Welcome to Business North Carolina’s third Power 100 list of the state’s most influential business leaders. This year’s report features stories and interviews with 27 people including the state’s most powerful pork producer, the owner of the nation’s biggest furniture store, and the banker charged with reversing Wells Fargo’s deteriorating customer-service reputation.
North Carolina’s rapid growth as a major business center makes selecting the list more interesting — and difficult — each year. There are more powerful people than ever before. After taking suggestions from all corners and quizzing dozens of people for ideas, the editorial team settles on the names. We look for leaders who are representative of some broad categories of power:
• Institutional powerhouses, such as university presidents Vincent Price and Jose Sartarelli and hospital bosses Michael Waldrum and Julie Freischlag.
• Middle-of-the-action folks, creating a lot of activity and, sometimes, making a lot of money. Drug-discovery investor Fred Eshelman and venture capitalist David Gardner are examples.
• Outstanding entrepreneurs, including lending genius Doug Lebda and video-game superstar Tim Sweeney.
• Networking powerhouses, such as lawyer Rob Harrington and banker Jim Hansen.
• Pillars of commerce, such as software icon Jim Goodnight, auto dealer Don Flow and bank investor Chip Mahan.
• Public company CEOs including Susan DeVore, Lynn Good and Kelly King.
• Real estate kingpins including Andy Andrews and Roy Carroll.
• Singular talents who make major waves in their spheres. Examples this year include restaurateur Ashley Christensen and hip-hop star J. Cole.
• Thought leaders, including marketing experts such as Peggy Brookhouse and David Mullen.
We also look for geographic diversity without making it a major factor. As a statewide publication, we love telling stories of businesses and people outside the large metropolitan areas. But rapid growth in the Charlotte and Triangle regions and widespread industry consolidation are making those areas more dominant. It’s also an apparent contrast with North Carolina’s political environment in which lawmakers hailing from more rural areas remain in dominant positions. This list doesn’t include political leaders.
We also have a strong bias for those showing a shared concern for the broader community. Most on the list spend much time supporting efforts to improve North Carolina. Much of that work occurs out of the public limelight.
Nearly a third of this year’s list is made up of newcomers. Those entrants include Honeywell CEO Darius Adamczyk, who runs one of the nation’s 100 largest public companies; Andy Andrews, whose company is developing office towers in Charlotte and Raleigh; UNC System board chairman Randy Ramsey, who owns a small-town boat-building company; and Advance Auto Parts CEO Tom Greco, who heads Raleigh’s only Fortune 500 company.
As we note annually, it’s a subjective list. No doubt some of those who should be named are disappointed — while others are glad to be under the radar.
We look forward to hearing your thoughts.