Polarean enables clinicians to monitor if the long-haul symptoms resolve naturally or need interventions that are typically associated with chronic pulmonary diseases.

23.2%

of COVID patients have long-haul symptoms

“The unfortunate characteristic of pulmonary disease is that most folks are not going to be diagnosed and cured,” Hullihen says. “But regular evaluations can help patients manage the problem to enable as much lung function as possible.” Pediatric physicians at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital and other centers have also shown great interest in the technology with the only difference being a smaller amount of Xenon gas is given to children. “Many kids have an easier time doing the Xenon MRI exam than the traditional breathing test where they have to blow out very hard,” Driehuys says. “Kids have a really hard time with that [big exhale], but they have an easy time inhaling the little baggie of Xenon for our MRI exam.” ■

$60 million raised by Polarean Imaging

$500,000 projected cost of a Polarean MRI unit

S E P T E M B E R

Trend_Polarean_Sept 2021.indd 23

2 0 2 1

23

8/20/21 12:11 PM


NC TREND

Philanthropy

HOPE FOR HAITI REPEAT BUSINESS SUCCESS AND DEEP FAITH PROPEL THE BRASWELL FAMILY’S DEVOTION TO THE EMBATTLED CARIBBEAN NATION.

BY EBONY L. MORMAN

I

24

B U S I N E S S

Trend_Braswell_Sept 2021.indd 24

N O R T H

▲ Roger Braswell hugs Luckson after the young Haitian's baptism. Give Hope Global is a Christian organization.

me. It’s not just them. It's the thousands who made mortgage payments, sent kids to school and held their head up while supporting their families.” That’s also the philosophy behind the work that Braswell and Quinn feel called to do in Haiti. She was inspired to help Haiti after a stint as a journalist covering the work of a medical team. She expected a one-time event that would enable her to use her journalism degree. “God used it to take me to Haiti,” says Quinn, 50. “I owed it to the greater good to use the training I had to serve others, but what I didn’t know was that the trip was going to radically change my life and become my life’s work.” Over the years, Give Hope Global’s work has focused on sharing the Braswell family’s Christian faith while offering youths in the Cambry/Les Cayes area of Haiti access to good health, education and jobs. It’s a family affair with many members of his immediate and extended family being actively involved including his wife of 51 years, Teresa. In 2016, the group expanded its work to Ghana, an African nation of 37 million. With financial support from partners in Haiti and the U.S.,

PHOTOS COURTESY OF GIVE HOPE GLOBAL

t’s been almost a decade since Charlotte entrepreneur Roger Braswell made his first mission trip to Haiti, the Caribbean nation 830 miles southeast of Florida. When asked to attend by his daughter, Angela Quinn, his initial thoughts were that it would be great to spend time with her and check “mission trip” off his bucket list. He agreed to co-lead a team of medical professionals who were traveling to serve children in a local orphanage. During that trip, a 12-year-old girl took Braswell’s hand, pressed it into her belly and said, “Roger, I’m hungry.” “Ernise knew my name, and she was starving,” he says. “So, I couldn’t go back and just check the trip off my bucket list. I had to do something about it.” Braswell, now 68, knew exactly what he needed to do, while possessing confidence in using his business skills to create a nonprofit enterprise to aid residents of one of the world’s poorest nations. In 2012, he joined Quinn in starting Give Hope Global. At 15, Braswell started his first business, a landscaping service, while attending high school in Charlotte. Following graduation, he decided to skip college and get to work. Over the years, he’s started or bought nine companies. One of his businesses was among seven similar organizations that combined in 1998 to become the publicly traded LandCare USA, which was acquired a year later by ServiceMaster, the owner of TruGreen lawn care. He sold another business, an equipment importer, to lawnmower manufacturer Toro. His biggest hit came in 2017 with Home Depot’s purchase of Compact Power Equipment, an equipment rental company formed in 2003 with private-equity backing. His current businesses are Southern Shade Tree, which provides landscape maintenance services in the Charlotte area, and Bentwood Farms, a Union County turfgrass company. Braswell says he defines success by his ability to aid others. “What I’m proud of is the impact the businesses have had on the employees who worked alongside me,” he says. “I can point to a handful who are now millionaires who worked alongside C A R O L I N A

8/23/21 9:31 AM


Give Hope Global has created many opportunities that align with its mission, including a residential student village, a farm, transition homes, high school classes, scholarships for college classes, postsecondary support, pastor training and community health programs. More than 100 volunteers have supported the group, which has a part-time administrative staff and an advisory board that aids Braswell and Quinn. Before the pandemic, Give Hope Global was hosting about three to four annual trips. With per capita income of less than $1,800 in 2020, Haiti has little to show for decades of philanthropic and economicdevelopment support, totaling billions of dollars, from the U.S. and other nations. In July, Haitian President Jovenel Moïse was killed in the middle of the night by a group of foreign mercenaries, sparking global outrage. For two years leading up to the assassination, the political unrest including calls for Moïse’s resignation impacted Give Hope Global’s work. Schools were forced to close periodically, and the U.S. government deemed Haiti to be in the same travel advisory category as Afghanistan, North Korea and Iran. Additionally, the periodic closure of the embassy made it hard for students to obtain visas, while raging inflation made it more expensive to do business. Still, Braswell and Quinn remain committed to continuing their work. “We’ve been to Haiti during the cholera epidemic, the chikungunya [virus], COVID-19, Hurricane Matthew,” he says. “Our friends in Haiti marvel that we come when we do, but this is not something we dabble in. We're serious about it.” While Braswell had no idea what his “yes” meant so many

▲ Braswell assisted with relief efforts after Hurricane Matthew hit Haiti.

years ago, he says the experience has been a continual blessing. “It’s this thing called the infinite game by [leadership expert] Simon Sinek,” he says “The companies and people that are most successful recognize they are playing an infinite game. It’s not just about my time, it’s about the time beyond my time. We call it a 100-year strategy to change Haiti. It’s OK if we don’t see the impact of it in our lifetime.” ■

▲ Braswell, left, Ernise, Ketto, Stephen (grandson), Drew (grandson), Angela (his daughter and co-founder), Titite, Wilner and Alex (granddaughter)

Shop Hope Global Angela Quinn found another way to assist Haitians by launching Shop Hope Global in 2019. The online retail site stems from her desire to create opportunities for children she had witnessed grow into young adults over the past decade. Quinn wants to create a pathway to success for high school graduates who lack the desire or ability to enter postsecondary education. Shop Hope Global provides work opportunities for Haitian artisans through an ethical line of fashion products. The target market is U.S. customers who share Quinn’s vision of aiding Haitians, the vast majority of whom earn less than $5 a day. Shop Hope is starting small-scale manufacturing with students there. Many products are made with recycled items including tires, Haitian mud that’s used to make pottery, seeds made into jewelry, and shoes and bags made from recycled plastic bottles. Women pick through the trash in the capital city of Port-au-Prince to find plastic bottles, which are used for thread that is used for various products. Proceeds from each Shop Hope purchase support the family’s Give Hope Global nonprofit. “I always tell people it’s a win-win,” Quinn says. “You’re creating jobs on the front end and you’re educating university students with the profits. People love to give gifts that have meaning and to give back.” The Braswell family hosts an annual fundraiser to support their Haitian outreach. The Give Hope Gala is scheduled for Nov. 6 at Westin Charlotte with tickets on sale in September. ■

S E P T E M B E R

Trend_Braswell_Sept 2021.indd 25

2 0 2 1

25

8/23/21 9:31 AM

▲ Polar inhalatio


NC TREND

Statewide

NORTH CAROLINA’S CHANGING POPULATION

L

ast month’s Census Bureau report provided an intricate look at increasing urbanization and diversity in the ninth-most populous state. The 9.5% growth during the decade was the slowest pace in more than a century. But nearly 80% of the state’s population growth occurred in the Charlotte and Triangle metro areas. Fifty-one counties lost population over the last decade, versus only seven

POPULATION CHANGE BY DECADE

decliners in the 10 years ending in 2010. Expansions planned by major employers such as Apple in Wake County and Centene in Mecklenburg suggest the trend will continue over the next few years. Meanwhile, the state’s Hispanic population surged to make up nearly 11% overall, while the percentage of white and Black residents declined to 60.5% and 20.2%, respectively. ■

FASTEST GROWING COUNTIES Johnston. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 27.9%

GROWTH RATES OF 10 MOST-POPULOUS STATES

million 12

Brunswick . . . . . . . . . . . . . 27.2

10

Cabarrus. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 26.8

8

Wake. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 25.4

North Carolina 9.5

Michigan

6

Durham . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 21.4

California

Illinois

4

Mecklenburg. . . . . . . . . . . . 21.3 12.2% 11.5% 15.7% 12.7% 21.4% 18.5% 9.5%

2 0

1960

1970

1980

1990

2000

2010

2020

POPULATION MAKEUP White non-Hispanic 2020: 2010:

2000:

60.5%

70.2%

65.3%

Guilford: 541,299 Forsyth: 382,590 Cumberland: 334,728 Durham: 324,833

26

B U S I N E S S

Trend_Statewide_Sept 2021.indd 26

10.6

Ohio

2.3

6.1

GROWTH RATES OF SOUTHERN STATES

Tyrrell . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 26.4%

Alabama 5.1

Georgia 10.6

Kentucky 3.8

North Carolina 9.5

Arkansas 3.3

Tennessee 8.9

Louisiana 2.7

STATES GAINING SEATS IN CONGRESS Texas (2)

GROWTH RATES OF LARGEST CITIES

Colorado Florida

Charlotte

19.6%

Raleigh

15.8

Greensboro

10.9

Durham

24.2

Winston-Salem

8.4

Fayetteville

4

Montana North Carolina Oregon

PERCENTAGE OF WHITE NON-HISPANIC POPULATION Charlotte . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 39.7% Raleigh. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 51.6

10.8%

Greensboro. . . . . . . . . . . . . 38.6

9.1%

Durham . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 38.6

4.8%

Winston-Salem . . . . . . . . . . 44

21.4%

N O R T H

2 (- 0.1)

Virginia 7.9

Duplin . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16.7

25.4% growth 21.3%

2.4

Georgia

South Carolina 10.7

Washington. . . . . . . . . . . . . 16.8

TRENDS IN LARGEST COUNTIES Mecklenburg: 1.11 million

Pennsylvania

Anson . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18.2

1.4

Wake County population: 1.13 million

4.2

14.6

Florida 14.6%

Northampton. . . . . . . . . . . . 20.9

20.2 21.2 21.4 Hispanic/Latino 10.7 8.4 4.7 Multi-race non-Hispanic 3.9 1.6 1 Asian non-Hispanic 2.2

New York

Florida

COUNTIES LOSING POPULATION AT FASTEST RATE Hyde . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 21

Black non-Hispanic

3.3

Texas 15.3%

Fayetteville. . . . . . . . . . . . . 34.5

C A R O L I N A

8/23/21 9:37 AM


TRIANGLE RALEIGH State Employees’ Credit Union named Jim Hayes president/CEO, succeeding Mike Lord on Sept. 1. Hayes has been CEO of Andrews Federal Credit Union in Suitland, Md. Lord joined the $50 billion credit union in 1975 and became CEO in 2016. SECU has assets of $50 billion. The National Science Foundation is providing $20 million to UNC Chapel Hill and N.C. State University for The Artificial Intelligence Institute for Engaged Learning. The initiative will focus on using artificial intelligence as an educational tool. Partners include Indiana University, Vanderbilt University and nonprofit Digital Promise. Gilead Sciences said it will open an office in the North Hills area with plans to hire 300 employees in human resources, finance and information technology positions by November. Gilead could receive nearly $10 million in incentives from the state over 12 years.

PHOTO COURTESY OF AMGEN

Mark Mulhern, CFO at Highwoods Properties for the last seven years, will retire on Jan. 1. Treasurer Brendan Maiorana will be his successor. Mulhern was previously a senior finance executive at Duke Energy and its predecessor companies. The N.C. Courage professional women’s soccer team disclosed eight new investors, including Jim and Sue Datin, former NFL star Torry Holt and Raleigh developer John Kane. Existing owners include Chairman Steve Malik, tennis superstar Naomi Osaka and Capitol Broadcasting.

HOLLY SPRINGS Biotech company Amgen is investing $550 million in a manufacturing facility with plans to add 355 jobs including engineers, technicians and management and administrative roles. Salaries will average nearly $120,000. The company is slated for $11.6 million in state incentives over 12 years, based on meeting hiring and investment goals.

CARY Quantum computing startup Atom Computing will open an executive office here and hire former Lenovo executive Rob Hays to lead the company as CEO. The Berkeley, Calif.-based company recently raised $15 million.

DURHAM Lolli, a bitcoin rewards startup, added $10 million in capital, several months after raising a similar amount. The company employs about 30, including contractors. Acrew Capital led the fundraising, with additional money from Anana Capital, Up North Management and Animal Capital. Actor Ashton Kutcher previously invested in the business.

Cambridge, Mass.-based bluebird bio plans to sell its 125,000 square foot facility to National Resilience, for $110 million, creating an alliance to develop cell therapies. San Diego-based Resilience will retain technical and administrative workers at the site, where it employs more than 100. Life-sciences firm Bioventus bought Misonix, a New York-based developer of ultrasonic surgical devices, for $518 million in stock and cash. The combined company will remain based here. Chicago-based biotechnology company Tempus is opening a 52,000-square-foot lab in Research Triangle Park and plans to add 200 employees. Tempus, founded in 2015 by Groupon co-founder Eric Lefkofsky, was valued at $8 billion in late 2020. Google is a part owner. Phononic, a cooling and heating technology company, secured $50 million from a Goldman Sachs fund. Phononic has raised $230 million overall and says the funding will allow it to expand sales, marketing and manufacturing.

S E P T E M B E R

Trend_Statewide_Sept 2021.indd 27

2 0 2 1

27

8/23/21 9:37 AM


NC TREND

Statewide

Endowment to study social determinants in public health. Dallas-based Comerica Bank is opening commercial lending offices here, Raleigh and Charlotte. The move is part of the 172-year-old bank’s effort to establish a greater presence in the Southeast, where it has more than $5 billion in loan commitments.

ROXBORO

Smart Wires is investing $21.5 million over five years to establish a corporate headquarters and research and development site in Raleigh. The company, which considered Texas for the project, says it will create 250 jobs, aided by as much as $2.8 million in state incentives.

MORRISVILLE

Tenax Therapeutics, which focuses on cardiovascular and pulmonary diseases, raised nearly $10 million from an undisclosed investor. The company recently hired former Iqvia executive Christopher Giordano as CEO. He succeeds Anthony DiTono, who retired. Tenax raised $5 million last year.

B U S I N E S S

Trend_Statewide_Sept 2021.indd 28

Glen Raven will create 205 jobs as part of an $82 million capital investment expansion of its Custom Fabrics operations in Warren County. The locally based company makes performance textiles that include the Sunbrella and Dickson brands. The manufacturer could receive as much as $1 million in state incentives.

WINSTON-SALEM

JupiterOne, a cyber asset management, security and governance software company, raised $30 million from Cisco Investments, Splunk Ventures and others. The company was founded as a subsidiary of Indianapolis-based LifeOmic. Cisco’s venture group also recently invested $5 million in TriggerMesh, an Apex-based startup.

28

TRIAD

BURLINGTON

N O R T H

Nature’s Value, a vitamin and dietary supplements manufacturer, plans a 426,000-square-foot site here. The Coram, N.Y.-based company says it will create 183 new jobs and invest $19 million in equipment. The state is providing as much as $1.95 million in incentives over 12 years. Wake Forest School of Medicine received a $15 million grant for Alzheimer’s research from the National Institutes of Health. The money goes to The J. Paul Sticht Center for Healthy Aging and Alzheimer’s Prevention and the Alzheimer’s Disease Core Center at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center. The school also received a $2.8 million grant from the Duke

The Alamance County Area Chamber of Commerce picked Reagan Gural as CEO, succeeding Mac Williams when he retires in November. Gural has worked for the chamber since 2011.

▲ Reagan Gural

PHOTOS COURTESY OF POLYWOOD, COMERICA, ALAMANCE COUNTY AREA CHAMBER OF COMMERCE

Polywood, a Syracuse, Ind.-based manufacturer of outdoor furniture made from recycled plastics, is investing $61.6 million to expand its manufacturing and distribution center and will create 300 jobs over five years. The state is offering as much as $3 million in incentives for jobs that will average $42,500 annually.

C A R O L I N A

8/23/21 9:38 AM


SHELBY

ELON

Dickinson, N.D.-based steel fabrication company Steffes is investing $20.9 million in a manufacturing facility, creating 130 jobs. The jobs will have an average annual salary of $47,392. The 40-year-old company could receive more than $1.4 million in state incentives spread over 12 years.

Elon University renamed its education school in honor of Dr. Jo Watts Williams following a $10 million donation from a foundation connected to her family. It’s a record gift for the university. Williams, a longtime faculty member, served as Elon’s first vice president of development for 16 years, increasing its endowment size by a factor of eight.

GREENSBORO Shane Sgambelluri was named executive vice president of sales at tobacco company ITG Brands. He has worked in consumer packaging for more than 23 years, most recently as vice president of Kellogg’s U.S. grocery business. John Ryan is resigning by the end of the year after 14 years as the top executive at the Center for Creative Leadership, based here. The company has begun an international search for his successor.

STATESVILLE

CHARLOTTE

Doosan Bobcat is investing $70 million on a 580,000-square-foot expansion here, creating a 1.2-million-square-foot site. It will be the Korean-owned company’s largest manufacturing site. As many as 250 jobs will be added over five years.

CHARLOTTE DAVIDSON Davidson College President Carol Quillen is stepping down after the 2021-22 school year after 11 years. The school’s endowment topped $1 billion during her tenure.

Glatfelter, which supplies engineering materials, is acquiring Switzerland-based Jacob Holm, which manufactures nonwoven fabric, for $308 million. The deal is expected to be completed this year, Glatfelter adds four manufacturing facilities, six sales offices and about 800 employees.

Mark Brazil, tournament director of Wyndham Championship, will become CEO of the Piedmont Triad Charitable Foundation, which sponsors the annual PGA Tour event. Bobby Powell, the director of operations, will succeed Brazil. Cone Health plans a $34 million investment to expand and rehab Alamance Regional Hospital in Burlington. New heart care, radiology and breast care improvements are planned.

PHOTOS COURTESY OF ELON.EDU

HIGH POINT Three affiliated companies — Classical Elements Inc., M2C Studio and Leyla Gans LLC — moved from Morrisville to the former Pickett Cotton Mill. The companies employ about 30 and are owned by Stuart and Leyla Gans.

CONCORD Broomfield Colo.-based aluminum beverage-packaging company Ball is investing $383.8 million at the former Philip Morris plant. The move follows plans by Austrian companies Red Bull and Rauch to start a beverage manufacturing hub there. Ball, which has 21,500 employees and more than 60 production facilities across the globe, says it will add 220 jobs with the investment with an average annual salary of $70,555. The three companies expect to create more than 600 jobs and invest more than $1 billion by 2027. Ball could receive state incentives of more than $3 million over 12 years.

S E P T E M B E R

Trend_Statewide_Sept 2021.indd 29

2 0 2 1

29

8/23/21 9:38 AM


Statewide

Tech startup Anduin, which offers an artificial intelligence platform that automates accounts receivable processing, raised $14 million. Charlotte’s Leon Levine Foundation donated $11.5 million to the Levine Scholars Program at UNC Charlotte. The foundation has donated about $30 million to the university over the years. The scholars program covers the costs of four years of education for 20 students annually.

EAST

WILMINGTON Green Dot Heating & Air is expanding with its seventh acquisition. It will open locations in South Carolina in the Charleston and Columbia markets. The firm has 75 employees.

ROCKY MOUNT First Carolina Bank hired David Torris to spearhead its entry into upstate South Carolina. Torris is an alumnus of Clemson University and has served in similar positions at other Carolinas and Georgia-based banks.

WRIGHTSVILLE BEACH EMERALD ISLE Transportation Impact, a logistics company that was acquired by New York-based private-equity firm Jordan Group in March 2020, changed its name to TransImpact. CEO Berkley Stafford says the name “better reflects our new future as a technology company delivering solutions across the entire supply chain continuum.”

Ivester Jackson Coastal, an affiliate of Christie’s International Real Estate, opened an office here. Ivester Jackson has three offices in Charlotte, two in Asheville and a seventh coming to the Highlands area.

WEST

ASHEVILLE C. Hunter Westbrook was tapped as president and CEO of HomeTrust Bank and president of its holding company, HomeTrust Bancshares. Dana Stonestreet remains CEO of the holding company. Westbrook was an executive at TCF Financial and CEO of two community banks before joining HomeTrust in 2012. A new Marriott-affiliated hotel, the Moxy, will be built adjacent to the downtown Aloft hotel, according to plans seeking city approval. The Moxy hotel will include 109 rooms in an eight-story building, while sharing amenities with the adjacent Aloft. McKibbon Hotel Group is the project’s developer. Dogwood Health Trust named Sarah Thompson vice president of impact and economic opportunity. She has been executive director for the Sylva-based Southwestern Commission, a government council serving seven counties. The trust was formed from proceeds of the sale of Mission Health to HCA Healthcare.

▲ Berkley Stafford

WILSON Sonoco Products is closing its plant here and laying off 138 workers. The Hartsville, S.C.-based company said the closure was caused by “historically declining volumes, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

30

B U S I N E S S

Trend_Statewide_Sept 2021.indd 30

N O R T H

MARION Mission Health plans a $20 million expansion to add 11 beds at its McDowell County hospital. The two-story tower will expand capacity by 35%. HCA Healthcare owns Mission.

PHOTO COURTESY OF TRANSIMPACT, MISSIONHEALTH.ORG

NC TREND

C A R O L I N A

8/23/21 9:41 AM


S E P T E M B E R

Trend_Statewide_Sept 2021.indd 31

2 0 2 1

31

8/20/21 12:17 PM


COMMUNITY CLOSE-UP

CATAWBA COUNTY

Views of the renovated Union Square and City Walk during the annual Swingin’ Under the Stars event in Hickory.

A NEW LOOK While staying true to its furniture-industry past, Catawba County is investing, upgrading and expanding for its future.

Hickory and furniture are a longtime match. Catawba County’s largest city, it has been home to manufacturers and showrooms for more than a century. The industry remains alive and well — 27% of jobs are categorized as manufacturing, according to the Catawba County Economic Development Corp. But the region is undergoing a makeover that mixes classic features with modern twists. “We kind of went through a transition from the manufacturing age,” says Hickory City Manager Warren Wood. “We’re geared for family-oriented activity. We have the Crawdads [minor league baseball], the lake [Hickory]. We’re close to the mountains. Our family numbers are really strong. We’re optimistic about our future.” Similar tales are told across

32

B U S I N E S S

Catawba_County_Sept2021.indd 32

N O R T H

Catawba County. Its cities and towns are crafting live-work-play downtowns that host family-centered activities. Colleges are preparing a new generation of workers. Data centers are booting up, and longtime businesses are investing. “Conover, Newton, Hickory — all have invested in sort of reinventing themselves in order to encourage growth in the 20 to 44 age group,” county EDC President Scott Millar says. “They’ve built or are building things such as extensive walking trails, greenways, quality of life improvements, breweries. ‘Reinvention’ is a trite term, but anybody that explored Catawba County and Hickory and this region in the past would be astonished now at the differences that are out there. You don’t imagine downtown Hickory having a

C A R O L I N A

multistory apartment complex right over a restaurant, but it does.” Millar says the transformation is just beginning. “The world is changing,” he says. “You better get on and ride this thing.”

TRAIL MIX The 5.2-mile Hickory Trail has three segments, a quarter-mile buffer on each side and crosses the path of 26% of city residents. City leaders’ 20-page playbook labels it “a catalyst for economic growth and revitalization” and a “major asset in the community’s effort to build a strong economy.” The project, funded by a $40 million bond referendum and $10 million in grants, includes recreation, shopping, hospitality, residential, medical services and education components.

SPONSORED SECTION

8/20/21 12:18 PM


“We’re seeing a lot more growth, really all over,” Wood says. “We understand the value of economic activity. We understand what’s meant to improve our quality of life. And all of those things are coming together.” It’s a busy time in Hickory, even with a global pandemic. “I have never seen, from the housing side, the commercial side, the industrial, more activity in the 30 years I’ve been here,” Wood says. “Our challenge is building enough housing for people to move in to. We’re a family friendly community. A lot of homegrown businesses are here. We understand the value of economic activity, and the Trail system was meant to improve our quality of life, which it has done. And it attracts a high-quality workforce. So, all of those things come together. The whole bond initiative was to attract and retain the working-age workforce, and we’ve really been successful.”

A NEW NEWTON The largest employers in Newton skew overwhelmingly toward manufacturing. There’s Bassett Furniture, Corning, Flowers Foods, Lee Industries and Renwood Mills, which makes Southern Biscuit and Tenda-Bake flours and baking mixes. And while these longstanding companies provide jobs for the city’s residents, which the N.C. Office of State Budget and Management says numbered 13,059 in 2019, local leaders are banking on upgrades to attract residents, visitors and businesses. And they start downtown. The Newton Streetscape Revitalization Project was adopted in 2016. “[It’s] the largest infrastructure investment in Newton in generations,” says Alex Frick, the city’s public information officer. “The ongoing Newton Streetscape Revitalization Project is the city of Newton’s primary

Photos by Chad Austin, Inc.

It’s expected to bring 8,000 jobs, 1,750 housing units, 3,500 residents and $500 million in private investment by 2035. The Trail’s Riverwalk section starts at the Catawba River. It has mountain bike trails, and public water access for paddle boards and kayaks is planned. A small spot is zoned residential. The middle section — the Old Lenoir Road Phase, which goes to 9th Street NW before the final stretch carries it to Lenoir-Rhyne University — is zoned general business and office/institutional on its south side and medium-density residential on its north side. The average single-family home value along the Trail’s entirety is estimated as $250,000, a total of $41.5 million. Catawba County is proving to be a popular place to live. Its population was 160,732 in 2020, according to N.C. Office of State Budget and Management. That’s an increase of more than 6,000 from a decade before.

Clockwise from top left: Hickory’s Riverwalk under construction; construction of the double-helix arches of the City Walk’s pedestrian bridge over NC 127; side view of the Riverwalk under construction next to Lake Hickory; renderings of the Riverwalk overwater bridge. S E P T E M B E R

Catawba_County_Sept2021.indd 33

2 0 2 1

33

8/20/21 12:18 PM


COMMUNITY CLOSE-UP

CATAWBA COUNTY plan to make downtown Newton more vibrant. Completed streetscape projects across the country indicate that similar municipal investments yield a return in private investment many times larger than the initial municipal investment, and we have already seen significant private investment that is at least partially a result of the city’s investments downtown. The project is about halfway complete, and we are looking forward to completing the remaining phases of the project.” Outdated underground utilities — water, sewer, electric, cable, fiber — are being replaced under the plan. Frick says above-ground improvements include newly paved travel lanes, bike lanes and parking, wider paver sidewalks, decorative lights and poles, streetside trees, benches, and trash and recycle bins. Entertainment is expanding, too. “The first phase included the addition of the Frank & Sue Jones Amphitheatre, across from the 1924 Courthouse, which is the perfect setting for outdoor concerts and performances,” Frick says. “The amphitheater was funded thanks to a generous bequest from the estate of Sue Jones.” It hosts Downtown Newton Development Association’s Bright Future Concerts series, which resumed in June. Held monthly, the concerts include a musical act, children’s activities and food trucks. The project’s second phase included construction work at Yount Park, which is at the intersection of College Avenue and A Street. “The park doubled in size to allow for a new performance space and greater accessibility,” Frick says. “New landscaping and pavers make the space more inviting to residents and visitors.” Newton also pushes its industrial sites and business parks, underscoring its proximity to Charlotte. “With the expansion of N.C. 16 to four lanes between Newton and Charlotte, there

SPONSORED SECTION

Catawba_County_Sept2021.indd 34

8/20/21 12:19 PM


is a direct, 40-minute link between the two cities,” Frick says. “We expect to see significant growth as a result of this new link and plan to embrace the changes that growth will bring while maintaining the attributes that make Newton such a special place to live and do business. We are pleased to be seeing increases in private investment as a direct result of significant municipal infrastructure investments throughout the city, and we plan to continue making those investments to make Newton increasingly attractive to residents and businesses.”

Yount Park, across from the 1924 Courthouse in Newton, was revitalized as part of the streetscape improvements and is now a beautiful spot for taking a rest, having a picnic and enjoying small outdoor performances.

Photos courtesy of the City of Newton

CONOVER’S MAKEOVER After Broyhill Furniture shut the doors to its downtown Conover factory in 2005, city officials purchased the property. They wanted to repurpose the site into a central business district. They described the move as a mix of downtown revitalization and economic development. Most of the former factory’s structures were demolished within five years. Conover officials say that created “a clean slate, where a variety of uses could be undertaken.” Renamed Conover Station, the site sits near N.C. 16, U.S. 70 and U.S. 321 Business. Hop in a car and Hickory is minutes away. Charlotte is about an hour’s drive. While Conover Station is slated to eventually become a multimodal transportation center that offers passenger rail service, it already is home to a Catawba County Library branch, coffee shop, community meeting room and city park. Catawba Valley Community College moved its Manufacturing Solutions Center here about a decade ago. It offers product testing for textiles, structural furniture and plastics; resources for product development; workforce training on manufacturing basics such as software and equipment; product sourcing; cut-and-sew production; business incubation; and support for companies

Catawba_County_Sept2021.indd 35

8/20/21 12:19 PM


COMMUNITY CLOSE-UP

CATAWBA COUNTY

August 2021 photo of the 270-acre Trivium Corporate Center.

that work with nontextile products such as rubber, plastic, wood and metal. In April, Conover and CVCC officials met at Conover Station to break ground on a project that will renovate the Manufacturing Solutions Center and open a two-story expansion. Its first floor will house labs for structural engineering and fabric formation. A personal protective equipment and textile resource lab and rooms for conferences and meetings will be upstairs. The N.C. General Assembly allotted $9 million in CARES Act funds for the project, which also received grants from N.C. Community College System and N.C. Manufacturing Extension Partnership.

WORKFORCE CREATION Catawba County is home to LenoirRhyne University, an Appalachian State University campus and CVCC. Specialized training centers include N.C. Center for Engineering Technologies, Apprenticeship Catawba, NCWorks and high school career and technical education programs. “We call ourselves Charlotte’s Great Northwest because of all the education and training we have here,” Wood says. Local workforce-development

36

B U S I N E S S

Catawba_County_Sept2021.indd 36

N O R T H

initiatives are educating, training and segueing students and residents into local jobs. They target industries such as automotive parts manufacturing, food processing, advanced textiles and data centers. “There are new community college improvements, like new programs with the K-64 initiative and the Manufacturing Solutions Center — it’s a new development phase in Conover,” Millar says. “It looks a lot different than it did two or four years ago.” Led by CVCC, K-64 launched after a 2016 survey revealed a gradual decline in the county’s working-age population. A collaboration that includes local business, community partners, Catawba EDC, Catawba County, The Chamber of Catawba County and local school systems, its goal is to “increase student and employer engagement in educational programs proven to prepare a qualified workforce.” That includes helping students with curriculum choices and assisting adults seeking employment. In less than two years, it raised $6 million, invested more than $300,000 in teacher training and saw more than 300 businesses partner with the CVCC Workforce Solutions Center.

C A R O L I N A

Catawba EDC’s website lists move-in ready locations for businesses and industries, including the 270-acre Trivium Corporate Center, which is jointly developed by the EDC, Catawba County and Hickory. It’s zoned for office and light-industrial use and is less than a mile from CVCC. Current tenants include Toyota Motor Corp. affiliate Cataler and Corning, which plans to add 110 jobs and invest $60 million over five years. They’re joined by American Fuji Seal, which announced a 260,000-square-foot factory — a $52 million investment that will create 101 jobs — in December, and Gusmer, which announced in April it was investing $38.2 million in a 135,000-square-foot manufacturing center for liquid filtration products that will create 73 jobs. “There are only three lots left, and we’re fairly confident by October there will be another announcement in advanced manufacturing,” Wood says. “We anticipate in the next year the original footprint will be full.” Catawba County recently purchased 100 acres adjacent to Trivium. “We’re going to get it ramped up and put it on the market,” Wood says. “We originally thought it would take us 20 years to fill this thing up, but it’s going to be full in its first five or six years.” The North Carolina Data Center Corridor slices through North Carolina’s western third, from Catawba County southwest toward Forest City. Powered by the same abundant sources of electricity that spun the textile industry a century ago, it’s populated by technology giants, including Google and Facebook. Apple chose Catawba County for a $1 billion data center that handles its iCloud and iTunes services in 2009. The county has courted the industry since 2006. “We made 40% of the world supply of fiber optic cable

Photo by Chad Austin Inc.

ROOM TO GROW

SPONSORED SECTION

8/20/21 12:19 PM


Catawba_County_Sept2021.indd 37

8/20/21 12:19 PM


COMMUNITY CLOSE-UP

A Century Furniture Plant 2 pattern-maker creates a tufting design for an upholstered piece of furniture.

in 2000,” Millar says. “We want to position ourselves at both ends of the spectrum. CommScope and Corning make the fiber, and at the other end of the spectrum there are the data center folks. We want to continue to build clusters of technology companies.” There is room to grow, including at the 89-acre The Power Center @ Maiden. This industrial site is 2 miles east of Apple’s data center and 28 miles south of Google’s $600 million data center in Lenoir. Conover’s Data Site is 83 acres, 3 miles from where Interstate 40 and N.C. 16 intersect. Lyle Creek Technology Park, east of Hickory, is 55 acres, and Claremont has the 50,000-square-foot Powered Shell Data Center.

LONGSTANDING COMPANIES INVEST Some Catawba County businesses have deep regional roots. The Shuford family, for example, traces its tree to 1880, when Abel Shuford founded Shuford Mills in Granite Falls, just across the line in Caldwell County. In 1955, the textile manufacturer tried something new. “[It] leveraged some of the existing manufacturing assets and production talent to start a tape

38

B U S I N E S S

Catawba_County_Sept2021.indd 38

N O R T H

division, capturing the growing demand for basic crepe and flatback paper tapes, commonly known as masking tape,” says Shurtape spokeswoman Caitlyn Ward. Shuford Mills formally created Shurtape Technologies in 1996. Its headquarters, research and development, and three of seven domestic manufacturing operations are in Hickory. It opened a distribution center in the town of Catawba last year. Shuford’s great-great-grandson Jim is chairman of Shurtape’s board, and great-great-grandson Stephen is vice chairman. But they aren’t the only family members to helm a local business. Their uncle, aunt and first cousins founded Century Furniture, now part of Rock House Farm, which owns several furniture companies, including Hickory Chair. Shurtape produces professional and industrial tapes under several brands. Its 1,500 employees are spread across 13 sites in the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, Mexico, Peru, China, United Arab Emirates and Australasia. But there’s no place like home. “Hickory, along with Catawba County, offer both geographic and talent benefits,” Ward

C A R O L I N A

says. “Geographically, this area is well-placed among Shurtape’s network of manufacturing and distribution facilities in the Unifour area, while also providing convenient and easy access to a number of key shipping lanes. This area not only provides a supportive business climate but is also ripe with talent, providing a wealth of highly skilled workers who take pride in getting the job done right.” In 1931, brothers Alex and Lee George bought Hickory-based Merchants Produce Co., which distributed food to small grocers, restaurants, schools and hospitals. What began with 12 employees and three trucks became grocery-store supplier Merchants Distributors in 1956. MDI was an early user of technology — IBM punch cards in the 1940s and mainframe computers in the 1950s. It eventually separated its grocery business from other food service distribution before acquiring Lowes Foods, one of its customers, in 1984. MDI also acquired Institution Food House, combining it with Lowes Foods and MDI to form Alex Lee in 1992. In February, Alex Lee — which distributes grocery and nonfood items to 600 stores — announced a 200,000-square-foot expansion to its MDI warehouse in adjacent Caldwell County and a partnership with Dematic iQ software, an automated system that will palletize 165,000 cases of product per day. “We are excited to continue to grow in Hickory, where we were founded nearly 90 years ago,” says MDI Chairman and CEO Brian George. “The quality of life and the business support from North Carolina and our local community makes the Hickory area an ideal location to continue to grow our business.” ■ — Kathy Blake is a writer from eastern North Carolina.

Photo courtesy of Century Furniture

CATAWBA COUNTY

SPONSORED SECTION

8/20/21 12:20 PM


Catawba_County_Sept2021.indd 39

8/20/21 12:21 PM


COMMUNITY CLOSE-UP

Dining room from Great South Bay, a Thomas O’Brien for Century Furniture collection.

CATAWBA COUNTY

Hickory Furniture Mart’s four stories are filled with retailers, showrooms and factory outlets. Shoppers travel from around the world to purchase quality pieces of furniture at affordable prices from nearly 200 companies. They receive expert help with styles, fabrics and a host of other related decorating decisions. Many time their visit with sales, including over Labor Day Week-end or the Fall After Market Sale in November. Some make a weekend of it.

A student tufting a piece of furniture at the Catawba Valley Furniture Academy.

40

B U S I N E S S

Catawba_County_Sept2021.indd 40

N O R T H

But in Catawba County, furniture is more than a good deal today. It has been a long-term investment. A March 2019 House Beautiful magazine article about the High Point Furniture Market tradeshow references Catawba’s largest city — Hickory. “Even in our ever-globalized world, though, there’s still plenty of manufacturing going on within a short distance of [High Point],” its author writes. “Heritage brands … as well as younger companies … make their furniture in factories in the area, some over a hundred years old.” The Hickory Chair Furniture Co. was tasked with crafting one made-to-order dining chair in 1911. More than a century later, it makes 90% of its products in its Hickory workroom, where it specializes in custom upholstered furniture and woodworking. It’s part of the Shuford family’s Rock House Farm. The parent company of Century, Highland House, Hancock & Moore, Jessica Charles and Cabot Wren furniture brands, it took on Pearson and Maitland Smith after Heritage filed for bankruptcy in 2018. RHF employs about 1,000 workers in Catawba County, 275 in Alexander

C A R O L I N A

County and 100 in Guilford County. Catawba County remains a furniture manufacturing mecca. “The furniture industry in Catawba County is incredibly strong and vibrant, particularly in the upholstery industry,” says Comer Shuford Wear. The granddaughter of Hickory Chair’s founder, Harley Ferguson Shuford Sr., she’s vice president of marketing for RHF, which takes its name from the stone house situated between the nearby Jacobs Fork and Henry Fork rivers, where she grew up. “I fear that over the years, furniture has seen its reputation as a career option tarnished by the closing of some older factories and companies, which struggled in dealing with a changing global competitive landscape and shifting ownerships from investors who come from outside the industry. Looking deeper shows that most companies have done very well and grown their business as well as their workforce.” Raleigh-based Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina counts more than 36,000 workers in the state’s furniture manufacturing sector. It says the

Photos courtesy of Century Furniture and Catawba Valley Community College

CATAWBA COUNTY REMAINS A MAJOR PIECE OF THE FURNITURE INDUSTRY

SPONSORED SECTION

8/20/21 12:21 PM


Catawba_County_Sept2021.indd 41

8/20/21 12:22 PM


COMMUNITY CLOSE-UP

CATAWBA COUNTY sector’s “value chain” of 860 establishments is fed by more than 550 lumber and wood suppliers and a collection of trade groups, such as American Home Furnishings Alliance, and educators. N.C. State’s College of Engineering, for example, supplies research and technical assistance to furniture manufacturers. And Catawba Valley Community College, less than a mile from Hickory Furniture Mart on U.S. 70, is home to Catawba Valley Furniture Academy. It teaches furniture fundamentals, pattern making, manual cutting, automated cutting, sewing and upholstery. Since it opened in 2014, all of its 303 graduates have received job offers in the sector. Bill McBrayer is Lexington Home Brands’ human resources manager. Headquartered in High Point with distribution and manufacturing in Hickory, it is one of the Furniture Academy’s five founders. “I think custom furniture will always be in demand simply because customers have the opportunity to make it personal,” he says. “Our need for skilled labor continues to be in high demand. Our industry doesn’t have feeder programs like in sports. This is the main reason we developed the Catawba Valley Furniture Academy, to be able to feed our industry with new talent to replace the ever-aging workforce.” Lori Miller is CVCC’s director of furniture workforce development. She sees the industry’s demand for workers, too. “We continue to receive job postings on a weekly basis,” she says. “All of our programs at the academy prepare graduates for highly skilled, in-demand careers within the furniture industry. Sewing and upholstery seem to be popular choices among students. We greatly appreciate the scholarship funds from the American Home Furnishings Alliance. These scholarships have provided an opportunity for many students to be able to attend the academy and are used to cover the cost of the classes.”

42

B U S I N E S S

Catawba_County_Sept2021.indd 42

N O R T H

Bill McBrayer giving a tour of the Catawba Valley Furniture Academy to Thomas Stith, president of the North Carolina Community College System.

Century, also a Furniture Academy founder, and now RHF drink from CVCC’s talent pipeline. They also contribute to it. “Over the years, we have contributed teachers — employees who teach at CVCC in addition to their duties at the company — as well as supplies to the program,” RHF’s Wear says. “We’re proud to employ a number of their graduates.” McBrayer says America was built on manufacturing. “America needs to make products to sustain its continued growth,” he says. “The manufacturing sector has numerous opportunities for employment for everyone. It’s not all about ‘sweat equity’ jobs. Within the companies, there are [informationtechnology], management, maintenance and customer-service opportunities, and the possibilities continue. We tout the [Furniture Academy] as allowing people to have meaningful careers, not jobs. We say we help change people’s lives.” But even with a growing supply of skilled workers, the past year and a half hasn’t been all smooth sailing for anyone in the furniture industry. Wear says the COVID-19 pandemic caused a “massive collapse” in consumer demand. There was a rebound in late fall 2020, when interest in remodeling and redecorating increased. McBrayer believes stay-at-home orders fueled it. “People sat in their furniture more than

C A R O L I N A

they were accustomed,” he says. “I think they realized how uncomfortable and worn their furniture really was. Also, people didn’t go out and spend a lot of disposable income, so they invested it in their home furnishings.” Despite those bright spots, the furniture industry still faces pandemic induced challenges. “In early 2021, the industry experienced a series of supply chain disruptions that continue even today, along with rapidly rising costs across all the materials and logistics components used in our products,” Wear says. “It’s been the hardest 18 months anyone in the industry can recall.” But like most challenges, these will pass, too. And Catawba will remain intertwined with the furniture industry, offering opportunities for businesses and workers. “Employees looking for a place to learn and practice a valued, artisanal craft should look no further than the furniture industry,” Wear says. “Catawba County is famous for its furniture skill, and the next decade looks incredibly strong for our industry as new generations of buyers start families, buy homes and look to invest in quality products that will last.” ■

— Kathy Blake is a writer from eastern North Carolina.

SPONSORED SECTION

8/20/21 12:22 PM


With ample infrastructure, opportunities for employment growth, along with space for residential development, Conover is ready to welcome residents and businesses alike. While Conover has close ties to the Charlotte market, we also boast our own resilient local economy rooted with our strong employment base. Manufacturing and other related industries have always been a top priority in Conover. In fact, manufacturing and distribution comprise the largest employment in the city, and with our growing utility capacity, we are ready to support more. Conover maintains a strong diversified manufacturing sector, which helps to provide sustainability to the economic base. Conover is home to Manufacturing Solutions Center (MSC); which serves as a testing lab and incubation space for national clients seeking to supplement their manufacturing sectors close to home, and across the globe. Currently, MSC is completing a 75,000 square foot expansion, which will allow Conover to further support industry partners. In addition to the work underway with the MSC, an additional 600,000 square feet of manufacturing space is under construction in the city. Looking ahead to additional development, Conover recently rezoned an additional 250 acres of prime undeveloped land for industrial use. Over the five-year horizon, Conover is also working to prepare an additional 275 acres for industrial expansion by investing in roadway improvements and utility infrastructure. In Conover, we invite you to not only work, but to live and play in our growing community. Conover continues to support the growth of residential development, seen in the various new residential development proposals that Conover City Council has approved. Currently, over 600 residential units have either been previously approved, or are under construction in Conover. These include single family homes, townhomes, and apartments; housing that suits everyone. Conover prides itself on providing a high quality of life for residents by providing safe neighborhoods, diverse housing options, and investing in our parks, special events, and downtown. Pictured: Downtown Conover, Conover Station & MSC Phase II (currently under construction)

Catawba_County_Sept2021.indd 43

8/20/21 12:22 PM


LEGAL LAWYERS ON THE MOVE

LAWYERS ON THE MOVE A listing of new hires, promotions and other accolades from some of the state’s top law firms.

44

B U S I N E S S

Lawyers_on_the_move_Sept2021.indd 44

N O R T H

C A R O L I N A

SPONSORED SECTION

8/20/21 12:23 PM


S E P T E M B E R

Lawyers_on_the_move_Sept2021.indd 45

2 0 2 1

45

8/20/21 12:23 PM


LEGAL LAWYERS ON THE MOVE

TONY COPELAND Tony Copeland, North Carolina Secretary of Commerce from January 2017 to February 2021, joined Brooks Pierce earlier this year as Senior Economic Development & Corporate Strategist to launch the Firm’s economic development practice. Working in conjunction with the Firm’s established practice areas, Copeland helps businesses considering expansions or additional operations evaluate a wide range of needs including real estate, incentives and regulatory requirements.

150 Fayetteville Street | Raleigh, NC 27601 | 919-839-0300 | BrooksPierce.com MARTIN MOORE Capua Law is proud to announce that Martin Moore has joined its team. Martin is a 2021Best Lawyers in America “Ones to Watch” Honoree who focuses his practice on complex federal and state litigation including business, employment and construction disputes. A graduate of the University of North Carolina School of Law, Martin is also actively involved in the community, serving on the Buncombe County Board of Adjustment, as Chair of the Board of Directors of OpenDoors of Asheville, and is a Board Member on the Juvenile Crime Prevention Council.

North Carolina 828-264-0260 | Florida 305-677-0605 | CAPUALAW.COM

REAGAN WARREN Reagan’s practice is focused on family law matters, including separation and divorce, child support, child custody, spousal support, alimony, property division, and domestic violence. Reagan was admitted to the North Carolina State Bar in 2020. She is an active member of the North Carolina Bar Association, Wake County Bar Association, and Campbell Law Alumni Association. She currently serves as Co-Chair of the Speaker Series Committee for the Wake County Bar Association’s Young Lawyers Division and is a member of the North Carolina Bar Association’s Women in the Profession Committee and Campbell Law Alumni Association’s Membership Committee. Reagan also enjoys volunteering for the Blanchard Community Law Clinic where she assists individuals seeking criminal record expunctions. Reagan’s passion for advocacy began in college when she interned in the United States House of Representatives. As a law student, Reagan interned in the North Carolina Court of Appeals and worked in private practice in a broad range of civil practice areas, ranging from family law to bankruptcy. Outside of the office, Reagan enjoys spending time with her family and friends, taking trips to the beach, and walking her dog, Oliver, around downtown Raleigh.

221 Glenwood Avenue | Raleigh, NC 27603 | 919-833-1040 | mtlaw.net

46

B U S I N E S S

Lawyers_on_the_move_Sept2021.indd 46

N O R T H

C A R O L I N A

SPONSORED SECTION

8/20/21 12:46 PM


Lawyers_on_the_move_Sept2021.indd 47

8/20/21 12:24 PM


A billion-dollar investment f rom a PE company puts the heat on Raleigh software CEO Jim Triandiflou. By David Mildenberg Photos by Christer Berg

▲ Jim Triandiflou, second from left, is a past chair of Special Olympics North Carolina. He is joined by the group’s president, Keith Fishburne; athlete and leadership manager Kristine Hughes,; and executives Juliana Pratt and Kathy Langfield.

48

B U S I N E S S

Triandiflou_Sept 2021.indd 48

N O R T H

C A R O L I N A

8/23/21 11:51 AM


W

hen Jim Triandiflou joined Relias Learning as CEO in 2012, the Cary-based online training company had about 110 employees. When he left in late 2019, it had 775 staffers and was owned by German communications giant Bertelsmann. That success made the New York native a top prospect for privateequity companies seeking leaders. The father of four didn’t want to leave North Carolina, where the family moved in 2009. He jumped back into the game last October at Raleigh-based insightsoftware. The company had grown rapidly since 2018 when private-equity groups TA Associates and ST6 merged two smaller software companies with revenue of about $35 million. Former CEO Michael Lipps oversaw more than a dozen acquisitions in less than three years involving software used by corporate financial officers. Revenue now tops $350 million. Triandiflou says he was hired to help grow the company’s disparate businesses in a coordinated way. In July, German PE company HG spent $1 billion to acquire a 40% stake in insightsoftware. The move followed HG’s August acquisition of Visma, a Norwegian enterpriseresource software company. The deal valued Visma at $12 billion and marked the biggest European software transaction in history. In this interview, Triandiflou discusses his career and passion for family, sports and Special Olympics North Carolina, where he was a board chair. It is edited for clarity and brevity.

► How long have you worked for privateequity-owned companies?

► How does HG’s investment benefit the company?

► Why did you start in consulting?

HG came in and purchased some stock from existing investors. So we don’t have another $1 billion in our bank account. But it does give us another deep-pocketed investor at the table. We had two other private-equity groups — TA of Boston and Genstar of San Francisco. We do a lot of acquisitions and we make big investments. This gives us another deeppocketed investor to support us. HG has been in the office-of-the-CFO space for 15 years and they own one of Europe’s largest [enterprise resource planning] companies. They know our market. It’s not just the money they bring. Both TA and HG have ownership in the low 40% range. They will share control and have an equal amount of power from a governance perspective.

► Is your $1 billion annual revenue target realistic? There’s no reason we shouldn’t be able to do that. This year we are pushing $400 million and we are looking at acquisitions that would put us well above that. We started 2018 with under $100 million in revenue. Three years later, we are four or five times larger. So if in three years from now we are three times larger, we should reach that goal. The market size is big enough.

I started in 1999 by quitting my job in consulting, where I was making a very good living, to start a company where I had zero salary. The company raised venture capital. So for 21 years I’ve worked for venture-backed or PE-backed companies.

► Tell us about your career path.

I started on Long Island, the very end of Long Island. My mom and dad were school teachers. When I was 15 my parents got divorced and I moved to Buffalo, where I went to high school. I went to [State University of New York] Oswego, which I loved. Then I moved to New York City and started my career in advertising. After two years in New York, I moved to Arizona to go to business school. To say we came from humble beginnings would be an understatement. I’d never left New York and I was very naive. I just wanted to do something different. You could say I was not a model student at [Arizona State University]. I could have done better but I was always the captain of the teams. I enjoyed the extracurriculars more than the academics.

After graduating I had an opportunity at AT&T where I had interned the summer before, and I had a job offer at a 30-person consulting firm that focused on sales and marketing. I just really loved the people there so I joined as a consultant. I didn’t know what I was doing and I couldn’t believe people paid for me to help out. But in consulting you work with so many companies that if you just pay attention, you really will learn. We worked with Microsoft, Oracle, IBM — the biggest tech and telecom companies. I traveled all over the world with that company, which was amazing. I later ran our Atlanta office. It was a lifechanging experience, I was just really lucky.

► What was the key to Alexander Group’s success? Our No. 1 product was designing sales compensation plans. IBM had 15,000 sales people and we designed their pay plans. I always said that if you schedule a meeting on how you are going to pay people, everyone shows up. People don’t blow that meeting off. When IBM bought Lotus, it was a big multiyear project and we helped integrate Lotus. [Consulting giant] McKinsey would come in and do a big strategic project. Then we would come in and figure out how to actually get it done from a sales and marketing perspective. We also did big product launches. It gave me great exposure to software and tech, which I didn’t know much about. That’s how I got into software.

S E P T E M B E R

Triandiflou_Sept 2021.indd 49

2 0 2 1

49

8/23/21 11:51 AM


I am a growth person. I grew up in marketing. I worked a bunch of my career as a project manager helping deliver projects. My forte and the reason I was brought in was to get organic growth.

– Jim Triandiflou, CEO, insightsoftware ► When did you leave the consulting company? In 1999 I started [Ockham Technologies] in Atlanta and in 2002 we sold it to a company in Boston. We moved to Boston for seven years. Then we decided we wanted to raise our kids in North Carolina. The company in Boston was sold to another company and eventually went public. So it was a good, natural time to change. We had four kids in five-anda-half years. We had a lot of diapers in the house. We moved here 12 years ago.

► What did Relias look like when you joined in 2012? Two $10 million companies had been acquired and merged to form Relias. There were about 110 people and only 15 in Cary. We were in the MacGregor Village area, which is mostly retail. We were about the only business with an office there. We were upstairs and there was a pizza place below us that would always have gas leaks and the fire department would come. When I arrived the first day I brought my computer and asked the president if there was an IT guy to help set it up. He said, “No, I’ll do that.” It was really fun.

► What sparked Relias’ growth?

Just think of online education. That’s a growth market. Health care is a growth market. It’s a big part of the success. It’s the same with insightsoftware; it’s picking the right market. That is a lot of what the private-equity guys do. They buy a business in a certain industry that is ripe for growth and then management comes in and we try to execute that plan. So it’s partly following the megatrends.

► Bertelsmann bought Relias for $540 million in 2014. How did that work out? It was fabulous. I had a great boss. The guy who is CEO now is still a friend of mine. Our girls hang out together. I talk to him regularly. The Germans are very precise but that fits my

50

B U S I N E S S

Triandiflou_Sept 2021.indd 50

N O R T H

personality. I’m a detail person. He would say to me, “you are more German than the Germans. Don’t be so Germanic.” But it worked out well. They did everything they said they were going to do. I think we did the same.

► What was your plan when you left Relias?

I didn’t know if I was just going to serve on boards. I knew that my twins had their senior year in high school coming. I was going to take these last 18 months before they leave. I was going to take it off and relax. That was my plan. But then COVID hit. When I said I was gonna leave, I didn’t know COVID was coming. I’ve been so lucky I had such great timing. Running a company during COVID would have been so stressful. I didn’t have a plan. [Mark Friedman,] the chairman of insightsoftware, and I were friends. He called me to see if I was interested in a company. I looked at it and said no. Then a month or two later, he called me and asked me about Insight. It was in Raleigh. That’s how it worked out.

► When you left Relias, did you expect to become a CEO again? When you have a success with PE, you get a lot of calls. It was a flattering time. You ask yourself, what do I want to do with the rest of my life? I love working with people. That’s what I enjoy. When you are on the board, you work with very few people. When you are running the company, the key is building the team and making it cohesive. That is my favorite part.

► Do you consider yourself an M&A guy?

My forte is organic growth. I am a growth person. I grew up in marketing. I worked a bunch of my career as a project manager helping deliver projects. The reason I was brought in was to get organic growth. Prior to this year, the company never grew more than 2% organically. All the growth came from acquisitions. During

C A R O L I N A

8/23/21 11:51 AM


the last quarter we grew 11% organically. This year we are on track to grow double digits organically. If we didn’t do any acquisitions, we’d still grow 10%. That’s more of my forte. [Joe Healey), who I brought in to lead sales, is world class. [Stacey West], who runs marketing, came here from my last company. She is awesome. Developing that marketing engine has been my No. 1 focus and we’re really proud. This has happened faster than we thought.

► Have you typically retained management of acquired companies? We’ve done 18 acquisitions. Sometimes you are buying a direct competitor so you wind up with two of everything, like Noah’s Ark. You obviously don’t need two of everything and we will transition some people out. There are other times when we are buying something new that we don’t have. As an example, we bought [Roseville, Calif.-based] Certent at the end of last year. Their CEO now runs a business unit for us. He is doing an awesome job. It really does vary.

► What is the company’s growth strategy?

To run a finance operation, there are probably 20 or 30 different pieces of software. You have to do payroll, reimburse expenses, you have to have a budget and financial reporting. You have to bill your customers. We are in nine areas today. Our M&A team is looking for companies at any place in the world to fill out our product line. There are some things we will never do like we’re not going to be a payroll system. We’re not going to do expense management. In the middle of all of this is the [enterprise software plan]. That is the center. But the finance office uses up to 20 or 30 different pieces of software. We are in nine [areas] and we’d like to get to 15. We want to keep our M&A team busy.

► Why is the M&A market so hot?

The economy is strong despite COVID and there is more money going toward the private-equity and venture asset class than ever in history. Think of what you are going to do with your money. Put it in a savings account and that doesn’t get much. You can do stocks or bonds. But institutional investors have to figure out what to do too and they can’t put it in savings accounts. So there is more and more money that has gone into this asset class called private placements. There is so much money, they are sort of bidding up each other. Things are getting more expensive. On one hand, we are glad they are expensive because HG paid a big price for us. On the other hand, we are out buying companies and we’ve got to pay the expensive price.

► Do you see a valuation bubble?

If I knew I’d be a stock market prognosticator. Right now the market is really strong. The economy is strong. Our sales

are record sales. It’s hard to see a downturn in the short term. But whenever someone says that, that’s when it might happen.

► What is your strategy on motivating staff?

There’s a book by Patrick Lencioni called The Advantage which I got exposed to in 2012. It really changed my life and how I think about things and having a better understanding about the importance of trust and being vulnerable and having healthy debate. These principles changed my life and certainly how I run a company. I used to think that was all touchy-feely BS but that’s the key to getting a team to come together. Any relationship at all, if you don’t have trust, you don’t have a healthy relationship. That was true at Relias and it’s true at Insight.

► Is compensation the key?

It is a top-three consideration. Everyone needs to make money. But the most important thing is you want to work with people who you like and respect. That sounds a little cliched and pollyannaish but once you’ve worked around a bit you realize this is true. Anyone in our company or your company, you can go and get a job for $10,000 more. It’s not hard to get a 10% raise. But there’s more to it. It’s important, people need to make a living. But most people wouldn’t do that to go work for a job they hated or work for a jerk boss. You want to work for a company that’s honest, ethical, growing.

► Why is the Special Olympics important to you? It started because while at Relias, we trained people who had intellectual disabilities. Then I got to know the organization. I love all sports. I’ll watch anything on TV. And it’s like a lot of things in life, you think you are volunteering and giving but you are getting so much more. If you want to see pure joy and pure happiness, you go around people with intellectual disabilities and see their attitudes, the joy they have and the love they give.■

insightsof tware $4 billion - enterprise value as of July $350 million - annual revenue 700 - employees 28,000 - organizations using its products 600,000 - end-users of company software 94% - customer retention rate Source: insightsoftware

S E P T E M B E R

Triandiflou_Sept 2021.indd 51

2 0 2 1

51

8/23/21 11:51 AM


Building Better Businesses For Nearly 30 Years

Since 1993, the principals of Ridgemont Equity Partners have invested over $5.5 billion in 162 companies. Ridgemont is the largest private equity firm in North Carolina and among the largest in the Southeast. The firm has been named to Inc.’s list of “Top 50 Founder-Friendly Private Equity Firms,” which recognized Ridgemont for a track record of building leading middle market companies alongside entrepreneurs. For the third 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 www.ridgemontep.com.

The Ridgemont partnership was founded on a

set of ideals that we also seek in our investment partners a commitment to transparent communication, an eagerness to listen to new ideas and a balanced life outside of the workplace.

ridgemontep.com

Private-125_Sept 2021.indd 52

8/20/21 1:03 PM


We’re pleased to sponsor Business North Carolina’s Top 125 Private Companies and shine the spotlight on the remarkable stories of resilience and explosive growth across our state. In 1949, DMJ & Co., PLLC opened its doors as a two-person accounting firm in Greensboro. More than 70 years later, our North Carolina footprint has expanded with additional DMJ offices in Durham, Wilmington, and Sanford. Our clients work coast to coast providing best-in-industry service in their fields, and we meet them where they are - providing audit and accounting, tax planning, compliance, and preparation services for corporations and individuals across North Carolina and the Southeast. As a U.S. Top 300 accounting firm, DMJ understands that business growth also means a sustainable value system – one that your team relays in times of rapid expansion or change. And one that never loses sight of it clients.

These are our values. We’ll bet they’re yours, too. From the founding of the firm until today, our feeling has always been that every client is important. Every client is treated with respect and it is important to us that our clients receive service that is personal, timely, and as worry-free as possible. Our goal is to help our clients reach their maximum potential through service and counseling. We have taken pride in the success of DMJ which is made possible by the people who work here, the performance we deliver, and the continuing trust placed in us by our clients. At DMJ, you can expect proactive planning, actionable data, and precision services that provide a unique level of attention and care — all developed for your specific needs.

DMJ understands the unique challenges that individuals, entrepreneurs, and privately-held businesses face. Our clients trust us to advise them in business from formation to succession and, more importantly, through personal milestones and financial goals.

The feedback from our clients show that when their needs are being met their worry is reduced and an emotional bond is created knowing that their compliance, planning, strategic, and personal needs are being addressed.

By consulting with nearly 1,000 closely-held businesses, often through multiple generations of ownership, our success as a firm is directly related to our clients’ success.

dmj.com S E P T E M B E R

Private-125_Sept 2021.indd 53

2 0 2 1

53

8/20/21 12:26 PM


SPONSORED BY

Pete Anderson, Taylor Wanbaugh and David Mildenberg

W

elcome to Business North Carolina’s annual list of the state’s largest privately held companies. For more than 30 years, the magazine has recognized businesses that play pivotal, often understated roles in building the state’s economy. We are appreciative of the many companies that provide revenue and employment information for the BNC 125. The list also includes our best estimates for some businesses that prefer not to disclose that information. The result of hundreds of emails and phone calls is an unparalleled look at North Carolina’s private company universe. The list is based on 2020 revenue, reflecting a year heavily affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Skillful maneuvering

1. Hendrick Automotive Group Charlotte Automotive dealerships CEO: Rick Hendrick Employees: 10,500

2. Epic Games Cary Video game software CEO: Tim Sweeney Employees: 3,200

funding round in April valued Epic at $28.7 billion, with key investors including China’s Tencent, Walt Disney and Sony Group. But CEO and founder Tim Sweeney remains the controlling shareholder of the company, which plans to convert a former shopping mall in Cary into a corporate campus by 2024.

3. American Tire Distributors Huntersville Tire distribution service CEO: Stuart Schuette Employees: 4,700

4. Transportation Insight Hickory Logistics consultant CEO: Ken Beyer Employees: 1,800

5. Belk The maker of the Fortnite video game gained international attention for its bitter legal battle with Apple over app store fees. A verdict is pending after a threeweek trial that ended in May. A $1 billion

54

B U S I N E S S

Private-125_Sept 2021.indd 54

N O R T H

Charlotte Department store retailer CEO: Nir Patel Employees: 23,000

The 133-year-old department store chain filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in February, nearly five years after Sycamore Partners bought the family-owned business for $3 billion. The restructuring slashed $450 million in debt as the company exited bankruptcy a day later without closing any of its 291 stores in 16 states. In July, Nir Patel succeeded CEO Lisa Harper, who had led the company since July 2016. He had been president.

6. Alex Lee Hickory Wholesale and retail grocer CEO: Brian George Employees: 16,000

PHOTOS COURTESY OF EPIC GAMES, BELK

$1 billion or more

enabled many BNC 125 companies to grow or limit revenue declines, while others benefited from effective digital strategies as the economy shifted. To be sure, some hospitality enterprises on the list took their lumps due to reduced corporate-related travel. Among this year’s new entries are Concord-based retailer Shoe Show and Newton Grove-based Hog Slat, which mainly serves the pork industry. Both are family-owned enterprises. Private equity-controlled companies whose operations are based in North Carolina are eligible for the list. The majority of businesses are closely held organizations with long histories in the state. Thank you to all who contributed to this annual project.

C A R O L I N A

8/23/21 9:43 AM


S P O N S O R E D

Private-125_Sept 2021.indd 55

S E C T I O N

S E P T E M B E R

2 0 2 1

55

8/20/21 12:27 PM


7. SAS Institute

12. Leith Cars

Cary Software development CEO: James Goodnight Employees: 12,545

Raleigh Automotive dealerships CEO: Danny Williams Employees: 1,900

19. Prestage Farms Clinton Poultry, pork producer CEO: William H. “Bill” Prestage Employees: 2,600

13. National Gypsum Charlotte Wallboard product manufacturer CEO: Thomas Nelson Employees: 2,487

The privately held analytics software company plans to go public with a 2024 stock offering, CEO Jim Goodnight told employees in July. He and John Sall founded the company in 1976. The IPO plan came days after Goodnight squashed rumors of a possible buyout by San Jose, Calif.-based semiconductor and software giant Broadcom. SAS’ software is used by more than 83,000 business, government and university sites in 147 countries.

8. Parkdale Mills Gastonia Textiles CEO: Anderson Warlick Employees: 3,500

9. Flow Automotive Winston-Salem Automotive dealerships CEO: Don Flow Employees: 1,700

Mount Airy Construction and engineering services CEO: J. Eric Pike Employees: 8,300

11. AmWINS Group Charlotte Wholesale insurance provider CEO: Scott Purviance Employees: 5,600

B U S I N E S S

Private-125_Sept 2021.indd 56

15. Market America Greensboro Product brokerage and digital marketer CEO: JR Ridinger Employees: 780

16. Form Technologies Charlotte Manufacturer of metal components CEO: Mike Grunza Employees: 8,800

17. SteelFab Charlotte Steel fabricator CEO: R. Glenn Sherrill Jr. Employees: 1,200

$500 million to $999 million

10. Pike

56

Concord Retailer CEO: Robert Tucker Employees: 10,000

N O R T H

18. Variety Wholesalers Henderson Discount retailer CEO: Art Pope Employees: 7,000 (estimate)

In 2019, the poultry and hog producer opened a $320 million plant in Eagle Grove, Iowa, that is considered to be the pork industry’s most advanced. Its next expansion is a highly automated, $150 million processing plant in Camden, S.C., that will employ 292. The family-owned company, founded in 1982 by Bill Prestage, employs 2,600 workers in seven states.

20. Southco Distributing Goldsboro Convenience-store supplier CEO: Sherwin Herring Employees: 236

21. CTE Charlotte Dealer of construction and other equipment CEO: Ed Weisiger Jr. Employees: 1,450

22. Window World North Wilkesboro Window installation service CEO: Tammy Whitworth Employees: 750 (estimate)

23. Goldsboro Milling Goldsboro Turkey producer CEO: H.G. Maxwell III Employees: 650 (estimate)

24. Rodgers Builders Charlotte General contractor CEO: Patricia A. Rodgers Employees: 328

PHOTOS COURTESY OF SAS INSTITUTE

14. Shoe Show

C A R O L I N A

8/20/21 12:28 PM


S P O N S O R E D

Private-125_Sept 2021.indd 57

S E C T I O N

S E P T E M B E R

2 0 2 1

57

8/20/21 12:28 PM


25. Atlantic Packaging

29. Vannoy Construction

Wilmington Distributor of industrial packaging materials and paper converter CEO: Russell M. “Rusty” Carter Employees: 1,305

Jefferson General contractor CEO: Eddie Vannoy Employees: 341

30. Barnhill Contracting

26. Gregory Poole Equipment Raleigh Dealer of construction and other equipment CEO: J. Gregory Poole III Employees: 1,272

Rocky Mount General contractor CEO: Robert Barnhill III Employees: 890

31. Segra Charlotte Communications services CEO: Timothy Biltz Employees: 1,200

32. Samet Greensboro General contractor CEO: Arthur L. Samet Employees: 330

27. Shurtape Technologies Hickory Manufacturer of adhesive tape, consumer goods and office supplies CEO: Vuk Trivanovic Employees: 1,500

28. Clancy & Theys Construction Raleigh General contractor CEO: Tim Clancy Employees: 400

58

B U S I N E S S

Private-125_Sept 2021.indd 58

N O R T H

Charlotte Pipe manufacturer and supplier CEO: Rodney Dowd Jr. Employees: 1,500 (estimate)

35. ECMD North Wilkesboro Manufacturer and distributor of millwork products CEO: Todd Meade Employees: 900

36. CaptiveAire Systems Raleigh Manufacturer of kitchen-ventilation products CEO: Bob Luddy Employees: 1,286

37. Sampson-Bladen Oil Co. Clinton Distributor of petroleum products CEO: Haddon Clark III Employees: 957

38. Liberty Healthcare & Rehabilitation Wilmington Nursing homes and health services CEO: John McNeill Jr. Employees: 1,500 (estimate)

39. Cook & Boardman Norman Samet formed the business in 1961, and his son Arthur became CEO in 2000. The group has expanded to six offices across the Carolinas, including one added last year in Wilmington. Among its latest projects is the Forsyth County Courthouse in Winston-Salem, doubling the size to 250,679 square feet, updating infrastructure and creating a stateof-the-art structure. Construction is expected to be completed by April 2023.

33. National Coatings and Supplies Raleigh Paint distributor for collision-repair shops CEO: John Leavy Employees: 1,250

Winston-Salem Distributor of architectural doors, frames, door hardware and related building products CEO: Darrin Anderson Employees: 1,300 (estimate)

40. ACN Concord Telecommunications services provider CEO: Greg Provenzano Employees: 1,100

41. Flexential Charlotte Data-center operator CEO: Chris Downie Employees: 800

PHOTOS COURTESY OF CATERPILLAR, CJMW ARCHITECTURE

The state’s second-ever Caterpillar dealer celebrates its 70th anniversary this year. CEO Greg Poole III is the third generation to run the construction equipment company, becoming CEO in 1999. The business has more than 20 branch locations and about 1,300 employees in Virginia, West Virginia, the Carolinas and at an Ohio fulfillment center. In addition to Caterpillar products, the company also sells Hyster and Yale lift trucks and school and activity buses through a partnership with Blue Bird Bus.

34. Charlotte Pipe & Foundry

C A R O L I N A

8/23/21 11:41 AM


S P O N S O R E D

Private-125_Sept 2021.indd 59

S E C T I O N

S E P T E M B E R

2 0 2 1

59

8/20/21 12:29 PM


42. Concord Hospitality Enterprises Raleigh Hotel management and developer CEO: Mark Laport Employees: 500 (estimate)

43. True Homes Monroe Homebuilder CEO: Dan Horner Employees: 300 (estimate)

44. Eastwood Homes Charlotte Homebuilder CEO: Clark Stewart Employees: 300

45. Snider Fleet Solutions Greensboro Tire distributor and service provider CEO: Marty Herndon Employees: 1,200

New York investment firm Renco Group bought the business for an undisclosed amount in June, six months after the company had changed its name to Renfro Brands and launched a directto-consumer marketplace called Loops & Wales. Brands made at the 100-yearold company include Fruit of the Loom, Dr. Scholl’s, Merrell, Copper Defense, Smartwool and more. Renfro employs 1,800 people.

Charlotte Professional sports franchises CEO: David Tepper Employees: 250 (estimate)

50. Hog Slat Newton Grove Manufacturer of confinement equipment for agribusinesses CEO: Tommy Herring Employees: 1,000 (estimate)

47. ettain group

Mount Airy Sock manufacturer CEO: Stan Jewell Employees: 1,800

52. Tepper Sports & Entertainment

Greensboro Demolition, environmental and site-development conglomerate CEO: David Griffin Employees: 1,000

Chapel Hill Solar developer CEO: Markus Wilhelm Employees: 450

48. Renfro

Charlotte Beer and wine distributor CEO: Clay Adams Employees: 700 (estimate)

49. D.H. Griffin

46. Strata Clean Energy

Charlotte Information-technology staffing agency CEO: Trent Beekman Employees: 3,500

51. Adams Beverages of NC

Billy Herring, father of President Tommy Herring, founded Hog Slat in 1969 after building his own slat flooring for his Newton Grove hog farm. The familyowned company has since grown into the largest construction contractor and manufacturer of hog production equipment in the U.S., with about 1,000 employees and 1,400 subcontractors. It distributes its hog and poultry equipment to more than 80 retail store locations across the U.S., while also producing live hogs through TDM Farms, which has operations in North Carolina, Indiana and Illinois. The company’s slats are also used in boat docks.

The holding company owned by Appaloosa Management hedge fund founder David Tepper has become synonymous with N.C. sports, with a portfolio including the Carolina Panthers NFL team and its Bank of America Stadium and Major League Soccer’s new Charlotte FC. Tepper, who earned an MBA from Carnegie Mellon University, has a net worth of $14.5 billion, according to Forbes. The Panthers plan to open a headquarters in Rock Hill, S.C., that will include a practice facility, offices, restaurants, apartments, hotels, retail stores and outdoor entertainment.

53. Powerhome Solar Mooresville Solar energy and roofing CEO: Jayson Waller Employees: 1,600

54. insightsoftware Raleigh Software developer CEO: Jim Triandiflou Employees: 730 (estimate)

55. MegaCorp Logistics Wilmington Logistics consultant CEO: Ryan Legg Employees: 311

60

B U S I N E S S

Private-125_Sept 2021.indd 60

N O R T H

PHOTOS COURTESY OF CAROLINA PANTHERS

$200 million to $499 million

C A R O L I N A

8/23/21 11:44 AM


Asheville | Atlanta | Charlotte | Fayetteville | Florence | Greensboro | Greenville | Hickory | Outer Banks | Raleigh | Wilmington S P O N S O R E D

Private-125_Sept 2021.indd 61

S E C T I O N

S E P T E M B E R

2 0 2 1

61

8/20/21 12:30 PM


56. Crowder Constructors Charlotte General contractor CEO: Lynn Hansen Employees: 804

57. Edifice

61. Carolina Handling Charlotte Distributor of material-handling equipment CEO: Brent Hillabrand Employees: 600

58. Camco Manufacturing Greensboro Manufacturer and distributor of RV accessories CEO: Lisa Cook Employees: 1,500 (estimate)

59. Murphy Family Ventures Wallace Hospitality, farming, boat making CEO: Wendell H. Murphy Jr. Employees: 1,000 (estimate)

60. Prometheus Group

Charlotte General contractor CEO: Edwin Rose Employees: 135

63. Harvey Enterprises & Affiliates Kinston Distributor of farm equipment and petroleum products CEO: John McNairy Employees: 764

64. Blythe Development Charlotte General contractor CEO: L. Jack Blythe Employees: 900

65. Salem Holding

Raleigh Software developer CEO: Eric Huang Employees: 800 (estimate)

Winston-Salem Provider of transportation and truck-leasing services CEO: Thomas Teague Employees: 1,000

66. Precision Walls Cary Building contractor CEO: Brian Allen Employees: 998

67. Landmark Builders

In 2019, the asset-management operations and optimization software provider hit the coveted $1 billion-valuation status when it sold its majority stake to San Francisco-based private-equity firm Genstar Capital. Founded in 1998 by CEO Eric Huang, Prometheus has been on an acquisition spree over the last three years, most recently buying Mundelein, Ill.-based data-solutions company Utopia Global in October.

B U S I N E S S

Private-125_Sept 2021.indd 62

Charlotte Orthopedic clinics CEO: Bruce Cohen Employees: 978

62. Shelco

Charlotte General contractor CEO: Eric Laster Employees: 100

62

70. OrthoCarolina

N O R T H

Winston-Salem General contractor CEO: Steve Stephens Employees: 117

68. Jaggaer Morrisville Cloud-based automation technology provider CEO: Jim Bureau Employees: 1,105

69. Boddie-Noell Enterprises Rocky Mount Hardee’s franchise operator CEO: William Boddie Employees: 8,000 (estimate)

With more than 40 locations in the Carolinas and about 130 doctors, OrthoCarolina is one of the largest U.S. orthopedic groups. Founded in 2005, OrthoCarolina also serves as the team physicians for the Carolina Panthers NFL team. CEO Bruce Cohen, a foot and ankle orthopedic surgeon who has led the practice since 2016, was tapped as president of the 2,400-member American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society last year.

71. Baker Roofing Raleigh Roofing contractor CEO: Mark Lee Employees: 1,034

72. Union Corrugating Fayetteville Manufacturer of metal roofing materials CEO: Keith Medick Employees: 696

73. Colony Tire Edenton Tire distributor and auto repair service CEO: Charles Creighton Employees: 627

74. Tencarva Machinery Greensboro Distributor of liquid- and air-handling equipment CEO: Ed Pearce Employees: 370

C A R O L I N A

8/23/21 11:48 AM


S P O N S O R E D

Private-125_Sept 2021.indd 63

S E C T I O N

S E P T E M B E R

2 0 2 1

63

8/20/21 12:32 PM


75. Hickory Springs Manufacturing Hickory Furniture component manufacturer CEO: Mark Jones Employees: 2,200

79. Advantage Truck Center Charlotte Retail truck dealership CEO: Terry Young Employees: 155

76. AvidXchange

Greensboro Insurance broker CEO: Douglas Witcher Employees: 71

86. Mako Medical Laboratories

77. TrialCard Morrisville Pharmaceutical marketing services CEO: Mark Bouck Employees: 979

Volvo Trucks named the Charlottebased company as its North American Dealer of the Year, citing its sales and customer service success. Former Volvo Trucks executive Terry Young bought the dealership in 1995 and now operates other locations in Durham, Greensboro and Hickory. It also distributes trucks made by Autocar, Hino and Isuzu. It has more than 500 trucks for rent or longterm lease.

80. American Welding & Gas Raleigh Manufacturer and distributor of gases and welding supplies CEO: Jason Krieger Employees: 579

The Morrisville-based company has added revenue at a double-digit pace for three consecutive years, including more than 40% growth in both 2018 and 2019. Some of the growth stems from five acquisitions completed over the last three years. Pharmaceutical companies and federal agencies pay TrialCard to provide marketing support for various medications and therapies. New York-based Odyssey Investment Partners bought the company in 2017.

81. Carolina Beverage

78. JF Petroleum Group

83. Furnitureland South

Morrisville Fuel-equipment installer and service provider CEO: Keith Shadrick Employees: 1,000

Private-125_Sept 2021.indd 64

N O R T H

Salisbury Cheerwine distributor CEO: Cliff Ritchie Employees: 600 (estimate)

82. Epes Logistics Greensboro Logistics consultant CEO: Jason Bodford Employees: 177

Jamestown Furniture retailer CEO: Jeffrey Davis Employees: 495

Raleigh Laboratory testing services CEO: Chad Price Employees: 800 (estimate)

87. Carolina Wholesale Group Charlotte Distributor of office supplies and equipment CEO: Larry Huneycutt Employees: 165

88. Electrical Equipment Raleigh Distributor of electrical equipment CEO: Mark Holmes Employees: 249

89. Frank L. Blum Construction Winston-Salem General contractor CEO: Mike Lancaster Employees: 108

90. Parata Systems Durham Provider of drug-dispensing technology for pharmacies CEO: Rob Kill Employees: 375 (estimate)

91. T.A. Loving Goldsboro Commercial construction CEO: Samuel Hunter Employees: 220

92. Biltmore Asheville Museum and lodging CEO: William Cecil Jr. Employees: 2,200 (estimate)

PHOTO COURTESY OF VOLVO

$100 million to $199 million

B U S I N E S S

Winston-Salem Commercial construction CEO: Barry Hennings Employees: 93

85. Smart Choice Insurance

Charlotte Payment-processing software CEO: Michael Praeger Employees: 1,500 (estimate)

64

84. Omega Construction

C A R O L I N A

8/20/21 12:32 PM


93. Golden Corral Raleigh Restaurants CEO: Lance Trenary Employees: 1,600 (estimate)

94. Wayne Brothers Davidson Provider of concrete and site-work construction services CEO: Keith Wayne Employees: 520 (estimate)

95. Best Logistics Group Kernersville Transportation services and management CEO: Roy Cox Employees: 489

96. The Budd Group Winston-Salem Provider of janitorial services CEO: Joseph Budd Employees: 5,000

97. Cook Out Thomasville Fast-food restaurants CEO: Jeremy Reaves Employees: 5,000 (estimate)

98. Morrisette

Matthews Distributor of industrial equipment CEO: Deryl Bell Employees: 167

102. Smith Turf & Irrigation

Browns Summit Distributor of paper, packaging and janitorial supplies CEO: Bill Morrisette Jr. Employees: 250 (estimate)

99. Spectraforce Technologies Raleigh Staffing and consulting services CEO: Amit Singh Employees: 2,200

100. N2 Publishing

Charlotte Distributor of landscape and irrigation equipment CEO: Stephen Smith Employees: 263

103. Quality Equipment Fuquay-Varina John Deere dealership CEO: Bryan Dobson Employees: 525

104. InVue Security Products

Wilmington Publisher of community magazines CEO: Duane Hixon Employees: 292

S P O N S O R E D

Private-125_Sept 2021.indd 65

101. Carotek

S E C T I O N

Charlotte Provider of security products for retail displays CEO: Jim Sankey Employees: 275

S E P T E M B E R

2 0 2 1

65

8/20/21 12:32 PM


105. MedStream Anesthesia Asheville Anesthesia services provider CEO: Douglas Ellington Employees: 90

106. Mickey Truck Bodies High Point Manufacturer of truck bodies and trailers CEO: Matt Sink Employees: 375

107. Pamlico Air Greenville Air filter manufacturer and distributor CEO: Harry Smith Employees: 943

Less than $100 million 110. CEM Matthews Microwave instrumentation provider CEO: Michael J. Collins Employees: 340

111. Pine Hall Brick Winston-Salem Brick manufacturer CEO: Walt Steele Employees: 350

112. Capitol Broadcasting Raleigh Media company CEO: James Goodmon Employees: 525 (estimate)

113. DMA Sales Tabor City Auto-body parts supplier CEO: John Treece Employees: 118

Formed in 2019, Pamlico Air makes filters at plants in Wilson and Goldsboro; Lake Wales, Fla.; Wichita Falls, Tex.; and Reno, Nev. The company’s main office is in a warehouse built around 1840 in Washington in Beaufort County. Germany’s Mann+Hummel Group, a filtration industry leader with more than 21,000 employees globally, made a strategic investment in Pamlico in March.

108. McGee Brothers Monroe Masonry contractor CEO: Mike McGee Employees: 715

109. DuBose Strapping Clinton Distributor of industrial equipment CEO: Charles DuBose Jr. Employees: 180 (estimate)

66

B U S I N E S S

Private-125_Sept 2021.indd 66

N O R T H

114. Allen Industries Greensboro Sign manufacturer CEO: Thomas Allen Employees: 325

115. CornerStone United Hickory Providers of warranties and service contracts CEO: Richard Swartzel Employees: 68

116. Myers & Chapman Charlotte General contractor CEO: Marcus Rabun Employees: 56

117. Oliver’s Oil Lumberton Convenience stores, distributor of petroleum products CEO: Christopher Oliver Employees: 129

118. Pendo Raleigh Software developer CEO: Todd Olson Employees: 700

119. Fairfield Chair Lenoir Furniture manufacturer CEO: R. Dixon Mitchell Jr. Employees: 400 (estimate)

120. Majestic Kitchen & Bath Youngsville Manufacturers of natural and engineered stone surfaces CEO: Scott Byers Employees: 256

121. Systel Business Equipment Fayetteville Electronics dealer and service provider CEO: Keith Allison Employees: 250

122. Alliance of Professionals & Consultants Raleigh Professional and staffing services CEO: W. Troy Roberts Employees: 429

123. Imagine Software Charlotte Billing-automation software for medical industry CEO: Sam Khashman Employees: 164

124. TransImpact Emerald Isle Logistics consultant CEO: Berkley Stafford Employees: 157

125. Hornwood Lilesville Fabric manufacturer CEO: Chuck Horne Employees: 220

C A R O L I N A

8/23/21 12:30 PM


RIDGEMONTEP.COM

Private-125_Sept 2021.indd 67

8/23/21 12:29 PM


Charlotte brand builder Greg Johnson uses lessons f rom Nike and church to make a mark on the Queen City.

By Michael J. Solender

68

B U S I N E S S

Greg-Johnson_Sept 2021.indd 68

N O R T H

C A R O L I N A

8/20/21 3:50 PM


reg Johnson has a favorite anecdote he often shares with the entrepreneurs and students he mentors, dating to the late 1980s when he was marketing director for the Nike team building the Jordan Brand of shoes created by basketball legend Michael Jordan. “I got a sense of what it was like to be an entrepreneur where [Nike founder] Phil Knight has these amazing stories,” says Johnson, who was then based at the company’s Beaverton, Ore., headquarters. “You look around and see more than a dozen buildings and understand it’s a multibillion-dollar business and realize it all started from selling shoes out of the trunk of a car.” Such is the power of a simple idea executed well, says Johnson, a Rocky Mount native who returned to North Carolina to work at Charlotte’s BooneOakley ad agency and later started Orbital Socket, a Charlotte-based marketing and brand-engagement company. “All companies were entrepreneurial ideas at one point, no matter how big they are.” Uncovering what’s possible is a personal mission for Johnson. His experience and values-driven approach is paying off with a variety of entrepreneur clients on the cusp of success and established companies including SPX, Coca-Cola Consolidated and EnPro Industries. Seeking to understand others is a motivating factor throughout Johnson’s personal and professional life. His path includes an undergraduate degree in journalism from UNC Chapel Hill, where he met his wife, Carole, and a graduate degree in exegetical theology from Western Seminary in Portland, Ore., in 2016. He served on the leadership council at Grace Covenant Church in Cornelius in north Mecklenburg County for four years and remains active there. “Having been in the ministry has helped me connect with different groups and audiences,” says Johnson, who co-founded Orbital Socket with Carole, a Bronx native who is the director of client services.

“At the core of what we do, it’s all about studying and trying to understand people. That’s how we build our strategic platforms and the work we do.” After eight years at Nike, Johnson spent most of the 2000s as an organizational development director for a large Baptist church in Portland, Ore., then was a partner at a sports-focused marketing company. By 2010, he and his wife wanted to live closer to their families in North Carolina. A mutual friend connected him with BooneOakley co-founder David Oakley, also a Chapel Hill grad who married a New Yorker. He spent four years at the Charlotte agency, whose clients include Bojangles and the Outer Banks Visitors Bureau. He left in 2014 to start Orbital Socket. The Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority has hired Johnson to lead several projects, including “Rediscover Charlotte,” a campaign aimed at drawing people back to the city following the pandemic. “I’ve held Greg in high regard as a brand builder and marketing leader,” says Gina Sheridan, the authority’s chief marketing and communications officer. She has known him since 2010. “I love thinking big and dreaming even bigger with Greg.” Johnson, 53, has shown a willingness to stick with projects through thick and thin, Sheridan says. “While so many agency owners hook you with their dynamic personalities and ability to say just the right thing to win the business, Greg is as present on day one as he is the day the job is done.” SPX picked Orbital Socket over several firms to help improve the Charlotte-based industrial products company’s internal-communications and talentmanagement programs, says Chance Brown, director of talent development and diversity and inclusion. “Greg didn’t come with a prepackaged pitch; he had questions and told us he needed to fully understand who we were and what we were after before he could tee up an approach. It really impressed us.” In building Orbital Socket, which employs 12, Johnson says he’s tried to support people of color

S E P T E M B E R

Greg-Johnson_Sept 2021.indd 69

2 0 2 1

69

8/20/21 3:50 PM


▲Mentorring youth has been a key focus for Johnson.

and younger marketers. His wife worked for media giant Conde Nast in New York, then joined Nike in Portland, when the couple moved there. She later became a stay-at-home mom helping raise the family’s four children. “I’ve had incredible people that have helped me along the way,” Johnson says. “I want to give that back to the world as well. Advertising and marketing firms don’t have a lot of representation of people of color. I wanted [Orbital Socket] to be that. I wanted to pour into others everything I know and set them up for massive wild success.”

Community service To support entrepreneurs, Johnson worked with Charlotte City Manager Marcus Jones to establish NXT | CLT, a business accelerator for minorityowned businesses. Their view was that Charlotte lacked a nonprofit focused on those owners. The program started in 2020 with a cohort of eight businesses undergoing 18 months of assessment, evaluation and mentoring from area business leaders. Johnson led a private fundraising that doubled the $250,000 budgeted by the city for the initial group and recently locked in another $500,000. Johnson was the nonprofit’s initial executive director, though the group is hiring a new leader. The program’s office is in downtown Charlotte’s Mecklenburg Investment Co. Building, which has been a

70

B U S I N E S S

Greg-Johnson_Sept 2021.indd 70

N O R T H

home to Black business, fraternal and professional offices since 1922. After assembling a group of Black business owners, Johnson led a research effort to study both barriers to success and effective efforts in other cities. “The data suggests that there were three areas that we needed to work with people,” he says. “One was making sure that they’re developing as a leader of a growing company, not just a startup. Access to markets was the second one, and the third one was access to capital.” NXT | CLT’s success depends on assessing specific needs of each participating business and then developing plans. “Maybe [the business] is at a point where they need to scale or add a new location or get a new CEO to achieve exponential growth. … We come alongside those companies to get them to the place where they’re ultimately able to hire more people, grow their revenue, create generational wealth for themselves and for others and, for us importantly, give back to their community. “ Johnson has a Rolodex jammed with business and community leaders who are supporting his efforts with NXT | CLT. It helps that he is on the boards of the Atrium Health Foundation and My Brother’s Keeper Charlotte-Mecklenburg and is a past director of the YMCA of Greater Charlotte. “I’m not sure how he finds the time to run his business given all the work he does in the community for the community,” says Mac Everett, a longtime Charlotte civic leader. “There are only a small handful of people like this I’ve known over my time, people who have done so much and so quietly.” Paul Wetenhall is the former executive director of Ventureprise, UNC Charlotte’s entrepreneurship center, where Orbital Socket took space when getting started in 2014. Johnson’s ability to juggle various roles so effectively is a rarity, he says. “Greg is unusual in the sense that he has built a serious business while at the same time investing a remarkable amount of time in supporting the community.” Don’t mistake Johnson’s soft-spoken demeanor for indifference however. He’s focused on growing Orbital Socket into a significant business. “We’re building something that will be a world-class advertising agency, able to compete on a national level.” ■

C A R O L I N A

8/20/21 3:50 PM


Perfect storm Black-owned businesses are gaining increased attention, support.

By David Mildenberg

T

he NXT|CLT mentoring program that Greg Johnson helped organize is part of a wave of efforts across North Carolina to support aspiring Black entrepreneurs and business owners achieve greater success. While such programs

▲Shannon Baylor-Henderson owns Content Commanders in Elizabeth City.

have existed for years, their effectiveness in diversifying many industries has proven spotty. That may be changing. Spencer Disher was a Wall Street mortgage-securities executive for France’s Natixis investment bank for two decades before moving to Charlotte in 2014. He says he’s bullish on the potential for Black-owned businesses to thrive, while acknowledging many gaps exist. In his first meeting at the Charlotte Angel Fund, which backs promising startups in the region, he noticed he was the only Black person in the room. “Now, I’m on the executive board of our second fund,” he says. “The George Floyd incident was a tipping point that led to an awareness and then an acceleration on what we can do here. Some of the efforts are superficial, but some are very serious and very committed to making something happen.”

Shannon Baylor-Henderson calls the current environment a “good perfect storm for black entrepreneurs.” A former employee of the N.C. Small Business and Technology Development Center, she owns Content Commanders, a contractwriting and image-building company in Elizabeth City that has many clients in the Raleigh-Durham area. “There’s more of an intentional conversation about these issues than ever before,” she says. “It’s a natural evolution that businesses need to have different audience segments, and you have to learn how to diversify.” Disher and Baylor-Henderson are members of the Black Entrepreneurship Council, which was formed by the nonprofit NC IDEA group last year to address underinvestment in Black communities. While North Carolina is benefiting from surging new-business starts this year and expansions by blue-chip companies like Apple and Amgen, “things are not so great when you look at the numbers for minority, women and rural businesses,” says Thom Ruhe, CEO of Durham-based NC IDEA. “That’s why we set a goal five years ago that at least half of our investments and program participants had to be in one of those categories.” Over the last year, NC IDEA has tapped the council to help place $600,000 with “ecosystem” groups that promote Black entrepreneurship. The money comes in increments of $10,000 to $50,000. In the coming year, NC IDEA plans to invest a similar amount directly in Black-owned businesses. More than 100 people applied to be part of the 25-member council. The enthusiasm of group members, who range from sole proprietors to corporate executives, “has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my career,” Ruhe says. “This is good, real-time economic development. Everyone is engaged.” Other groups making a mark in Black entrepreneurship include Genesis Block in Wilmington, Aspire Community Capital in Charlotte and the Carolina Small Business Capital Fund based in Raleigh, according to Terik Tidwell, who is executive director of the Tech-Innovation Center at Johnson C. Smith University, a historically black college in Charlotte. He’s also on the NC IDEA council. Tidwell says less than a half of 1% of U.S. venture capital goes to Black-owned companies. “Many entrepreneurs gain their capital from a network of family and close friends, and if you don’t have that, it can really prohibit you from growing.” North Carolina hasn’t had a Black-owned company hit a “home run” in terms of a billion-dollar business valuation or an initial public offering, Ruhe says. But he says it’s coming. “It’s all about just hard work and grinding it out.” ■

S E P T E M B E R

Greg-Johnson_Sept 2021.indd 71

2 0 2 1

71

8/20/21 3:50 PM


72

B U S I N E S S

Lawyer-Mitchell-Kelling_Sept 2021.indd 72

N O R T H

C A R O L I N A

8/20/21 3:54 PM


itchell Kelling comes from a family of physicians. Her grandfather, father, uncle and sister are all M.D.s. When she became a lawyer, she promised them she’d never sue a doctor. As a family law attorney, she’s been able to keep her word. She’d rather avoid litigation altogether. But when a case requires her to go to court, she doesn’t mind being a bulldog — a term that’s been used to describe her style and, she says, is probably accurate. Kelling, 48, works in the Charlotte office of Offit Kurman, a Washington, D.C.-area law firm that has expanded rapidly over the last decade. The Cabarrus County native graduated from Concord High School and Harvard University before graduating from Wake Forest University School of Law. Her father, Doug, is a Harvard Medical School graduate who has been an internist in Concord for decades. In her nearly 23-year career, she’s become a sought-after lawyer and a leader at the statewide level in family law. She’s taken on a number of high-profile cases and says she represents numerous NFL players but declines to discuss specifics for reasons of confidentiality. Hollywood came calling in 2019. Well, not Hollywood exactly, but the producers of the Lifetime reality TV show Married at First Sight, which matches two strangers, films their quickie wedding, and then keeps the cameras rolling through the honeymoon and early days of marital bliss. Or discord, as the case may be.

A producer called Kelling to ask if she’d be among a small group of attorneys “on call” in the very likely event that one or more of the four couples wanted to call it quits soon after making it legal. The show’s ninth season was filmed in Charlotte. “I represented two of the ladies on that show,” she says, adding that she’s never watched an episode. The production team wasn’t aware that North Carolina requires a year of separation before a divorce is official. Uh-oh. The producers called Kelling again. “They said, ‘You really have to be separated for a year in

North Carolina before you can get divorced?’” Kelling says. “I said, ‘Yes, really.’ They said, ‘Are there ever any exceptions?’ And there are not.” Fortunately, the newlyweds aren’t permitted to buy property together or open joint bank accounts. “So the actual separation itself is very easy. There’s nothing to divide.” Also on the plus side is that the producers, rather than the hastily wed spouses, pay the legal fees. Kelling’s hourly billing rate is $425. Divorce can get expensive. Kelling has had clients pay her six figures to undo a marriage. But it doesn’t have to be that costly. Once or twice a year, she’s hired by a client who wants to divorce amicably. “When someone comes for an initial consultation, I’ll say: The more you can talk to your spouse about these issues, the easier it is and the cheaper it’s going to be,” she says. “I do have clients who go back to their spouse and say, ‘I talked to an attorney; here’s what she’s telling me,’ and they work out the terms themselves. Then, all I’m doing is drafting the separation agreement. They’ve done all the negotiations.” It rarely happens, but when it does, Kelling is happy. And so is her client.

She cautions her clients to avoid the courtroom when possible. “I’d say about 80% to 85% of my cases get settled without ever seeing the courtroom,” she says. “And normally, the cases that do go to court, there were typically red flags from the very beginning. There might be mental health issues, addiction issues, someone wants to move away and take the kids. Those are things that don’t usually get reconciled” without a judge. There are several upsides to staying out of court. “There’s the time factor; you’re going to get it done a lot quicker if you avoid court,” Kelling says. “There’s also the cost factor; it’s going to be less expensive, and I always tell people to consider the mental and emotional cost.” When she does go to court, though, she’s ready. “I am actively invested and involved in all my clients’ cases — probably sometimes to a fault,” she says. “It drives me crazy when you see attorneys who have their associate do all the work S E P T E M B E R

Lawyer-Mitchell-Kelling_Sept 2021.indd 73

2 0 2 1

73

8/20/21 3:54 PM


▲Concord native Mitchell Kelling earned a Harvard undergrad degree.

and kind of swoop in at the last minute and make their appearance in court. And you can tell when that’s happened because they don’t know the facts as well. They’ve got a script. If you get them off script, they get flustered.” Rob Blair, a former law partner of Kelling’s who practices family law at Essex Richards in Charlotte, says Kelling is always prepared. “That’s the No. 1 thing. You know that going in against her. She’s also very quick on her feet. She’s smart. And she is really good at being protective of her clients and being a very zealous advocate for them.” “I’m not afraid to be aggressive, if need be,” Kelling says. “But I don’t want to be. I’d rather kill them with kindness. [My clients] are going through probably one of the roughest, if not the roughest, periods of their lives, and I want to try and bring some resolution, some calm, some happiness to their lives. Just being aggressive and going to war isn’t necessarily good for my clients.”

North Carolina is one of six states to still allow lawsuits based on alienation of affection. To prove a claim, a jilted spouse must prove that he or she had a loving marriage which was diminished or destroyed by a paramour’s conduct. While most cases involve a spouse’s lover, there have been lawsuits filed against family members, counselors, therapists and clergy members who have advised someone to seek divorce. Kelling is not a fan. “I will not file a claim. I’ll defend claims, because I think it’s horrible. I typically defend one or two a year. I mean, it does nothing to protect the institution of marriage and just makes it that much worse for divorce attorneys when they try and use it as leverage in a case.” Still, some of Kelling’s colleagues at Offit Kurman feel differently and will file an alienation of affection lawsuit. Kelling says she always asks if a third party is involved. “And if a client tells me ‘no,’ I typically don’t press the issue. A lot of times, I’m seeing people who are already separated, so it

74

B U S I N E S S

Lawyer-Mitchell-Kelling_Sept 2021.indd 74

N O R T H

wouldn’t even be beneficial to hire a [private investigator] at that point because what you’re doing as a separated person doesn’t matter. The client … controls everything. Ultimately, it’s their decision. I’m there to educate the client so that they’re in the best position possible.”

Actor Jim Carrey once said of his then-girlfriend, Jenny McCarthy: “No, we’re never getting married, but we’re never getting divorced, which is fantastic.” Unlike the twice-divorced Carrey, Kelling has remained single. Has seeing all that heartache, acrimony and alimony led her to that decision? “Maybe subconsciously,” she says with a laugh. “But it’s probably a conscious choice for my partner. His mother was married and divorced [several] times. My parents are still married. Plus, he and I met later in life. I was about 37, and he was 41. Neither of us wanted children. Marriage just wasn’t on our radar. And then at some point you’re just like: Why rock the boat?” Kelling has established a rule of never working on Saturdays. She’s most likely on the tennis court on her day off. Her extracurricular activities mostly make use of her expertise. Her term as chair of the N.C. Bar Association’s Family Law Council ended June 30. The council holds continuing education programs for the state’s family lawyers and monitors the legislature for pending statute changes that could impact their specialty. N.C. lawmakers have considered repealing the alienation of affection law at various times, including this year. “It didn’t pass, but in committee, the vote was 3-3, which is the best outcome we’ve ever had,” she says. She has also volunteered at the Council for Children’s Rights as a guardian ad litem for years. The nonprofit in Mecklenburg County represents at-risk children in “high conflict” cases, which typically means domestic violence and/or alcohol or substance abuse, Kelling says.

C A R O L I N A

8/20/21 3:54 PM


N.C. divorces Fewer marriages are breaking up than a decade ago.

35,000

30,000 31,913

32,862

20 19

31,947

20 18

32,960

20 17

30,816

20 16

33,797

20 15

34,218

20 14

36,346

20 13

36,044

20 12

35,827

20 11

In July 2019, Horack Talley — a Charlotte firm founded in 1932 — merged with Offit Kurman. It’s gone more smoothly than some marriages. About 27 lawyers made the shift along with a majority of staffers. They stayed in the same office but are now part of an East Coast firm with more than 200 attorneys in eight states. While the dynamics have changed, Kelling says her practice has not. She has an interesting theory about family law attorneys. “Those of us who are successful tend to come from

families where our parents have not divorced,” she says. “We didn’t go through a divorce as a child, so we’re able to be more removed from the process and [remain] objective. My parents have been married to each other for over 50 years.” Five of the six family law attorneys at Offit Kurman’s Charlotte office have parents who are married or died while still married. “I have polled many friends throughout the state who are family law attorneys, and this theory holds for them, as well.” Of course, another factor is that there’s never a shortage of people needing Kelling’s services. “People will ask me, ‘How’s business?’” she says. “I’ll be honest. As long as people are getting married, they’ll also be getting divorced.” ■

20 10

Family law has changed markedly during her career. “When I started practicing in 1998, it was still routine for the mother to essentially get sole custody of the child, and Dad would have every other weekend, Friday to Sunday,” she says. “Now, the majority of judges in North Carolina — definitely in Mecklenburg [County] and surrounding counties — start with the idea that custody should be 50/50. That’s a significant switch. “It’s now much more common to have both parents working outside the home. So it makes sense for both of them to manage the care of the children since nobody’s at home all the time.” The legalization of gay marriage, sanctioned by a 5-4 Supreme Court vote in the Obergefell v. Hodges case in 2015, has also been a milestone. “I don’t even like that term because it’s just marriage,” she says. “It’s not heterosexual marriage and homosexual marriage. Even today, people will ask if it’s any different. No, we don’t have statutes for straights and different statues for the LGBTQ community. The law applies to everybody equally.”

source; N.C. Department of Health and Human Services

SPLITTING COSTS $30

Cost for a sheriff to serve a defendant

$15,000

Average cost of divorce per person in the U.S.

$225

Filing fee for a divorce case in N.C.

$200 to $500 Typical range of lawyers’ hourly fees in divorces

$1,000 to $2,500 Average cost of a child custody evaluation

$100 to $300 Average hourly cost of mediation

$35

billion

Largest divorce settlement in U.S. history between Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and his wife, MacKenzie Scott. (The July settlement between Bill and Melinda Gates has not been disclosed.) sources: Thestreet.com; N.C. Courts, Forbes

S E P T E M B E R

Lawyer-Mitchell-Kelling_Sept 2021.indd 75

2 0 2 1

75

8/20/21 3:54 PM


MEDICAL HEART & CANCER CARE

CASTING A WIDE NET Cancer will directly affect almost 90,000 North Carolinians this year. Reducing that number requires more research, improved screening and better access to care. The North Carolina Central Cancer Registry estimates that the disease will kill almost 22,000 people statewide this year, while about 65,000 cases are expected to be diagnosed. It’s impossible to find anyone who hasn’t been affected by cancer, whether personally or through a family member or friend. Fighting cancer — North Carolina’s leading cause of death, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — isn’t a straight-forward process. It requires finding better treatments and cures, expanding preventive screenings and offering better access to care.

RESEARCH The National Cancer Institute budgeted $6.9 billion for cancer research

76

B U S I N E S S

Medical_Sept2021.indd 76

N O R T H

this year. It sent $2.5 million to WinstonSalem, where Wake Forest Organoid Research Center, a collaboration of Wake Forest Baptist Comprehensive Cancer Center and Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine, where a project that applies different drugs to laboratory-constructed tumor tissue, studying how the results can be used to construct treatment plans, is underway. Wake Forest Baptist Comprehensive Cancer Center Director Konstantinos Votanopoulos and Lance Miller, associate professor in cancer biology at Wake Forest School of Medicine school, are the study’s principal investigators. “Every time cancer cells multiply, they generate the next generation of cancer cells with new properties,” Votanopoulos said in a news release. “As the cancer progresses,

C A R O L I N A

the patient ends up with not just a single tumor but many different tumor clones with variable biologic behavior and responses to treatment. Accurate mapping of tumor clonality, combined with response of each clone to therapy is the key for the development of personalized treatment strategies tailored to each patient separately.” They see their work sparking further research. The American Cancer Society funneled $1.5 million toward Wake Forest Baptist Health for two cancer research projects last year. Wake Forest School of Medicine Assistant Professor Yong Lu and his team will receive $792,000 over four years to study how he specialized white blood cells that he previously discovered can be used against advanced tumors and stop drug-resistant tumors from forming.

SPONSORED SECTION

8/20/21 4:18 PM


S E P T E M B E R

Medical_Sept2021.indd 77

2 0 2 1

77

8/20/21 4:18 PM


MEDICAL HEART & CANCER CARE

“We hope our work will shed light on the mechanisms underlying how T cells, the major type of white blood cells, prevent resistance and hopefully establish a foundation for translating that into more effective immunotherapies in human cancers,” he said in a news release. The grant’s balance goes to Wake Forest School of Medicine Assistant Professor David Soto-Pantoja and his team. They want to understand why some chemotherapy and immunotherapy drugs affect the heart in an effort to discover cancer treatments that are safer for patients with heart disease. When he was a National Institutes of Health fellow, his team identified a molecule that can prevent some of the damage caused by chemotherapy drugs. “The molecule enhanced the immune system to attack the tumor but protected normal tissue from the negative effects of chemotherapy,” he said in a news release.

NCI says North Carolina saw a 2.6% decrease on average for lung and bronchus cancers for each year between 2013 and 2017, the most recent period that data is available. It also is when use of cone beam CT machines, which better direct treatment, began in earnest. This work over the past decade has contributed to further research in new lung-cancer treatments, including using microwave energy to treat lung cancer and metastatic disease and a trial to study the direct injection of chemotherapy into small tumors in the lungs. Pritchett was the first U.S. researcher to do a robotic bronchoscopy with technology made by Intuitive. Before the end of the year, Pritchett’s FirstHealth team will be leading the way in cutting edge technology again. During an upcoming clinical trial, they will be one of the first in the world to have a second robotic bronchoscopy machine, this one made by Johnson & Johnson.

SCREENINGS

TREATMENT CENTERS

Research also is underway statewide to further screenings for common cancers. These efforts aren’t necessarily new, and results are being seen, particularly with pulmonary cancers. Michael Pritchett, director of the Chest Center of the Carolinas — FirstHealth in Pinehurst, has been advocating for better lung-cancer screening procedures since 2013. The American Cancer Society says lung cancer is the deadliest cancer in the state and country. Despite its rank, Pritchett says it’s misunderstood by many people. They believe they have to smoke to get it and it can be prevented by not smoking. This can contribute to fewer early screenings. “The problem is there’s estimated to be 8 million people who qualify for lung-cancer screening, but we’re not doing a good enough job screening those people,” he says. “We’re screening about 4%. It’s difficult, but at the same time, it’s literally a matter of life and death.”

Health care centers are dedicating more resources to fighting cancer. Cape Fear Valley Health, for example, is building the five-story Center for Medical Education in Fayetteville. The $31 million project will house the system’s Neuroscience Institute, which will help research, diagnose and treat brain tumors and other issues, and is expected to open next year. Cape Fear Valley Health offers cancer care to residents of four counties from three sites: Cape Fear Valley Health Cancer Center and Health Pavilion North Cancer Center in Fayetteville and Harnett Health Cancer Center in Lillington. All use the latest technology, including linear accelerators and a CyberKnife, all of which precisely apply radiation to tumors non-invasively. Kanwar Singh, the system’s executive corporate director of oncology services, says the centers regularly operate at capacity. That makes continued expansion necessary.

78

B U S I N E S S

Medical_Sept2021.indd 78

N O R T H

C A R O L I N A

Health Pavilion North, for example, is adding infusion chairs, which make treatments easier and more comfortable for cancer patients. The expansions don’t mean the disease is becoming more prevalent here than elsewhere. “The [local] rate of growth of cancer incidence is in line with national averages,” he says. Some of the increase can be attributed to better screening. “On a diagnostic end, some things have improved through education and advances. We can find certain cancers in earlier stages than previously, which correlates with improved survival outcomes.” Singh says the Commission on Cancer, which sets standards and pushes prevention, research and education to improve survival and quality of life for cancer patients, granted a three-year Academic Comprehensive Cancer Program accreditation to Cape Fear Valley Medical Center’s cancer program earlier this year. Earning that title means medical centers have met 34 quality care standards and undergone a rigorous evaluation. Novant Health opened its $24 million Wallace Cancer Institute in Salisbury in August 2020. The 32,000square-foot center has the latest radiotherapy technology and support services, including a boutique that sells scarves, protheses, special clothing and other items its patients need. Multidisciplinary research is conducted at the center, too. ■ — Alyssa Pressler is a freelance writer from Charlotte.

SPONSORED SECTION

8/20/21 4:19 PM


Medical_Sept2021.indd 79

8/20/21 4:21 PM


MEDICAL HEART & CANCER CARE

THE BEAT GOES ON The quality and accessibility of heart care across North Carolina continues to grow stronger, grabbing national recognition. Though cancer remains the No. 1 cause of death in North Carolina, heart disease isn’t far behind, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Almost 20,000 North Carolinians die from heart attacks and other heart-related illnesses each year. In response, doctors, health systems and researchers statewide are improving care and access to it.

BETTER CARE HCA Healthcare, the nation’s largest health care system, acquired Mission Health in 2019. The $1.5 billion deal brought better data collection and analysis. That has allowed William Kuehl, Mission Health chief of cardiology, and his team to enhance every step of emergency heart care, identifying issues and enacting improvements within days rather than months. Having high-tech machines help, too. Mission Health is one of western North Carolina’s only hospitals with an extracorporeal membrane oxygenation machine, which is used for patients with heart or lung failure or after heart surgery. Similar to the heart-and-lung machine that makes bypass surgery possible, it pumps and oxygenates a patient’s blood, allowing lungs and heart to rest. Kuehl says it has been a literal lifesaver during the COVID pandemic.

80

B U S I N E S S

Medical_Sept2021.indd 80

N O R T H

Over the past year, Kuehl says many patients suffered through a heart attack at home. They delayed calling 911 until it was too late, because they were afraid of contracting COVID at the hospital. “We had a lot of people who didn’t make it to hospitals, and that’s nationwide,” he says. “It’s truly heartbreaking to see patients arrive 10 hours into their heart attack rather than 30 minutes and us not being able to do as much for them.” Kuehl says Mission Health has increased its outreach over the past year to emphasize the importance of seeking help at the earliest sign of heart trouble. The message was taken to the communities within the 18 counties in North and South Carolina and Tennessee that the system serves. “Mission Hospital has universal masking and is a safe place to come, so don’t put off your care,” he says. He says guidelines that make the hospital a safe place have been enacted, and he encourages people to seek prompt care.

BETTER ACCESS The best treatments aren’t worth much if they lack accessibility. Wake Forest Baptist Health is expanding cardiovascular care into rural parts of Wilkes County, thanks to a $1.2 million U.S. Health Resources and Services C A R O L I N A

Administration grant. “The goal of this project is to improve rural health equity and outcomes for patients … ,” Simon Mahler, professor of emergency medicine at Wake Forest Baptist Health, said in a press release. The expansion includes telehealth. Videoconferencing and other communications technology will connect Wake Forest Baptist Health experts to Wilkes County EMS paramedics and Wilkes Medical Center’s emergency department, so patients can be quickly assessed based on their EKG, vital signs and risk scores. That will drive treatment and transportation decisions. Collaborations will continue later, when some patients follow up with the county Health Department’s Public Health Community Clinic. Atrium Health opened the HEARTest Yard Congenital Heart Center at its Levine Children’s Hospital in December. Established with financial support from recently retired NFL player and longtime Carolina Panther Greg Olsen and his wife, Kara, it better serves pediatric patients with congenital heart disease. The 25,000-square-foot center has 25 patient rooms and state-of-the-art technology, including a dedicated fetal echocardiography lab, which takes SPONSORED SECTION

8/20/21 4:21 PM


ultrasounds of an unborn baby’s heart, and the Charlotte region’s only cardiac neurodevelopmental program.

EFFORTS RECOGNIZED The heart-care work done at North Carolina’s hospitals, health care centers and medical schools isn’t going unnoticed. Many have been recognized nationally. U.S. News & World Report named Cape Fear Valley Medical Center in Fayetteville the Best Regional Hospital in North Carolina for 2021-22. Its efforts for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, heart attack and heart failure were described as high performing. “We are pleased to receive this recognition from U.S. News & World Report,” said CEO Mike Nagowski in a news release. “Providing exceptional health care for all our patients has always been our top priority. Our

team of caregivers is committed to the highest standards for quality and safety, and this recognition is a result of that commitment.” CarolinaEast Medical Center in New Bern was awarded the HeartCARE Center National Distinction of Excellence by the American College of Cardiology in October. It had to meet a number of criteria, including participating in two ACC Accreditation Services programs, to qualify for the award. “We take extreme pride in our excellence in heart care at CarolinaEast,” said Alex Kirby, CarolinaEast Heart Center cardiologist and CarolinaEast Medical Center cardiac cath laboratory medical director, in a news release. “This accreditation is further proof that our dedicated multidisciplinary team that earnestly supports these efforts has been successful in its goal to improve patient outcomes.”

Mission Health’s Asheville Heart cardiac surgery program was given the Society of Thoracic Surgeons’ highest rating in 2020. And for the 15th year, Mission Health has been recognized as one of the nation’s top cardiovascular hospitals by Fortune and IBM Watson Health. Kuehl says earning those awards has a lot to do with using data to improve care. “What is important to understand is for Mission Hospital to keep its ranking year after year, we not only have to meet all these metrics in terms of mortality and length of stay and others, but every year we must also improve,” he says. “If we were great last year, we have to be even better this year or our ranking would drop.” ■ — Alyssa Pressler is a freelance writer from Charlotte.

S E P T E M B E R

Medical_Sept2021.indd 81

2 0 2 1

81

8/20/21 4:22 PM


HIGHER ED CONTINUING EDUCATION

POSITIVE PROGNOSIS The COVID-19 pandemic has debilitated many things, including enrollment at North Carolina community colleges. Thomas Stith III, president of the 58-campus system, says it’s down almost 8%, falling to 332,321 for this year’s spring semester from 361,082 the year prior. But he expects it to recover as the economy improves. North Carolina community-college graduates are the backbone of the state’s workforce. They accounted for 33% of the state’s wage earners — 1.7 million people — between 2009 and 2019, and they earned $60 billion in wages during fiscal year 2020, according to the community-college system. “These numbers show the critical role community colleges play in our economy,” Stith says. “And I’m optimistic about the role we’ll continue to play in preparing the workforce for

82

B U S I N E S S

Continuing_Education_Sept2021.indd 82

N O R T H

available jobs. We are focused as a system to expand our traditional role as a key component of economic recovery and growth. The communitycollege system will continue to provide the workforce that is in great demand now.” That will require a mix of funding, programs and outreach. North Carolina’s community colleges are banking on $137.8 million from Gov. Cooper’s Emergency Education Relief Fund, which was created from federal COVID-19 aid packages. It includes Longleaf Commitment, a partnership between the community-college system and N.C. Education Assistance Authority that administers financial aid and savings programs. Longleaf Commitment will fund community-college tuition for 2021 high school graduates who are first-time C A R O L I N A

college students and from low-income and working-class families. They can attend any of the system’s colleges, earning an associate degree or credits toward an advanced degree. Individual grants range from $700 to $2,800 per academic year for two years. In addition, the fund provides up to $750 in scholarships for eligible students who enroll in any of 10 training programs for high-demand workers. Those include aircraft maintenance, construction, health care, industrial/manufacturing and information technology. More students are enrolling in Wayne Community College’s short-term programs as unemployment benefits, augmented during the pandemic, wind down. “People are preparing their resumes, and our NCWorks career center is seeing more people returning for employment assistance,” says

Photo of the Continuing Education Building at Fayetteville Technical Community College

The COVID pandemic hurt enrollment at North Carolina’s community colleges. But doses of student grants and training programs for high-demand careers are bringing improvements.

SPONSORED SECTION

8/20/21 4:22 PM


Renita Allen Dawson, the college’s vice president for workforce continuing education and community engagement. WCC is creating training programs and apprenticeships in partnership with local businesses. “We are impacting our local economy by educating people and getting them into the workforce faster through our short-term programs,” says college President Patty Pfieffer. Some of its 30 programs, which range from agriculture to welding and offer 98 certificates, can be completed in four months or less. WCC is North Carolina’s first and the country’s second community college to launch an artificial intelligence degree program, which will graduate its first class in 2023. College leaders say it will help students and communities capitalize on the state’s tech boom. It adds to the college’s gaming and simulation and cybersecurity programs, says Glenn Royster, chairman of WCC’s

information-systems technology department. “Artificial intelligence is here, and it is going to grow at an exponential pace,” he says. “We can’t afford to stop or slow down because the rest of the world is in that space, and we need to remain competitive.” Blue Ridge Community College’s pandemic-induced enrollment decline wasn’t as sharp as what other colleges in the system faced, says Laura Leatherwood, BRCC president. “We knew the pandemic was a temporary thing,” she says. “We didn’t know how long it would last, but we positioned ourselves, so we could emerge in a position of strength.” BRCC and four fellow North Carolina community colleges are part of a pilot project and outreach campaign — Better Skills. Better Jobs. — that launched in June. A partnership with the John M. Belk Endowment and myFutureNC, its goal is 2 million North Carolinians, age

25 to 44, with a high-quality credential or postsecondary degree by 2030. In 2016, myFutureNC says there were 1.3 million, so student recruitment will be required. With support from the endowment, BRCC developed a robust marketing plan that gives prospective students explicit instructions on accessing Longleaf Commitment grants, says Scott Queen, the college’s vice president for economic and workforce development. “We are giving them a literal check list, and we anticipate the scholarships will have a big impact on enrollment,” he says. Along with billboards, digital marketing and direct mailings to 5,000 households, BRCC put boots on the ground. “We met face-to-face with every nonprofit and armed them with the information they needed to inform their clients, patients and members,” Leatherwood says. “They essentially

S E P T E M B E R

Continuing_Education_Sept2021.indd 83

2 0 2 1

83

8/20/21 4:23 PM


HIGHER ED CONTINUING EDUCATION

became an extension of the college in their communities and gave us more outreach capacity.” Pitt Community College is part of the Better Skills. Better Jobs. program. Thomas Gould, vice president of academic affairs and student development services, says enrollment is increasing across all of its programs, including health sciences, HVAC, biotechnology, electrical, welding and building construction. And the college is partnering with Pitt County Schools, East Carolina University and local pharma industry partners to develop pathways leading to employment in pharmaceutical services. The pandemic taught college administrators a lesson in flexibility. While Pitt anticipates returning to a traditional classroom setting, it also will use online, hybrid, blended and synchronous virtual teaching formats to accommodate student learning styles, scheduling preferences and lingering pandemic concerns. “We are expanding our programming offerings, and this fall we will offer our first dental assisting class as part of a new curriculum,” Gould says. “In addition, we are collaborating with Pitt County Schools to launch our teacher preparation transfer program and pathways.” The efforts are being recognized nationally. Brunswick Community College, for example, was ranked No. 1 by New York-based financial technology company SmartAsset for the second consecutive year in 2021. The ranking is based on a variety of criteria, including affordability, graduation and transfer rates, learning objectives and student success. The pass rate is about 95% in its nursing program. “And we’re not just talking about passing courses, I’m talking about obtaining state licensures as well,” says Greg Bland, vice president of economic and workforce development and continuing education. “We’re pretty proud of this ranking.” ■ — Teri Saylor is a freelance writer from Raleigh.

84

Continuing_Education_Sept2021.indd 84

SHOT IN THE ARM Enrollment in MBA and executive education programs is up as more people improve their position in preparation for a post-pandemic working world.

The COVID-19 pandemic is increasing interest in MBA and executive education programs statewide. Bradley Staats, professor and associate dean of MBA programs at UNC’s Kenan-Flagler Business School, is pleased but not surprised. “Fifteen months ago, I would have said we were not sure how COVID-19 would shape our enrollment, but we know that MBA programs run counter cyclical in that the better the economy is doing, the more people choose to stay at work versus pursuing further education,” he says. “In a world where the only constant is change, COVID caused people to pause and ask themselves if they have the right skill set to thrive into the future.” Reston, Virginia-based association Graduate Management Admission Council reported that business-school applications jumped 21% in 2020 from the year prior. That trend is reflected in North Carolina. Last year, Kenan-Flagler, for example, reported 43% more MBA applications, according to the website poetsandquants.com, which reports on graduate business education programs. Its new class has 344 students compared to 252 last year. New study options are matching demand. UNC Wilmington’s Cameron School of Business, for example, launched its online master’s degree programs before the pandemic started, says Nivine Richie, professor and associate dean of graduate and international programs. “We already had the infrastructure in place,” she says.

Richie says Cameron’s international MBA program, for example, used a hybrid platform to connect students with a Czech Republic-based business for a weeklong consulting project. Most of the students converged at the Wilmington campus, but four of them, along with the Czech Republic team, participated remotely. “We were pleasantly surprised to see how well it worked,” she says. “Our students did a marvelous job for that company.” Cameron’s health care management and business-analytics programs are growing, and it will launch several specialties — human resource management, information systems, cyber security and entrepreneurship — this fall. It also began dual-degree programs. “Through our dual-degree program, students can get both an MBA and a master’s of science degree in finance or business analytics,” Richie says. MBA programs at private schools are growing, too. Hope Williams, president of North Carolina Independent Colleges and Universities, agrees that people are seeking ongoing education and professional-development credentials or to earn an advanced degree. “We have been pleased that our students, many of whom are adults, are thinking about their future and how they can better position themselves for a better career and future through our programs,” she says. ■ — Teri Saylor is a freelance writer from Raleigh. SPONSORED SECTION

8/20/21 5:14 PM


Continuing_Education_Sept2021.indd 85

8/20/21 4:24 PM


TOWNSQUARE

Dunn

BETTER DUNN

+ TALKING POINTS

Local leaders position Harnett County’s biggest city for a robust future as the Triangle sprawls south.

D U NN

1887

YEAR INCORPORATED

40 miles

DISTANCE TO DOWNTOWN RALEIGH

26 miles

DISTANCE TO DOWNTOWN FAYETTEVILLE

Harnett Health

$58.6 million ASSESSED VALUE OF ROOMS TO GO DISTRIBUTION CENTER

16%

POPULATION GROWTH IN HARNETT COUNTY BETWEEN 2000-2020. ADJOINING JOHNSTON COUNTY GREW 28%

29%

PERCENT LIVING IN POVERTY IN 2019; N.C. AVERAGE IS 13.6%.

86

B U S I N E S S

▲Proximity to interstates and Raleigh sparks Dunn’s growth.

BY BRYAN MIMS

A

t a cozy tavern on Dunn’s East Broad Street, Willie Nelson shuffles across the varnished concrete floor, greeting patrons with their pints of amber. Heads turn. There are smiles. Willie Nelson’s short stature and bristly face command attention on this Saturday night. When he pops up on the back patio, the proprietor calls out, “Hey Willie.” Willie takes a seat, adding not a word to the chatter and hearty laughter. And for good reason — he’s a dog: a black dachshund that shares a name with the Texas crooner whose twang goes well with a cold one. Willie belongs to Brad Hawkins, 41, owner of Lucknow Bottle and Tap. Garbed in an untucked flannel shirt and jeans, Hawkins digs country music and beer crafted in North Carolina. On this Saturday night, it seems as if everybody who’s anybody in Dunn has poured into his gathering place to toast his grand opening. Mayor William Elmore drops in. Wesley Johnson, president-elect of the Dunn Area Chamber of Commerce, is seated on the patio, nursing a round with friends and business partners. A baker named Joy Dodson, who started a business during the pandemic — Joy by the Pound — has her pound cakes on display, ready for the slicing. The owners of bed and breakfast Simply Divine, tattoo shop Heart and Hammer Tattoo, and art boutique Whimsical Creations are all mingling. “Our brand is really kind of family-friendly, kid-friendly, dog-friendly, and this area really needed something like this,” Hawkins says. “We’re just really trying to create this fellowship type of vibe down here. I don’t consider this like a bar type of scene.” Hawkins owns a similar venue in Garner called 42 Craft Beverage. He grew up in Four Oaks and now lives in neighboring Benson. He saw Dunn as ripe for an after-hours, Cheers-like hangout. “There’s no place to decompress when you get off work,” he says. “You talk to some familiar faces, coming on your good days, coming on your bad days.” So in March 2020, he began renovations in a building dating to the late 1800s, a space that sat empty for decades. Its old-timey tin ceiling tiles and patches of exposed brick in the wall are just the right rustic decor for a laid-back watering hole. Johnson encouraged Hawkins to bring his taps

N O R T H

Townsquare_Dunn_Sept 2021_USETHIS.indd 86

PHOTOS COURTESY OF GERRY DINCHER

BIGGEST EMPLOYER THROUGH BETSY JOHNSON HOSPITAL

C A R O L I N A

8/23/21 9:54 AM


▲ Prepandemic, the Isaacs gospel band performed at Dunn’s Stewart Theater.

to town “to help be an anchor business and get other businesses involved,” he says. The name Lucknow was one of the original names of Dunn, settled in the mid-1800s as a logging town and turpentine distiller, tapping into the region’s bounty of longleaf pines. As the railroad came through, its builders reportedly named the community Lucknow after the 1857 siege of Lucknow in Northern India following a rebellion against British rule. The settlement’s name was changed to Dunn in 1873 as a salute to Bennett Dunn, who supervised the railroad’s construction.

PHOTOS COURTESY OF STEWART THEATER, AVERASBORO BATTLEFIELD COMMISSION INC.

People and rooms

The railroad still bisects Dunn, the largest city in Harnett County with a population of about 9,750. But Interstate 95 has eclipsed it as the primary transportation artery. Dunn sits right off the interstate, seven miles south of the Interstate 40 interchange, a spot boosters call the “Crossroads of America.” Dunn is a maze of construction and bridge demolitions on a highway that has undergone little improvement since it was built in the late 1950s. The outdated bridges were too low, the exit ramps too short, the median too narrow. With roughly 58,000 vehicles passing by every day, traffic has long felt squeezed. That’s changing as the interstate transforms from four lanes to eight lanes, a 26-mile project from Fayetteville to I-40 expected to be finished by 2025. The city put up a billboard announcing all exits to Dunn are open, in hopes of steering drivers to stop for a coffee at the new Starbucks; an omelet at Triangle Waffle; or an overnight hotel stay. Better yet, there was hope that visitors would venture downtown for a slice of multilayer cake at Sherry’s Bakery — a muststop for its irresistible menu of honey buns and red velvet cupcakes — or a tour of the Gen. William C. Lee Airborne Museum, honoring a native son who became known as the “Father of the American Airborne” during World War II. National furniture retailer Rooms to Go broke ground in 2014 on the largest furniture distribution center in the Southeast. The center sprawls across 1.45 million square feet and fills a half mile of frontage along I-95. It is an imposing presence: a big white box, trimmed in blue and yellow, with a long line of loading dock doors. Capitalizing on the junction of interstates, the warehouse and retail showroom opened in 2015 and employs about 220 people. Another large warehouse nearby has an even bigger payroll.

About 750 people work at the Food Lion distribution center, which serves nearly 300 stores across North Carolina. Manufacturing also has a foothold in Dunn. Godwin Manufacturing, which builds steel dump bodies, platforms and hoists, salutes travelers with a billboard along I-95: “Welcome to Dunn, North Carolina, The Dump Truck Body Capital of the World.” It employs about 500 at four U.S. factories. Pat Godwin, who was raised on a sweet potato farm a few miles from the Dunn plant, founded the company in 1966. At 80 years old, “I go to work every day,” he says. “And I’m very, very active in the company. It’s just something I wanted to do, and I don’t know when to quit.” Dunn and its neighbors along the interstate are angling to haul in more business. Late last year, Dunn, Benson and Four Oaks formed the I-95/I-40 Crossroads of America Economic Planning Alliance with the goal of working together to land new businesses and provide more attractions. Benson withdrew in May, citing concerns about funding and oversight. Dunn also has its own

▲ Averasboro Battlefield and Museum is at the site of a Civil War battle

initiative: the Imagine Dunn Strategic Vision Plan, which aims to market and add a new shine to the city. As part of the plan, city leaders are seeking out the smaller-scale businesses that can make Dunn a destination. Mayor Elmore, who grew up in the city, ran for the city’s top job in 2019 because “I wanted to make things happen in Dunn.” S E P T E M B E R

Townsquare_Dunn_Sept 2021_USETHIS.indd 87

2 0 2 1

87

8/20/21 4:25 PM


TOWNSQUARE

Dunn

▲ Anna Scott Cross and Wesley Johnson offer tech consulting. Johnson

Dunn’s to-do list

The downtown has a polished, lived-in look, populated with brick storefronts housing clothing boutiques, a salon and day spa, and a craft shop named The Gigglin’ Pig. There’s an old movie house called the Stewart Theater, remodeled with a stage for live shows. There’s the Dunn Area History Museum and The Organic Butcher Shop, which was opened in 2017 by Dorothy and Tony Adkins, first-generation farmers who raise their own livestock. On Saturday afternoons after 3 p.m., downtown Dunn dozes. Most businesses close shop about that time, leaving sidewalks empty and the streets hushed. Stores stay open longer on weekdays, but even then, downtown after dark is drowsy. “We hope to change that,” Elmore says. Pull up a seat next to Johnson, the chamber’s president-elect, and he’ll describe plans to convert the old General Grain Cotton

▲ Organic Butcher Shop operates a downtown kiosk.

Gin into a 9,000-square-foot brewery and entertainment complex called Grain Dealers Brewery. “It’s a gorgeous building,” he says. He envisions rooftop dining “where you can look up and down the railroad,” he says. Johnson and his partners are generating funds for the project through crowdfunding, which involves small money donations

88

B U S I N E S S

N O R T H

Townsquare_Dunn_Sept 2021_USETHIS.indd 88

from individuals. He sees it as a prime way for the community to take ownership of important developments. Johnson, 33, founded his information-technology firm called TeCHonfidence and is chief operations officer at East Coast Hemp Supply, which he started with Keith Dunn, a friend he’s known since Cub Scout days. Their 7,000-square-foot retail space on Broad Street sells a trove of products made from hemp grown on Dunn’s local farm. Johnson has master’s degrees in environmental management and entrepreneurship, giving him the expertise to assist small businesses. “Anybody who wants to do business in Dunn, I’ll write the business plan, talk with the bank,” he says. “These small towns are perfect incubators for them because you’ve got a nice, tight network of people who want to support local, and you’ve got affordable real estate.” Locals are cheered about a soon-to-open restaurant that has garnered rave reviews at its original location in Fuquay-Varina. The owner of Garibaldi Trattoria is renovating the old Sunbelt Press building on Broad Street to house another eatery, serving Italian and French cuisine. “We’ve sat between Raleigh and Fayetteville,” Mayor Elmore says. “We’re getting a tremendous amount of folks looking at us now. Residential housing is really moving our direction now. The real estate market is on fire.” Back at Lucknow, Willie Nelson works the crowded bar. Conversation and laughter flow smoothly. Dunn has its phalanx of franchises out by the interstate, but head on into town and the fast lane fades into the rear view. In a new bar inside a cozy old building, it’s as if everybody knows your name. ■

Bryan Mims is a writer and reporter at WRAL-TV in Raleigh.

PHOTOS COURTESY OF WESLEY JOHNSON, THE ORGANIC BUTCHER SHOP

and Lee Honeycutt, right, plan to open a downtown brewery.

C A R O L I N A

8/20/21 4:25 PM


Back_Covers_3-4_Sept2021.indd 1

8/20/21 4:26 PM


Back_Covers_3-4_Sept2021.indd 2

8/20/21 4:26 PM


Issuu converts static files into: digital portfolios, online yearbooks, online catalogs, digital photo albums and more. Sign up and create your flipbook.