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WilmingtonBiz Magazine

The WilmingtonBiz 100: The Influencers

By Staff Reports, posted Dec 8, 2020

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


Steve Anderson

Owners and Developer, SAMM Properties

Steve Anderson, who began a career as a salesman at an early age, is perhaps best known for the large amount of office space he’s created in the Wilmington area.
 
Why he's an influencer this year:
In addition to having a major impact on the Mayfaire/ Landfall submarket through The Offices at Mayfaire complex, 2020 saw the opening of one of Anderson’s latest developments, Bradley Creek Station on Oleander Drive. Bradley Creek Station is an 80,000-square-foot project that includes retail space and office condominiums. Tenants include First Carolina Bank and Big Sky Design.
 
Anderson also developed Anderson Square on Oleander Drive, Howe Creek Landing off Military Cutoff Road, The Offices at Airlie and the 17th Street Medical Park.
 
Anderson 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.
 
Career start: In the late 1970s, Anderson, a senior at Hoggard High School, bought some Lacoste shirts at a low price from a manufacturing plant in Winston-Salem, and he sold them out of the trunk of his car at lunchtime.

Amy Beatty

Community Services Director, City of Wilmington

Amy Beatty, who moved to Wilmington in the early 1990s, has worked in different roles in the city government’s parks and recreation division. In her current position as community services director, she oversees the city’s parks and recreation, community development and code enforcement functions.

Why she's an influencer this year:
Despite the changes in gatherings this year, the work Beatty’s office has done is looking to improve Wilmington’s quality-of-life amenities for years to come.
 
The city’s long-planned North Waterfront Park began to take shape this year as construction started in earnest on the 6.6-acre piece of land downtown. The park, at 10 Cowan St. along the Cape Fear River, is planned to include a concert venue and festival space, a playground, a splash pad, trails and other features. Officials have said it should open by next summer.
 
Under Beatty’s direction, the city also secured an agreement with Live Nation to manage the Hugh Morton Amphitheater.
 
On other city-owned recreation areas, the Wilmington Municipal Golf Course has seen record rounds of play this year and is restoring its fund balance after the 2014 course renovations. The city also is building its first new public gymnasium in generations.
 
Tree target: 1,739 – The number of trees the city has a goal of planting by the fall of 2021 to replace ones lost because of storms and development. Beatty said the city is on track to exceed the number, which is a reference to the year Wilmington was incorporated, by February.

Rhonda Bellamy

Executive Director, The Arts Council of Wilmington/ New Hanover County

Rhonda Bellamy has served as executive director of the arts council since it formed in 2012. She has more than 20 years of experience in broadcast news. Bellamy was previously the news director for Cumulus Media’s five-station radio cluster in Wilmington and hosted a daily talk show. She hosts the art- and culture-based show “Around Town with Rhonda Bellamy” on WHQR.
 
Why she’s an influencer this year:
 
Bellamy has played a key role this year in pushing for the Wilmington Rail Trail, a proposal to develop a multimodal project for the downtown rail corridor between North Third and McRae streets.
 
The Wilmington Urban Area Metropolitan Planning Organization and the Friends of the Wilmington Rail Trail began a master plan, funded by the WMPO and a donation from the arts council.
 
The plan intends to look at how to use the former Atlantic Coast Line rail bed corridor for bicycles, pedestrians and potentially passenger rail service.
 
This fall, proponents, including Bellamy, wrapped up a public survey on the trail so that a Raleigh-based consulting firm can finalize the master plan.
 
The trail’s also envisioned to include public art exhibits, such as sculptures and murals.
 
“We always wanted this to be a community effort, and longtime residents of the Northside neighborhood are very excited,” Bellamy said. “They know the value of a park in that area.”
 
In politics: Bellamy also organized, along with UNCW’s CIE, an elections forum this year with local and state candidates.

Rob Burrus

Dean, UNCW Cameron School of Business

Robert Burrus was named dean of the University of North Carolina Wilmington’s Cameron School of Business in 2015. Burrus joined the UNCW faculty in 1998. Before his current position, Burrus was interim dean, associate dean of undergraduate studies and the chair of the department of economics and finance.
 
Why he’s an influencer this year:
In challenging times, the faculty of the Cameron School of Business, led by Burrus, embraced new technologies in its classrooms and aimed to continue offering business classes. Even with COVID, the school was reaffirmed for AACSB accreditation for business schools. In addition, Cameron was ranked in the top 60 on Poets & Quants’ list of Best Undergraduate Business Schools and was again listed on The Princeton Review’s list of Best Business Schools. The Congdon School of Supply Chain, Business Analytics and Information Systems is developing a master’s program in supply chain management.
 
Student numbers: In 2020, Cameron School of Business’ enrollment was at an all-time high of more than 2,700 students.
 

Wes Carter

President, Atlantic Packaging

Wes Carter joined the more than 75-year-old, family-run firm full time in 2002 and assumed the role of president in 2016. He helps lead a team of about 1,400 employees companywide.
 
Why he’s an influencer this year:
Carter is helping lead the firm’s continued expansion of its national footprint, on top of expanding its corporate headquarters facility in Wilmington.
 
Carter led Atlantic Packaging’s team at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic to keep the firm’s manufacturing operations, shipping departments and warehouses functioning as an essential business. Throughout this year, the company saw a growing customer base and record sales.
 
The firm made investments in new manufacturing capabilities across the organization. It also committed to a 50% reduction in carbon emissions by 2030 as a part of its mission to create, support and manage sustainable systems in packaging and commerce.
 
Carter, along with his father and firm CEO Rusty Carter, helped Atlantic Packaging bring to market the first paperboard beverage carrier, a partnership with Fishbone Packaging Inc., to replace single-use plastic beverage carrier rings.
 
Officials completed a 17,300-square-foot expansion and renovation of its corporate headquarters in Wilmington.
 
No. of locations: 21

Cody Cress

Owner, The Cress Group at Coldwell Banker Commercial Sun Coast Partners

In addition to being owner of The CRESS Group, Cody Cress is vice president at Coldwell Banker Commercial Sun Coast Partners and an active investor and developer of commercial real estate. Since joining CBC Sun Coast in 2007, Cress has closed more than 500 transactions. As a commercial real estate adviser, Cress assists and influences businesses to relocate, remain or expand in the Wilmington area.
 
Why he’s an influencer this year:
Cress assisted Pacon Manufacturing with its relocation from New Jersey to Southeastern North Carolina, helping in the economic development project that could yield big returns for the Brunswick County town of Navassa.
 
The company has announced plans to bring 300 jobs and invest more than $30 million at the facility. Pacon is a contract manufacturer for major companies such as Clorox, Revlon, Johnson & Johnson and Burt’s Bees, making wipes, pads, towels and liquids for consumer, industrial and medical industries.
 
Current project: Cress is working with Renewal by Andersen, Andersen windows affiliate, to expand its operations to the region.


Ken Dull

President, McKinley Building Corp.

Beginning his construction career in 1985, McKinley “Ken” Dull founded 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 this year:
Dull has completed and is currently involved in numerous high-profile projects in the Cape Fear region, including finishing Bradley Creek Station, an 80,000-square-foot office and retail building on Oleander Drive, and redoing The Harrelson Center in downtown Wilmington, among many others.
 
This fall, the company started work to add a building to Quality Chemical Laboratories’ campus on Corporate Drive.
 
Some of McKinley Building’s recently completed work includes Sawmill Point, a downtown Wilmington waterfront apartment community, which sold last year for $65 million. The company also built an $18-million, five-story parking deck and pedestrian bridge at New Hanover Regional Medical Center. His company has been hired to construct a second parking deck and pedestrian bridge for the hospital.
 
Spacious: McKinley Building built 200,000 square feet of space in six buildings that make up The Offices at Mayfaire.


Jeff Earp

President, Funston Farms, Brunswick Forest and Funston Co.

Jeff Earp has described himself as a landowner and farmer who has a construction company. But he was instrumental in the development of the master-planned community Brunswick Forest.
 
Why he’s an influencer this year:
Earp continues to shape Brunswick Forest in northern Brunswick County, with more than 3,000 lots developed.
 
According to an October update to residents from Earp, he is working with builders and other developers on a long-term plan to sell the remaining land of the Brunswick Forest parcel. The update does not say exactly how many developable acres are left of the 4,500-acre master planned development in Leland, but it mentions current or future plans for nearly 1,000.
 
Earp is also part of a development team planning an $8.5 million industrial building, the International Commerce Center, in the International Logistics Park of North Carolina, one of two megasites near the Brunswick and Columbus county line.
 
Of note: The International Commerce Center, a spec building, will be the first development in the International Logistics Park.
(Photo courtesy of the N.C. Pork Council)


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.
 
Why he’s an influencer this year:
This year, Cape Fear Commercial (CFC) has avoided layoffs while increasing revenue in the midst of a pandemic, and the team worked with hundreds of landlords and tenants on mutually agreeable rent deferments. Eckel also helped grow CFC’s property management portfolio to over 3 million square feet and surpassed $2 billion in brokerage volume.
 
GHK Cape Fear Development has more than 1,000 apartment units and more than $125 million under development in 2020.
 
As a New Hanover Regional Medical Center trustee and Partnership Advisory Group (PAG) member, Eckel participated in the NHRMC and Novant- UNC deal.
 
As a Wilmington Chamber of Commerce board member, Wilmington-Cape Fear Home Builders Association board member, Business Alliance for a Sound Economy board member and member of Cape Fear Realtors, Eckel has helped unify the organizations to work together.
 
Current projects include: Redevelopment of the New Hanover County Government Center into a mixed-use project; Autumn Hall mixed-use; Echo Farms single-family residential development and 176-unit townhome community


Lucien Ellison

Senior Managing Partner, East West Partners

Lucien Ellison has been a real estate professional in the Cape Fear region since 2005. His expertise includes mixed-use development, single-family neighborhood development and residential general contracting. In 2015, he joined East West Partners as the Wilmington partner and project manager for River Place.
 
Why he’s an influencer this year:
River Place, a mixed-use community with condominiums, apartments, retail and parking located on the Cape Fear River, is one of the biggest projects downtown Wilmington has ever seen. River Place has activated Water Street between Chestnut and Grace streets, replacing a defunct parking garage from the 1960s. The project has also been the catalyst for other recent projects in downtown Wilmington.
 
Ellison is also involved in the nearly complete Common Desk Wilmington, a coworking office space on Front Street in downtown Wilmington.
 
Other upcoming Wilmington projects for East West Partners include Project Indigo and Project Gateway, which is expected to bring office, retail and residential space along with the possibility of a grocery store to downtown.
 
Southport project: Project Indigo is a nearly 400-acre, $565 million development planned by East West and Bald Head Island Limited.


Natalie English

President And CEO, Wilmington Chamber of Commerce

Natalie English became president and CEO of the Wilmington Chamber of Commerce in 2017. She has been a chamber executive for more than 20 years, including previously with the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce.
 
Why she’s an influencer this year:
English has directed several initiatives and advocacy campaigns this year, on top of creating innovative ways to keep the chamber running and find funding in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, which canceled many of the organization’s events.
 
At the start of the pandemic in the spring, English led chamber efforts to advocate with government officials about what should be defined as an essential business. She also helped different industry sectors navigate through government-imposed restrictions on businesses.
 
English led her team to maximize chamber resources to help in business recovery efforts.
 
She is also working with regional economist Adam Jones to develop a program for business and community leaders to reflect on the region’s past economic scorecards and ways to help affect a post-COVID economic recovery.
 
The chamber organized an educational campaign during the exploration period for potential partnerships for New Hanover Regional Medical Center. English also helped launch the Latin American Business Council this year.
 
Other work: Member of the N.C. Chamber’s Destination 2030 Coalition; co-chair of the Wilmington’s Clean Energy Task Force


Terry Espy

President, Downtown Business Alliance and Momentum Companies
 
President of MoMentum Companies, Terry Espy’s career in real estate development and brokerage spans more than 30 years. She was named president of Wilmington’s Downtown Business Alliance in 2016.
 
Why she’s an influencer this year:
In her Downtown Business Alliance (DBA) role, Espy has helped lead efforts to support downtown business owners through the COVID-19 pandemic, including pushing for closed streets and parklets, which are blocked-off parking spaces, to allow restaurants to expand their outdoor space. The effort, dubbed Downtown Alive, continued from the summer through November with Espy’s help and contributions.
 
Espy also keeps downtown business owners in the loop on the latest news. Throughout downtown, she has coordinated the sale or lease of numerous historical properties for tech and business service companies and has continued her work with commercial real estate projects in the area while also leading DBA.
 
Food fact: She played a role in drawing Benny’s Big Time Pizzeria, a restaurant by celebrity chef Vivian Howard, to the South Front redevelopment project.


The Trask Family

The Trask Family can trace its roots in the Cape Fear region back to the 18th century, later making a name for themselves as successful lettuce farmers and then landowners and prominent developers.
 
Why they’re influencers this year:
Trask Land Co. in 2020 revealed plans for two communities on more than 500 acres owned for decades by the Trask Family.
 
Trask Land Co. officials envision that the communities – one on 159 acres at the northeast quadrant of the interchange of Interstate 40 and Interstate 140 and one on 350 acres at the southeast quadrant – would include apartments, single-family homes and townhomes.
 
The Trask Family has a history of providing the land that becomes home sites in the area. In the 1950s, the family purchased land that would one day become a master-planned, mixed-use development on Eastwood Road called Autumn Hall, now considered a sought-after address in the region that’s growing.
 
Members of the Trask Family started out as farmers. Over the years, they used their farmland to enter the development industry, with Raiford Graham Trask Sr. creating major subdivisions throughout Wilmington.
 
Raiford Graham Trask Sr.’s son and grandson, Raiford Trask Jr. and Raiford Trask III, respectively, have developed Autumn Hall and other current and forthcoming projects in the Cape Fear region.
 
Number of note: Trask Land has developed more than 500 residential lots since 2010.


Joe Finley

Co-founder, CastleBranch

Joe Finley is the co-founder of the local background screening company CastleBranch and the startup coworking space tekMountain. He also helped create Connected by Cause, a platform that highlights people and organizations making a difference in underserved communities.
 
Why he’s an influencer this year:
While Finley helped grow CastleBranch for over 23 years, a company with about 460 employees, he is now focusing his efforts on advocating for the Wilmington community through Connected by Cause and other organizations.
 
In 2020, Finley joined the board of Cape Fear Collective, a nonprofit that uses data and social innovation to highlight and address social issues in the region. In the business community, Finley is centered on diversity and inclusion, especially considering Wilmington's troublesome racial past, he said.
 
Finley has supported Tracey and Girard Newkirk, founders of Genesis Block, a coworking space in downtown Wilmington, with a focus on Black business owners/entrepreneurs. This year, through Finley’s backing, CastleBranch and tekMountain partnered with Genesis Block to create an app to assist Black-owned businesses, also including a $50,000 investment.
 
Other 2020 involvements: Northside Food Co-op, Wilmington on Fire: Chapter II, WARM capital campaign


Jim Flechtner

Executive Director, CFPUA

Jim Flechtner was promoted to executive director in 2013, previously serving the Cape Fear Public Utility Authority as chief operations officer. He leads an organization of more than 300 employees and a $90 million annual operation budget. He is set to retire next summer.
 
Why he’s an influencer this year:
Flechtner led CFPUA’s efforts to adapt operations during the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as keeping the Wilmington area’s water and sewer services running uninterrupted.
 
Flechtner has also overseen the organization’s progress on several key projects this year. CFPUA completed its Northern Water Mains Project, a $4.5 million installation that increased capacity to northern New Hanover County. The utility also made upgrades to its filter membrane technology at the Richardson Water Treatment Plant.
 
The utility has made progress on its $43 million addition of deep-bed granular activated carbon filters at Sweeney Water Treatment to reduce PFAS, such as GenX, in raw water and construction on an additional raw water line to increase capacity. The raw water line is being built in partnership with Brunswick County and the Lower Cape Fear Water & Sewer Authority.
 
CFPUA’S service reach in New Hanover County: 200,000 people
 


Charles Foust

Superintendent, New Hanover County Schools

Charles Foust started as head of the New Hanover County school system in September, moving from Kansas City, where he had served as superintendent of the Kansas district.
 
Why he’s an influencer this year:
Though he’s new to the area, as head of the region’s largest school system, Foust jumped into the job during shut-down schools and a shift to remote, online learning for 26,500 students in the district.
 
He led the partial reopening of schools – at the direction of the county’s school board – for two days a week for students, in conjunction with public health officials to monitor local COVID-19 data.
 
Foust worked with the district’s transportation department to help develop bus routes with health considerations and supported the child nutrition and transportation departments to deliver and prepare more than a million meals to New Hanover County students during the pandemic.
 
Current focuses include working with the school system’s Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Committee for students to receive the same educational experience and have access to adequate resources and technology. Another focus is “increasing transparency and accountability utilizing various communication tools and programs such as Ethix360,” an online reporting form as the system grapples with allegations of sexual abuse cases.
 
Team numbers: With nearly 4,200 employees, the school system is one of the largest employers in the county.

Anne Gardner

CEO, Cape Fear Realtors

Anne Gardner was hired for the organization’s top post by Cape Fear Realtors officials in 2019.

Gardner was previously CEO of the Charlottesville Area Association of Realtors. She has two decades of experience in leadership in real estate associations.

Why she's an influencer this year: Gardner leads an organization with 3,100 Realtor members and earlier this year lobbied to make sure real estate was deemed an essential service by the state during the COVID-19 lockdown. She also led the way for CFR’s Safe Showing Pledge, making sure members pledged to hold safe home showings during the pandemic.

Meanwhile, the housing market nationally and locally recovered quickly in 2020 and went back to breaking records again in the summer, with double-digit increases year-over-year.

This summer, the group published the first in a series of white papers and public comments on land use, housing affordability, environmental stewardship and economic development. 

Speaking of safety: The first trade group Gardner worked for was the American Industrial Hygiene Association, which was all about worker health and safety.


Johnny Griffin

Director, Wilmington Regional Film Commission
 
Serving and supporting the region’s film industry for more than three decades, Johnny Griffin became director of the Wilmington Regional Film Commission in 1999.
 
Why he’s an influencer this year:  
Griffin’s activities have helped the region secure hundreds of jobs in and related to filming productions and help bring in millions in wages, goods and services generated by the industry each year.
 
He led the Wilmington area into a potentially strong film year, with several projects filming and others pending arrival in the spring.
 
For six months, the area experienced a lull in activity because of the coronavirus, while Griffin and other film leaders worked to prepare for the return of the industry.
 
Filming restarted in September under new COVID-19 protocols. Griffin helped area projects with what they needed to run sets and film under new guidelines. Several productions, including two television series Hightown and This Country and a feature film, Scream 5, started work. And the momentum is slated to continue, as Griffin expects other projects to arrive before the end of the year to start filming in 2021.
 
This year, officials expect to be in the range of about $65 million in direct spending from Wilmingtonarea productions. But despite the break in productions this year, Griffin projects that the area’s 2020 production spending will exceed expenditure levels of 2016, 2017 and 2018.
 
Wilmington’s 2019 film projects direct spending: Over $130 million

Kim Hufham

President And CEO, New Hanover County Tourism Development Authority

Leading an agency that does business as Wilmington and Beaches CVB, Kim Hufham has faced disasters before. They’ve come in the form of hurricanes, but 2020 provided a bigger challenge, bringing a global pandemic that shut tourism down for several months.
 
Why she’s an influencer this year:
Hufham steered the Wilmington and Beaches Convention and Visitors Bureau to tourism recovery efforts, helping shift its market focus to adapt and made sure it served as a source of information and resources for those in the industry.
 
The CVB also kept visitors informed of status changes and safety protocols in the Wilmington area, conducted a visitor research study and released results to the community, secured grants for recovery marketing and partnered with VisitNC on safety programs, including Count On Me NC, among other accomplishments.
 
Big bucks: Visitor spending in New Hanover County generated nearly $659 million in 2019.

Chris Isenhour

Physician, Novant Health

Chris Isenhour is physician leader for Novant Health Oceanside Family Medicine and Convenient Care, is board certified in family medicine and graduated from the University of North Carolina School of Medicine.

Why he’s an influencer this year:
This year, Isenhour led his clinic to serve as Brunswick County’s primary COVID-19 screening and respiratory assessment center.

The location tested nearly 8,000 patients on top of regularly seeing more than 300 patients daily. In the spring, Isenhour quickly supported the idea to house the county’s busiest testing location and helped make arrangements to relocate staff parking to accommodate the testing areas, arrange for tents and testing supplies, and rearrange provider and clinician schedules.

He ensured his team had proper PPE, instruction and the support to serve the community.

For the clinic, which has been open since 2006, Isenhour has helped grow it from two providers in 2006 to 16 now, with additional services including ultrasound, X-ray, pulmonary, sleep medicine and occupational health services.

The clinic also has been designated as a patient-centered medical home by the National Committee for Quality Assurance.

Respected by other physicians in the community, Isenhour has mentored dozens of physicians, physician assistants and nurse practitioners who have worked alongside him over the years.

Patient load: Annually, the clinic sees more than 50,000 patients.


Velva Jenkins

CEO, YWCA of the Lower Cape Fear

Velva Jenkins, who previously worked as Brunswick Community College’s vice president of Continuing Education, Economic and Workforce Development, got called out of retirement to lead the YWCA in 2019 – first as interim CEO and then as its official head this year.
 
Why she’s an influencer this year:
During a year of social unrest and demonstrations in the wake of the killing of George Floyd, Jenkins became a voice in the community to discuss race relations.
 
She developed the “Talk on Race” series, a virtual discussion about conversations on race. Jenkins also founded a Women on a Mission committee with community leaders, including local representatives from the League of Women Voters, LINC and AKA sorority, with a focus on women’s empowerment and racial justice initiatives in the community.
 
She advocated getting New Hanover County and the city of Wilmington to proclaim the second Monday of October Indigenous Peoples Day.
 
Organizationally, the YWCA continued to provide child care for essential workers during the pandemic shutdown and spearheaded a “Block to the Ballot” campaign to register voters and fill out the Census.
 
Jenkins also this year secured a grant from Google to implement YWCA’s STRIVE for a New Beginning, a free professional development program to develop digital skills, entrepreneurship, financial independence, leadership skills and presentation skills for individuals struggling to find and keep living-wage employment to become more competitive in the job market.
 
Platform: Served as a speaker for the YWomenVote 2020 North Carolina Women’s Virtual Town Hall

Adam Jones

Regional Economist, UNCW Swain Center

Adam Jones took on the role of regional economist for the University of North Carolina Wilmington’s Swain Center in 2015. Before working on his Ph.D. in economics, Jones was the director of economic development with the Covington/Newton County Chamber of Commerce in Georgia.

Why he’s an influencer this year:
Jones helped coordinate the Cameron School of Business’ technical response to the online pivot as a result of COVID-19. He also continued to help support the community through information requests and presentations in a virtual format.

His responsibilities included business recruitment, retention and expansion of existing businesses and public policy development.

As the region grappled with the shutdown and then partial reopening of the economy, Jones has helped provide local data on the rapid changes and context to what might be ahead.

Current projects he’s involved with include examining the economic impact of NCDOT’s super streets design; supporting the Wilmington Chamber of Commerce’s Scorecard initiative in its COVID-altered version; and supporting Cape Fear Collective’s initiatives where possible.

In his words: “I prefer to think of my impacts as facilitating others’ good work. If I can stir creative thought and new perspectives, then I have made my contribution.”


Paul Kamitsuka

Infectious Disease Physician, Wilmington Health

Paul Kamitsuka is a nationally recognized infectious disease expert, who has been performing infectious disease consultations for 38 years and locally for 26 years. He is board-certified in internal medicine and infectious diseases.
 
Why he’s an influencer this year:
In his role as an infectious disease physician for Wilmington Health and chief epidemiologist for NHRMC, Kamitsuka has been a voice of authority during the coronavirus pandemic.
 
He has advocated for COVID-19 preventions this year, speaking to the media as well as on public service announcements and Zoom interviews to relay info on safety measures and updates on the impact on the community from the virus.
 
Kamitsuka has provided direct care to COVID-19 patients in both inpatient and outpatient settings.
 
While Kamitsuka performs clinical medicine daily, he also is a lecturer on various topics in infectious diseases in the Harvard system.
 
Educational background: Kamitsuka graduated from Harvard Medical School and did his internship and residency at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Mike Kozlosky

Executive Director, Wilmington Urban Area Metropolitan Planning Organization

Mike Kozlosky joined the Wilmington Urban Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (WMPO) in November 2004 and serves as its executive director, leading a staff of 12 people. At the WMPO, he has been responsible for completing many short- and long-range transportation planning efforts for the region.
 
Why he’s an influencer this year:
Kozlosky oversaw the WMPO’s completion of Cape Fear Moving Forward 2045, which is the blueprint for the region’s multi-modal transportation infrastructure over the next 25 years.
 
This plan includes project and policy recommendations for aviation; bicycle and pedestrian; ferry and water transportation; freight and freight rail; public transportation; and roadways. It’s the culmination of more than two years of planning for the region’s future.
 
That plan will be used by federal, state and local governments to guide transportation projects and help secure funding for those projects in the coming decades.
 
WMPO also was instrumental in getting the funding for Padgett Station, WAVE Transit’s downtown transfer station that opened early this year.
 
He helped develop the Wilmington Rail Trail master plan in conjunction with local and state officials. And despite funding issues at the state level, Kozlosky helped work with transportation officials to continue planning for the future construction of the Hampstead Bypass. He is a member of the Cape Fear Public Transportation Authority Board.
 
WMPO planning area: Nearly 500 square miles

David Michael

Vice President And CEO-Wilmington, Clancy & Theys Construction Co.

David Michael, who started working for the firm more than three decades ago, manages Clancy & Theys Construction Co.’s Wilmington Division that for 36 years has built, renovated and restored many of the most significant buildings in Wilmington and surrounding communities.
 
Why he’s an influencer this year:
Under Michael’s leadership, Clancy & Theys has committed to having the most advanced technology and tools available in the construction industry. According to the firm, Clancy & Theys is focused on harnessing the power of technology to continuously improve the construction services it provides to owners and designers. Since its establishment in 1984, the Wilmington division of Clancy & Theys has completed more than $1 billion worth of construction in Southeastern North Carolina.
 
Current projects: In addition to the many projects completed downtown, the firm is currently working on the city’s North Waterfront Park, the Aloft Hotel and Coastline Convention Center renovations and the Flats on Front apartment complex overlooking the river and the park.

Tim Milam

President, Coldwell Banker Sea Coast Advantage
 
Tim Milam has led Coldwell Banker Sea Coast Advantage and the Advantage Family of Companies to its rank as the No. 1 Coldwell Banker company in the United States.
 
Why he’s an influencer this year:
Under Milam’s leadership, Sea Coast Advantage has continued its path of growth through recruiting and acquisition.
 
This year and during the pandemic, Sea Coast Advantage surpassed $2 billion in closed sales for the second time.
 
In conjunction with recent mergers, several new offices have also been added to the company’s roster, most recently a downtown Wilmington office at 200 N. Front St. According to the firm, Milam’s efforts to attract and retain the most talented agents and employees are always a top priority.
 
Aside from his role as president and owner of Coldwell Banker Sea Coast Advantage, Milam has served in numerous capacities on boards and committees over the years. Currently, he serves on the board and as treasurer of Wilmington Business Development; as chairman of Business Alliance for a Sound Economy’s board; and on the Wilmington- Cape Fear Home Builders Association’s board.
 
Up next: Additional offices are scheduled to open soon in Emerald Isle and Boiling Spring Lakes.

John Monteith

CEO, Monteith Construction Corp.

John Monteith founded Monteith Construction Corp. in Charlotte in 1998, and the firm opened a Wilmington office in 2005.
 
Why he’s an influencer this year:
Monteith Construction has continued building throughout the Cape Fear region in 2020.
 
Projects such as the Wilmington International Airport terminal expansion, the renovations of Noble Middle and Wrightsville Beach Elementary schools and the New Hanover County Health and Human Services building, as well as an additional mixed-use building at Riverlights, a 1,400-acre planned community on River Road, have all had an impact on the growth and development in this area.
 
In addition to his role as the company’s CEO, Monteith founded the Camp Schreiber Foundation in 2010 to help young men of superior need, ambition, ability and character develop into college-educated leaders.
 
Employee count: Monteith has more than 100 full-time employees.

John Nichols

Director, Brunswick County Public Utilities
 
John Nichols started his role as director of Brunswick County Public Utilities in early 2017. He worked for Brunswick County for more than 10 years as assistant director of public utilities.
 
Why he’s an influencer this year:
Nichols is leading a $129 million expansion at the county’s Northwest Water Treatment Plant and a reverse osmosis water treatment project. The utility also initiated the $48 million construction of the Northeast Wastewater Treatment Plant expansion, along with other expansions at plants in the county.
 
In response to GenX contamination in the Cape Fear River, Brunswick County is installing advanced water treatment technology. Nichols also led efforts to merge the city of Northwest’s and the town of Navassa’s water and sewer utilities with the county.
 
The utility has worked with Columbus County and economic developers to bring water and wastewater infrastructure projects to two major industrial parks along U.S. 74/76. He leads the utility to work actively with Brunswick Business and Industry Development on other projects to provide water and wastewater service to new and existing facilities.
 
No. of employees: 132

Chad Paul

CEO, Bald Head Island Limitted LLC-Mitchell Family Corp.

Chad Paul previously was a partner at Arnolt Partners LLC, a private equity firm headquartered in Indianapolis. He is a second-generation legacy owner of Commercial Realty Co., founded in 1972. He also worked in the investment banking industry, principally specializing in the distressed securities area.
 
Why he’s an influencer this year:
Paul leads the entity that is the principal developer and resort operator of Bald Head Island, an island resort that’s 3 miles off the southern coast of Southport in Brunswick County and contains some of the highest-priced real estate in North Carolina.
 
In 2020, Paul, along with officials from development partner East West Partners, announced Project Indigo, a nearly 400-acre, $565 million development planned on an important piece of property near Southport.
 
Paul also currently serves as managing partner of Harbor Island Partners LLC, a private equity firm headquartered in Wilmington since 2000.
 
Long run: Paul said Project Indigo would be a 10- to 15- year transaction.

Chris Ramm

COO, Taylor Development Group LLC

Chris Ramm has been in the commercial real estate industry for 24 years. He became COO of Taylor Development Group in 2018, tasked with growing the firm’s office and industrial portfolio. He formed Ramm Capital Partners in 2019 and is which aims to enable new development projects and strategic partnerships while diversifying risk for Taylor Development Group.
 
Why he’s an influencer this year:
Ramm is currently involved in two projects that will bring new industrial space to the Wilmington area.
 
He helped bring the first modern industrial building in the region in over a decade, a 127,000-square-foot spec building in the Pender Commerce Park, to promote local business growth and help attract jobs to the area.
 
Working alongside economic developers and a development team, he is planning another spec building in the county-owned industrial park. The design process is ongoing, and the land purchase could close in early 2021. The building is anticipated to be completed late next year to offer more versatility and functionality than its predecessor project.
 
Ramm is also leading efforts to expand the group’s Wilmington office portfolio with another property slated to close in early 2021.
 
Past renovations: Landfall Park North; Landfall Park South; and Third and Grace streets building

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 this year: Thomas Construction this year worked on or is currently working on the Pender County Courthouse renovation; two UNCW projects; Kerr Avenue student living project Uncommon Lofts; the renovation of Atlantic Packaging; the new addition to Garden Flats at Autumn Hall; and the Friends School expansion.
 
With 65 full-time employees, Thomas is poised for growth and continues to hire local tradesmen.
 
As a locally owned company, Thomas Construction and Reid invest in the local economy to help grow Wilmington’s future.
 
Personal note: Reid is part of several local clubs and chapters.

Sabrina Sells

Wilmington Market President, North State Bank


Sabrina Sells has 31 years of experience in the banking industry, including work at NewBridge Bank and currently as the market president at North State Bank, which has been helping small businesses by providing Paycheck Protection Program loans during the COVID-19 pandemic. Sells has also been on the Wilmington Business Development (WBD) Board of Directors for six years. 

Why she's an influencer this year:
In 2020, Sells was selected as the chair of WBD’s board, becoming the first woman to hold this position at the organization. 

She moved to Wilmington in 1990 and became involved with the economic development group, which represents New Hanover and Pender counties. 

The WBD has aggressive goals this year toward attracting, relocating and retaining businesses in New Hanover and Pender counties, especially on New Hanover County’s Blue Clay Road site and in the Pender Commerce Park, Sells said. 

“I would like to see quality employers locating there,” she said. 

Under her leadership, Sells works to strengthen partner relationships with CFCC, UNCW and other local organizations to provide a business network and attract more businesses to the region. 

Pen name: Sells has published two mystery novels. 


Dane Scalise

General Counsel, Griffin-Estep Benefit Group Inc.

Dane Scalise joined the Griffin-Estep Benefit Group in March. He was appointed by Gov. Pat McCrory to serve as deputy commissioner of the N.C. Industrial Commission from 2016-2020 but resigned two years early to get back into the private sector.
 
Why he’s an influencer this year:
Scalise serves as chair of Wilmington Downtown Inc.’s board and vice president of the New Hanover County Bar Association.
 
This year, he played a role in WDI’s Re-3 grant program to provide funding to help 40 businesses through the COVID-19 crisis.
 
Scalise also is filling the interim role to run WDI after Ed Wolverton left the CEO post at the end of July. He has also helped establish a search committee to fill the position.
 
In the meantime, he is leading WDI efforts to help downtown and the Municipal Services District address needs and serve the overall business community still weathering the pandemic.
 
At Griffin-Estep, Scalise assisted companies attempting to understand how employee benefits would be impacted by the COVID-19 crisis, as well as obligations under legislation, such as the CARES Act.
 
Total WDI Re-3 Grant Program funds: $113,000

Linda Thompson

Chief Diversity and Equity Officer, New Hanover County


Linda Thompson moved to the area 37 years ago and was with the Wilmington Police Department for decades before moving to her new position with the county this year. She received her bachelor’s degree in communications and broadcasting and a master’s in conflict management and resolution from the University of North Carolina Wilmington. 

Why she's an influencer this year: After working for the Wilmington Police Department in public relations for 25 years and making connections throughout the community, Thompson this year became New Hanover County’s first-ever chief diversity and equity officer. 

Since starting the office in late August, she established a virtual town hall for the deaf and hard of hearing community; created Pastor’s HUB, a monthly virtual information meeting on county services and programs; and initiated county COVID-19 testing sites in minority communities. 

She was named co-chair of the Regional Racial & Social Justice Task Force, between New Hanover, Brunswick, Pender and Duplin counties. 

One focus is recruiting minority- and women-owned businesses for the county’s vendor list. 

She’s currently conducting New Hanover County’s first diversity and equity assessment and launching the county’s Employees Diversity & Equity Committee. Thompson also serves as staff adviser for the newly formed Commission for Women. 

Training focus: Thompson developed implicit bias training curriculum for the county’s more than 1,800 employees. 


Bill Vassar

Executive Vice President, EUE/Screen Gems Studios


Bill Vassar leads all aspects of the Wilmington operation of EUE/Screen Gems Studios in Wilmington, including marketing, sales, operations and finance. He has served a top role with the studio’s New York-based parent company for more than 20 years.

Why he's an influencer this year:
Vassar led efforts to oversee the challenges that came with the pandemic’s impacts on the film industry this year. His efforts helped keep the studio’s team on payroll during the crisis and committed to creating a new way to work by implementing health and safety protocols.

During restrictions due to the pandemic, management and accounting teams worked remotely while lighting and maintenance teams rotated workdays to upgrade stages, offices and grounds.

Productions came back to EUE/Screen Gems Studios in September. Vassar led efforts to quickly reopen the Wilmington studios, making it one of the first locations in the U.S. to return to work post-shutdown. EUE/Screen Gems was at 90% percent capacity in October, with several productions filming projects, including two television series. Officials expect to remain nearly full into the spring of 2021.

No. of employees: Under 50


Trey Wallace

President, Intracoastal Realty Corp.


Trey Wallace is a native of the Wilmington area who was introduced to real estate sales and development at a young age through his father, Jim Wallace, founder and CEO of Intracoastal Realty Corp. Graduating from East Carolina University, he acquired a real estate license in 2010, and over the next couple of years worked as a sales agent in Intracoastal’s Lumina Station office.

Why he's an influencer this year:
In 2013, Trey Wallace made a transition into the company’s management team, with a focus on operations. Since that time, he has acquired management experience in sales, operations and accounting, marketing, rentals and even real estate development.

These days, as president, he has taken on much of the leadership aspects of the company, which is one of the largest residential real estate firms in Wilmington.

No. of agents: About 400 Realtors


Cynthia Walsh

CEO, Brunswick County Association of Realtors


Cynthia Walsh has held the role of CEO of the Brunswick County Association of Realtors since 2015. 

Why she's an influencer this year: When COVID-19 came along, the Brunswick County Association of Realtors (BCAR) switched to a virtual office environment in 24 hours – without affecting its ability to provide its 1,200 members with the same level of service. 

Walsh recently completed the National Designation for Commitment to Excellence and is scheduled to take the exam for the international designation of Certified Association Executive in December. 

She led the design and launch of a new, updated BCAR website and digitized all forms and applications. 

Additionally, BCAR applied for and was awarded an Innovation Grant through NC Realtors to create a “Realtors Vote” campaign to encourage Realtors and others engaged in the real estate profession to vote. 

More on the grant: “My goal was to create a model that could be adapted to any association, and luckily, I partnered with Pioneer Strategies Marketing to make all of this come to life,” Walsh said.


Donny Williams

Chief, Wilmington Police Department


Wilmington native, Donny Williams has worked for the Wilmington Police Department for nearly 30 years, starting as a summer youth worker and rising through the ranks. 

Why he's an influencer this year:
After former chief Ralph Evangelous retired in February, Williams was named interim chief.

In July, Williams was named police chief.

In a year of civil unrest and national protests about racial justice and police reforms, Williams guided the department through the issues.

On his first official day as chief, Williams fired three veteran officers who were recorded on a police car camera using racial slurs and threats of violence.

Williams said he has this year led “an internal cultural reset for the WPD,” including implementing project ABLE (Active Bystandership for Law Enforcement). The program, in partnership with Georgetown University Law Center, is one of the first to be offered by police departments in the country and involves training for those in the Wilmington Police Department on ways to intervene if they see any employee making mistakes including officer misconduct.

No. of employees: 350


Lee Williams

Board Vice Chairman, Live Oak Bancshares


One of the original founders of the bank, Lee Williams serves as the company’s vice chairman. Before Live Oak, Williams spent 19 years in corporate banking at Wachovia and 14 years at Vine Street Financial in SBA lending. 

Why he's an influencer this year: A more behind-the-scenes influencer than some of the other founders of Live Oak Bank, Williams has helped connect people in the community for years, having lived in the area for decades. 

This year – besides the work Live Oak did to disperse the new Paycheck Protection Program and to land again at the top of the country’s list of SBA lenders in terms of dollar amount – Williams also was active in the local community. 

He serves on the New Hanover County Airport Authority and its finance committee. In that role, he worked with the airport’s staff on a three-year, $80 million expansion project. He also assisted with helping the airport weather the impacts of COVID-19 on the air travel industry and the associated financial management of the airport. 

Other community involvement: Voyage board member, JDRF, StepUp Wilmington and Camp Schreiber 


Read more about the 2020 WilmingtonBiz 100 honorees by clicking here.

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