WilmingtonBiz Magazine

Fresh Eyes

By Laura Moore, posted Mar 13, 2020
(Photo by Michael Cline Spencer)
No stranger to economic and land development in North Carolina, Jenny Mizelle brings her experiences to the Port City. 
Jenny Mizelle and her husband enjoyed spending weekends in Emerald Isle only to dread leaving the beach to return inland. They thought about relocating there but did not want to leave their jobs at the WithersRavenel headquarters in Cary.
They combined the best of both worlds, the beach and business, by transferring to the Wilmington location of WithersRavenel, a civil and environmental engineering firm.
Having worked in the marketing department in Cary, Mizelle transitioned into a new role as director of land development for the Wilmington office in 2017.
“Almost all of my time has been in the private sector, and I knew a lot of people,” Mizelle said. “I was the director of economic development for the town of Holly Springs for 22 years, which was a fun organization, and I did a lot of networking and knew a lot of people.
“So now my biggest challenge is not knowing a lot of people.”
Sometimes Mizelle’s job takes her to small towns and counties beyond New Hanover County. She is currently consulting in Wayne and Montgomery counties.
“We are working on the smartest and best use of property by doing our due diligence,” Mizelle said. “We work on conceptual master plans, zoning and vetting environmental features.”
The Virginia Tech graduate earned her degree in urban planning, which “morphed” into mortgage banking, then community development and later economic development.
“It is all about marketing your community,” Mizelle said.
Mizelle’s main focus as a new member of this community is to market her company and to help establish more brand recognition for WithersRavenel.
“I want to increase market share of our company in the Cape Fear region,” she said. “We are an excellent engineering company, and we are trying to differentiate ourselves with our excellent customer service.”
Mizelle was witness to the exponential growth that occurred in Holly Springs as it grew from 900 people in 1990 to 9,000 people just 10 years later. She is particularly impressed with the fintech sector that has grown in the Wilmington area, especially having played a pivotal part in bringing big business to Holly Springs.
In 2006, Mizelle was part of a team that sealed one of the top-10 largest economic developments deals in North America by bringing Novartis to Holly Springs. Mizelle and her team worked for two years to bring the vaccine manufacturing facility to the town.
“I am still proud of the work our team did to recruit Novartis,” Mizelle said.
Mizelle is excited to be a part of the changes that are currently underway in the Wilmington area.
“What I see going to chamber and Business Journal events is that this area is gathering a lot of excitement and development activity, and it is exciting,” Mizelle said. “It is a bigger market up in the Triangle, but it is so friendly, more laid back and casual down here. Everyone has been so open and welcoming.”
One aspect that has not changed is Mizelle’s working relationship with her husband, Don, including their proximity. Not only do they live together and work together, but they share an office, as well.
“He works on the technical aspects; I bring the relationships,” Mizelle said.
Relationships are important to Mizelle and she looks forward to growing more relationships in the Cape Fear area.
While living in the Triangle, Mizelle was active in the women’s leadership group, Triangle Commercial Real Estate Women, or TCREW, and is looking forward to getting more involved with the local Cape Fear CREW chapter.
“I met the nicest people, formed great friendships and developed many professional leads. We were all there to support each other,” Mizelle said. “So the first thing I did was to find the Cape Fear CREW, and it is as good as I could it imagine it being.”
WithersRavenel just celebrated 15 years in business, and Mizelle is proud to be a part of the employeeowned company that seems more like a family than a business.
“We have a potluck lunch every month, and we just have fun together,” Mizelle said.
Getting the hang of the roads in Wilmington was a bit of a challenge for her, but now Mizelle is ready to be a part of contributing to the greater good of the area.
Mizelle has been working closely with the nonprofit Furniture Finders helping to distribute furniture to those in need. Having worked at the Holly Springs food cupboard, Mizelle hopes to do more with her passion for fighting food insecurity by working with Share the Table in Surf City.
“I just want to become more involved in the community,” Mizelle said.
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