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WilmingtonBiz Magazine

The WilmingtonBiz 100: The Influencers

By Staff Reports, posted Dec 17, 2021

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


Chris Boney

Chief Relationships Officer, LS3P
 
Chris Boney is in charge of business development and leadership for LS3P’s nine offices across North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia.
 
Why he’s an Influencer:
Boney is a member of the board of the New Hanover Community Endowment, and his company has been the architecture firm for major projects throughout the Wilmington area. Current projects include downtown redevelopment Project Grace; the expansion of cloud banking software firm nCino at Mayfaire; the redevelopment of the New Hanover County Government Center; and the upcoming, $210 million Novant- New Hanover Regional Medical Center hospital in Scotts Hill.
 
Boney has designed multiple projects over the years, such as Live Oak Bank’s campus in midtown Wilmington, the Betty H. Cameron Women’s and Children’s Hospital at NHRMC and the Wilson Center at Cape Fear Community College.
 
Boney has served as chairman of the Wilmington Chamber of Commerce, helped to establish the Cape Fear Future Fund and worked with the city of Wilmington’s planning staff on numerous initiatives over the years, such as the Central Business District revitalization.

Other leadership roles: Professionally, he has completed terms as president of AIA Wilmington, the Board of Directors for AIA North Carolina and National Advisor to the AIA Young Architects Forum. In addition to previously serving as chairman of the chamber board, Boney has also chaired the Wilmington Planning Commission and the North Carolina Battleship Commission.

Terry Bragg

Executive Director, Battleship North Carolina
 
Capt. Terry Bragg assumed his role as director of the USS North Carolina Battleship in 2008 after a 30-year career in the Navy.
 
Why he’s an Influencer:
Bragg oversees one of the state’s biggest tourist attractions, garnering more than 200,000 visitors every year.
 
Through a multi-year fundraising effort, Bragg helped cultivate over $23 million in public and private dollars to revitalize the aging warship.
 
The battleship has been anchored on the Cape Fear River for 60 years and was in need of extensive repairs, which Bragg coordinated and ensured took place. Battleship officials implemented the completion of $8.5 million in cofferdam repairs in 2018, with final repairs of the hull taking place this year. Because of climate change impacts on the low-lying riverfront location, Bragg has crafted a Living with Water initiative, which has collected $2.3 million in public grant funding to build a living shoreline, redesign drainage systems and create a pathway for water to flow over the roadway when it rises.
 
As part of the intensive rehabilitation work, Bragg managed a Battlestar Collection that sells products crafted with pieces of the ship’s teak deck and steel hull.
 
Number of employees: 31

Patrick Brien

CEO, Cape Fear Collective
 
Patrick Brien has headed up Cape Fear Collective, a social impact nonprofit organization, since 2019.
 
Why he’s an Influencer:
In February, the collective formed Collective Ventures, a social impact investment initiative with the goal of attracting $10 million in investments in the first year.
 
The venture’s goal is to buy local efforts that relate to affordable housing, workforce development and work in conjunction with philanthropic giving. In February, the program had already received $2.5 million from Live Oak Bank, of which $1.8 million was used to purchase 20 rental units to address affordable housing in the region.
 
In June, Cape Fear Collective (CFC) purchased Driftwood, a 15-unit apartment complex, for $1.2 million. So far, CFC has $5 million under management with another $15 million in investment commitments from banks, corporations and individual investors.
 
CFC released its Inclusive Economy Report in September, which shed light on income inequality in the region and made recommendations on how community leaders and businesses can build a more inclusive economy.

In partnership with Novant Health, CFC is leading the Healthy Cape Fear 2030 data initiative, a data aggregation, analysis and dashboard that outlines the state of health and wellbeing in the region.

Board member: City of Wilmington and New Hanover County Workforce Housing Advisory Committee

Rob Burrus

Dean, UNCW Cameron School of Business
 
Rob Burrus has served as dean of the UNCW Cameron School of Business since 2014, which holds a top-100 undergraduate business ranking based on student quality and alumni perceptions from Poets and Quants.
 
Why he’s an Influencer:
The business school’s new online MBA program is listed in the top 100 programs curated by Fortune and a top 40 ranking by CEO Magazine.
 
As head of the business school, Burrus oversaw the addition of a new program in cybersecurity, MBA specializations, management information systems, entrepreneurship and supply chain management. An MS degree in supply chain management is under formation, with other programs in the financial technology and real estate sector also underway.
 
The school’s enrollment is at an all-time high, at 2,700 students, including nearly 900 graduate students.
 
To ensure students’ skills remain marketable, the school maintains advisory boards in nearly every discipline to stay in touch with the area’s business needs. Burrus has also cultivated the one-on-one mentorship initiative, pairing students with local and retired executives through the Cameron Executive Network.

Wes Carter

President, Atlantic Packaging
 
Wes Carter is the third-generation leader of the Wilmington-based packaging and equipment distributor. After attending the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and working in sales at White Pine Touring, Carter worked as a sales manager at Atlantic Packaging before taking on the role of president where he currently oversees all aspects of the company’s operation.
 
Why he’s an Influencer:
With more than 1,400 employees, Atlantic Packaging services many industries including food, beverage, automotive, building products, medical and e-commerce. As an influencing player in the plastics industry, Carter has led efforts at Atlantic Packaging of adopting more sustainable and environmentally friendly practices at its facilities including reporting carbon emissions, committing to using renewable energy, electrifying its fleet of vehicles, among other efforts.
 
The company has been adapting its products to be more sustainable including the launch of Fishbone, a recyclable can carrier that replaces the traditional plastic ring handles used to hold together cans. The company also worked on a mailer described as the first-ever, paper-fiber-based padded mailer used by online retailers such as Amazon.
 
In 2021, Carter co-launched A New Earth Project, bringing together surfers and the industrial packaging supply chain with the goal of reducing ocean plastic waste. The initiative hopes to help reduce the production of single-use plastics and clean up the oceans.

Streaming soon: A New Earth Project documentary is set to stream next year.

Holly Childs

President & CEO, Wilmington Downtown Inc.
 
Holly Childs joined WDI as president and CEO at the beginning of the year on the heels of a 25-year career in economic development.
 
Why she’s an Influencer:
Since starting, Childs has focused on initiatives to grow downtown’s business and residential base.
 
WDI has been a vocal proponent of New Hanover County’s Project Grace. Childs is also aiding in the redevelopment of the Soda Pop district, the gateway project and the Riverbend development.
 
This year, Childs helped manage WDI’s small business microloan program and facade improvement grant, providing financial support to existing and new startups downtown.
The nonprofit also oversees the Municipal Services District (MSD) program, funded by an additional tax district in a 70-block area downtown.
 
Year WDI formed: 1977

Chris Coudriet

County Manager, New Hanover County
 
Chris Coudriet is New Hanover County’s chief administrator and oversees all departments under the watch of the board of commissioners. As manager, Coudriet prepares the annual budget, which this fiscal year is $458 million, serving more than 225,000 residents. He was named manager in 2012 after serving as assistant county manager for four years.
 
Why he’s an Influencer:
Coudriet helped lead the county through the pandemic, recently managing initiatives and programs prompted by $45.5 million in American Rescue Plan funding. Those projects include increasing broadband access, job training, mortgage assistance, utility infrastructure, affordable housing, rent assistance, mental health support, business and nonprofit grants and more.
 
He oversaw the closure of the sale of the county-owned New Hanover Regional Medical Center to Novant Health, a deal that was finalized in February.

This year, he’s helped forward Project Grace, the county’s public-private project that will repurpose the downtown library and surrounding blocks into a mixed-use development and relocate the Cape Fear Museum. An expansive redevelopment of the county government center is underway, scheduled to be complete by fall 2022. The Healing Place, another county initiative to create a substance use recovery center, has been under construction this year, and is slated to open in April.

Number of employees: 1,900

Stephen DeBiasi

CEO, EmergeOrtho P.A.
 
Stephen DeBiasi is responsible for the strategic, financial and operational oversight of Wilmington and Triad regions of EmergeOrtho and related its entities.
 
Why he’s an Influencer:
Through a series of mergers and acquisitions in recent years, EmergeOrtho has become one of the largest physician-owned orthopedic practices in the country.
 
DeBiasi has been along for much of that growth, having spent 14 years with Wilmington Orthopaedic Group, OrthoWilmington and EmergeOrtho. Throughout that evolution, DeBiasi led seven mergers and acquisitions of various sizes. In 2016, OrthoWilmington joined with three other practices across North Carolina to form EmergeOrtho.
 
EmergeOrtho’s overall medical team – as of this year headed by Wilmington resident Allison Farmer as statewide CEO – includes 288 orthopedic surgeons and physicians, nurse practitioners and physician assistants. The practice’s Wilmington region includes 33 physicians and sees 288,000 patient visits a year.
 
In the past year, EmergeOrtho opened its Brunswick Surgery Center in Leland as well as a new office in Burgaw, which is its first in Pender County. Meanwhile, DeBiasi and practice officials continue to work to improve care coordination and management and develop value-based payment methodologies.
 
Number of employees: 1,800 in North Carolina; 500 in its Wilmington 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 delivering more than 340 projects since 1992.
 
Why he’s an Influencer:
Some of the more recent high-profile projects McKinley has delivered or is working on include Bradley Creek Station, an 80,000-square-foot office and retail complex on Oleander Drive in Wilmington that is fully leased or sold; Wilmington Trade Center, a three-building Class A industrial project on U.S. 421 near the interchange of Interstate 140; the expansion of the Quality Chemical campus in New Hanover County; and Novant Health’s regional corporate headquarters.
 
Dull has served on numerous civic and professional boards including the city of Wilmington Planning Commission, for which he was chairman of the board for four years, and the New Hanover County Planning Board, for which he was 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. Dull also serves on the Wrightsville Beach Board of Aldermen, being re-elected in 2021.

In addition to his civic work, Dull is passionate about philanthropy and has organized a fundraiser for The Harrelson Center, Day in the Country, for nine years. He also serves on the N.C. State Foundation Board.
 
Number of employees: 74

Erin Easton

Workforce Training Coordinator, CFCC
 
Erin Easton joined Cape Fear Community College’s workforce training coordinator in September after spending a year as business engagement manager for the Cape Fear Council of Governments.
 
Why she’s an Influencer:
On the Cape Fear Council of Governments Workforce Development Board, Easton assisted 18 businesses with reimbursed training, allowing employees to gain skills and enhance business growth. Reimbursements were as much as $10,000 per business, with topics ranging from training to becoming a solar technician, machinist, Montessori teacher and leadership trainings.

Easton helped conceive and cultivate the formation of the Cape Fear Manufacturing Partnership, an alliance of the industry’s manufacturers that formed to collectively advance their needs and ideas to stakeholders. Easton has helped the group connect to public partners and incorporate as a nonprofit as it aims to increase workforce development training in the region.
 
As a project team member for Racial Equity for Adult Credentials in Higher ed (REACH) at CFCC, Easton has helped build structured career pathways to enable adult students of color to find programs and support services necessary to succeed. Easton is also an executive committee member of My Future Cape Fear Collaborative, a project working on crafting a roadmap of meaningful career pathways through industry and education partnerships.

Certification: Talent Pipeline Management Practitioner through the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation

Charles Foust

Superintendent, NHC Schools
 
Charles Foust started as head of the New Hanover County school system in September 2020, moving from Kansas City, where he had served as superintendent of the Kansas district.
 
Why he’s an Influencer:
As schools superintendent, Foust is responsible for a school district with over 25,000 students and more than 4,000 employees.
 
The school system also is the second-largest employer in New Hanover County.
 
Like in other school districts around the state, superintendents still are contending with COVID-19 protocols in the schools, catching students up from remote instruction time last year and labor shortages that are impacting positions ranging from bus drivers to substitute teachers.

Foust is currently working with New Hanover County on a plan to improve school and community safety.
 
He is focused on a districtwide initiative to provide one-to-one electronic devices for all students by the 2025-26 school year. Improving literacy rates to 90% for students over a three-to five-year span is another goal. Foust also is looking to reorganize the district’s Career and Technical Education clusters and pathways “to ensure they align with our local market and job force.”

State size: New Hanover County’s school district is the twelfth-largest public school district in the state.

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 more than two decades of experience in leadership in real estate associations.
 
Why she’s an Influencer:
Gardner leads an organization with more than 3,100 Realtor members and in 2020 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 continued breaking records, with multiple offers and dwindling inventory that lasted into the slower months.

Giving back: Led by this year’s president, Tom Gale, the organization Gardner guides finished its first home build with Cape Fear Habitat for Humanity in May, raising more than $50,000 to fund the home, volunteering labor on Saturday builds and finishing the four-bedroom, energy-efficient home in just five months.

Donna Girardot

Chair, New Hanover County Airport Authority & Vice Chair, New Hanover County Planning Board
 
Donna Girardot is the state’s first female chair of an airport authority, serving her fourth consecutive term as chair, in addition to leading the county planning panel for four terms.
 
Why she’s an Influencer:
Girardot has worked with other airport authority members to oversee operations of the Wilmington International Airport throughout the pandemic.
 
Under her leadership, ILM’s business park has also secured two new companies totaling $120 million worth of investment. ILM performed better than national and peer airports during the pandemic and was recognized as one of the fastest airports nationally to begin the pandemic recovery process. ILM continues to maintain healthy reserves and be a regional economic engine through expanded commercial and general aviation activities.
 
In 2021, Girardot continued to guide the planning board and department through the Unified Development Ordinance process and significant code changes. She also continued to help update the county’s planning, development and building process building process to promote economic development and meet community and county desires and needs through amended height restrictions, setbacks, buffers, affordable housing needs, environmental and traffic challenges and regulations and impacts on schools.

State honor: Girardot was awarded the Order of the Long Leaf Pine by Gov. Roy Cooper in December 2020.

Johnny Griffin

Director, Regional Film Commission
 
Johnny Griffin has served the region’s film industry for more than three decades. He became director of the Wilmington Regional Film Commission in 1999. Griffin is one of the first 10 film commissioners in the world to obtain the designation of Certified Film Commissioner by the Association of Film Commissioners International.
 
Why he’s an Influencer:
Griffin spends his days in conversations with potential projects, informing industry officials about working in the Wilmington region and trying to help attract productions to the area.
 
As head of the film commission, he also helps productions with any unique needs they have with filming, with the hopes that they’ll bring future projects to the area as well.

This year, much of that work and relationship building has paid off with bustling production sets and locations activity.
 
Recently, there have been as many as 1,200-1,300 people working on local film sets daily, Griffin said in October when there were seven productions filming in the region.
 
He said that film and television productions are estimated to spend about $300 million-$350 million locally this year, exceeding the amount spent during 2016-20 combined.
 
Griffin also serves as a member-at-large with the Governor’s Advisory Council on Film, Television, and Digital Streaming.

Scouting: Earlier in his career, Griffin worked as a location manager for films and television on shows such as Matlock and Renaissance Man.

Ken Halanych

Executive Director, UNCW Center for Marine Science
 
Ken Halanych joined UNCW in October after a national search to head up the university center. He has attracted international recognition for his research on marine invertebrate evolution and genomics and has authored over 200 peer-reviewed scientific publications, which have garnered upwards of $10 million in research funding.
 
Why he’s an Influencer:
Halanych was assigned to the Research Board of the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative, tasked with distributing $500 million over 10 years from the fallout caused by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

As director of the CMS, Halanych has oversight of the programs and facilities housed in the center, which include MARBIONC, UNCW’s Shellfish Research Hatchery and Finfish Mariculture Program.

In the role, he continues to mentor students as he also forges relationships with UNCW researchers and the business community. He is actively developing a network of researchers to address regional opportunities as it relates to coastal resilience, biotechnology and aquaculture.
 
Halanych’s research recently contributed to the university’s latest Alliance for the Blue Economy initiative.
 
International publication: Halanych serves as editor-in-chief of The Biological Bulletin, one of the oldest peer-reviewed scientific journals in the nation.

Kim Hufham

President & CEO, Wilmington and Beaches CVB
 
Kim Hufham heads up the Wilmington and Beaches Convention & Visitors Bureau, where she has worked for 30 years. She led the bureau through the pandemic that initially devastated the tourism industry and advocated for the reopening of venues to attract visitors, overseeing three distinct marketing campaigns.
 
Why she’s an Influencer:
Hufham helps curate tourism dollars, one of the lead industries in New Hanover County. Funds generated by tourism help replenish the area’s beaches, support the Wilmington Convention Center, fund ocean safety programs and more. Tourism supports nearly 5,500 jobs in the county and generates $51.5 million in state and local taxes.
 
Hufham recently worked on the 2021 economic scorecard, conducted a new audience research study and developed a new meeting and convention strategy for the Convention District downtown.
 
She oversees a staff of 18 and a $7.7 million budget, utilized for marketing activities. Through the New Hanover County Tourism Development Authority, Hufham helps advocate for topics to benefit the tourism industry.

2020 tourism impact to NHC: $598 million

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:
The Wilmington Urban Area Metropolitan Planning Organization is a federally designated organization that provides transportation planning services for an area of nearly 500 square miles in the region.
 
It’s responsible for the development of the Metropolitan Transportation Plan that provides the blueprint for the region’s transportation infrastructure over the next 25 years. The plan is federally required to have a minimum 20-year planning horizon, be fiscally constrained and be updated every five years. The WMPO recently completed Cape Fear Moving Forward 2045.
 
Kozlosky, who also sits on the Cape Fear Public Transportation Authority, manages the day-to-day operations for the organization and works with other transportation groups to help prioritize projects in the state’s program for funding and scheduling construction projects.

Wayne LaBar

Museum Director, Cape Fear Museum of History and Science
 
Wayne LaBar started this summer as director of the Cape Fear Museum. He has more than 30 years of experience in museum leadership, science center planning and exhibition design, development and implementation.
 
Why he’s an Influencer:
With the redevelopment of the county-owned blocks downtown into a mixed-use complex, LaBar is leading the museum during a time of change for the Market Street facility.
 
Plans call for the Project Grace redevelopment to include a new location for the Cape Fear Museum at Grace and Third streets, including some shared space with a redeveloped library branch there. The existing museum site at 814 Market Street would be turned into a space for collections, research and education hub.
 
With the changes, LaBar would head up the reimagining of the museum’s mission and vision.

In the meantime, the museum is working with the Wilmington Police Department to create an in-depth exploration of the region’s past and how that past informs the present, LaBar said. He added that other current goals include offering an annual program to highlight local business STEM advances and innovations; expanding PreK and family educational programs related to science and history; and growing outreach and partnership efforts beyond the museum’s walls into the community.

Ryan Legg

CEO, MegaCorp Logistics
 
Ryan Legg and his wife, Denise, founded MegaCorp Logistics in 2009. The logistics company specializes in full and less-than-truckload shipments throughout the United States, Mexico and Canada. As CEO, he runs the company made up of about 500 employees.
 
Why he’s an Influencer:
MegaCorp, which has appeared on the Inc. 5000 list of fastest-growing private companies several times, continues to expand.
 
The company is one of the top third-party logistics providers in North America of freight brokerage services for full truckload and less-than-truckload freight shipping, which is for smaller freight that doesn’t require the entire truck trailer.
 
Its local office alone has more than 320 employees. Its clients range from food to manufacturing to retail to metals/building materials.

Teeing up: MegaCorp is a title sponsor for PGA Tour player Brian Harman.

Michael Lopez

President & CEO, Alpha Mortgage
 
Michael Lopez founded Alpha Mortgage in 1983, and the company has attained growth and success through the introduction of a continuing series of programs and services that have become standards in the mortgage-lending industry. These include special programs for self-employed borrowers, a best-rate guarantee, same-day approval plans and 15-day closings.

Why he's an Influencer:
Lopez’s company consistently ranks as one of the highest-volume mortgage companies in the Carolinas.
 
“I am proud to have brought the first non-bank residential mortgage company to our area, which has allowed me to set the standard for our industry,” Lopez said.

Alpha Mortgage is a statewide specialist in jumbo and super jumbo loans of up to $3 million.
 
The company offers its mortgage and lending services in Wilmington, Cary, Jacksonville, Fayetteville, High Point, Charlotte, Winston- Salem, Southport and Topsail Island.
 
Number of employees: More than 150

David Michael

VP & CEO Wilmington Division, Clancy & Theys Construction Co.
 
David Michael oversees Clancy & Theys’ Wilmington Division, which since its establishment in 1984 has constructed many of the most noteworthy facilities in Wilmington and the surrounding communities.
 
Why he’s an Influencer:
Michael’s latest accomplishment was the recent opening of the Live Oak Bank Pavilion at Riverfront Park. The 6.6 acres along the downtown Wilmington riverfront was transformed to a one-of-a-kind gathering place and event venue with a 7,200-person capacity amphitheater.
 
In addition to recently completed projects downtown including the park and pavilion, Flats on Front apartments, an Aloft Hotel that incorporated renovations to the Coastline Convention Center, Clancy & Theys is currently building The Metropolitan apartment project next to Riverfront Park.
 
The Wilmington Division has 67 employees.

Past projects: Michael previously managed several major projects including Cameron Art Museum, Battleship North Carolina Visitors Center, Thalian Hall renovations, N.C. Aquariums at Fort Fisher and Pine Knoll Shores and Jennette’s Pier at Nags Head.

John Monteith

CEO, Monteith Construction Corp.
 
John Monteith has been the owner and CEO of Monteith Construction Corp., a licensed general contractor since the company was founded in 1998. Over the past 23 years, he led the company’s expansion into offices in Wilmington and Raleigh in North Carolina and in Myrtle Beach and Charleston in South Carolina. He continues to manage the company’s strategic business operations.  Number of employees: 115

Why he’s an Influencer:
Monteith and his company have been involved in a number of impactful building projects over the past year. They include the expansion of the Wilmington International Airport, which is underway, and Common Desk, a coworking space in a rehabilitated historical building in downtown Wilmington. The company also completed TRU Colors Brewery.
 
Monteith is also currently involved with the Camp Schreiber Foundation, an organization founded in 2011. Camp Schreiber is committed to impacting the community by providing educational services and out-of-classroom experiences to young men in Wilmington.
 
Monteith established Thoughtbox, a nonprofit organization. The organization’s first project, Initiative 1897, launched in August and brought leading businesses in the Cape Fear together to use artwork to promote community dialogue around race and inequity.

Number of employees: 115

Cameron Moore

Executive Officer, Wilmington-Cape Fear Home Builders Association

Cameron Moore manages the not-for-profit trade group and is responsible for day-to-day association leadership and governance, member services, finance, staff supervision, association community event planning, marketing and legislative and regulatory affairs.
 
Why he’s an Influencer:
With just four employees, the organization Moore manages is the fifth-largest HBA in the United States. WCFHBA is also the second-largest group of its kind in North Carolina and largest in Southeastern North Carolina.
 
Moore helped shape the state’s first stormwater permit transfer process and is currently the chairman of the New Hanover County Board of Adjustment.

In 2021 under Moore’s leadership, the WCFHBA earned four STARS Awards from the NCHBA: Best HBA Marketing or Communication for its Showcase of New Homes; Best HBA Educational Program for The Construction Connection; Best Government Affairs Initiative for The Construction Connection; and Best HBA Parade of Homes Marketing.
 
Moore has been an American Institute Certified Planner since 2008 and is a certified continuing education teacher for the N.C. Licensing Board for General Contractors.
 
Planning ahead: Moore is currently working with local high schools to help prepare for the labor demand in construction and the trades.

Michael Moran

Director of Risk Management & Finance, PolyQuest Inc.
 
Michael Moran has been with PolyQuest for nine years and was recently promoted to director of risk management and finance.
 
Why he’s an Influencer:
Wilmington-based PolyQuest is a distributor of PET resins and manufacturer of recycled PET resins. Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) is the common name for a unique plastic belonging to the polyester family. PET resins are used for bottles, jars, containers and packaging applications.
PolyQuest, started in 2000, has facilities in Darlington, South Carolina, and Farmingdale, New York, as well as a European office in Austria.
 
The company is the largest distributor of PET resins in the U.S. and Canada and one of the fastest-growing distributors of PP and HIPS resins.
 
This year, it formed Renuva Plastics to acquire the U.S. division of Faith Group Co., another distributor of post-industrial thermoplastics, especially PET, in the U.S. and the largest exporter of those products out of the U.S.
 
PolyQuest this summer expanded its South Carolina facility by 225,000 square feet.

Girard & Tracey Newkirk

Co-Founders, Genesis Block
 
Married couple Tracey and Girard Newkirk founded business development services company Genesis Block in 2019.
 
Why they are Influencers:
Tracey Newkirk, president of Genesis Block, and Girard Newkirk, the firm’s CEO, are local entrepreneurs aiming through their company to build an entrepreneur class in Wilmington that is inclusive of everyone while having a special focus on ventures led by minorities and women.

Currently, there are 80 organizations in the Genesis Block ecosystem, and the company, which has only four employees, provides services for 55 small businesses. It also has 38 resident companies involved in entrepreneurship training programs.
 
New Hanover County awarded $25,000 in economic development funds to Genesis Block’s minority business accelerator program, which also received a $50,000 grant from the NC IDEA Black Entrepreneurship Council to advance Black entrepreneurship in Southeastern North Carolina.
 
The first Genesis Block Back on the Block Minority Accelerator began in January, and the state and county funds were used to provide technical assistance, educational resources, training, networking opportunities and access to capital.

Recent funding and future vision: Bank of America is investing $15,000 to support Genesis Block’s efforts for Castle Street workforce development. The company’s Castle Street plan aims to establish the first of several innovation corridors to bring small business and entrepreneur resources directly to communities that in the past have been underrepresented.

Laura Padgett

Project Coordinator, Wilmington Rail Realignment Project
 
Laura Padgett has spearheaded an ambitious project to replace and enhance the existing rail infrastructure between the Port of Wilmington and Navassa. The project will create a shorter route that avoids the city’s busiest streets, with the goal of repurposing the existing route for public use. Studies are underway to ensure its feasibility.
 
Why she’s an Influencer:
Padgett has a deep history serving the Wilmington region, after 20 years on city council and 15 years on the Cape Fear Public Transit Authority board.
 
She chaired the 2045 Long Range Transportation plan as part of her work of the Wilmington Metropolitan Planning Organization, of which she’s served as a member for 15 years.
 
Between 2015 and 2021, Padgett coordinated the funding and foundation of the Wilmington Rail Realignment Project.
 
When Padgett was chair of the Mayor’s Task Force on Rail Realignment, the group first presented results of a feasibility study about moving the rail lines in 2016. The city of Wilmington’s rail realignment project manager, Aubrey Parsley, was hired in 2019.
 
A strong advocate for saving green spaces, she led the city in its 2006 Parks and Green Space referendum. Though she is retired from most of her work, she continues her advocacy for the rail project and continues to serve on the USS North Carolina Battleship Commission. When she chose not to seek re-election in 2015, she was city council’s longest-serving elected official.
 
Namesake: Wave Transit’s multimodal facility was named after Padgett when it opened last year on North Third Street.

Marie Parker

Executive Director, Cape Fear Public Transportation Authority/Wave Transit
 
Marie Parker began as Wave Transit’s executive director in December of last year. She has over 14 years of senior-level management experience in the public transportation industry, most recently as general manager of GoRaleigh.
 
Why she’s an Influencer:
Parker was hired to help revamp Wave Transit and look at the area’s mass transportation needs. In her first year in the role, has taken on several projects to do that.
 
She worked with Wave Transit board members and city and county officials to pause the service reductions until July 2022. A joint committee formed and has been discussing the possibility of a referendum for a quarter-cent sales tax increase to be a dedicated funding source for public transportation.
 
The organization recently launched a new microtransit mode covering Brunswick, New Hanover and Pender counties. The pilot agreement funded by the state is designed to connect the three counties.
 
Wave Transit’s on-time service delivery improved from 74% to 84% on its fixed-route system. In the past year, Wave Transit applied for and received funding for capital projects, including upfitting its current facility with generators to prepare for severe weather events.
 
Parker also has focused on having a mobile app developed that will let users book rides, locate their buses or purchase passes. The app is slated to be released next summer.
 
Bus tech: Another project involves adding passenger Wi-Fi for riders.

Chad Paul

CEO, Bald Head Island Limited LLC-Mitchell Family Corp.
 
Chad Paul oversees the operations and development of Bald Head Island and also established the Bald Head Island Transportation Authority.
 
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 3 miles off the southern coast of Southport and contains some of the highest-priced real estate in the state.
 
Paul, along with officials from development partner East West Partners, has worked on plans for Project Indigo, a nearly 400-acre, $565 million development proposed on an important piece of property near Southport.
 
Paul is also a partner in Harbor Island Partners LLC, a private equity firm headquartered in Wilmington since 2000.

Previously, Paul 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.

Chris Ramm

COO, Taylor Development Group LLC
 
Chris Ramm has been working on industrial and commercial development in the Wilmington area in recent years and oversees acquisitions, dispositions, development and leasing for his company’s portfolio in North and South Carolina.
 
Why he’s an Influencer:
He and his company built one of the first-class A speculative industrial buildings to be developed in the Wilmington market in the past 15 years. They also purchased, modernized and got new tenants for the Landfall Park Office Buildings on Eastwood Road. Additionally, they bought, modernized and improved the occupancy from 80% to 100% of the office building at 300 N. Third St., at the corner of Third and Grace streets, in downtown Wilmington.
 
He and his partners have invested over $31 million over the past four years, recently completing a five-floor bathroom and lobby renovation at 300 N. Third St.

Upcoming project: Ramm and his partners have also acquired an additional 40 acres of industrial land that will accommodate 450,000 square feet of industrial development.

Chris Reid

President, Thomas Construction Group
 
Chris Reid established Thomas Construction Group in 2005 with more than a decade of experience in management and technology. Since then, he’s secured an unprecedented amount of work for the firm, notably in the corporate commercial, behavioral health care and senior living program sectors.
 
Why he’s an Influencer:
Reid is responsible for directing and managing all aspects of the company's day-to-day operations.   

Under Reid’s leadership, Thomas Construction continues to be the contractor for major projects in the Wilmington area.
 
In March, the firm broke ground on the headquarters expansion for cloud banking software firm nCino at its Mayfaire campus, a project valued at $48 million.
 
The contractor’s other projects include the mixed-use redevelopment of the New Hanover County Government Center; Renaissance Apartments off Military Cutoff Road; new Autumn Hall office buildings; Wilmington Treatment Center; a Novant Health medical office building in Brunswick County; Brunswick Forest amenity center; and Eden Village, a tiny home village for the homeless and disabled in the Wilmington community.
 
Reid also currently serves on the board of the Cape Fear Club, the Surf Club and Eden Village.

Number of employees: 73

David Simmons

Former Chairman & CEO, PPD
 
David Simmons joined PPD in 2012 after spending 15 years at Pfizer, where he served as president and general manager of emerging markets. Under Simmons’ leadership, the company’s total enterprise value more than tripled and its employee base has doubled.
 
Why he’s an Influencer:
Simmons oversaw taking the Wilmington-headquartered contract research organization public last year.
 
In April, it was announced that PPD would be purchased by Thermo Fisher Scientific, a Massachusetts-based company with 80,000 employees that supplies products, equipment and services to health care and life-sciences organizations.
 
The deal, valued at $17.4 billion, closed on Dec. 8. At that time Simmons stepped down from his PPD role as planned. David Johnston, PPD's recent vice president and global head of clinical development services, is now serving as senior vice president and president of clinical research services for Thermo Fisher and will also serve on Thermo Fisher's leadership team.

After the transaction closed, PPD, which started in 1985 with just company founder Fred Eshelman, became part of Thermo Fisher’s Laboratory Products and Services segment.
 
PPD has more than 30,000 employees globally, 19% more than last September, Simmons said during the company’s third-quarter earnings call. About 1,800 of those workers have been locally based.

Editor's note: David Simmons' bio has been updated here for the online version to reflect the sale's closing, which took place after the magazine issue when to press.

Gene Smith

President, Brunswick Community College
 
Gene Smith was appointed president of Brunswick Community College in 2018 after spending five years at Wayne Community College in Goldsboro as vice president of academic and student services.
 
Why he’s an Influencer:
Brunswick Community College was named “Best College in America” by Smartasset.com this year based on an analysis of graduation and transfer rates, its student-to-faculty ratio, tuition rates and fees.
 
Smith oversees a team that provides workforce training and education to 1,692 students and 2,000 workforce continuing education students. He implemented the National Coalition of Certification Centers to provide industry-recognized credentials for technical and trade programs.
 
After construction began in 2019, Smith helped open a new health sciences building, which now serves the highest number of nursing and health science students in BCC’s history.
 
Recently, Smith has assisted in renovating the BCC cafeteria into the Douglas Terhune Center for Culinary Arts. He partners with Brunswick Business & Industry Development to help attract and retain talent in the region and nurtures relationships with industry leaders to ensure BCC programs are meeting area need.

Lynda Stanley

President, Dosher Memorial Hospital
 
Lynda Stanley has been with Dosher Memorial Hospital for more than 35 years serving in several roles including Dosher’s COO from 1986 until 2014 and as president of the Dosher Hospital Foundation.
 
Why she’s an Influencer:
Stanley was named interim president for the community hospital in Southport last year and took over the title permanently in October. Stanley also becomes CEO this month with the retirement of former chief medical officer Brad Hilaman from the hospital, which has 317 employees.
 
Earlier this year, Dosher broke even financially for the first time in over a decade and experienced a $4.5 million turnaround at the end of its fiscal year on Sept. 30. This financial profitability allows the hospital to continue to invest in workforce, programs and equipment to add services and make improvements to existing services.
 
In February Dosher became the first hospital in the region to offer robotic arm-assisted surgery for total knee replacements, enhancing its orthopedics program, and in October announced it was opening a pain management clinic.
 
First role at Dosher: Laboratory manager in 1986

Bill Vassar

Executive Vice President & General Manager, EUE/Screen Gems Studios
 
Bill Vassar has served EUE/ Screen Gems, which has 10 stages, for 23 years, facilitating over $1 billion in economic stimulus for the region. He started his career as a radio DJ and programmer, news reporter and station manager. He now provides film production assistance to major television networks and Hollywood studios.
 
Why he’s an Influencer:
2021 was a banner year for film in Wilmington, marking a major resurgence that was already underway. This year, he has assisted with major productions, including Lionsgate-Starz with Hightown, Universal Pictures with The Black Phone and Halloween Kills, Netflix with Echoes and Florida Man, Amazon with The Summer I Turned Pretty and Fox with Our Kind of People.
 
This year is breaking records for film in North Carolina and locally.
 
In his role, Vassar oversees marketing, finance and operations for one of the largest TV and film studios east of California.

Number of stages: 10

Cynthia Walsh

CEO, Brunswick County Association of Realtors
 
Cynthia Walsh has worked with the Brunswick County Association of Realtors for 15 years, serving as CEO since 2005.
 
Why she’s an Influencer:
In a frenzied residential real estate market in which multiple offers are the norm and inventory is low, Walsh leads an organization that provides tools and support to its 1,200 members. In February, she earned the Certified Association Executive accreditation from the American Society of Association Executives. Additionally, BCAR recently opened its new office, which includes an interactive classroom.

Walsh has worked with the Business Alliance for a Sound Economy and other groups to help advocate for a pro-business environment in Southeastern North Carolina. BCAR also supports Brunswick Business & Industry Development in its efforts to recruit jobs to Brunswick County.
 
For the second consecutive year, BCAR was awarded an innovation grant through NC Realtors to replicate the Realtors Vote campaign.
 
Walsh is also involved with Brunswick County’s Blueprint Brunswick planning effort and the Shallotte Riverfront Advisory Committee.

Margaret Weller-Stargell

President & CEO, Coastal Horizons Center
 
Margaret Weller-Stargell oversees Coastal Horizons Center’s 57-county service area and a $43 million budget. Named director in 1995, Weller-Stargell began her work in counseling at Coastal Horizons in 1985.
 
Why she’s an Influencer:
Coastal Horizons is frequently on the receiving end of public grant funding, most recently accepting $100,00 in November from the city of Wilmington to fund the temporary expansion of an ongoing overdose reduction and treatment program.
 
In September, the center announced it planned to expand its opioid treatment program to Brunswick County in Shallotte.
 
Weller-Stargell, who also is president of the Willie Stargell Foundation, has served with the Coastal Horizons for 36 years as it has grown into the largest human service organization in the region. The nonprofit provides substance use, family preservation, crisis intervention, school-based health, mental health and other services.

Weller-Stargell serves on the boards for the N.C. Medical Care Commission; N.C. Department of Health and Human Services Waiver Advisory Committee; N.C. Commission for Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities and Substance Abuse Services External Advisory Team; and N.C. Practice Improvement Collaborative on Substance Abuse.

Laurie Whalin

President, Novant Health Brunswick Medical Center-Coastal Market
 
After the sale of New Hanover Regional Medical Center to Novant Health earlier this year, Laurie Whalin moved from her role at NHRMC as vice president of clinical services to become head of Novant’s existing 74-bed hospital in Brunswick County.
 
Why she’s an Influencer:
Whalin is responsible for Brunswick Medical Center, including integrating the hospital into Novant’s Coastal Market that formed when it bought NHRMC.
 
She also has executive responsibilities across Novant’s new Coastal Market for oncology and neuroscience service lines, pharmacy, lab, respiratory and radiology services throughout its footprint in New Hanover, Brunswick and Pender counties.
 
During the pandemic, Whalin has co-led COVID operations during the past 18 months at NHRMC including vaccination efforts leading to 108,000 vaccines given through NHRMC.
 
She also played a key role in the expansion of oncology services to Brunswick County in Brunswick Forest, development of two medical office buildings in Brunswick County for expansion of specialty services and creation of the Neuroscience Institute on NHRMC’s 17th Street campus.

Construction on the Neuroscience Institute started in October for a 108-bed tower with four neuro operating rooms and two interventional suites for treatment of stroke, aneurysms, spine and brain surgery.

Cindee Wolf

Owner, Design Solutions
 
Land development consultant Cindee Wolf’s work in Wilmington goes back to the 1980s with the start of Landfall, a 2,200-acre gated community near Wrightsville Beach.
 
Why she’s an Influencer:
Wolf has been involved with hundreds of local residential, office and commercial developments since the 1980s. Wolf said she believes her success can be attributed to working out problematic issues of development plans before she presents them to various government panels that have to sign off on them.
 
The bulk of Wolf’s work is with professional developers but some of her most gratifying work, she said, has been with small business owners.
 
“They have previously occupied leased space, but their success has allowed them to pursue ownership of their own property,” Wolf said. “It is a thrill to work with them through the design, entitlement, construction and occupancy of their new business location.”

Landon Zimmer

Managing Partner, Zimmer Development Co.
 
Landon Zimmer’s firm, headquartered in Wilmington, is involved in mixed-use development projects through the Southeast and Midwest.
 
Why he’s an Influencer:
Zimmer is helping to lead Project Grace (which could soon be renamed), a mixed-use project to redevelop a city block in downtown Wilmington owned by New Hanover County.
 
In addition to working on Project Grace, Zimmer has helped lead rezoning efforts for more than a dozen real estate projects in the Southeast and Midwest, primarily focused on rehabilitating brownfields and infill development, totaling more than $1 billion of investment in formerly blighted and contaminated downtown areas.
 
Zimmer also impacts the region’s business community by serving on the N.C. Department of Transportation board and representing Division 3 as well as serving as an at-large member of the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission.

Out of state: Three of Zimmer’s most complex projects are in other communities: in downtown Tampa, Florida; a 15-acre site in the Brewery District of Columbus, Ohio; and a 40-acre site in Tallahassee, Florida, adjacent to Florida State University’s campus.

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

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