Giving the keynote speech at the Wilmington Chamber of Commerce’s 154th annual meeting held virtually Thursday, Kelly King chose to focus on leadership rather than banking.
King, chairman and CEO of Truist Financial Corp., indicated his choice of topic was prompted by the crises facing America and the world: “a global pandemic, a global economic meltdown, racial inequality discussions and a political crisis.”
Effective leaders, King said, display three qualities: they are honest about the reality of a given situation, are clear about where they want to go, and have the courage to go there.
He then gave his assessment of the crises he listed earlier.
On the pandemic
: “We can feel optimistic because we have very effective vaccines. I think within a few months we’ll have this thing wrestled to the ground.”
On the economic slump
: While midsized and large businesses are generally doing well, “It’s the small, tiny businesses on the lower end that are really struggling. It’s very sad and will continue to happen for a while. I’m encouraged about the macroeconomy; we’re getting positive feedback, and I think there will be strong GDP growth. But minority-owned businesses need help.”
On racial inequality
: “There is much work to be done on racial inequality. [We] know it’s been a reality but a year ago we were probably not as sensitized about it as [we] are now . . . As business leaders, we need to reach out, need to continue to understand the reality of what those who are disadvantaged in our community are going through.”
On political crisis
: “We have this issue of political crisis we saw Jan. 20. It was a representation of the division in our country we need to work on, and it’s been brewing for quite a while. It’s okay to have different philosophical views but we need to learn how to work together, love each other . . . Focus on what is our vision; to me, it’s clear: it’s about equal opportunity for all.”
King cited statistics showing that two-thirds of children in public schools cannot read at a third-grade level or do simple math.
“Many families cannot pay a $1,000 bill if it comes up, like having to replace the refrigerator,” he said, adding that when facing such difficult realities, “how do we think about being effective?”
The banking leader said “outstanding achievers” who are effective:
- Believe in what they are trying to accomplish
- Commit time, energy and resources to make it happen
- Develop the best possible skills in themselves, learning and growing every day
- Enjoy the journey toward a goal and live in the present
- Maintain a positive, enthusiastic attitude
Urging his audience to choose to be happy, be clear about their purpose in life, develop a “growth mindset,” and help others, King said, “You can do this and you can change the world in the process. Working together, we can cause everybody to be treated equally and make this country the best in the world.”
In her remarks at Thursday’s meeting, chamber President and CEO Natalie English
noted several highlights of 2020, including the United Van Lines survey that named Wilmington the most-moved-to city in the country last year.
Despite COVID-19 restrictions for most of 2020, English said, “We held 92 events, 20 of which were in person and included seven ribbon cuttings. Three thousand people attended our events virtually. We added 90 new members and showed a 119% revenue increase for the chamber.”
The qualities that Wilmington displayed in 1979, when Corning Inc. opened the world’s first optical fiber manufacturing facility here, continue to resonate for the benefit of the community, said incoming board chairwoman Michele Holbrook in her remarks.
Holbrook, Corning’s global supply chain project manager, cited the city’s collaborative leadership, the quality of its community, and the opportunities it offers for education and skills development as those defining qualities.
Three awards were presented during the meeting. Robert Rippy, owner of Jungle Rapids Family Fun Park, received the Lifetime Achievement in Business Award, sponsored by Duke Energy. And Corning Inc. named two teachers as the recipients of its STEM Educator of the Year Award: Melissa Taylor, at Cape Fear Elementary School in Pender County; and Jordan McEwen, at Roland Grise Middle School in New Hanover County.