The WilmingtonBiz 100: The Influencers | WilmingtonBiz

2023-01-09 21:00:18 By : Ms. Julia Zeng

Throughout his career, Autry has worked at nine GE manufacturing sites across the globe. 

This year, GE Aerospace Wilmington hired more than 60 new employees and has seen 20% growth, despite significant supply chain obstacles. The Wilmington team is currently crafting hardware for the world’s largest and most powerful aircraft engine, the GE9X. This engine was designed specifically for the Boeing 777X family of aircraft and is the most fuel-efficient instrument in its class, according to GE.   Cnc Machine Turning

The WilmingtonBiz 100: The Influencers | WilmingtonBiz

GE Aerospace has invested more than $120 million in Wilmington over the past five years, according to Autry, to support the introduction of its most complex products that service the commercial and military industries.  

As plant leader, Autry prioritizes workforce safety and product quality, delivery and cost. He also works with Cape Fear Community College to recruit and train future talent and engages with local middle and high schools to increase awareness of manufacturing.  

Before being named plant leader, Autry spent over two years as the plant’s senior operations manager. 

He obtained his bachelor’s in mechanical engineering from N.C. State University and a master’s in logistics, materials and supply chain management from Penn State. 

As LS3P’s chief relationships officer, Chris Boney oversees business development and leadership for the architecture firm’s offices across North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia.  WHY HE’S AN INFLUENCER: 

LS3P has been the architecture firm for major projects throughout the Wilmington area including redevelopment of the New Hanover County Government Center, Novant Health’s upcoming hospital in Scotts Hill and nCino’s Mayfaire campus, to name a few.

The firm this year marks the 100th anniversary of Boney Architects, which along the way merged with LS3P and became its Wilmington office.

Local buildings designed by Chris Boney through the years include Live Oak Bank’s midtown headquarters, the Wilson Center at Cape Fear Community College and the Betty H. Cameron Women’s and Children Hospital. Among his current projects are the expansion of Live Oak Bank’s campus and the city of Wilmington’s Gateway Project to build a multi-block mixed-use development on downtown’s northern waterfront. His work has been recognized with awards from AIA Wilmington, AIA North Carolina and AIA Southeastern as well as the Lower Cape Fear Stewardship Development Coalition for exceptional design and sustainable building practices. 

As a founding trustee for the New Hanover Community Endowment, Boney is among the stewards of the $1 billion fund allocated to promoting social and health equity in the community.  CHAMBER ROLE: Boney has also previously served as chairman of the Wilmington Chamber of Commerce and helped to establish the Cape Fear Future Fund. 

Rob Burrus has served since 2014 as dean of University of North Carolina Wilmington’s Cameron School of Business, where he holds responsibility for its budget, curriculum, programs, student success, hiring and retention. WHY HE’S AN INFLUENCER: 

ranked again this year in the top 60 on Poets&Quants list of Best Undergraduate Business Schools and on The Princeton Review’s list of Best Business Schools.

Enrollment continues to grow – currently at more than 2,800 students, and its MBA program has grown to more than 600 students. Over 95% of students placed in either a job or graduate school within six months of graduation.

Burrus oversaw the addition of a new program in cybersecurity, MBA specializations, management information systems, entrepreneurship and supply chain management.  WHAT’S NEXT: An MS degree in supply chain management is in the works as well as other programs in the financial technology and real estate sector. 

Wes Carter is the president of the Wilmington-based packaging and equipment distributor, made up of about 1,500 employees. Under his guidance, the company launched a sustainability initiative aimed at reducing plastic-centric packaging and replacing them with more environmentally minded, often fiber-based options. WHY HE’S AN INFLUENCER: 

Carter realized that as a leader of a large industrial packaging company in North America, he could directly enact environmentally friendly practices in his company and influence other industry partners to do so as well. 

This year, Atlantic Packaging officially launched A New Earth Project – an initiative made up of outdoor enthusiasts, industry – leading brands and environmentally conscious packaging suppliers to find and scale sustainable packaging solutions to stop plastic pollution. As part of the launch, which took place on Earth Day, the company released a new documentary series, Journey to a New Earth, as well as a catalog of recyclable mailers featuring a website with a collection of products that are 100% curbside recyclable, made from renewable resources and not harmful to wildlife and ecosystems. He also oversees the company’s own sustainability program, which has pledged to achieve net zero emission across the entire value chain by 2050. CONSERVATION CALLING: This fall, Atlantic Packaging and A New Earth Project partnered with Garden & Gun for the magazine’s inaugural Champions of Conservation to highlight scientists, advocates and groundbreakers working on conservation efforts to protect Southern ecosystems.

That board, along with New Hanover County commissioners, reviewed proposals from health systems to buy the county-owned New Hanover Regional and ultimately voted to sell it to Winston-Salem-based Novant Health.

After the purchase closed in February last year, the hospital trustees board transitioned to a new hospital board, the Novant Health Coastal Board of Managers, which Cook joined along with other former trustees, medical providers and regional representatives. OTHER BOARDS: Cook also has served on several local and state boards and committees including for CFCC Foundation; Friends School of Wilmington executive committee; Cape Fear Garden Club, assistant treasurer; Episcopal Farmworkers Ministry; Cape Fear Guardian ad Litem Association, vice president; Wilmington Central Rotary, vice chair; and WILMA’s Women to Watch Leadership Initiative’s advisory council.

As the county’s chief administrator, Chris Coudriet oversees all departments under the watch of the board of commissioners and manages a balanced operational budget for the county exceeding $500 million. WHY HE’S AN INFLUENCER: Under Coudriet’s tenure, the county has garnered a rare triple-A rating by Moody’s and S&P Global for its creditworthiness for the 10th-straight year while expanding services to residents, including increased funding for and investments in New Hanover County Schools and Cape Fear Community College. 

In October, the county moved to purchase the former Bank of America building in downtown Wilmington on behalf of CFCC to expand its nursing and health science offerings, an action motivated by efforts of a local coalition to address staff shortages in the health care industry. Other current projects include weighing ideas for what county officials want to see on the Cape Fear River’s downtown-facing west bank, wrapping up an expansive redevelopment of the county government center and continuing onward with plans for Project Grace, the county’s project to repurpose the downtown library and surrounding block into a development including the Cape Fear Museum. COUNTY STAFF: 2,047

Meaghan Dennison began her career with Cape Fear Collective in 2019, becoming one of the social impact nonprofit’s first hires with the role of managing programming and relationships with stakeholders. In 2022, she was named interim CEO and then became full-time CEO in May. WHY SHE’S AN INFLUENCER: 

While heading up the organization for just under a year, Dennison has moved several projects forward. 

During her time as CEO, Dennison oversaw the launch of CFC’s Healthy Communities Dashboard, a collection of community data and analysis part of the Healthy North Carolina 2030 initiative. 

One of CFC’s integral projects has been providing affordable housing in New Hanover County. In January, the organization closed on a portfolio of 68 single-family homes, which was purchased through Collective Ventures, a for-profit arm of the organization that provides social impact investment. 

Collective Ventures, in partnership with Live Oak Bank, First Bank, First National Bank, First Citizens and Dogwood State Bank, deployed close to $17 million into affordable housing and an affordable car ownership pilot. This year the investment arm has exceeded its initial investment goal. Under Dennison’s leadership, the team has also provided over $2.5 million in pro bono data science to support area nonprofits.

Dennison opened The Half with her husband and friends this year on Red Cross Street.

Dull has served on numerous civic and professional boards including the city of Wilmington Planning Commission (chairman of the board for four years) and the New Hanover County Planning Board (chairman for three years). In the past, he has also served on boards for Wilmington Business Development, the Wilmington-Cape Fear Home Builders Association, Wilmington Housing Authority and several banks. Dull also serves as an elected official for the Wrightsville Beach Board of Aldermen. PHILANTHROPY: Dull has organized a fundraiser for The Harrelson Center, A Day in the Country, for 10 years. He also continues to serve on the N.C. State University Foundation Board.

The company placed No. 353 on this year’s Inc. 5000 list of fastest-growing companies nationwide. It reported that Summit Logistics saw 1,654% growth over the past three years. 

During the past two years, under Fountain’s leadership, the third-party logistics company also has tripled its staff and plans to continue to hire as it grows.

The privately owned company is part of Summit Industrial Contractors. SPORTS BACKGROUND: Fountain played guard for UNCW’s basketball team between 2004 and 2008 and logged time as the head golf pro at Echo Farms Golf & Country Club.

His goals include going beyond restoring schools to pre-pandemic levels; Foust has set his sights on improving literacy rates in the district to 90% for students over the next three to five years. Foust has also pushed a districtwide initiative to enhance technology in classrooms, including a program currently underway to provide one-to-one electronic devices for all students by the 2025-26 school year. 

Other efforts include working to reorganize the county’s career and technical education programs to ensure they align with the local economy’s needs.

A longtime fixture of the local development community, Donna Girardot is a key stakeholder in a variety of local ventures. Girardot heads up the New Hanover County Planning Board and was named CIL Capital’s chief strategy officer in August.   WHY SHE’S AN INFLUENCER: As a member of the airport authority, Girardot helped lead the Wilmington International Airport (ILM) through a major growth period, notably including large developments this year. This summer, Girardot wrapped up her fourth term as chair of the New Hanover County Airport Authority, seeing it through the hiring of a new airport director, the opening of the extended terminal, the announcement of a planned hotel and millions in economic investment in the business park. One of those investors, CIL Capital, tapped Girardot as its chief strategy officer shortly after her tenure on the board ended. 

This year, Girardot was elected chair for a fourth term on the county planning board. As the previous head of the Wilmington-Cape Fear Home Builders Association and founder of Business Alliance for a Sound Economy, Girardot’s impacts landed her the prestigious The Order of the Long Leaf Pine Award from Gov. Roy Cooper in 2020.  FIRST IN FLIGHT: Girardot was named the first female chair of the airport authority in 2018.  

After making the jump from Alaska, Mouhcine Guettabi joined UNCW in August 2021 where he teaches as an associate professor of economics. He officially took over as regional economist in the spring.   WHY HE’S AN INFLUENCER: 

As a regional economist, Guettabi’s insights on economic activity and forecasts are highly sought after and utilized by various community organizations. His role is a public-facing one, including dozens of speaking engagements annually to offer reflections on economic conditions. Guettabi also serves as a professor at the university, guiding students through two courses on the principles of microeconomics.  

Before joining UNCW, Guettabi worked in a similar role as an associate professor of economics for the University of Alaska Anchorage, where he frequently testified before the legislature and worked with lawmakers on researching economic programs. Guettabi attended the University of Central Oklahoma and later earned a doctorate in economics with an emphasis on urban and regional economics from Oklahoma State University.  

Since moving to the region, Guettabi has crunched local data and is currently researching the economic consequences of remote work. PUBLISHED RESEARCH: Guettabi’s work has been published in various acclaimed academic journals, with research topics spanning a range of topics, including the Alaskan salmon industry, urban sprawl and obesity, universal cash transfers, stand-your-ground laws and more.

As co-owner and CEO of MegaCorp Logistics, Ryan Legg has fostered business growth from a company built from scratch. WHY HE’S AN INFLUENCER: 

economic development agencies announced that the Wilmington-based firm would expand in the area, with plans to hire more than 300 employees over the next five years. The company nearly doubled its local employment throughout the pandemic and added about 130 to its Wilmington team in 2021. 

MegaCorp brought in roughly $700 million in revenue last year, up from $50 million a decade ago. Legg and his wife, Denise, launched the third-party logistics business in Wilmington in 2009, the day a noncompete agreement with a former business partner expired. Earlier this year, the company purchased several properties around the Mayfaire area surrounding its current headquarters to help the company prepare for its planned expansion. MegaCorp is also expanding its presence in the Jacksonville, Florida, market.  

Ryan Legg is involved in community projects, including recently serving as chair of Home for Good: A Campaign for Permanent Solutions, a Good Shepherd initiative to build housing for the unsheltered population.   EMPLOYEE BASE: The company has 530 employees among its five locations, including 375 in Wilmington as of March.

Stephanie Mann has over 20 years of experience in advising companies on capital structure and growth strategies. As chief strategy officer, she is responsible for corporate strategy, development and strategic investments, including Live Oak Ventures and Live Oak Private Wealth. WHY SHE’S AN INFLUENCER: As the lender’s strategy officer, Mann oversees the company’s engagement with its partners and business community, which include the investment arms Live Oak Ventures and Live Oak Private Wealth. 

In her role, Mann leads Live Oak Bank’s fintech partnership strategy, including investments and partnerships with Live Oak spinoffs Apiture and nCino and other companies such as DefenseStorm, Kwipped and Vantaca. 

Some Live Oak Ventures investments this year included to Apiture and Asset Class, a fintech firm based in Dublin, Ireland, and more. 

Mann is involved in the bank’s strategic planning process and is working on investments for the venture’s portfolio. This year, Live Oak Ventures, announced it has exited its investment in Payrailz, a digital payments platform, recently acquired by Jack Henry & Associates Inc. Officials anticipate an estimated pre-tax gain of about $28 million. BUSINESS BACKGROUND: Mann was previously a managing director of investment banking at Citi, where she advised Fortune 500 technology companies and worked on more than $125 billion in M&A transactions.

Representing a network of business interests in the region, Tyler Newman advocates for policy-related changes at the local and state government levels.   WHY HE’S AN INFLUENCER: 

The Business Alliance for a Sound Economy (BASE) serves a coalition of businesses and associations in the Cape Fear region. Newman was named president and CEO in 2016 and previously worked on the city of Wilmington’s management team as special assistant to the city manager for legislative affairs. 

As BASE’s leader, Newman regularly works with an array of legislators, local elected officials, regulators, industry organizations and business leaders. He is a registered lobbyist and frequents Raleigh to advance regional business interests at the General Assembly. 

BASE works with the Wilmington Chamber of Commerce, Wilmington-Cape Fear Home Builders Association and local Realtor organizations to identify common issues. Newman diagnoses these issues and communicates them to lawmakers and regulators, focusing on common themes including infrastructure funding, regulatory framework, economic development, shoreline funding, development ordinances, elections and more.  

Recent focuses include returning Brunswick County to the Wilmington Metropolitan Statistical Area, streamlining stormwater permitting at the regional N.C. Department of Environmental Quality office, transportation alternatives for the Cape Fear Memorial Bridge and more. PREVIOUS LOBBYING: Before moving to Wilmington from Atlanta in 2007, Newman worked as regulatory affairs director for the Home Builders Association of Georgia.

Chris Norvell leads the efforts of Edgewater Ventures in the acquisition and development of industrial assets throughout the Carolinas and the Southeast.  WHY HE’S AN INFLUENCER: Norvell and his company are having a major impact on the industrial sector of Wilmington’s economy. In July, Norvell announced that Edgewater Ventures, in partnership with McKinley Building Corp., would be developing its second building at Wilmington Trade Center on U.S. 421, following the completion of the 157,610-square-foot Building 1. 

“Wilmington Trade Center Building Two is Edgewater Ventures’ second ground-up development in the Wilmington market and will add to the company’s industrial portfolio in the area, which will grow to approximately 1.5 million square feet,” according to a news release. AIRPORT PLANS: Late last year, officials announced that Edgewater Ventures and CIL Capital LLC are bringing a combined $120 million in investment to Wilmington International Airport’s business park through two separate projects.


Parker was hired to help revamp Wave Transit to better serve the Wilmington area’s mass transportation needs. 

Planned service reductions were paused due to Parker’s advocacy and a joint committee was formed to discuss sustainable sources of support for Wave, resulting in a proposed quarter-cent sales tax to support public transportation on the November election ballots. The measure, however, failed to get enough votes to pass. In the meantime, the organization has taken on several new initiatives under her guidance, including the launch of a microtransit program that offers rides in Brunswick, New Hanover and Pender counties similar to those available on rideshare apps. 

This year, Wave improved its service with increased stop frequency during peak hours for some of its routes and the addition of new bus stops, including one at the YWCA Lower Cape Fear. Other recent initiatives involve modernizing the public transit experience for customers with a mobile app to allow riders to book rides, track buses along their routes in real time or purchase bus fare. TRANSIT AWARD: Under Parker’s leadership, Wave Transit scooped up statewide recognition by the N.C. Public Transportation Association in April with the designation of Transit System of the Year due to its innovative expansion of services.


The brothers were inspired to open the first Drift location by their experience as professional surfers. 

They credit their commitment to memorably serving both customers and team members for the business’s rapid growth despite their lack of industry experience; in their own words, their accomplishments stem from a “determination to do better each day and make something good.” 

The brothers moved into their first Wilmington location in Autumn Hall in 2017, followed by another in Mayfaire Town Center in 2019. This year, two new Drift locations popped up in the Wilmington area: one in downtown Wilmington as well as Drift Cafe in Wrightsville Beach, where the brothers tweaked the original concept to include table service with an expanded menu of food and drink options.  CAFÉ INSPIRATION: Traveling the world, the brothers found themselves at home in local cafes and initially wanted to replicate the experience in a cafe of their own.

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 continues to be one of the contractors of choice for major projects in the Wilmington area.

Projects this year in Wilmington alone include the mixed-use redevelopment of the New Hanover County Government Center; nCino’s new corporate headquarters and parking deck; new Autumn Hall office buildings and Origins restaurant; a new medical office building for Novant Health in Brunswick County; and Eden Village, a tiny home village for the homeless and disabled in the Wilmington community. UPCOMING PROJECT: The company announced on its website that it has entered into a pre-construction agreement with Bella Vista Development in partnership with Craig Davis Properties for Paseo, a mixed-use project planned to hold 298 residential units, about 15,000 square feet of commercial space and a parking deck on South College Road. Construction is expected to begin in 2023.

Leslie Smith has worked as a general contractor for more than two decades, starting L.S. Smith Inc. in Wilmington 17 years ago. WHY HE’S AN INFLUENCER: 

Having focused on multifamily construction for so long, Smith wanted to do something different, envisioning a unique community in Wilmington around what was then his Queen Street home. 

“I always wanted to build something with shipping containers,” Smith said, a feature that inspired the Cargo District’s name. “And then one day my wife was like, ‘You should just do it because you’re not going to stop thinking about it until you do.’”

These days, the area he’s worked to create, which centers around Queen Street between 15th and 16th streets, is a growing mixed-use sector. The district includes numerous offices, restaurants and other businesses, as well as apartments made from shipping containers. 

Smith and partners have continued to accumulate properties to expand the revitalized area, recently buying a Wrightsville Avenue shopping center. He’s also reviving pre-COVID plans to create a food court in the city block bordered by 15th, 16th, Castle and Queen streets. The food court will include all local eateries in shipping containers, Smith said. 

LATEST TENANT: Smith’s vision has lured a variety of tenants to the district, including Bull City Ciderworks. The company opened its fifth taproom in the Cargo District, in the former Superior Millwork Building on 17th Street that Smith bought for $500,000 in February 2021. Through the Cargo District, Smith created an atmosphere similar to where Bull City’s other taprooms are located, said Bull City Ciderworks CEO John Clowney.

Brunswick Community College provides workforce training and education for 1,750 curriculum students and more than 2,000 continuing education students. The college’s recent investments in workforce training include repurposing an existing facility into the Myong and Paul Jensen Workforce Development Center to provide trades education. 

The college also recently received a Golden LEAF Foundation grant to buy an eight-axis CNC machine to support machining technology in the region. That type of training from the college also helped Brunswick County economic development officials convince Precision Swiss Products to move its East Coast headquarters to Leland.

The school has implemented National Coalition of Certification Centers industry-recognized certifications for technical and trades program students.

The college’s first graduates of its new culinary arts program graduated, and the school partnered with Brunswick Electric Membership Corp. to begin an electrical lineworker program. SCHOOL BOARD: Smith serves on the American Association’s Commission on Small and Rural Colleges Commission.

Since 2007, Sosne and his companies have completed more than $400 million in construction and development in North Carolina and South Carolina. 

After graduating from UNCW, he realized there was a need for student housing and started developing dedicated student housing in Wilmington to serve the growing enrollment at UNCW and CFCC.

Sosne turned to building market-rate and workforce housing apartment communities upon selling the student housing portfolio to a national student housing operator in 2013. He started a retail home building division in 2010, originally by buying lots and land inventory that had been foreclosed on by banks during the Great Recession with a focus on building affordable homes geared toward entry-level and first-time, move-up buyers. His company also amassed over 1,500 acres in southern Pender County and is working with planning officials to shape how that area will be developed over the next several decades.  CURRENT PROJECTS: Work includes The Landing at Lewis Creek, a 439-unit residential development on 86 acres on Gordon Road of single-family homes, townhomes and apartments. Silo Ridge is a more than 300-lot, build-to-rent subdivision in the Scotts Hill area of southern Pender County. Sosne and his team are also currently working on planning and zoning of a 200-unit workforce housing complex on land near Monkey Junction in Wilmington and two residential subdivisions in Hampstead.

Through Greenfield, Spinks was tapped to present New Hanover County with a wide-ranging economic development review and report that now serves as an update to the 2014 report performed by Garner Economics. 

In Greenfield’s recent report, “Economic Mobility,” the firm identified several strengths and weaknesses of the area.  

In her career, Spinks has split her time on each side of the economic development equation: as a community recruiter marketing industrial locations, as an owner buying industrial properties and as a site-selection consultant. 

Spinks has previously served on the N.C. Economic Developers Association’s board. LICENSES: In addition to holding a real estate broker license, Spinks holds an FAA private pilot license.  

Lynda Stanley served as Dosher Memorial Hospital's COO between 1986  and 2014 when she became president of the hospital’s foundation. In February 2020, she was appointed as the hospital’s president, and in December 2021 was appointed as its CEO. WHY SHE’S AN INFLUENCER: Southport’s critical access hospital. Dosher employs 350 people, making it an economic driver for the surrounding communities as well.

In recent years and during Stanley’s leadership, the hospital has been able to turn its financial health around. It closed its 2020 fiscal year with a net loss of $1.2 million. It finished up the following fiscal year with a total net gain of $11.2 million and it is expected to show a net operating income for 2022. The funds allowed the hospital to up its minimum wage to $15 an hour and give employees a one-time $1,000 bonus. EXPANDING TECH: Dosher plans to begin offering teleneurology, allowing the community hospital to provide emergency care of a higher acuity for a patient who may be having a stroke or another neurological event.

Included in the Swains’ extensive development portfolio is The Forum, a shopping center on Military Cutoff Road that was one of the heralds of high-dollar, high-profile construction that came in subsequent years to the corridor.

During the early phase of his career, David Swain developed and constructed in excess of 45 apartment complexes.  

Since 1979, a division of Swain & Associates has specialized in the development of retail shopping centers and has developed, constructed or redeveloped about 80 properties.

After graduating from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2002, Jason Swain joined the Swain & Associates team to learn the family business. Today, he is involved in all new projects the company undertakes and oversees all elements of the development process including property acquisition, project leasing and financing. COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT: The son of a schoolteacher, David Swain and his wife in 2009 donated $1 million to UNCW to found the Swain Center for Business and Economic Services. Jason Swain is a member of the International Council of Shopping Centers, a member of the board of the Swain Center and a member of St. Andrews-Covenant Presbyterian Church.

These days, Thomas oversees high-level operations for each of Monteith Construction’s construction projects. One of the most notable sites in the Wilmington area is the Wilmington International Airport (ILM). According to company officials, an expansion/renovation project in the early 2000s at ILM initially brought Monteith Construction and Thomas to Wilmington, eventually leading the company to relocate its headquarters here from Monroe. “That early history with ILM makes Monteith Construction’s current work on the terminal expansion and renovation all the more meaningful,” officials said.

In 2018, the company worked to repair dozens of New Hanover County schools following damage from Hurricane Florence. The next year brought the opening of Girls Leadership Academy of Wilmington (GLOW) built by Monteith. In 2021 came the launch of Spotlight, Monteith Construction’s renovation, upfit and specialty project division. In 2022, the firm opened a larger office in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, to expand operations and local ties across the Grand Strand Region. CURRENT WORK: Among Monteith’s projects in the Cape Fear Region outside of the airport are Live Oak Bank Building 4, The Davis Community campus renovation, SPARK Academy Early Childhood Development Center and the renovation and expansion of the Brunswick County Courthouse.

WHY HE’S AN INFLUENCER: Thompson serves as vice-chair of the board for Wilmington Downtown Inc. WDI has supported numerous economic development initiatives in recent years, including redevelopment of the Soda Pop District, the city’s Gateway Project on the northern waterfront and Project Grace as well as its small business microloan program.

Similarly, Thompson brings his professional experience to bear while serving on the New Hanover County Airport Authority Board since 2018, including his current tenure as chair since July. His business experience comes at a time when the airport has seen a flurry of business development on its grounds, including the announcement in April of a long-awaited hotel coming to the airport by 2024. PRIOR ROLE: Before joining Cape Fear Commercial, Thompson served as president and CEO of 1stAtlantic Properties Inc.

Raiford Trask III is responsible for all aspects of day-to-day management, strategic planning and long-range planning for Trask Land Co.  WHY HE’S AN INFLUENCER: With roots starting in the 18th century, the Trask family’s influence on the Cape Fear region goes back hundreds of years. They first made a name for themselves as successful lettuce farmers and then landowners and prominent developers. These days, Raiford Trask III continues to be closely involved in numerous developments, bringing in new lifestyle concepts to Wilmington such as Total Wine in Trask Land Co.’s Renaissance Market and a new residential opportunity for active adults in the Blake Farm community. Trask was also essential in not only creating but executing the overall vision of the popular mixed-use community Autumn Hall.

Trask has been making investments in his company’s future. In September, a partnership between Cameron Management, Trask Land Co., SHP Acquisitions and Charlotte-based Collett Capital announced its $30 million purchase of Landfall Center.  

The Food Lion-anchored shopping center at 1319 Military Cutoff Road includes a variety of businesses, from local favorites such as Lovey’s Market to bigger stores like Havertys Furniture and Dollar Tree. Built in the 1980s, decades before Mayfaire Town Center’s first store began welcoming shoppers, Landfall Center sits on about 17 acres.  ACCOLADES: Trask has been the recipient of numerous awards through the years, including recognition from the American Planning Association’s North Carolina chapter and the city of Wilmington. He previously served on the UNC Board of Governors, completing a four-year term in 2015.


CFPUA recently outlined a capital improvement plan to guide the next 10 years of improvements to the region’s water and sewer infrastructure so local utilities can meet demand as Southeastern North Carolina continues to grow. 

Fast-growing communities in northern New Hanover County, for example, will benefit from investment of more than $32 million to build a northern pump station and force mains. Additionally, the organization is currently working with the town of Wrightsville Beach to determine the feasibility of merging the two water systems. PFAS UPDATE: Waldroup joined CFPUA in the midst of a yearslong effort to mediate dangerous levels of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, in the region’s drinking water, primarily through eight granulated activated carbon filters installed at the Sweeney Water Treatment Plant. He guided the project to its completion and in October, when installation was complete, water tested at the Sweeney plant was free of PFAS contamination.

Zachary Welch was appointed executive director of EmergeOrtho’s Coastal Region in April. He previously served as CEO of Wake Orthopaedics in Raleigh for nine years and as practice administrator of Advanced Laparoscopic Associates, a general and bariatric surgery practice in Raleigh. WHY HE’S AN INFLUENCER: 

In his role now with EmergeOrtho, Welch is in a leadership position for one of the largest physician-owned orthopedic practices in the country. EmergeOrtho has grown statewide and locally through a series of mergers and acquisitions.

Some of his current projects include expanding EmergeOrtho Orthopedic Urgent Care (formerly known as AccessOrtho) to more regional locations; hiring more providers including physicians, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, physical therapy and occupational therapy specialists, athletic trainers and a psychologist; and implementing new communications for patients such as secure texting and patient self-scheduling. Regional workforce: EmergeOrtho’s Coastal Region, which includes 11 office locations in Southeastern North Carolina, employs about 450 people.

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