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WilmingtonBiz Magazine

The WilmingtonBiz 100: The Power Players

By Staff Reports, posted Dec 17, 2021

The Power Players – The businesspeople and officials having the greatest impact on the region’s business and economic landscape


Spence Broadhurst & Hannah Dawson Gage

Chair & Vice Chair, New Hanover County Community Endowment

Spence Broadhurst is president of the Eastern North Carolina region for First National Bank. A former mayor of Wilmington (2003- 06), he also previously served as N.C. Banking Commission commissioner. Broadhurst served as co-chair of the Partnership Advisory Group, a 21-member group that last year weighed the future of NHRMC and ultimately voted unanimously to recommend selling the local health system to Winston-Salem-based Novant Health.
 
Hannah Dawson Gage also served on the Partnership Advisory Group last year. Gage, a retired media executive and former owner of Cape Fear Broadcasting, served on the UNC Board of Governors for 16 years including as chair. She also has served as chair of the UNCW Board of Trustees.
 
Why They're Power Players:
Broadhurst and Gage were named to head up the $1.29-billion community foundation established from the sale of the county-owned NHRMC.
 
This year, they, and the others on the 13-member board, have been responsible for creating the endowment’s governance structure, including adopting bylaws, creating an initial investment policy, and developing a long-range investment strategy for the funds.
 
They launched a national search for a president and CEO intending to hire someone by the end of the year.
 
After the president is in place and a strategic plan developed, the idea is to start issuing grants to organizations that focus on public education (cradle to college); health and health equity; community safety; and community development.
 
Because of the endowment’s size, officials have said the funding has the potential to impact New Hanover County for generations.

Bill Cameron

Co-Founder & President, Cameron Management, Inc.

Bill Cameron’s investment management company focuses on real estate development, brokerage and property management, and he and his family have a long history of both shaping the region with development and serving the community.
 
Why he's a Power Player:
Cameron is a member of the New Hanover Community Endowment board, formed by the sale of the county-owned New Hanover Regional Medical Center to Novant Health.
 
He was a founding member and director of Port City Capital Bank and director of Crescent State Bank following its acquisition of Port City Capital Bank in 2006. Cameron currently serves on the board of directors for Live Oak Bancshares, Cape Fear Memorial Foundation and Champion McDowell Davis Foundation.
 
Cameron has previously served on the board of directors of the UNC Health Care System, Wilmington Chamber of Commerce and Cape Fear Memorial Hospital, among many others. He is also past president of the N.C. Azalea Festival and has served as a deacon and elder for St. Andrews-Covenant Presbyterian Church.
 
The impact of Cameron’s family on the area extends back before the Civil War and is evident in the region today.
 
Recent Cameron developments include shopping and entertainment center The Pointe at Barclay in midtown Wilmington and the International Commerce Center at the International Logistics Park in Brunswick County.
 
First of many: The International Commerce Center is the first development taking place in the logistics park, and the first tenants announced for the building are Tri-Tech Forensics and Precision Swiss Products Inc.

Brian Clark

Executive Director, N.C. Ports

Brian Clark became executive director of the N.C. State Ports Authority in January 2021.
 
Why he’s a Power Player:
The Port of Wilmington, with Clark at the helm, continued to see significant investment this year in its infrastructure.
 
Cold storage in particular was a focus. In August, the N.C. Ports Authority board approved a 30-year lease agreement with Cold Summit Development to bring 460,000 square feet of cold-storage space in two buildings off Raleigh Street.
 
The Port of Wilmington finished a new refrigerated container yard last year, boosting the port’s on-terminal refrigerated container plugs from 235 to 775 in the $14 million construction project. The ports authority will invest another $19 million to further expand the refrigerated container yard next year.
 
2021 was a record year for refrigerated cargo at the port, officials said, and container volume was up for the 2021 fiscal year compared to the year before.
 
Global supply chain disruptions and labor shortages have impacted ports nationwide this fall, including two of the Asian trans-Pacific services that stop at Wilmington’s port. Because the facilities are less congested than larger ports, Wilmington is in a position to attract additional shippers, Clark said, adding that general cargo volume is up as shippers adjust to moving goods without the large containers.
 
What’s next: Clark is leading a container terminal master plan aimed at increasing the capacity of the Port of Wilmington. And the proposal to deepen the navigation channel from 42 feet to 47 feet to attract larger ships continues to be a long-term goal, but one that must still be studied and funded.

Huntley Garriott

President, Live Oak Bank

Huntley Garriott was appointed president of Live Oak Bank in 2018. He previously had a more than 20-year career at Goldman Sachs, where he was a partner in the firm’s investment banking division and served as co-head of its banks and specialty finance team within the financial institutions group.
 
Why he’s a Power Player:
Garriott is president of the largest SBA 7(a) lender in the U.S., and small-business activity remains robust for the Wilmington-based bank. It originated over $1 billion in loans in each of the past two quarters.
 
Since Garriott joined Live Oak, the company’s balance sheet has more than doubled to $8 billion in assets.
 
In August, Live Oak converted more than 60,000 Live Oak Bank retail and commercial deposit customers from its legacy core system to the Finxact cloud-based core.
 
Locally, Live Oak plans to soon launch an inclusive small business resource center downtown. The center is intended to provide educational resources and tools to small business owners who have traditionally been underserved.
 
Also locally, in February, Live Oak announced a $2.5 million investment with Cape Fear Collective to support affordable housing solutions in the region, with plans to expand the program locally and eventually statewide.
 
Number of employees: 722

Brian Eckel

Partner, Cape Fear Commercial/GHK Cape Fear Development; Novant Health Board of Trustees Member

Brian Eckel co-founded Cape Fear Commercial with Vin Wells in 2001 and has had a major impact on the commercial real estate industry, development and the local business community. He serves on numerous high-profile boards, including the Novant Health Board of Trustees.
 
Why he’s a Power Player:
Eckel and his companies are guiding major development projects in the Wilmington area and beyond, including the redevelopment of the New Hanover County Government Center, creating a 130,000-square-foot office building with a new emergency operations center and 280 apartments.
 
Other projects include commercial space and apartments at Autumn Hall, a master-planned community on Eastwood Road; the 192-unit Renaissance Apartments on Military Cutoff Road; 206-unit Riverwood at Echo Farms; and a mixed-use project called The Proximity in the planning stages for Carolina Beach, among many others. His development firm has more than 2,000 other apartment units in pre-development.
 
In addition to the Novant Health parent board, Eckel completed a full term with the Wilmington Chamber of Commerce board and currently serves on the boards of the Wilmington-Cape Fear Home Builders Association; Business Alliance for a Sound Economy; and the Coastal Region Novant Health. He served as an NHRMC Board of Trustees member for six years. NHRMC was sold in 2021 to Novant Health.
 
Company numbers: Cape Fear Commercial has a sales/leasing volume of more than $2 billion and manages over 3 million square feet.

Natalie English

President & CEO, Wilmington Chamber of Commerce

With over 20 years of experience in chamber of commerce leadership, Natalie English plays a key role in fostering economic development successes in Wilmington. English previously served as the chief public policy officer for the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce before joining the Wilmington Chamber of Commerce in 2017.
 
Why she’s a Power Player:
English helped spearhead a $4.5 million hospitality, retail and service industry grant program financed by American Rescue Plan funding, allotted to both the city of Wilmington and New Hanover County. A total of 192 local businesses received grants, ranging from $10,000 to $50,000, which the chamber administered.
 
ARP dollars were also attributed to another effort English advocated for developing a Small Business, Retention, Expansion & Recruitment program, designed to target businesses with fewer than 25 employees. This program was funded by New Hanover County. She recently hired Josh Hallingse to head up the new initiative.
 
English also supported the creation of an apprenticeship program in June, partnering with New Hanover County, Cape Fear Community College and CastleBranch.
 
Membership roster: Over 100 new members joined the chamber so far this year.

Michele Holbrook

Capital Program Manager, Corning Incorporated

Previously Corning’s Wilmington plant manager, Michele Holbrook now serves in a broader role for the company. As capital program manager, she is responsible for the delivery of all major capacity expansions across Corning’s optical fiber and cable division to meet growing demand.
 
Why she’s a Power Player:
Holbrook plays a key role with Corning as the New York-based company sees national demand for fiber-based broadband service continue to increase for homes and businesses.
 
In the Wilmington area, Holbrook has been a visible voice on business and community issues during 2021.
 
This year, she chaired the Wilmington Chamber of Commerce’s board, which set policies and established goals to support business growth. Part of that work included coming up with innovative ways for chamber members to connect and engage during the changing conditions of the coronavirus pandemic.
 
Other chamber board efforts this year included expanding on the chamber’s talent pipeline management work begun in 2020 and joining the NC Chamber’s Destination 2030 Transportation Coalition. That group is urging the N.C. Department of Transportation and state officials to explore and implement new funding mechanisms that could raise the funds necessary to accelerate much-needed transportation projects.
 
Beyond the chamber, Holbrook also sits on the 13-member New Hanover Community Endowment board – the group that spent this year laying the groundwork for how the foundation will operate. Members eventually will have a say in how grants start being dispersed locally from the $1.29 billion endowment.
 
Award winner: Holbrook received Corning Incorporated’s 2021 Excellence in Volunteerism award.

Russ Lopatka

Wilmington Plant Manager, Corning Incorporated

Russ Lopatka took on the role of plant manager of Wilmington’s optical fiber manufacturing facility in 2019. He began his career with the firm in Wilmington as a process engineer in 2001. He leads a local workforce of about 1,000 employees.
 
Why he’s a Power Player:
In Lopatka’s second year heading up Corning’s Wilmington plant, he continued to see the demands of optical communications connectivity during the pandemic’s shift in work and school.
 
Corning’s optical communications division focuses on innovating to increase the speed and capacity of optical networks, helping network operators upgrade their infrastructure as usage increases. The Wilmington facility makes the optical fiber needed to respond to the increased demand.
 
In June, the company introduced Corning SMF-28 Contour fiber, an innovation developed in Wilmington. The fiber, the manufacturer says, brings something new to the market because of its combination of bend resilience, compatibility and low loss characteristics. It is designed to help telecommunications operators address the ever-expanding number of connected devices, the build-out of 5G networks and advances in cloud computing.

That demand for network infrastructure is only expected to grow globally in the years ahead, along with the demand for fiber like the kind produced at the Wilmington facility.
 
Workforce training: Corning established a co-op program through Cape Fear Community College to provide hands-on experiences and career opportunities to students.

Chip Mahan

Chairman & CEO, Live Oak Bank

Live Oak Bank, a subsidiary of Live Oak Bancshares, was founded in 2008 by James “Chip” Mahan in Wilmington. He is also the co-founder of Wilmington-based banking technology firms nCino and Apiture.
 
Why he’s a Power Player:
Since starting Live Oak – now the nation’s largest SBA 7(a) lender – in Wilmington, Mahan has continued to have a hand in a growing portfolio of fintech companies – many of them growing their bases in the Port City.
 
Mahan serves on several fintech and financial services boards including Apiture and Finxact. He is also a managing partner at Canapi, a fintech venture capital fund.
 
In August, Live Oak – which has no bank branches – converted more than 60,000 Live Oak Bank deposit customers from its legacy core system to the Finxact cloud-based core. Live Oak started efforts on a new core banking system five years ago when Mahan and other banking leaders asked Finxact founders to create a core-as-a-service platform that allows banks to seamlessly make changes to products and services.
 
Live Oak Bank in 2021 (through the fiscal year ending Sept. 30) made $2.3 billion in loans through the Small Business Administration 7(a) loan program.
 
The UNC Board of Governors also appointed Mahan this year to the UNCW Board of Trustees to serve a four-year term.
 
Number of employees: About 720

Tim Milam

CEO, Coldwell Banker Sea Coast Advantage

Tim Milam leads one of the largest residential real estate firms in the region and state. He has grown Coldwell Banker Sea Coast Advantage, which was founded in Wilmington in 1988, to 22 offices that cover Southeastern North Carolina down to Georgetown, South Carolina.
 
Why he’s a Power Player:
As the residential real estate market continues to break records, even in the midst of a global pandemic, Milam’s company is expanding and breaking its own records.
 
As of early November, the firm had surpassed $2 billion in sales for the third year in a row and was on track to reach $3 billion. Milam transitioned to CEO in 2021 after serving as president, a position now held by Denise Kinney. In Milam’s new role, he focuses on big picture projects and ongoing company growth.
 
Some of his and his company’s recent accomplishments include merging with Coldwell Banker Alliance and opening new offices in the Brunswick County towns of Boiling Spring Lakes and St. James, as well as in Emerald Isle in Carteret County.
 
Milam serves on the boards of Wilmington Business Development, Business Alliance for a Sound Economy and the Wilmington-Cape Fear Home Builders Association.
 
His charitable work includes being a founding member of New Hanover Scholars, a nonprofit providing financial resources to local high school students from historically marginalized communities.
 
Number of employees: 815 real estate agents and 70 staff members

Jim Morton

President, CFCC
 
Cape Fear Community College President Jim Morton was named to the community college’s top spot in 2018 after serving as EVP and vice president for business and financial services.
 
Why he’s a Power Player:
CFCC is growing, adding and expanding a suite of apprenticeship programs under Morton’s watch, designed to fit the needs of the area’s business community and strengthen the workforce development pipeline.
 
HVAC; automotive systems technology; welding; diesel and heavy equipment technology; electrical; fire alarm systems training; and plumbing and pipefitting are among new or expanded programs that allow students to earn while they attend classes.
 
The college recently shortened its truck-driver training program to streamline the education process so students can help meet existing market demand. It also added associate degree programs in graphic design, medical assisting and substance abuse tech, with a medical lab technology program planned to launch in fall 2022.
 
Morton has overseen the renovation of the original campus building and the construction of a new electric line worker facility at the college’s North Campus. The college is actively considering adding new programs as well, targeting high-demand fields.
 
An expansion of nursing and other health and human services programs is currently underway.
As part of his role at the helm, Morton oversees CFCC’s four campuses, employees and business operations and ensures it is achieving its instructional mission. As president, he helped create a successful alumni association and drove up support for the CFCC Foundation.
 
Number of employees: 1,530

Pierre Naudé

CEO, nCino
 
Pierre Naudé was a key player in founding nCino, a spinoff of Live Oak Bank, in 2011. On top of his role as CEO, he is also a member of the firm’s board of directors. Naudé has more than 30 years of financial technology experience.

Why he’s a Power Player:
nCino spent 2021 continuing to grow its footprint in the banking world as it added on more clients to its cloud-based Bank Operating System, designed to streamline processes.
 
More than 1,200 financial institutions now use nCino including some of the largest banks such as Barclays, TD Bank, Truist and Bank of America. In September, officials announced that Wells Fargo had signed onto nCino’s Bank Operating System “to accelerate its digital transformation within its commercial banking and corporate & investment banking businesses, and to transform its commercial lending operations.”

In November, the firm announced it plans to buy digital mortgage platform company SimpleNexus in a deal valued at $1.2 billion.
 
As nCino continues to look at international growth, it signed on bank customers for the first time in Germany and France. Other nCino offices are in Salt Lake City, Utah; Toronto; London; Melbourne, Australia; Sydney; and Tokyo. The Wilmington campus in the Mayfaire area is undergoing an expansion this year with a new parking garage and additional office building. The project will allow space for at least 600 more employees if needed.
 
nCino, which went public last year, has grown from a handful of employees in the beginning to more than 1,200 people here and globally.
 
On the pitch: In May, nCino announced a long-term sponsorship with the city of Wilmington to help fund a new sports complex, called the nCino Sports Park, for youth sports.

Jose Sartarelli

Chancellor, UNCW
 
Jose Sartarelli took the reins of UNCW in 2015 after serving as West Virginia University’s chief global officer and Milan Puskar Dean of the College of Business and Economics. After six years at the helm, Sartarelli announced in September his plan to retire at UNCW, which will take effect in June 2022. Sartarelli spent three decades in the international pharmaceutical industry prior to transitioning to higher education.
 
Why he’s a Power Player:
Sartarelli has grown the university’s enrollment 24% since taking the role. The fall 2021 semester welcomed 18,031 students, the highest in university history. Graduate student enrollment ballooned by 121% under Saraterelli, with 3,542 students enrolled in fall 2021.
 
This enrollment growth was the largest volume of growth across the entire UNC System.
Over the past few years, UNCW has undertaken a series of construction projects totaling $450 million to expand the campus to add or restore 23 buildings, four parking lots and more.
 
When Sarterelli joined UNCW, just 19 Fortune 500 companies recruited new employees from UNCW; more than 100 of these companies now reach into the UNCW talent pool.
 
In February, he helped oversee Like No Other: The Campaign for UNCW, a fundraising endeavor that has raised over $90 million in philanthropic support to boost scholarships, professorships and other university programs. Under his leadership, the chancellor helped usher in the largest private philanthropic gift in university history: $10 million from David and Helen Congdon and $5 million from Quality Chemical Laboratories.
 
Number of employees: Nearly 2,500

Shelbourn Stevens

President, NHRMC & Novant Health's Coastal Market
 
Shelbourn Stevens is head of the area’s largest employer, New Hanover Regional Medical Center, which is now part of Novant Health, and also president of the Winston-Salem-based health system’s new Coastal Market. Stevens served as president and COO of Novant Health Brunswick Medical Center.
 
Why he’s a Power Player:
Following the sale of NHRMC to Novant Health earlier this year, Stevens moved into the president role not only for New Hanover Regional Medical Center but also Novant’s coastal market. (Previous NHRMC president and CEO John Gizdic became an executive vice president and chief business development officer for Novant after the hospital sale deal closed in February.)
 
In his role now, Stevens is responsible for the operations of New Hanover Regional. Besides NHRMC, the coastal market also includes Novant Health Brunswick Medical Center, Pender Memorial Hospital and Novant Health Coastal Market Medical Group.
 
Working through the integration of the new Novant Health Coastal Market has been a major part of Stevens’ focus this year.
 
In April, state regulators also approved Novant’s application to build a new 66- bed hospital in the Scotts Hill area of northern New Hanover County – a project for which Stevens is overseeing the design and planning.
 
All this has happened against the backdrop of health providers’ continued response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including the surge in cases.
 
Number of employees: 8,000

Jason Thompson

President, American Property Experts; Novant Health Board of Trustees Member
 
Jason Thompson owns Diversified Biomass Company, which does business as American Property Experts, a recycling and biomass fuel production facility.
 
Why he’s a Power Player:
Thompson, who previously served as a New Hanover County Commissioner for four years and as a Wilmington City Council member for eight years, remains involved in civic life, namely in the health care and airport fields.
 
Thompson was the chair of the NHRMC trustees board, a body that along with New Hanover County commissioners, had to review proposals from health systems to buy New Hanover Regional and ultimately vote on whether to sell it to Novant Health.
 
After the purchase of the local health system closed in February, the hospital trustees board transitioned to a new hospital board, the Novant Health Coastal Board of Managers, which Thompson joined along with other former trustees, medical providers and regional representatives.
 
He was one of two members of that group chosen to sit on Novant Health’s 22-member board. Having two local representatives on the Winston- Salem-based health system’s board was part of its proposal for buying NHRMC.
 
Thompson also this year joined the New Hanover County Airport Authority.

Neil Underwood

Partner, Canapi Ventures
 
Neil Underwood brings his banking experience as a partner of Canapi, a venture capital firm he helped co-found in 2018. Underwood also is president of Live Oak Bancshares, the holding company of Live Oak Bank. He co-founded Live Oak Bank, nCino and Apiture. Previously, he was a general manager at S1 Corp. in Atlanta.
 
Why he’s a Power Player:
Canapi, a fund focused on early- to growth-stage fintech companies, has helped bring capital to companies in the Southeast. At the start of last year, Canapi received $545 million from its institutional investor base to support innovation in financial services.
 
It ended 2020 with investments of about $650 million from 44 banks and strategic investors.
The investor base, known as the Canapi Alliance, includes 11 of the top 50 and 23 of the top 100 banks in the United States by total asset size.
 
Underwood said this summer that the venture capital fund has made 20 investments in 16 portfolio companies since its start.
 
Through the venture arm of Live Oak, Underwood helped incubate companies focused on digital bank transformation, including Finxact, Payrailz, DefenseStorm and Greenlight.

In 2017, he co-founded Apiture, a joint venture between Live Oak and First Data, serving as a cloud-native omni-channel onboarding and servicing platform.

Trey Wallace

President, Intracoastal Realty Corp.

Wilmington native Trey Wallace leads one of the largest residential real estate firms in the area and one of the largest independent firms in Southeastern North Carolina.
 
Why he’s a Power Player:
Wallace, son of company founder and CEO Jim Wallace, drives the growth and manages the day-to-day operations of his 400-agent firm, which was founded in 1976.
 
During high school and continuing through college, Trey Wallace worked summers in the company’s IT department, helping agents with the real estate technology explosion of the early 2000s. After 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. In 2013, he made a transition into the company’s management team, with a focus on operations.
 
He also worked as project manager for the successful Spartina Townhomes project near Wrightsville Beach. The Spartina II project is bringing 16 luxury townhomes to the Airlie/Wrightsville Sound area in 2022.
 
As of November, Intracoastal Realty had surpassed $2 billion in sales for the first time in its company’s history on a 12-month basis. In 2020, Intracoastal merged with Bald Head Island Ltd.
Trey Wallace is involved in the Intracoastal Realty Teacher’s Fund, which helps local teachers who instruct kindergarteners through fifth-graders buy supplies and books.
 
Number of employees: 400 real estate agents and 100 staff members

Jay Wileman

President & CEO, GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy
 
Since 2015, Jay Wileman has led GE Hitachi, which has been based in Wilmington for more than 50 years.
 
Why he’s a Power Player:
GE Hitachi finds itself in a changing landscape for nuclear energy, namely investments in small modular reactors.

In October, GE Hitachi and BWXT Canada Ltd. announced an agreement to work together on the design, manufacturing and commercialization of GE Hitachi’s BWRX-300 small modular reactor. The company is trying to move toward building a Canadian supply that would lead to the deployment of its BWRX-300 in Ontario.
 
Wileman points to an interest in the technology in several other parts of the world including in the U.S., U.K., Poland, Japan, Finland and Estonia.
 
GE Hitachi also is continuing to work with TerraPower, a company founded by Bill Gates, to advance the Natrium advanced reactor. That technology was selected this year for a demonstration project at a retiring coal plant in Wyoming.
 
With the various projects, GE Hitachi has added highly skilled jobs at its facility in Wilmington. This year, GE Hitachi also introduced a digital solution to help plant operators plan, schedule and executive maintenance and refueling outages.
 
Corporate changes: In November, General Electric Co. announced it would split into three public companies. GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy, which is an alliance created by GE and Hitachi, falls under the GE Power division, which according to the recent announcement, is planned to be combined with the GE Renewable Energy and GE Digital groups into a business possibly spun off by early 2024.

Read more about the 2021 WilmingtonBiz 100 honorees by clicking here.

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