WilmingtonBiz Magazine

The WilmingtonBiz 100: Influencers

By Staff Reports, posted Dec 16, 2019

The Influencers: The changemakers, in front of or behind the scenes


Steve Anderson

Owner and Developer, SAMM Properties
A salesman since high school, when he started selling clothing, Steve Anderson is still a salesman of sorts today but of a much larger product that he works to create.
Why he’s an influencer:
Anderson has impacted the Mayfaire/Landfall submarket.
In 2011, he embarked on The Offices at Mayfaire, a complex that would grow to The Offices at Mayfaire I through VI.
Anderson is also the developer of Bradley Creek Station, a project underway on Oleander Drive, Howe Creek Landing, The Offices at Airlie and the 17th Street Medical Park. Anderson, whose partner is another Influencer pick, Mark Maynard, has developed 420,000 square feet in the Mayfaire/Bradley Creek area and more than 550,000 square feet of additional commercial retail and office space.
First deal: In high school, selling a batch of Lacoste shirts he bought from a manufacturer

Mike Ashcraft

Senior Pastor, Port City Community Church
Mike Ashcraft co-founded Port City Community Church in 1999 after deciding to start a church designed for people who don’t go to church or follow a religion.
Why he’s an influencer:
Port City Community Church started at the auditorium at Roland- Grise Middle School with about 85 members and has grown to four campuses and about 5,000 members as of 2017.
The locations include a 90,000-square-foot facility in Wilmington, which Ashcraft designed; a 6-acre site in Southport; a future church site in Leland where the congregation currently meets at Belville Elementary School; and a campus in New Bern.
PC3 has expanded its number of employees to 70 and has also expanded its reach beyond the region. The church has a podcast that is streamed by soldiers and listeners in other states.
Ashcraft received a Service Above Self award for the church's relief efforts after Hurricane Florence.
Hobby: Surfing

Chris Boney

Chief Relationships Officer and Principal, LS3P
As part of the architecture firm with longtime roots in Wilmington, Chris Boney has played a role in designing a number of marquee projects in the Port City. In 1997, Boney joined the multigenerational company Boney Architects, which later merged with LS3P. He has served as LS3P’s Wilmington Office Leader and Senior Living Practice Leader, and in his current position focuses on business development for the entire firm, which has eight offices across three states.
Why he’s an influencer:
On the architecture side, Boney has influenced the look and feel of some of Wilmington’s largest projects in recent years. He served as design principal in charge on buildings such as Cape Fear Community College’s Union Station and Wilson Center, Live Oak Bank’s headquarters and NHRMC’s Women’s & Children’s Hospital.
But his work outside of the office has been significant as well. With the Wilmington Chamber of Commerce, for which he chaired the board in 2015, Boney and others worked on the group’s Cape Fear Future initiative and made sure to have a voice in the development of New Hanover County’s first comprehensive plan.
Among his other business and community roles, Boney also has served as chairman of the Wilmington Planning Commission, helping to rewrite the Central Business District zoning ordinance.
Current boards: USS Battleship North Carolina Commission chair and Cameron Art Museum trustees

Kemp Burdette

Riverkeeper, Cape Fear River Watch
Kemp Burdette joined Cape Fear River Watch in 2008. He was named Riverkeeper in 2010. In that role, he serves in many capacities as an advocate, educator and protector of the Lower Cape Fear River. Prior to his roles with the nonprofit, he served in the U.S. Navy and was a Peace Corps volunteer.
Why he’s an influencer:
Under Burdette’s leadership, Cape Fear River Watch has played a major role in the local GenX and PFAS water contamination issue.
The nonprofit reached out to researchers and pulled together experts for local forums on the topic. And as it worked to raise community awareness, the organization also took legal action against The Chemours Co., alleging years of contamination of the Cape Fear River through the company’s operations at its Fayetteville Works facility in Bladen County.
The state’s consent order last year that came out of that action helps hold the company responsible to fix water and air pollution caused by GenX and other PFAS. Cape Fear River Watch continues to meet with state regulators and Wilmington, Delaware-based Chemours to work through the order, which includes building a thermal oxidizer at the plant. The technology was included in the firm’s planned $100 million investment at its facility to reduce air and water emissions by at least 99%.
Recently the consent order again came into play with water supplies at a Cumberland County school where two PFAS compounds exceeded levels outlined in the order, meaning that Chemours is responsible for supplying a water filtration solution there.
Burdette is also working to curb pollution associated with industrial-scale factory farms in the Cape Fear River Basin. In addition, the nonprofit works to restore migratory fish populations that have seen decline over the past century due to dams along the Cape Fear.
It advocated for coal ash pond clean up in the region.
Burdette serves on the advisory board for N.C. Conservation Network, and on the Waterkeeper Council for the Waterkeeper Alliance, a global clean-water advocacy organization, representing 35 Waterkeepers of the South Atlantic Region.
Rollin’ on a River: Burdette has paddled the entire Cape Fear River.

Shane Fernando

Executive and Artistic Director, CFCC Wilson Center
Shane Fernando opened one of the largest and most technologically advanced performing arts center in Eastern North Carolina with the Wilson Center at CFCC. It has drawn national Broadway tour productions and A-list stars that have in turn attracted more business to downtown Wilmington.
Why he’s an influencer:
Some of the center’s numbers include ticket revenue of more than $17.5 million; more than $1.1 million in taxes collected; nearly 340,000 tickets sold; 36 national Broadway tours; and an estimated annual impact of $17 million.

Among his other accomplishments, Fernando serves as an adjunct professor for UNCW’s Department of Communication Studies, worked on the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee and spearheaded the concept and fundraising for the UNCW Millennium Clock Tower.

Current projects he’s involved in include serving as programming consultant and trustee, Thalian Hall Center for the Performing Arts; president, N.C. Presenters Consortium; member, Screen Actors Guild and American Federation of Television and Radio Artists; trustee, DanceUSA; and advisor, National Dance Project.

Rusty Carter

CEO, Atlantic Packaging
Rusty Carter joined his family’s business full time in the 1970s and has been at its helm for more than 40 years. The firm’s acquisition of Crown Box Co. in Wilmington in 1980 established its Wilmington headquarters. He leads 1,250 employees nationwide, with 100 local employees.
Why he’s an influencer:
Carter’s family business began in the 1940s as Atlantic Publishing, which ran a weekly Pulitzer Prize-winning newspaper that is still in operation today. Carter oversaw the company’s branching out into packaging equipment and materials as the Atlantic Packaging business. The company now has 16 domestic locations and two offshore facilities in the Dominican Republic and Honduras.
In 2016, Carter passed on the president role to his son, Wes, who envisioned and opened Atlantic’s Research and Solution Center in Charlotte.
Atlantic Packaging is finalizing an expansion on its North 23rd Street headquarters this year; a growth of its paper converting capacities in Columbus County; and warehouse expansion in Charleston, South Carolina. It’s also opening distribution centers in Reno, Nevada, and Dallas.
Headquarters addition: 16,000 square feet

Chris Coudriet

County Manager, New Hanover County
Chris Coudriet has been in the county manager post since 2012 after serving as assistant county manager for four years. Before coming to New Hanover County, he was the county manager in Franklin and Washington counties.
Why he’s an influencer:
As the chief administrator for New Hanover County’s government, Coudriet is over a $399 million budget. While he operates under the direction of the five-member county board of commissioners, Coudriet is the face – and the policy implementer – for several major issues that can impact county residents and businesses.
The biggest one right now is, of course, the yearlong review into county-owned New Hanover Regional Medical Center’s future. He’s also had a hand in other major projects during his time with the county. In 2012, New Hanover County implemented its first strategic plan, which was updated in 2018.
Other public-private developments in the pipeline that Coudriet could play an influential role in include the potential redevelopment of the Government Center off South College Road and whatever changes the Project Grace proposal goes through in downtown Wilmington.
County employees: 1,800

Ben David

District Attorney, 6th Prosecutorial District
Currently in his fifth term, Ben David was first elected as the district attorney for the district that covers New Hanover and Pender counties in 2004. David is a past president of the N.C. Conference of District Attorneys.
Why he’s an influencer:
David calls the DA’s office the largest law firm in the district because of its staff size – 45 people. David oversees the organization, which prosecutes 5,000 felonies and 20,000 misdemeanors a year, but also in his role has taken on highprofile law and order issues.
In 2017, he filed an injunction against more than 700 criminal street gang members from associating with each other. The injunction, which ended this year, was noted as the first of its kind in the state though it did receive criticism for its scope.
David also went after several hotels on Market Street that were sites of ongoing criminal activity, getting owners to implement more security procedures through consent agreements.
On the opioid epidemic front, David along with his brother, Jon, the DA for the district that includes Brunswick County, last year announced an initiative to request higher bond amounts for those arrested for selling heroin and other prosecutorial moves.
Partnering up: David cofounded the employment nonprofit Hometown Hires (now StepUp Wilmington) with Live Oak Bank’s Chip Mahan.

Ken Dull

President, McKinley Building Corp.
McKinley “Ken” Dull began his construction career in 1985, founding McKinley Building in 1992. Since then, the company has become one of the city’s leading, locally owned commercial builders with more than 300 projects in its portfolio.
Why he’s an influencer:
Dull has literally had a hand in some of the most highprofile projects in the region, including Sawmill Point in downtown Wilmington and The Offices at Mayfaire I-VI to name just two.
Dull has also served on numerous civic and professional boards. They include the city of Wilmington Planning Commission (chairman of the board for four years) and the New Hanover County Planning Board (chairman for three years). In the past, he has also served on boards for Wilmington Business Development, Cape Fear Academy, Wilmington Housing Authority and several banks.
Political hat: Dull serves on the Wrightsville Beach Board of Aldermen, after being elected in 2017.

Jeff Earp

President, Funston Farms, Brunswick Forest And Funston Co.
Jeff Earp describes himself as a landowner and farmer who has a construction company. But he remains invested in and was instrumental in the development of the master-planned community Brunswick Forest.
Why he’s an influencer:
Brunswick Forest is a nearly 5,000-acre tract that the Winnabow native helped develop and build beginning in 2005, along with Lord Baltimore Capital Corp.
The high-profile community not only contains thousands of homes but also contains a major commercial portion used by Brunswick County residents from miles around.
Earp continues to be involved in Brunswick Forest and other development projects, earlier this year expressing his concern over a potential Cape Fear Crossing route through Brunswick Forest.
Residential lots developed in Brunswick Forest so far: 3,200

Brian Eckel

Partner, Cape Fear Commercial/ GHK Cape Fear Development
Brian Eckel co-founded Cape Fear Commercial with Vin Wells in 2001, and has had a major impact on commercial real estate, development and the local business community ever since.
Why he’s an influencer:
In 18 years, the company has achieved $1.5 billion in sales volume ($275 million last year), managed more than 3 million square feet of commercial space and developed $250 million in commercial real estate. Among Eckel’s current projects are Autumn Hall’s next phase, Woodlands at Echo Farms, Renaissance Apartments and a fifth Publix Grocery Store for the company, this one in Carolina Beach.
Eckel served as chairman of the Business Alliance for a Sound Economy for two years as the organization restructured and focused on the advocacy needs of the regional business community. Eckel serves on the NHRMC Board of Trustees and the boards of BASE, the Wilmington chamber and the Wilmington-Cape Fear Home Builders Association. He is also a member of the Partnership Advisory Group evaluating the future of NHRMC.
Company employees: 23

John Elliott

Director of Government and Community Relations, Duke Energy's East Region
John Elliott has more than two decades of experience in the electric utility business. He covers 43 counties that make up Duke Energy’s east region in North Carolina. Elliott was also chairman this year of the Wilmington Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors.
Why he’s an influencer:
Through his role at Duke Energy, Elliott is responsible for building and managing relationships with local governmental officials and customers in the east region.
Elliott oversees seven employees in his region. Working with community partners, the company serves as a catalyst by addressing issues and advancing opportunities that enhance the local and state business climate.
It has joined N.C. Ports on a project to raise power lines to help larger cargo ships access the Port of Wilmington.
And it’s building a transmission line to the new Porters Neck area substation to provide more power to growing areas in New Hanover and Pender counties.
Duke’s East region: 43 counties

Natalie English

President and CEO, Wilmington Chamber of Commerce
Natalie English has been a chamber of commerce executive for more than 20 years. She began her role as president and CEO of the Wilmington Chamber of Commerce in 2017, after serving 11 years with the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce, including as its chief public policy officer.
Why she’s an influencer:
English leads a staff of six at the chamber, which markets the region and creates networking and educational opportunities for businesses.
English recently helped spur a regional transportation advocacy group in the wake of local road projects scheduled for the future being canceled or stalled by the state.
And last year, she helped form the chamber’s African American Business Council, to connect and grow the African American business community. She has also helped create a business emergency center to aid future storm recovery.
English has increased chamber membership and revenue and led its transition to a new accounting platform, membership database and web presence.
She was also elected this year to serve on the board for the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives.
Years as a chamber executive: 20

Terry Espy

President, Momentum Companies
Terry Espy’s career in real estate development and brokerage spans more than 30 years.
Why she’s an influencer:
Espy is currently involved in innovative projects in downtown Wilmington as it continues to become revitalized. She is assisting in the development of the commercial component of South Front District by Tribute Companies.
Throughout downtown, she has coordinated the sale or lease of numerous historical properties for tech and business service companies.
Other restaurant development: PinPoint Restaurant, The District, Tarantelli’s and Platypus & Gnome

Jim Flechtner

Executive Director, CFPUA
Jim Flechtner, who was named executive director in 2013, leads an organization with 300 employees and an $85 million operating budget this fiscal year. Flechtner previously served as chief operations officer for the utility before being promoted.
Why he’s an influencer:
Flechtner has been key in CFPUA’s response to local water-quality issues involving emerging contaminants such as GenX and other PFAS, including monitoring the water and implementing plant upgrades.
In 2017, the utility filed a federal lawsuit against Chemours and DuPont after the discovery of the contaminants in the Cape Fear River, the area’s source of drinking water. CFPUA has started work on a $43 million project to add enhanced capabilities at the Sweeney Water Treatment Plant to treat for PFAS.
Flechtner has also guided CFPUA’s impact on local economic development, often in partnership with New Hanover County, the city of Wilmington and others. This includes recent work to provide new water and sewer infrastructure along U.S. 421 to the Pender County line and water service in northern New Hanover County, to help business growth and real estate development. The utility provides water and sewer services to about 200,000 people in New Hanover County.
Number of accounts: 71,000

Correction: This updated version has been changed to reflect the correct date of a CFPUA lawsuit filing.

Huntley Garriott

President, Live Oak Bank
Huntley Garriott currently serves as president of Live Oak Bank, a subsidiary of Live Oak Bancshares. Prior to joining Live Oak, Garriott was a partner at Goldman Sachs Division and served as cohead of the firm’s Banks and Specialty Finance team within the Financial Institutions Group. Over his 20-year career at Goldman, Huntley covered regional banks throughout North America and held a variety of roles focused on traditional investment banking, private equity investing, debt capital markets and risk management. He was named managing director in 2007 and partner in 2014. He earned a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and economics from the University of Virginia, where he was a Jefferson Scholar.
Why he’s an influencer:
Garriott became Live Oak’s bank president in the fall of 2018.
In the role, he is head of the daily operations of Live Oak Bank, the only publicly traded company headquartered in Wilmington and a digitally focused bank serving customers across the country.
Live Oak has been named the top SBA lender in the nation, USDA lender of the year in 2019 and the BAI Global Innovation Award winner for converting all bank operations to the cloud.
Current community projects: NourishNC, Cape Fear Habitat for Humanity, Collective Impact and IDEA Roundtable

Donna Girardot

Chair, ILM Airport Authority and New Hanover County Planning Board
Donna Girardot’s involvement in the business community and civic issues in Wilmington include 11 years as the executive director of the Wilmington-Cape Fear Home Builders Association, to name just one leadership role. She is in her second year as chairwoman of Wilmington International Airport.
Why she’s an influencer:
In her role on the airport authority, she is helping to steer ILM through a $60 million expansion project. She has worked with state legislators to secure funding for the airport, and, among other goals, aims to secure more carriers for ILM.
She has also drafted and advocated for federal, state and local legislation and regulation on issues promoting regional economic development aimed at protecting the environment and the area’s quality of life.
As head of the planning board, Girardot played a pivotal role in getting different groups negotiating and on board with New Hanover County’s comprehensive plan. She also is the planning board representative for New Hanover County’s current Unified Development Ordinance process.
Another role: In 2003, she founded Business Alliance for a Sound Economy and was its CEO for 10 years.

Bobby Harrelson

Owner, The Harrelson Co.
Developer Bobby Harrelson has created more than 100 residential communities in Southeastern North Carolina.
Why he’s an influencer:
Harrelson might be best known in the Wilmington area for jump-starting the growth that has come to northern Brunswick County, first with the Magnolia Greens community, then Waterford and Compass Pointe.
In the 1970s and ’80s, he built the first condos in Carolina Beach.
Throughout his more than 58-year career, he has consistently purchased land in areas that were not yet popular yet have since seen tremendous growth.
Along with Compass Pointe, current projects include Campus 1003 on South 17th Street in Wilmington and Highland Forest in Shallotte.
Another major contribution was the Jo Ann Carter Harrelson Center, a nonprofit corporation named for his late wife, which has been in existence for 14 years. There are currently 18 nonprofit partners in the building.
Lot counts: Harrelson developed 2,200 lots in Compass Pointe, 1,200 in Magnolia Greens and 800 in Waterford.

Lauren Henderson

CFO, CastleBranch
Lauren Henderson joined Wilmington-based CastleBranch in 2006 and currently serves as its chief financial officer. She holds a bachelor’s degree in business management from Ramapo College of New Jersey and received her MBA from the University of North Carolina Wilmington in 2012.
Why she’s an influencer:
As CFO, Henderson provides executive leadership for all financial aspects of CastleBranch, a company with about 400 employees.
She previously held several accounting, finance and management positions with the company before becoming chief financial officer in 2014.
In 2013, she joined the UNCW Cameron Executive Network as a mentor to business school students and the Women’s Impact Network of New Hanover County.
She was also an advisory board member for WILMA’s Women to Watch Leadership Initiative between 2015 and 2017. In 2016, she became a member of Cape Fear Community College’s accounting advisory board, and in 2017 joined the boards for both the Good Shepherd Center and Wilmington Business Development.

Dick Jones

President and CEO, YMCA of Southeastern North Carolina
Dick Jones has served as president and CEO of the YMCA of Southeastern North Carolina since April 2003. Jones is responsible for working with the local YMCA board to build its future and collaboration in the region, as well as develop staff, programs and services. Jones oversees the entire YMCA of Southeastern North Carolina association and a staff of more than 300.
Why he’s an influencer:
Jones’ leadership has help expand the YMCA of Southeastern North Carolina from a single branch to a multi-branch association that includes two YMCA facilities in New Hanover County and a residential camp in Pender County.
He has led efforts to raise funds for the Y, including millions for the redevelopment of the Nir Family YMCA, which opened last year after undergoing years of reconstruction from a fire in 2015.
In opening the Nir Family YMCA and Midtown YMCA over the past three years, membership enrollment has increased by 40% to more than 11,000.
The YMCA has also taken on managing city pools. The Y raises more than $500,000 annually to support children, families and programs that benefit the community.
Jones’ current projects include working with community leaders to develop a larger YMCA presence throughout Southeastern North Carolina, including in Columbus County, and expanding the impact of its programs and services throughout the region.

Hal Kitchin

Partner, McGuireWoods, And Chair, UNCW Board of Trustees
Hal Kitchin is a partner with the law firm of McGuireWoods LLP. His expertise includes antitrust, business tort and breach of contract cases, as well as bankruptcy, real estate and land use law. A member of the N.C. Bar Association, Kitchin is past president of the New Hanover County Bar Association’s Young Lawyers Division and past chairman of the N.C. Bar Association’s Antitrust & Complex Business Disputes section. He attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill as a Morehead Scholar and earned his law degree from Wake Forest University School of Law.
Why he’s an influencer:
Kitchin’s role extends beyond his law practice to numerous community affairs, including being elected chairman of the University of North Carolina Wilmington’s Board of Trustees this year. He has been a member of UNCW’s Board of Trustees since 2013.
The UNC Board of Governors reappointed him to a second term as a UNCW trustee through 2021.
Kitchin also has served as chair of the Wilmington Chamber of Commerce's board and the Cape Fear Future Foundation. Kitchin is a former member of the Coastal Horizons Center’s board and a former member of the city of Wilmington’s Vision 2020 Oversight Committee.

Charlie Mattox

Market President, BB&T
An 18-year veteran of BB&T, Charlie Mattox has held various roles with the Winston-Salem-based bank including in commercial banking, retail banking and bank operations. He was recognized as one of the highest-performing market presidents within BB&T for 2018 and 2019.
Why he’s an influencer:
Mattox is responsible for the leadership and financial performance of the BB&T Commercial Teams in the Wilmington, Brunswick County and Columbus County markets, which includes more than 30 bank branches, $1.3 billion in loans and $2.6 billion in deposits.
Mattox will be a key local figure in the BB&T and SunTrust Bank merger integration to Truist. As of press time, the $66 billion merger was set to close Dec. 6 after receiving approval from federal regulators.
Truist is expected to become the sixth-largest bank in the U.S.
Chamber role: Led the Choose Cape Fear regional marketing initiative

Mark Maynard

President and CEO, Tribute Companies
Mark Maynard Sr. began his career in real estate development while still in college in 1982, starting as sole proprietor in real estate investing and building in 1985 and eventually founding Biltmark in Wilmington in 1999. Biltmark evolved and expanded into Tribute Companies Inc.
Why he’s an influencer:
Through his companies, Maynard has created highprofile developments in Wilmington, including the South Front District, and throughout the Southeastern U.S.
The South Front District has won accolades for repurposing unused industrial and public housing properties and breathing new life into the area.
Maynard has developed 10,000 residential units during his career. Tribute Companies owns and manages 6,000 units in North Carolina and South Carolina. The corporation has also built multiple for-sale condominiums and townhome communities, along with single-family communities and retail, office and hospitality developments.
Local philanthropy: Local founders and longstanding sponsors, Maynard and his wife, Anna, started and chaired the first JDRF Hope Gala held in Wilmington in 2004.

Sandy & Ronnie McNeill

Principals and Owners, Liberty Healthcare And Rehabilitation Services
Brothers John “Sandy” McNeill Jr. and Ronald “Ronnie” McNeill are continuing their family’s line in health care that goes back more than a century.
Why they're influencers:
In its industry, Liberty is one of the largest players in North Carolina. It runs a network of skilled nursing facilities and continuing care retirement communities (including Carolina Bay at Autumn Hall), home care hospice services and the state’s oldest pharmacy – McNeill’s Pharmacy in Whiteville, among others.
Outside of their work, the brothers also have had significant influence in the local economy, playing an early role in PPD’s start. In 2011, the McNeill brothers and their wives donated what was at the time UNCW’s largest philanthropic gift, which benefitted the university’s nursing and business schools. The school named its nursing building in the family’s honor.

John Monteith

CEO, Monteith Construction Corp.
Monteith Construction opened a Wilmington office in 2005. John Monteith founded the firm in Charlotte in 1998.
Why he's an influencer:
Signs of the impact Monteith and his company have had on the Cape Fear region can be found via major projects throughout the area.
In addition to overhauling an historic downtown Wilmington building for its new headquarters, and being involved in school construction, repair and renovation, the company has done work for New Hanover Regional Medical Center and on Wilmington International Airport’s current expansion.
In addition to his CEO role at his firm, Monteith founded the Camp Schreiber Foundation in 2010, helping at-risk youth develop into college-educated leaders.
In June, the company moved into the more than 7,000-square-foot building at 208 Princess St. in Wilmington.

Jeff Morvil

Owner, Morvil Advertising + Design Group
Jeff Morvil began his design career in South Florida, where he worked at two advertising agencies on accounts including Florida Tourism, Cigna, Marriott International and Northern Trust. He founded Morvil Advertising + Design Group, previously known as Art by Morvil, in 1985.
Why he's an influencer:
Morvil’s agency has created marketing and branding for many Wilmington businesses and organizations.
Through its services, Morvil has helped companies in the area gain recognition with advertising and branding that is seen throughout the community. Those include Wilmington International Airport, UNCW, EmergeOrtho, Cape Fear Commercial, Battleship North Carolina, NHRMC, among many others.
Projects the company has worked on include website development for WIMCO Construction and the new video wall at NHRMC Surgery Center.
Over the past 34 years, Morvil has grown the business from a one-man endeavor to its current 15 employees.
Designed: UNCW’s mace, which is carried by the chief faculty marshal at commencement

Chad Paul

CEO, Bald Head Island Limited LLC - Mitchell Family Corp.
Chad Paul previously was a partner at Arnolt Partners LLC, a private equity firm headquartered in Indianapolis. He is a secondgeneration legacy owner of Commercial Realty Co., one of the region’s oldest commercial real estate brokerage and development companies (founded in 1972). He worked in the investment banking industry, principally specializing in the distressed securities area, and worked for Salomon Brothers, JP Morgan Chase & Co. and Colony Capital.
Why he's an influencer:
Paul leads the entity that is the principal developer and resort operator of Bald Head Island, an island resort that’s 12,500 acres and 3 miles off the southern coast of Southport in Brunswick County and contains some of the highest-priced real estate in North Carolina.
He also currently serves as managing partner of Harbor Island Partners LLC, a private equity firm headquartered in Wilmington since 2000. Harbor Island has invested in more than 20 companies over the past 18 years.
Bald Head Island Ltd. employees: 325

Chris Reid

President and COO, Thomas Construction Group
After graduating from Auburn University, Chris Reid went to work for Miller Building Corp. He then went to work for several major contractors before returning to Wilmington to start Thomas Construction Group in 2005.
Why he's an influencer:
Reid leads a company responsible for a number of notable projects in the state and throughout the region.
In Wilmington, the firm’s recent work includes Uncommon Lofts, a student housing development on South Kerr Avenue; the renovation of Atlantic Packaging; and the Friends School of Wilmington expansion.
The company’s headquarters is at 1022 Ashes Drive in Renaissance Park across from Mayfaire in Wilmington. The firm built the office building and now occupies the second floor.
Company employees: 65+

Yousry Sayed

President and CEO, Quality Chemical Laboratories
Yousry Sayed is a former professor and General College director at UNCW. He has headed up Quality Chemicals since 1998.
Why he's an influencer:
Quality Chemicals was – Merck – but is a growing enterprise that now serves about 100 clients, from the top 10 to 15 pharma companies in the world to virtual firms.
Sayed currently is working on building a 90,000- to 100,000-square-foot laboratory for the company as well as establishing a new company in Wilmington called Pyramid Pharmaceuticals, for new products, new drug delivery technologies and discovery of new cancer drugs.
He and his wife made a $5 million corporate donation to UNCW to support the development of new pharmaceutical sciences and chemistry programs.
The UNC Board of Governors appointed him to the UNCW Board of Trustees for a term through 2023.
Company employees: 240

Shelbourn Stevens

President, Novant Health Brunswick Medical Center
Next year Shelbourn Stevens will mark 30 years with the Winston-Salem-based health system. He started his career with Novant as a respiratory therapist. Stevens became president of Novant Health Brunswick Medical Center.
Why he’s an influencer:
With 820 employees Novant Health Brunswick Medical Center is one of the largest employers in Brunswick County. Even before he took on the president role, Stevens was instrumental in the building of the current hospital and its move from the aging Brunswick Community Hospital in 2011.

Outside hospital walls, Stevens also grew Novant Health’s coastal-area medical group from two clinics in 2006 to 27 today. Beyond county lines, the hospital this year partnered with NHRMC to add AirLink transport services on the campus of the Brunswick hospital. Stevens also helped form the Novant Health Foundation Brunswick Medical Center to serve the unmet health care needs in the community.

Stevens worked with the foundation to bring mobile mammography services to Brunswick County. He served on Novant Health’s Winston Salem market diversity action council until 2006 and helped form Novant Health Brunswick Medical Center’s diversity action council in 2007.

Jason Swinny

Wilmington Site Leader, GE Aviation
Jason Swinny has worked with GE Aviation for 20 years, beginning his career out of college with GE in Kentucky. He has served in his current role for five years.
Why he's an influencer:
Swinny has overseen local hiring efforts at GE Aviation in Wilmington, with more than 200 new employees over the past five years.
GE Aviation has also made significant investments at the Wilmington site during that time with more than $150 million invested in new equipment and expansion.
Swinny sits on the board of directors for the Wilmington Chamber of Commerce and the board of advisors for Communities In Schools of North Carolina, Jobs for North Carolina’s Graduates program.
Swinny oversees about 700 employees at the local GE Aviation site.
Career with GE: 20 years

Bill Vassar

Executive Vice President, EUE/ Screen Gems Studios
Bill Vassar oversees all aspects of the Wilmington operation, including marketing, sales, operations and finance. He has been a senior manager with the studio’s New York-based parent company EUE/Screen Gems Ltd. for more than 20 years.
Why he's an influencer:
Vassar has played a vital role in helping recruit film and television projects to the region, including one of the state’s largest productions, Marvel’s Iron Man 3, which shot in 2012.
The projects have had significant economic impact on the Wilmington area, which has seen $1.6 billion in direct spending from productions since 2000. This year, Wilmington has experienced the most projects since 2014.
The stage complex is the nucleus for production activity in the region. Vassar oversees 32 employees at the 50-acre, 10-stage facility – one of the largest full-service production operations in the East.
Vassar will continue to make an impact on the industry at the state level as a member of the new Governor’s Advisory Council on Film, Television and Digital Streaming. He is also vice-chairman of the Wilmington Regional Film Commission board.
Year studios established: 1984

Gwen Whitley

President and CEO, Lower Cape Fear Hospice
With decades of experience in the industry, Gwen Whitely leads 380 employees at Lower Cape Fear Hospice. Among her many responsibilities as CEO, she shapes the agency’s vision, mission, values and strategies, as well as polices.
Why she's an influencer:
Whitley has dedicated 30 years of her career to improving access to health care and services to area residents, primarily in their homes.
Her leadership led to the establishment of outpatient palliative care clinics in the region.
She also spearheaded Lower Cape Fear Hospice’s dementia program for New Hanover County residents. The organization is also extending services out to other counties.
Lower Cape Fear Hospice has been awarded a grant to address the shortage of registered nurses in home health and hospice agencies, and is partnering with Cape Fear Community College’s RN program to pilot the project.
Whitley recently announced an organization name change to Lower Cape Fear LifeCare in 2020, which reflects the agency’s growth in services beyond end-of-life care.

Ed Wolverton

President and CEO, Wilmington Downtown Inc.
Ed Wolverton came to Wilmington in 2013 from Greensboro, where he served as director of the downtown program there and before then in Wichita, Kansas; Charlotte; and Savannah. He served two terms on the International Downtown Association board and is a past chair of the N.C. Downtown Development Association.
Why he's an influencer:
Wolverton heads up Wilmington Downtown Inc., where he has played a role in helping attract more than $610 million in new commercial, residential and hospitality investments to the district since he started.
Under the direction of a 38-member board, Wolverton works with local leaders to promote the economic growth development of downtown.
In 2016, he helped usher in a municipal service district for downtown – an idea that had some pushback but was ultimately approved by the Wilmington City Council.
Employees: 2 full-time and 2 part-time

Read more about the WilmingtonBiz 100 honorees by clicking here.

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