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Scholarship to online college targets rural residents

Online university WGU offering scholarship targeting rural residents.

Thanks to a sympathetic boss, an understanding family, and some patient instructors I have a bachelor’s degree in mass communications from UNC Asheville, class of 1994. I am a 1983 graduate of Georgia Christian School, but I’ll let you do the math.

I went back to college in August 1991 to finish my degree, a month after my first child, Allison, was born. I had a full-time job at The (Morganton) News Herald at the time. Classes were relatively easy compared to the 60-mile drive one way to attend classes and go to work, although I was living between the two near the small town of Old Fort, 2021 population of 815, at the time. This was before widespread internet and online courses.

But I did finish, and I’m glad I did it.

I thought about those days last week when something found its way inside my email box.  

A 100% online college in North Carolina has targeted a scholarship offer to the state’s 4.1 million residents who live in rural areas and may face obstacles of distance, time and money toward earning a bachelor’s or master’s degree. The 4.1 million figure comes from the N.C. Rural Center.

Utah-based WGU, which stands for Western Governors University, introduced a “Learn Where You Live” scholarship worth up to $3,000 and awarded at $750 per six-month term. The scholarships are available to new or returning WGU students living in rural areas of North Carolina, defined by U.S. Census Bureau data as communities of approximately 2,500 or fewer residents.

“If you can’t get in your car and drive to your local community college or university, maybe you can plug in at night and get some classes toward a degree,” says Glenn Gillen, a spokesman for WGU who works in its Durham office.

More than 4,300 WGU students are currently enrolled in North Carolina, and more than 7,000 alumni live in the state, according to WGU. The nonprofit began in 1999 for nontraditional students, and signed an affiliate agreement with North Carolina in 2017 for accreditation.

Online university WGU offering scholarship targeting rural residents. Classes are 100% online. Here, a WGU employee talks to people at a conference.

Many people in rural areas of the state just can drive an hour or more to sit in a college classroom, especially if they have work or family obligations, says Gillen.

“One of our missions is to be the most inclusive university, and that includes underserved populations,” says Gillen.

WGU courses are based on a competency model, meaning once a student has shown proficiency in a particular subject, the student can move on to the next course. Rather than traditional semesters, courses are offered in six-month terms and students have access to class instruction 24 hours a day via broadband internet. WGU also assigns a mentor to each student from that person’s field of study to help bridge any online learning gaps.

WGU offers more than 80 degrees surrounding four areas, education, healthcare, information technology and business. An area of study popular now is cyber security, Gillen said.

A six-month term costs between $3,700 and $4,000, but because courses are competency based a person can take as many or as few as they want to in that period and pay the same price. Students work at their own pace within the six-month period.

The scholarships may also benefit the 1 million-plus North Carolina residents who have some college, but no degree or certificate.

The UNC System launched a separate initiative, called Project Kitty Hawk, to try to help these students get back on track to earn a degree that could lead to higher pay and job security.

“Sometimes people have borrowed money and gone into debt to go to college, but they have no degree to get a job,” says Gillen. “We’re an option for working adults to earn a bachelor’s or master’s degree in one of these four colleges and then position themselves for the opportunity to get into a better career.”

The scholarship application deadline is June 30 and more information is available at

No way am I saying an online university would be the best option for everyone, but it might make it easier for some to earn a college degree.

NC golf: Industry experts helped pick 15 leaders who play influential roles in the state’s golf industry


Identifying 15 key people behind golf’s big impact in North Carolina is a question we posed to a dozen veteran golf industry executives and journalists. They came up with this list that includes touring and club professionals, course designers, fashion innovators, event organizers and industry titans. They share a passion for golf and have used their significant expertise to cultivate the game throughout North Carolina and beyond.


Mark Brazil
Wyndham Championship

Brazil has been CEO of the Gate City’s PGA Tour event since September 2021 after serving as tournament director for two decades. The Asheville native previously was executive vice president at the American Junior Golf Association. He is on the PGA Tour’s Tournament Advisory Council. Though not one of the tour’s new elevated events, the Wyndham continues to enjoy an enviable calendar spot as the final tournament before the FedEx Cup playoffs begin.


Scott Davenport
PGA head professional
Quail Hollow Club

Davenport has extended North Carolina’s influence in golf in his role at the exclusive private club that has hosted the Wells Fargo Championship since 2003. Quail Hollow also held the PGA Championship in 2017 and the Presidents Cup competition last year. He has mentored many young golf professionals including Charles Frost at Winston-Salem’s Old Town Club, Eric Williamson at Charlotte Country Club and Kevin Reardon at Providence Country Club in Charlotte.


Tom Fazio
golf course architect

The acclaimed course designer arrived in Western North Carolina in the mid-1980s to design Wade Hampton Golf Club in Cashiers. That jump started a 20-year run of prolific design that resulted in 17 Fazio designs in the Tar Heel State, ranging from the mountains to the coast and more than 200 layouts around the globe. No living architect has more credits on Golf Digest’s list of America’s 100 Greatest Golf Courses and that magazine’s poll for Best Modern Day Golf Course Architect was discontinued after Fazio claimed it three straight times.


Johnny Harris
chairman, CEO
Lincoln Harrisz

The Charlotte developer and civic leader is also well-known as the leader of Quail Hollow Club, the elite course built on his family’s land in south Charlotte. He has been president of the PGA Tour’s Wells Fargo Championship since 1988, and is a longtime member of Augusta National Golf Club. The Charlotte club will host the PGA Championship in 2025. Harris’ son, Johno, was general chairman of the 2022 Presidents Cup at Quail Hollow.


Jim Hyler Jr.
former president
U.S. Golf Association

The former senior executive of Raleigh-based First Citizens Bank served a 12-year stint on the USGA’s main board, eventually serving as president. He helped found The First Tee chapter in Raleigh and serves on the rules committee at Augusta National Golf Club. The founding board member and club president at Old Chatham Golf Club in Chatham County and former club president at Biltmore Forest Country Club in Asheville was elected to the Carolinas Golf Hall of Fame in 2019.


Reg Jones
managing director of Open Championships
U.S. Golf Association

Jones is a veteran of the USGA and Pinehurst Championship Management, having led operations for many U.S. Open and U.S. Women’s Open events since the 1990s. He was promoted to his current post in 2015 and handled outside-the-ropes strategy and operations for all four USGA Opens – the U.S. Open, the U.S. Women’s Open, the U.S. Senior Open and the newly-created U.S. Senior Women’s Open. When the Henderson native worked for Pinehurst Championship Management, he was a leader in major national tournaments in the 1990s and 2000s.


Chris Knott
chief merchandising officer

A world-wide influencer in golf fashion, Knott founded Peter Millar, based in Raleigh, helping build it into one of golf’s premier sportswear brands. After leaving Peter Millar, which is now owned by Switzerland luxury goods giant Richemont SA, Knott joined Los Angeles-based johnnie-O in 2015 as chief merchandising officer, moving sales, design and marketing offices to Raleigh. The company is now a growing competitor in the golf menswear sector. 


James Ledford
Golf Pride
Southern Pines

Ledford heads the largest manufacturer of golf grips, operating in six nations. Golf Pride has been transforming from a supplier to club manufacturers into its own brand, and now ranks among the nation’s top 10 golf equipment suppliers at retail. Golf Pride’s 36,000-square-foot innovation center and headquarters debuted in 2019 near the entrance of Pinehurst Resort’s No. 8 course. Previously, Ledford was a vice president at Callaway Golf.


Bobby Long
Piedmont Triad Charitable Foundation

The former owner of a specialty-insurance brokerage, Long revitalized the PGA Tour’s Wyndham Championship (formerly the Greater Greensboro Open) by convincing local leaders of the tournament’s importance in economic development and charitable funding in the Triad. The tournament has helped unite the business communities in Winston-Salem, Greensboro, High Point and Burlington. He’s also a leader at Eagle Point Golf Club in Wilmington.


John McConnell
founder & CEO
McConnell Golf

The former medical software mogul founded McConnell Golf in 2003 and has built a portfolio of premier private clubs. Including managed and owned properties, the business oversees 13 private golf courses, two semi-private courses and one 27-hole public course in four  Southeastern states. The Korn Ferry Tour’s UNC Health Championship presented by Stitch will be played at McConnell’s first course, Raleigh Country Club, after 18 years at another McConnell venue, The Country Club at Wakefield Plantation in North Raleigh.


Kelly Miller
president & CEO
Pine Needles Lodge
Southern Pines

Last year, Miller’s resort hosted its fourth U.S. Women’s Open Championship in the past three decades, while the USGA has hosted three other championships there. Miller’s team recently oversaw the restoration of Southern Pines Golf Club, a Donald Ross design previously owned by the local Elks Club. The former University of Alabama golfer is also a noted golfer, having won many key amateur events in the Carolinas.


Ran Morrissett
architecture editor
GOLF Magazinez
Southern Pines

Morrissett manages the oldest ranking of the “Top 100 Courses in the World” and he also manages GOLF’s “Top 100 Courses in the U.S.” In 1999, Morrissett established, the game’s epicenter for the study of golf course architecture. The platform has become a virtual Library of Congress, a one-stop-shop highlighting golf course presentation, playability and design.


Jack Nance
executive director
Carolinas Golf Association
Southern Pines

Nance heads the country’s second-largest allied golf association, spanning North and South Carolina. He arrived at the group in 1984 and was promoted to his current position in 1992. An important affiliate is the Carolinas Golf Foundation, which was founded in 1977 to support a variety of golf initiatives. The Clinton native played golf for Wake Forest University, and remained there for two years following graduation as the assistant golf coach.


Tom Pashley
Pinehurst Resort

Pashley has spent nearly three decades at the Dedman family-owned “Home of American Golf,” and was named president in 2014.  During his tenure, the resort has embarked on numerous additions  to broaden its appeal, such as a redesign of Pinehurst No. 4, the Cradle short course and conversion of a steam plant into a barbecue and craft beer destination. Meanwhile, the USGA is establishing a second headquarters in Pinehurst, with offices, a new equipment-testing facility, an innovation hub and a museum/visitor center. The Augusta, Georgia native earned a bachelor’s degree at the University of Georgia and has a Duke University MBA.


Harold Varner III p
rofessional golfer
LIV Golf Tour

While the fan favorite golf pro caused a stir with his move last year to the controversial LIV Golf tour, Varner is doing many positive things around his home state. The HV3 Foundation is a mentor program that grew to 42 mentors and 60 mentees in its first year, working with First Tee Greater Charlotte. The foundation partners with the Carolinas Golf Association to conduct the HV3 Invitational, which enables participants to experience a “tour quality” event at an affordable price. He grew up in Gastonia and played collegiate golf at East Carolina University.


Craft renewing: A Morganton manufacturer excels with artisans crafting luxury furniture for discerning consumers


Cindy Hood’s left hand holds the base of the unfinished dining room chair, while her right hand cradles a small electric sander that glides across its legs. She’s been making furniture for 30 years, so she speaks with authority.

“It’s time-consuming,” says Hood, a craftsperson at Chaddock Furniture Workroom in Morganton, while allowing neither her eyes nor her hands to stray from the smooth maple grain. “So many sides. Everything has to be flush.”

One might envision Hood as a lone artisan, working in a shop behind her home in this Burke County foothills town of 18,000 residents. Instead, Hood performs her job in a 150,000-square-foot building, a former Hanes textile factory where dozens of craftspeople are making high-end, made-to-order furniture. Machines aid workers in cutting raw material, while further down the line others apply finish by hand. Elsewhere, workers meticulously hand-tie the springs in a cushioned chair to help guarantee the seat offers “a good ride” for years to come.

A few steps away, Martin Cazares uses a small metal tool to make scratches and dings to distress a maple console, which will then be sanded and have 20 to 25 coats of finish applied, each coating adding character.

These tricks of the trade come from years of experience, not mimicked from a YouTube video or mass produced on a factory floor.

“You almost have to have a lesson in antiquing and how things would age,” says Chaddock President Kevin Ward, describing Cazares’ work. “We have artisans and craftsmen who work here. It takes a special person to want to do what we do. Someone who will say, ‘It’s my job to create a beautiful piece of furniture that will last for generations.’”

While the average sofa lasts just six years, the 200 or so employees at Chaddock Furniture Workroom take a different approach. Sustainability in industry, says Chaddock CEO Andrew Crone, can also be defined by making something that will last.  

“This is the way it was done 50, 60, 70 years ago, but we still do it that way because we think that’s our customer,” he says. “It’s the finest homes in America that our products are going to live in, and that’s really cool.” 

Those homes include the most famous one in the nation’s capital. After the spring High Point Furniture Market last year, Chaddock Furniture sent a dining room table and a coffee table from its Mark D. Sikes collection to Jill Biden’s office in the East Wing of the White House.


North Carolina’s furniture manufacturing tradition has its roots in the 1800s, when Moravian artisans located in present-day Winston-Salem and Quakers in Randolph and Rowan counties created pieces that remain highly coveted by collectors and museums.

In 1890, six North Carolina businesses produced an estimated $159,000 worth of furniture. Ten years later, 44 furniture factories operated in Hickory, High Point, Marion and other towns, reporting $1.5 million in sales, according to a 2020 report by John Mullin, a researcher at the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond.

The industry took off after World War II thanks to a booming U.S. housing market. During the 1960s and 1970s, no significant offshore competition existed as North Carolina became the nation’s top producer of upholstered and wooden household furniture. It ranked as the state’s second-largest manufacturing industry, behind textiles and apparel.

By 1990, more than 90,000 people worked in North Carolina furniture manufacturing. But a 1999 trade agreement with China opened the door to imports from Asia. In just 10 years, between 1999 and 2009, North Carolina’s furniture industry lost more than half of its jobs as companies shut down or consolidated. In 1994, China exported $241 million worth of wood furniture to the U.S. Ten years later, that number grew more than 17 times, to $4.2 billion. By 2016, 73.5% of all furniture sold in America was imported, according to the Fed report.

The shift in manufacturing was initiated not by Chinese industrialists, but by North Carolina manufacturers who “sought cost advantages that could put them ahead in what has historically been, and remains to this day, a highly competitive industry,” Mullin wrote.

In recent years, U.S. furniture manufacturers have benefited from increased tariffs on Chinese imports. Companies also have recognized the increased expense of making furniture overseas because of shipping costs and rising labor costs in China. More than 35,000 people work in North Carolina’s furniture industry today, a number that has held steady in recent years.

Some North Carolina manufacturers, such as Chaddock, have responded by targeting the luxury market.


Guy Chaddock started his furniture company in his native California, basing its reputation on its high-quality finishes, says Crone, who grew up in Hickory and started his career at Lane Home Furnishings after graduating from UNC Chapel Hill in 2011. He joined Chaddock in sales and marketing in 2016 and was appointed CEO the next year.

In 2004, Guy Chaddock & Co. was about to close in Bakersfield, California, when North Carolina furniture executives Darrell Ferguson and Fred Copeland swooped in and moved operations to Morganton. Their Ferguson Copeland and Chaddock brands operated as separate entities until 2013. Ferguson Copeland, which imported furniture and finished it in North Carolina, was phased out when Chaddock began focusing on the made-in-America model.

That decision appears to have paid off as Chaddock revenue increased nearly 70% over the past five years, Crone says. He declined to provide more details.

Principal owners are brothers Peter and Paul Kennedy, who were also initial owners and investors in Ferguson Copeland. Their late father, Wall Street executive Peter Kennedy, owned furniture company Drexel Heritage in the 1970s and 1980s. Drexel Heritage, which was one of the largest U.S. manufacturers, emerged from Drexel Furniture, which began in 1903 in the Burke County town of that name.

The Unifour counties of Alexander, Burke, Catawba and Caldwell have a long history of furniture manufacturing, boasting companies with global operations including Vanguard Furniture and Century Furniture.

Chaddock’s leaders say the company’s success stems from customizing furniture from heights to widths and finishes to colors, for designers to place in opulent homes, hospitality spots and luxury senior living communities.

“Six years ago, we looked at a path forward and how we wanted to compete,” says Crone. “And we decided to take something people loved about us and just focus on that.”

The company changed its name to Chaddock Furniture Workroom “to celebrate our history of quality, craftsmanship and custom capabilities,” he says. The rebranding is “more representative of our way of working and also to show that we aren’t here to just make furniture but to support and promote the design community.”

“It’s taken us years to get where we are today,” adds Ward, who joined Chaddock as president in 2018 after leadership positions at High Point-based Baker Interiors Group and Hickory Chair.

Like many manufacturers, Chaddock places a major emphasis on the biennial High Point Furniture Market, which is slated for April 22-26. Putting its products before thousands of furniture retailers and designers helps potential customers get a feel for the brand and its quality. 

About 60% of Chaddock Furniture Workroom sales go to designers. The balance of sales are at retail stores, where customers can choose between fabrics, finishes and other elements.

Retail prices for chairs range from $2,000 to $6,000, sofas from $4,000 to $9,000, and dining tables, $5,000 to $12,000.

Customization, such as altering the length, width or depth elements, makes up about 20% of the company’s business. That usually adds additional costs that depend on the complexity of the request. Chaddock is able to produce a 17-foot dining room table or a sectional sofa that can seat an entire sorority house, with 95% of the work is done at its Morganton plant. 

“You can do what you want in almost every case, and we’ll do it for you,” says Ward.


To score in the luxury market, Chaddock cultivates partnerships with industry trendsetters, such as Sikes, based in Los Angeles, and other famous designers like Mary McDonald, Larry Laslo, and the late David Easton. At last fall’s High Point Furniture Market, Chaddock debuted an exclusive line from Houston-based designer Ben Johnston, whose collection of case goods, tables, chairs and upholstery was cited as one of the event’s best debuts by the Business of Home industry publication.

“There can sometimes be this ‘Amazon’ mindset where people assume products drop off of a magic conveyor belt in the sky,” says Johnston. “However, I’m in the business of selling luxury, and I love telling Chaddock’s story, highlighting the fact that there are real people making these heirloom-quality pieces.

“Yes, clients are seeking furniture, but they also want a story; they want to be sold on the romance of the pieces they are investing in,” says Johnston.

Cass Beshears and Darlene Allen assemble an oak side table at Chaddock’s Morganton plant.


About 85% of Chaddock’s roughly 200 employees work in manufacturing, and Crone and Ward say they’d hire another 25 artisans if they could find skilled workers. 

“With us, it’s all about the people,” says Ward. “We could easily increase volume.”

The company added 40 workers last year and introduced a companywide pay increase and tenure program for bonuses to help attract and retain employees. Focusing on the work culture helps employees and the company, officials say. Simple things like adding umbrellas to outdoor break tables or better food choices in the canteen lead to employee engagement. They pointed to an example of an employee suggesting the purchase of a different grit of sandpaper, which will save the company thousands of dollars in the long run.

“We want everyone to come up with ideas to be more efficient, save the company money or make employee morale better,” Ward says.

Their goal is to employ a simple, non-bureaucratic strategy. A single door separates the office workers and management from the manufacturing side, or workroom. Because of that close proximity, questions are answered, changes are made and ideas are shared in the moment rather than in days or weeks. Their production is modeled after Toyota’s “one-piece flow” system, which aims to ensure the right parts are available when they are needed.

Customizing to meet individual demand is also critical. Crone notes a designer may love everything about a particular sofa, except it is intended for the home of a 7-foot NBA player who wants to stretch his long legs. Chaddock can make a sofa that will fit. Adaptability sets them apart.

“It’s not easy to compete with us today because we offer so many customizations,” Crone says.

Back in the workroom, David Carswell uses a sprayer to apply finish to the maple legs of a white upholstered sofa. His hands are steady, and he does not use cloth or tape to protect the fabric from stains.

“You better be careful with it,” the artisan says, flashing a smile.


When 75,000 visitors arrive in High Point this month for the world’s largest home furnishings trade show, a new leader will be in charge of the host organization.

“We are what Detroit is to the automobile industry,” says Tammy Nagem, who succeeded Tom Conley as president and chief executive officer of the High Point Market Authority in January. “The buys that are set here are what we’re all going to have in our homes in six months.”

The Martinsville, Virginia, native joined the authority at its inception in 2001. 

While Atlanta, Las Vegas and other cities have significant furniture markets, the market in this city of 115,000 residents remains a powerhouse with 2,000 exhibitors filling 11.5 million square feet of showroom space. There’s also the secret sauce of an unrivaled welcoming attitude.

“The hospitality shown here that keeps this event coming back is something our state can be very proud of,” she says.

High Point residents also support the market, now in its 113th year.

“We were doing Airbnb before anyone heard of it,” Nagem says. “People here have been renting their homes to market guests for 50 years.”

The authority has a 13-member staff and $9 million annual budget, about half of that coming from state coffers. A 2018 UNC Chapel Hill and Duke University study reported that the market generates more than $6.7 billion annually to the economy. “For a couple of weeks, we become a really big deal,” says Nagem.


NC golf: Designer Tom Doak explains what makes a course better than average


When Tom Doak was selected to transform 900 acres in Aberdeen in Moore County into the Pinehurst Resort’s tenth course, I recalled his 2016 LINKS Magazine story titled “How To Rate Your Home Course.”

Ask 10 people to rate the same courses and scores can vary all over the board. The North Carolina Golf Panel uses 10 rating categories to create the North Carolina’s top 100 list: routing, flow, design, strategy, fairness, memorability, condition, variety, aesthetics, and ambiance. 

Three courses — Grandfather Golf and Country Club, Elk River Club, the Country Club of North Carolina (Dogwood) — have perfect 100 scores on my ballot. Pinehurst No. 2, is a 99, falling from 10 to 9 in the fairness category. Have you played those greens? 

Doak rates a course using nine categories and rates courses from 1 to 10. He starts with a 3 average, not a 5, to avoid the “all above average” approach made famous by Garrison Keillor’s Lake Wobegon children.

Doak offers six factors that might add a point or two to a course’s rating, plus three that can take it down a notch.


GREAT LAND: Land for a course is great only if the architect uses it right. Courses near an ocean may make for great viewing, but the layout needs to use the breezes to force golfers to hit a variety of shots. “Great land is actually worth a lot more than one point in the Doak Scale,” Doak wrote in his column, if the designer takes advantage of it.

GREAT HOLES: Champion Hills, a Tom Fazio design in Hendersonville, has great mountain views and interesting holes. After the 18th hole, a playing partner said, “We just played 18 terrific holes, but all together, they do not make a good golf course.” In his column, Doak wrote, “A great course may be more than the sum of its parts, but usually not much more.” Pine Valley Golf Club in Pine Valley, New Jersey, is long known as the world’s finest course because it has the best set of 18 holes.

GREAT ROUTING: This is the “least understood part” of golf course design. In addition to finding spaces for great holes, “it’s also about exploring the property, making the most of beautiful views, and avoiding back-and-forth monotony.”

GREAT GREENS: Do the greens “create opportunities for interesting recovery play and dictate strategy all the way back to the tee?” Great greens “make every shot count,” Doak wrote.

GREAT HAZARDS: “Golfers dig bunkers and even more so when they have a bit of eye-catching style. Beautiful bunkers are only great bunkers when you put them in compelling spots that force the golfers to deal with them.”

WHAT MAKES A COURSE DIFFERENT: Don’t overlook “creativity in favor of consistency,” Doak noted. Great courses have local characteristics that can’t be replicated anywhere else. 


PLAYABILITY: Some courses are designed with low handicap players in mind with little regard for the difficulty to the higher handicap players. If customers get beat up on the course, that course may not survive. “You would not enjoy the game if you had to hit multiple wood shots on every hole.”

GOOD PLAYING SURFACES: “It’s hard to enjoy a course if the fairway lies aren’t tight and the greens aren’t true,” Doak wrote. “It can change year to year and day to day,” so he doesn’t give it much weight in rating.

WALKABILITY: Walkers love courses where the next tee is close to the previous green with minimal uphill. “If you’re hiking uphill to every tee, it will spoil the flow of the game.”

Jim Pomeranz is a member of the North Carolina Golf Panel. He writes about golf and other sports topics at

The most popular way to play golf no longer includes fairways and greens


The most popular way to play golf is now indoors. 

Of a record 41.1 million golfers who participated in 2022, about 15.5 million played indoors, while 13.2 million played on green grass, says David Lorentz, head of research at the National Golf Foundation. The remaining 12.4 million played in both venues. 

It was the first year that more people played golf indoors than outdoors. 

Sure, purists will say hitting balls while enjoying a beer at Topgolf isn’t “playing golf.” But with off-the-course golf doubling since 2014, there’s no doubt that the game is forever changed.

“You couldn’t possibly overstate the importance of (off-course golf) in creating demand for golf,” Lorentz said during a speech at the annual PGA Show in Orlando in January. “This is the drug that hooks people to the game. Those in the green grass business should feel very fortunate to have these experiences that are administering the golf drug to now millions more people.”

Demand for nontraditional forms of golf has escalated so rapidly that indoor golf entertainment facilities, not including miniature golf, are now the industry’s fastest-growing sector. Then there’s the simulator and launch monitor market, which is expected to soar to $244 million in 2028, from $178 million in 2021. What began as hitting off a mat into a net in the basement has made its way to more than 50,000 family rooms and living spaces nationally, along with many commercial settings.

Andy Allen, vice president of revenue and partnerships for Winston-Salem-based SkyTrak, has enjoyed an inside-the-ropes view of indoor golf for more than a decade. SkyTrak has sold more than 70,000 units since 2015, making it the leading seller of consumer simulators and launch monitors. The company reached record sales in 2021 as overall simulator sales surged around the world.

“[Simulators] introduce people to the game,” he says. “Not everybody becomes an avid golfer or a single-digit handicap, but nontraditional forms of golf are a fun introduction to the game. Many then aspire to add a golf simulator to their available space and enjoy practicing, improving and playing simulated courses with friends on their own schedule from the convenience of home.”

Last August, Colorado-based GolfTec bought SkyTrak for undisclosed terms. GolfTec has about 250 locations and 1,000 coaches who provide lessons and services using video analysis and motion measurement sensors. The company provided nearly 2 million lessons last year. Its North Carolina locations include Cary, Greensboro and Raleigh with plans for a Winston-Salem site.

The acquisition paired “two companies that understand how data and personalized coaching can truly accelerate a person’s journey to better golf,” says Joe Assell, GolfTec co-founder and CEO. 

The appeal of indoor golf is multifaceted. Simulators allow dedicated golfers to hone their craft 24/7, regardless of the weather. Working professionals enjoy not having to carve out four or five hours to play 18 holes. 

Most important, indoor golf carries generational cache. Younger people, who might prefer to stay indoors, can get started in golf by playing games on a simulator. They are attracted to the technology that projects lifelike images of golf courses onto a screen, and also tracks the flight path of the ball, measures spin, and provides accurate distance and shot data.

“I think (young people) are really intrigued with the data,” Allen says. “They want to know, ‘how do I compare it to an LPGA tour player? How do I compare to a PGA Tour player?’ And they easily embrace technology. We’ve seen a large increase in the number of younger golfers, junior golfers that use the system and that are very familiar with the data.”

Research also shows that indoor golf is stimulating interest in traditional play. A survey by the foundation and Topgolf suggests that people who come into golf via indoor play are generally more emotionally prepared and confident for green-grass play. 

The most recognizable indoor golf brand is Dallas-based Topgolf, which offers a driving range experience using microchipped golf balls that allow players to track their shots and compete with friends in climate-controlled hitting bays. Food and drink flow freely at the company’s 80-plus locations. 

Carlsbad, California-based Callaway Golf bought TopGolf for $2.6 billion in 2021. One of the seller’s major investors was Carolina Hurricanes owner Tom Dundon, who is now on Calloway’s board of directors.

Topgolf opened its first North Carolina site in Charlotte in 2017, then added a second location in the region in 2021. Construction is underway on a Topgolf in Durham, while a three-story location is being planned in Greensboro. The city council there approved a resolution to reimburse for sewer improvements for an unnamed attraction that council members confirmed was Topgolf. 

Topgolf’s chief competitor, Dallas-based Drive Shack, opened one of its core venues, a three-story, 65,000-square-foot facility, near Raleigh’s PNC Arena in 2019. Drive Shack’s ranges are equipped with radar-based TrackMan Range technology that provides precision ball tracking in real time. 

Drive Shack debuted its first Urban Box concept in Charlotte’s South End neighborhood, called “The Puttery.” It features multiple nine-hole miniature golf courses that surround a cocktail bar with food with outdoor patios. 

Other venues offer play on simulators. X-Golf America opened its first Charlotte-area site last summer, called X-Golf South Charlotte. In nearby Tega Cay, South Carolina, X-Golf offers virtual golf competitions, leagues and lessons for all skill levels with systems that perform more than 6,000 calculations per second. The simulator replicates golf shots, including short games and putting, through camera systems, infrared lasers, impact sensors and advanced gaming software. Atlanta-based Intown Golf Club has said it plans to open a virtual golf venue with private membership this year in Charlotte’s SouthPark neighborhood.

Two Winston-Salem-area venues have also recently opened with simulators as their centerpiece. Downtown, Roar has a Roaring 20s theme with casual dining, a food hall, and an abundance of games and entertainment on four floors, including four simulators. Just west of Winston-Salem, in Clemmons, The Playground Golf and Sports
Bar opened last year and offers three large simulators where patrons tee it up on virtual
courses like St. Andrews and Pebble Beach. The simulators, which are booked for $30 to
$75 an hour depending on the day and time, can also be used to play soccer, cricket and even Zombie Dodgeball. 

Now, indoor golf is going back outdoors. Talamore Golf Resort in Southern Pines recently renovated its driving range and added eight bays of a Toptracer Range, which uses the same high-speed cameras, coupled with sophisticated computer algorithms, to provide instantaneous ball tracking information that is seen on televised PGA Tour coverage. 

“The primary goal was to create a fun atmosphere for our guests to gather and continue playing golf utilizing the Toptracer range technology,” says Talamore General Manager Matt Hausser. “They can practice, play other courses, participate in weekly closest to the pin contests or enjoy many of the other games Toptracer has to offer. We added lighting so we could extend the hours into the evening and food and beverage services are being added. We offer an experience that no one else in our area currently offers.”

NC golf: The North Carolina Golf Panel selects the state’s 100 best courses and more


After two fast-growth years spurred in a perverse way by the pandemic, interest in golf calmed down a bit last year. Nationally, the number of rounds played in the United
States declined about 3% last year, according to preliminary estimates
by the National Golf Foundation.

That follows a 14% spike in 2020 and 5% growth in 2021, when the
pandemic encouraged more outdoor activity, industry officials say.

Still, courses remain packed and waiting lists for many clubs continue to lengthen as North Carolina’s population growth ranks among the nation’s leaders. And the North Carolina Golf Panel is pleased to share its 28th annual ranking of the state’s best courses. The panel consists of about 175 business executives, golf industry members and media members who share a love of golf and the promotion of the sport.  

Golf touches nearly every county in the state, generating $2.3 billion in direct spending and adding $4.2 billion to the state’s economy, according to state figures. The 520 courses from Murphy to Manteo, along with associated industries, contribute 53,000 jobs and total wages of $1.3 billion.

There were limited changes in this year’s rankings. Notably, Winston-Salem’s Old Town Club moved up four spots, landing in eighth. The Country Club of North Carolina’s Cardinal course (Pinehurst) also gained four notches, ranking 13th. Porters Neck Country Club
(Wilmington) ranked 64th, up from 75th. Carolina Country Club (Raleigh), which is new to the list this year, was rated 69th.

Pinehurst Resort made some big news by breaking ground on its 10th course, a Tom Doak-designed layout expected to open in 2024. Doak designed six of the world’s 100 top courses as rated by Golf Magazine in 2021, including Pacific Dunes in Bandon, Oregon. 

The new course in Moore County will open in time for the U.S. Open scheduled for Pinehurst No. 2 in June 2024. That course topped the panel’s rankings again, as it has for 28 years.


While April focuses golfers’ attention on the Masters, Pinehurst Resort and the USGA are looking ahead to hosting the U.S. Open from June 13-16, 2024.

Golf’s “national championship” will mark Pinehurst’s first as an USGA-designated “Anchor Site,” with the famed No. 2 course scheduled to  also host the tournament in 2029, 2035, 2041 and 2047. Over this 25-year period, the collective events are projected to generate more than $2 billion in economic activity for the Sandhills region and North Carolina. 

The 2024 event has experienced record-level hospitality sales, with limited remaining inventory, Pinehurst officials say.

“We can’t wait to welcome and host our corporate partners from throughout the state for what’s sure to be an epic championship week,” Pinehurst Resort President Tom Pashley says.

Lots of change is occurring at Pinehurst, including next spring’s scheduled opening of Pinehurst Resort’s 10th course and the opening of USGA’s second headquarters, called Golf House Pinehurst.

Located four miles south of the main resort clubhouse in Aberdeen,  Pinehurst’s new course traverses dunes and natural ridgelines while meandering through longleaf pines, streams and ponds. 

“The opening of the 10th course, Golf House Pinehurst and the renovations to the Carolina Hotel will further enhance the overall experience at the 2024 U.S. Open,” says Eric Kuester, the resort’s vice president of sales and marketing. “Never before have we been able to offer our corporate friends the opportunity to enjoy elevated on-course views of championship play on No. 2.”

The 2024 U.S. Open will be Pinehurst Resort’s fourth, and first since 2014, and the 11th USGA championship hosted there.

For the list of the next 30 best courses open to public play, please visit


1. Grandfather Golf and Country Club, Linville
2. Mountaintop Golf and Lake Club, Cashiers
3. Elk River Club, Banner Elk
4. Wade Hampton Country Club, Cashiers
5. Rock Barn Country Club (Jones), Conover
6. Biltmore Forest Country Club, Asheville
7. Champion Hills Club, Hendersonville
8. Linville Golf Club, Linville
9. Balsam Mountain Preserve, Sylva
10. Country Club of Asheville, Asheville

1. Old Town Club, Winston-Salem
2. Sedgefield Country Club, Greensboro
3. Old North State Club, New London
4. Forsyth Country Club, Winston-Salem
5. Starmount Forest Country Club, Greensboro
6. High Point Country Club (Willow Creek), High Point
7. Bryan Park (Champions), Browns Summit
8. Greensboro Country Club (Farm), Greensboro
9. Grandover Resort (East), Greensboro
10. The Cardinal by Pete Dye, Greensboro

1. Pinehurst No. 2, Pinehurst
2. The Country Club of North Carolina (Dogwood), Pinehurst
3. Pine Needles Lodge and Golf Club, Southern Pines
4. Pinehurst No. 4, Pinehurst
5. Pinehurst No. 8, Pinehurst
6. The Country Club of North Carolina (Cardinal), Pinehurst
7. Mid Pines Inn and Golf Club, Southern Pines
8. Dormie Club, West End
9. Forest Creek Golf Club (South), Pinehurst
10. Pinehurst No. 9, Pinehurst

1. Quail Hollow Club, Charlotte
2. Charlotte Country Club, Charlotte
3. The Club at Longview, Waxhaw
4. Myers Park Country Club, Charlotte
5. Trump National Golf Club, Mooresvillez
6. Gaston Country Club, Gastonia
7. Ballantyne Country Club, Charlotte
8. Cedarwood Country Club, Charlotte
9. The Club at Irish Creek, Kannapolis
10. River Run Country Club, Davidson

1. Old Chatham Golf Club, Durham
2. Raleigh Country Club, Raleigh
3. MacGregor Downs Country Club, Cary
4. Governors Club, Chapel Hill
5. Prestonwood Country Club (Highlands), Cary
6. Treyburn Country Club, Durham
7. The Hasentree Club, Wake Forest
8. Finley Golf Club, Chapel Hill
9. Lonnie Poole Golf Club, Raleigh
10. Duke University Golf Club, Durham

1. River Landing (River), Wallace
2. River Landing (Landing), Wallace
3. Occano, Merry Hill
4. Benvenue Country Club, Rocky Mount
5. Brook Valley Country Club, Greenville
6. Wilson Country Club, Wilson
7. Cutter Creek Golf Club, Snow Hill
8. Greenville Country Club, Greenville
9. Carolina Colours Golf Club, New Bern
10. Walnut Creek Country Club, Goldsboro

1. Cape Fear Country Club, Wilmington
2. Eagle Point Golf Club, Wilmington
3. Country Club of Landfall (Dye), Wilmington
4. Country Club of Landfall (Nicklaus), Wilmington
5. Bald Head Golf Club, Bald Head Island
6. The Currituck Club, Corolla
7. Porters Neck Country Club, Wilmington
8. Leopard’s Chase, Sunset Beach
9. Crow Creek Golf Club, Calabash
10. Tiger’s Eye, Sunset Beach

Beast mode: Jimmy Donaldson thrills millions with creative videos and heart-warming charitable projects


The American dream changes with every generation. One generation found opportunity on trans-Atlantic ship. Another laid claim to a new land. For those willing to explore, opportunity still exists. It’s not across continents, but it connects them; it’s the internet. Greenville’s 24-year-old Jimmy Donaldson, better known as MrBeast, has actualized this new American dream. 

Tens of millions around the world subscribe to his YouTube channel, leading to $54 million in revenue in 2021, Forbes estimates. He is widely viewed as among the highest-earning individuals on the Google-owned platform.

When asked to imagine a YouTuber, one would picture a boyish dude inhabiting his mom’s basement, sporting pizza-stained sweatpants and an immature attitude. Others might envision a bleach-blonde dancing to Billboard’s Top 100, vlogging her Starbucks drink of the week.

Well, that’s kinda wrong.

After hours of interviews and research, I have ascertained only ironies in the world of YouTube. MrBeast is the poster child of this paradox. To be successful in the business, you must be persistent, creative, driven, and smart.

Donaldson started uploading videos under his screen name, MrBeast6000, in 2014. He has a high school diploma from Greenville Christian Academy and relies heavily on four other 20-something guys to film and take part in many of his videos. With his multimillion-dollar income, Donaldson could live anywhere, but chooses to stay in Greenville.

He told podcast interviewer Sam Parr last year that he resides in his Greenville studio. “I like money because I can hire more people and grow a business, but not so I can increase my lifestyle.”

With 128 million subscribers and more than 21 billion page views on his channel, MrBeast is an internet force. His subscribers maintain a loyalty that cable networks such as CNN and Fox News and streaming services like Hulu and Disney+ would love to match.

Donaldson racks up hundreds of millions of views by creating both crazy challenges and over-the-top philanthropic giveaways to his fans and those in need. Cited as YouTube’s biggest philanthropist, his videos are wholesome, controversy-free, and targeted at a wide range of viewers.

A participant won a $2.5 million Hawker 800 jet in MrBeast’s video, “Last to Take Hand Off Jet, Keeps It.” The 15-minute video, which debuted last November, attracted more than 132 million views as 11 contestants did what the title says. Donaldson began the challenge with only one rule: No pushing.

MrBeast’s `I Survived 50 Hours In Antarctica’ on YouTube has received more than 100 million views in two months.

In his most viral video, “456,000 Squid Games,” Donaldson spent $3.5 million recreating Netflix’s hit series about a South Korean survival drama involving post-apocalyptic children’s games. He gave away almost half a million dollars to the winner and $1,000 to each of 456 participants. The video, which didn’t contain the savagery of the Netflix show, launched in November 2021 and garnered more than 380 million views.
By comparison, this year’s Super Bowl drew 113 million viewers.

MrBeast’s popularity comes from both his creative content, and his extreme altruism. In January, he paid for cataract surgeries that improved the vision for 1,000 people, some of whom had been blind since birth. The emotional video of thankful patients scattered all over the world had more than 120 million views as of mid-March.


Understanding MrBeast’s business strategy requires an understanding of the intricacies of the internet. “It’s a way for individuals to share their unique experiences with the world. There’s nothing like it. It’s the first of its kind,” says Tate Stephenson, 22, of Winston-Salem. 

He’s a prime example of the genre’s creativity as he directs one- or two-hourlong productions for a survivalist video game called “Rust.” Under the screen name Stevie, he uploads gaming and commentary videos that often offer a touch of comedy. He has
1.1 million subscribers. 

Though Stephenson didn’t go to college, he has made a successful career in content creation. 

How successful? Enough to have bought a 2022 Stingray Corvette. 

What makes the industry special is that most YouTubers don’t start with a monetary motive. “It starts with a passion to share,” Stephenson says. “A passion to create. But actually making money on YouTube takes a lot of hard work.”

He describes two ways of making a career out of YouTube, namely through clicks and sponsorships. YouTube requires creators to have more than 1,000 subscribers and report at least 4,000 hours of channel traffic in one year before becoming eligible for monetizing videos through advertisements. The clicks can pay off, typically using the “cost per 1,000 impressions” metric, or CPM.

“But the first year, you’re not going to get views,” Stephenson says. “The road to 1,000 subscribers is grueling,” and is forged by YouTube’s complex algorithm that determines how videos will appear in Google search results.  

Considering that 30,000 hours of videos are uploaded every hour, the chance of viewers stumbling along a video is slim to none. 

To achieve success that meets the algorithm’s standards, Stephenson says a solid, persistent work ethic is vital. “Video releases need to be consistent — at least one to two videos per week — and every video needs to have something better than the last,” he says. “That’s the only way to chip your way into the algorithm.”

Donaldson has somehow figured this out for a decade: The dude owns the algorithm. Despite the endless options on the internet, millions flock to MrBeast.

Industry bloggers estimate that MrBeast earns about $20 per 1,000 views. That would suggest potential revenue of $2.6 million for the hand-on-the-jet video that has drawn 132 million clicks. 

That success has led to sponsorships, which MrBeast has scored mainly from software services such as Quid, CSGO Lotto, Honey, and TikTok, the Chinese social media giant. “The more you grow, the more views you get, the more watch time you have on your videos, the bigger deals you’ll get from brands,” Stephenson says. With an upward of 500 million views per month, MrBeast is attracting considerable corporate interest.

Quid, a San Francisco-based data organization software service, sponsored a video in which MrBeast walked around Greenville with $10,000 in cash and handed out increments of $1,000 to homeless people.

Talent agent Reed Duchscher, 33, helps arrange MrBeast’s brand transactions. He’s the founder of Night Media, and considered a pioneer in assisting successful YouTubers in building their businesses. His clients include popular video gamers Preston Arsement, Leah Ashe and Ian Stapleton, who goes by the name of Ssundee.


Given MrBeast’s success, one might think of him as a big, boisterous personality. With that nickname, and someone who handed $500,000 to the winner of a tag game, surely he’s a flashy party animal.

“He’s pretty quiet, actually,” says Andrew Roth, who finished second in MrBeast’s Circle Challenge video. During that event, 100 participants tried to outlast each other by staying inside a circle drawn in a warehouse. After 12 days, with the circle continually narrowing, 10 contestants remained. They then played a 48-hour game of extreme tag at Tennessee’s Bristol Motor Speedway. 

“Jimmy is a really good businessman. He is strategic and insightful,” Roth says, always thinking about his next move. During the challenge, Donaldson told him, “Don’t do anything you’re not proud of. If you’re doing something, and you’re not 100% in it, drop it.” If MrBeast was unhappy with a video after spending millions of dollars on production, he would scrap it rather than present a flawed product.

Before Donaldson was consulting Night Media, however, he was asking a Greenville business owner for advice.

Photo by Bryan Regan

Bret Oliverio owns Sup Dogs, a downtown pub that has won the Barstool website’s “Best Bar of the Year” three times in the last four years. On a typical Saturday, “people line up to get in at 11 a.m. and we are kicking them out at 3 a.m. We’re always packed,” he says. The bar was so successful, Oliverio expanded to Chapel Hill, claiming a prime location on Franklin Street.

“I remember around 2017 getting a call from Jimmy’s mom,” says Oliverio. “We had
a long business conversation when he was just taking off. She was asking me about how
we hire in the community and who we use as charity.”

MrBeast has been a big winner for Oliverio’s restaurant and Greenville. “Everyday people come to Sup Dogs because they’ve seen us in one of Jimmy’s pictures,” he says. That includes reporters from Rolling Stone magazine and a YouTuber from Brazil. “The amount of people who come to Greenville in hopes of stumbling into Jimmy is crazy.” 

When Donaldson posted a picture in front of Sup Dogs, the restaurant’s Instagram account gained 6,000 followers.

While becoming an international presence, Donaldson has stayed in his hometown, where he has remained close with his family. His mother, Sue Donaldson, often appears in his videos, including “Giving My Mom $100,000 (Proudest Day of My Life.).” His stepfather, Tracy, is operations manager, Rolling Stone reported in a story last year.

His brother, CJ, has 4.35 million subscribers to his CJTheseDays channel. His nickname is MrBro.

Greenville Mayor P.J. Connelly calls MrBeast a great partner. He meets periodically with Donaldson to discuss how to make the city more attractive to content creators. Donaldson recently partnered with East Carolina University to develop a credentialing program for students  training in video production skills. They hope to meet growing industry demand. 

Donadson bought an old Greenville church for $1.3 million, then spent $10 million on renovations, he told YouTube influencer Arun Maini in a July 2022 interview. Then he added $2.9 million of high-tech equipment, Maini estimates. Then there’s the estimated $4 million a month that Donaldson typically spends producing videos, according to published reports.

“He has invested in our community. He is exactly the type of business leader we need,” Connelly says. “His team has ambitious goals to grow.” 

Our repeated attempts to seek an interview with MrBeast didn’t pan out. He’s rarely quoted in the press.


Apart from YouTube, Donaldson has turned his content creation into a multipronged pursuit.

His first venture was converting a former Burger Boy location in Wilson into “the world’s first free food restaurant.” He paid people to eat there for a video, ultimately giving away thousands of dollars worth of burgers and fries. 

Now, MrBeastBurger sells food in more than 300 cities with burgers and chicken sandwiches made by local “ghost kitchens” and delivered by DoorDash or Uber Eats. Restaurants split the revenue with MrBeast. Fans have ordered more than 1 million burgers, MrBeast officials have said.

Donaldson isn’t stopping there. He’s selling a collection of chocolate bars called Feastables. The products are sold at Walmart and on Amazon, priced at $29.99 for a 10-pack of “deliciously creamy” bars. More diversification is likely for MrBeast, who has said, “I really want to be Elon [Musk] one day.”

What’s most impressive, however, may be his charitable streak.

“That’s how I know him. He’s more than just a YouTuber, he’s a philanthropist,” says Hunter Burnette, 54, a Greenville native who lives in Raleigh. The construction company executive doesn’t represent Donaldson’s main viewership demographic of males aged 35 and younger, though he is well acquainted with MrBeast.

While Greenville’s economy benefits from East Carolina University and ECU Health, more than a quarter of the city’s population have incomes lower than the federal poverty level, according to Census Bureau data. “Outside the city, there’s a lot
of poverty,” Burnette says.

He and others stress that MrBeast has made Greenville a better place by sponsoring a food bank and donating to the Boys and Girls Club and other nonprofits. Donaldson launched Beast Philanthropy in 2020 with a Thanksgiving feast that provided more than 50,000 meals to families in need. “I remember when he rented out the fairgrounds in Pitt County,” Mayor Connelly says. “Vehicles lined up for almost three miles to get turkeys from MrBeast. His outreach is incredible.”

In the past 20 years, the American dream of rags to riches has become harder to come by. According to the World Economic Forum, those born in the 1950s had an 81% chance of earning more than their parents. For the Gen X cohort of the 1980s, the percentage has slid to 45%. This decline is predicted to continue into the new generations.

Fortunately, the internet is presenting unforeseen opportunities for some shrewd operators. The World Wide Web is the wild west. MrBeast is showing the way in how to capitalize off this new sphere.


It takes a village to build an internet empire. MrBeast has four friends who are most associated with his work, gaining a touch of stardom in the process.

  • Chris Tyson, 26, is a childhood friend of MrBeast who has appeared in many of
    his videos. He and his wife, Katie, have a son, Tucker. His YouTube account has
    2.7 million followers at @chris_Thememegod.
  • Chandler Hallow, 24, met MrBeast while working as a janitor before becoming
    a crew member. He is married to Cara Davis. His Instagram account shows
    3.7 million followers.
  • Karl Jacobs, 24, has been part of MrBeast’s videos since 2020. His YouTube
    channel has 3.95 million subscribers. He is a North Carolina native and attended a
    community college in Oregon before meeting MrBeast.
  • Nolan Hansen, 24, is originally from Nebraska. He met MrBeast while dating
    his sister, Anna. His first video for MrBeast was “I Spent $1,000,000 on
    Lottery Tickets.”

Another key figure in MrBeast’s universe is Darren Margolias, who has
been executive director of the affiliated Beast Philanthropy nonprofit since 2020. The group has participated in many charitable endeavors, but mainly provides food assistance. It has given 4.1 million pounds of food to more than 245,000 people, according to its website.  

Margolias is a South African native who sold his real estate business to focus
on his passions for rescuing animals and helping charities thrive. 

Pillars of NC: Walter Davenport overcame racism as a pioneering CPA


Even in high school, Raleigh native Walter Conaway Davenport knew he wanted to be a certified public accountant — it says so under his senior photograph in J.W. Ligon High School’s class of 1966 yearbook. At the time he graduated, he’d only heard of one Black accountant, Nathan Garrett, a CPA in Durham.

Davenport attended Morehouse College in Atlanta, graduating in 1970 with a degree in business administration. He then joined Arthur Andersen & Co., one of five Black staffers among more than 300 employees in the Atlanta office.

In 1974, he was hired by Garrett’s firm as a senior accountant. After passing the CPA exam a year later, he became a partner. In 1988, the duo formed Garrett & Davenport, the largest minority-owned CPA firm in North Carolina with six CPAs and 20 staffers in Durham and Raleigh. In 1998, the firm merged with Cherry Bekaert, a large regional firm with roots in North Carolina and Virginia. Davenport led the firm’s nonprofit sector for a decade before retiring in 2008.

Davenport, 74, has been active in many industry, civic and business groups, including serving 10 years on the UNC System Board of Governors. He’s on four boards, including Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina and Wake Tech Community College, while serving as a treasurer for N.C. Sen. Dan Blue’s campaign committee.

In 2018, he suffered a septic embolism and was put into a medically induced coma. He spent six months at WakeMed, a rehabilitation center and in assisted living before returning to his Raleigh home. 

He spends time at his timeshare at Atlantic Beach and with his two sons and two granddaughters.


Comments are edited for length and clarity.

I was part of the honor guard when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. laid in state at the Sisters Chapel on Spelman College’s campus. [Like Davenport], Dr. King was a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, so the Alphas stood over his casket for a three- to four-day period while people came in to view him.

Everyone at Arthur Andersen did not accept “us.” They hadn’t bought into the idea of Black people being in the firm. I had a partner tell me I was off an engagement because the client did not want a Black person. There are more stories similar to that. In spite of that, I became a CPA after enduring that kind of treatment.

I met Nathan (Garrett) in 1974 when I was being recruited by a company in the Northeast to be their chief financial officer. His firm was the auditor for the company. I didn’t really like my experience in the Northeast and subsequently, I joined Nathan’s firm.

Nathan is 18 years older than me. He was a mentor to me. Ultimately, we became golfing partners, business partners, and good friends. I followed in Nathan’s footsteps. During his career, Nathan was on the North Carolina State Board of Certified Public Accountant Examiners and he served as secretary. Almost 20 years later, I was on that board as president, vice president and secretary. 

I became involved with nonprofits on the accounting side when I was with my accounting firm. Nonprofits were the only ones we could provide services to. The for-profit industries didn’t want to use a minority CPA firm. 

Looking back at it now, you accept what happened. We succeeded in spite of. I don’t know what drove them (boards and management of other companies) to make certain decisions. 

We cared about the nonprofits. We cared about the mission. We were serious about trying to help nonprofit organizations stay on a sure footing. But I always told my staff, “We provide a lot of services to nonprofit organizations, but don’t let a nonprofit organization make us a nonprofit organization.”

When Nathan and I were together, we were an integrated firm. We didn’t care about the color of their skin. We looked at the potential they had or could have, hired them and developed them.

My inauguration speech (in 2014 for the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy) was titled, “Embrace the future, even when you can’t see it.” We are an aging population and as CPAs retire, young folks have got to come behind us. 

NASBA, the accounting profession and the state board needed to be more diverse in their representation. They needed to start looking like the population. 

Dan (Blue) and I are fraternity brothers. I met Dan in 1984, and he became a tax client of mine. He asked me to be his campaign treasurer. I’ve always thought every candidate needs to have a qualified treasurer — somebody who knows what they’re doing and knows the rules — to keep up with the money. 

[When I got sick in 2018] they told my family to make peace with me because I wasn’t going to make it. 

When I got out of WakeMed, I went to a rehab center. I had to learn to speak clearly again. I had to learn how to walk. I could not move. One day, I went to therapy and I couldn’t get out of the chair because I had lost all feeling. I remember the first time I took steps by myself; I cried like a baby. I bounced back. 

Green shoots: Statesville’s once-sleepy downtown peps up

Andrea Coelho of Andrea’s Ice Cream and Sweet Shop

Growing up in Statesville, Brittany Marlow remembers a dead downtown, with both businesses and residents choosing Signal Hill Mall by I-77 over Main Street.

“We didn’t come downtown for anything,” says the 2004 graduate of North Iredell High School. “There just wasn’t anything here.”

Fast forward almost 20 years, and Statesville’s center city has turned from dull to destination. Several restaurants have opened, with live music heard Wednesday through Saturday nights.  

“It’s always been a charming town, now we just have a nightlife,” says Gloria Hager, whose gift store, GG’s, has been a downtown fixture for more than 40 years.

Things didn’t change overnight, says Marlow, leader of Statesville’s downtown business group since June. Things started moving a decade ago as city leaders replaced aging water and sewer lines. The city used the utility project as a catalyst to make its central business district more walkable and apt for beautification.

Sidewalks became wider as four lanes of traffic were narrowed to three, enabling 14 downtown blocks to expand their pedestrian paths. Extra room gives space for both dog walkers and coffee drinkers. Add overflow from the Charlotte-area’s population growth to a heated real estate market, and downtown has become the “heart of our community,” says Marlow.

Statesville businesses showed off downtown in mid-March to 750 visitors attending the annual N.C. Main Street Conference. The N.C. Department of Commerce launched the Main Street program in 1980. It now includes about 70 towns.

The Iredell County seat has about 28,000 residents, while the county is home to about 192,000, a 20% increase in the past decade. That’s nearly double the overall state’s growth. Most of the gains occurred in southern Iredell near Lake Norman and Mooresville. Home to several NASCAR teams and near giant retailer Lowe’s headquarters campus, Mooresville’s population has more than doubled to 51,000-plus in the past 15 years. 

Growing at a measured pace has enabled Statesville to retain its small-town feel, downtown leaders say. That hometown pride is apparent at Andrea’s Ice Cream and Sweet Shop, a storefront Andrea Coelho opened nine years ago, shortly after she graduated from West Iredell High School in 2013.

“There’s so many nice people downtown. It’s very much a community here,” says Coelho. “I’ve seen families grow up, parents bringing in their 2- and 3-year-olds, and now they’re in middle school. It’s just great.”

Three teenaged part-timers help Coelho at the shop, along with a host of family members. Her 84-year-old grandmother, Dolores Chimato, comes in on Tuesdays and Wednesdays to wash dishes, after finishing league bowling.

The store’s best-seller may be her “New York’’ bagels, but only on Fridays and Saturdays, because they take three hours to prepare. She makes 10 dozen or so doughnuts most days, double that amount on weekends, as well as a host of brownies and other sweet baked goods.

“My customers really care about me, who we are and how we’re doing,” Coelho says. “When I got married, some of my customers bought me gifts.”

Almost all of downtown Statesville’s storefronts are filled, and those that are not have evident signs of remodeling work. Downtown has more than 100 housing units, mostly apartments, with plans for 10 more. Some will be offered as Airbnb rentals. Just a few steps from the late 1800s-era City Hall sits the American Renaissance K-8 charter school.

Most people may be familiar with Statesville as they pass through on Interstate 77 or Interstate 40, which criss-cross on the town’s northern edge. A travel website likened Statesville’s downtown to a scene from a Hallmark Christmas movie. Those wanting a more comfortable pace ought to visit, says Liz Petree, who plans events for Downtown Statesville Development.

“You’re definitely going to find something good to eat,” says Petree. “You’re definitely going to find someone to talk to and see a friendly face.”

Some visitors find even more. “You’re also probably going to find the next place you’re going to move to,” says Marlow.

Upfront: Rising stars


About five years ago, our former colleague Taylor Wanbaugh mentioned how much her younger brother enjoyed the zany YouTube videos of a 20-year-old guy from Greenville. We looked and were amazed at the creativity of MrBeast, so Taylor wrote a short story about his popularity.

My hunch was that Jimmy Donaldson, who then had more than 1 million YouTube subscribers, would extend his 15 minutes of fame for a bit longer, then move on to more conventional pursuits.

Wrong, like usual.

MrBeast keeps getting more popular, churning out a steady stream of bizarre, entertaining videos of mind-boggling competitions and charitable efforts. For a couple of years, we wanted to produce a strong story on the MrBeast phenomenon, but we struggled to find a writer enthused enough to take a deeper look at the creative Pitt County resident, knowing that he probably wouldn’t talk with us. Profiles in Rolling Stone and the New York Times in the past two years included some negative comments that evidently made him more distrustful of the media.

Fortunately, our columnist and part-time UNC Chapel Hill journalism instructor Dan Barkin connected us with a talented writer with an unlimited future. Noelle Norene Harff is a Colorado native and a sophomore at Chapel Hill with a passion for journalism and finance. As one might expect of a sharp collegian, she has a keen understanding of the internet. Like Taylor, she has a younger brother who grooves on MrBeast, apparently like almost every other teenage boy in the world.

Noelle produced this month’s cover story, which delves into how the graduate of Greenville Christian Academy became a global YouTube celebrity attracting millions of dollars in marketing support. A key reason, Noelle reports, is that Donaldson, 24, has remained rooted in eastern North Carolina and passionate about helping others.

He says he wants to be the next Elon Musk. Go for it, MrBeast!


Two veteran North Carolina journalists have joined our team, bringing loads of experience and wisdom. Kevin Ellis comes aboard after a lengthy career at The Gaston Gazette, where he had been editor since 2019. Kevin is a UNC Asheville graduate with a passion for sharing news stories, finding new places to walk with his wife, Amy, and his first grandchild, Ellis, who was born in October.

Ray Gronberg is editor of our North Carolina Tribune newsletter, which provides subscribers with exclusive news on legislative and political affairs. Ray is the former editor of the Henderson Dispatch, which covered Granville, Vance and Warren counties for the past five years, after spending most of his career at the News & Observer in Raleigh and Herald-Sun in Durham. He’s a UNC Charlotte graduate who a longtime Raleigh insider describes as “deeply experienced, widely knowledgeable and smart as hell.”

So much journalism is now rooted in partisanship, with organizations having distinct or fairly covert points of view. That’s OK, because journalists at those groups produce some important stories. But Kevin and Ray embody Business North Carolina’s mission to be unbiased, nonpartisan and respectful of a wide variety of viewpoints. They have quickly picked up on our privilege of writing about MrBeast, furniture makers, golf influencers, thieves, and many other people and organizations across our amazing state.