Economic Development

Promoting growth in North Carolina is a big industry in itself. This section cites key state and local officials responsible for attracting and retaining businesses. The state ranked No. 3 nationally for business climate, according to 326 site-selection experts surveyed by Development Counsellors International, a New York-based marketing firm. Last year was the strongest year in more than a decade, with 147 corporate relocation and expansion deals expected to create more than 20,000 jobs and $6.3 billion in capital investment, state officials say.

KELLY ANDREWS

executive director | Pitt County Development Commission

Greenville

Andrews, who has worked with the commission since 2006 as the assistant director, was promoted to executive director in October. She has an MBA from East Carolina University and previously worked with the N.C. Department of Labor. 

MURCHINSON “BO” BIGGS

secretary-treasurer | K.M. Biggs

Lumberton

Murchison, 66, is the fourth generation of his family to help lead K.M. Biggs, a holding company. The N.C. State University graduate and CPA is active in many statewide groups, including chairing the Rocky Mount-based Golden LEAF Foundation.

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BRENT CHRISTENSEN

president, CEO | Greensboro Chamber of Commerce

Greensboro

Christensen, 51, is a Duke University and University of South Florida graduate. He joined the chamber in 2015 after serving as executive director of the Mississippi Development Authority. 

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CHRIS CHUNG

CEO | Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina

Raleigh

Chung, 44, is responsible for 60 professionals and an annual operating budget of more than $24 million. The Ohio State University graduate took on the CEO role in 2015 after leading a similar group in Missouri.

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ADRIENNE COLE

president, CEO | Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce

Raleigh

A Meredith College and Appalachian State University graduate, Cole, 49, became the chamber’s first female CEO in 2017. It has been a year of growth for the region, which welcomed hundreds of jobs at startup Pendo and an Amazon distribution center.

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KIT CRAMER

president, CEO | Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce

Asheville

Cramer, 60, is a University of Florida graduate who came to the mountains in 2010. She had previously worked for 16 years at the Charlotte Chamber and one year at the International Downtown Association. Her group was named 2019 Chamber of the Year by the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives. 

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BRENDA DANIELS

manager of economic development | ElectriCities

Raleigh

Daniel joined ElectriCities — a not-for-profit service organization representing 70 public power communities in the Carolinas and Virginia — as an executive assistant in 1986. She was named to her current position 25 years ago.

CLARK DUNCAN

senior vice president for economic development | Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce

Asheville

A Wake Forest University graduate, Duncan, 49, oversees company retention, Venture Asheville, and other growth initiatives. Asheville’s largest new jobs announcement, a $650 million Pratt & Whitney plant that will employ 800, came last year.

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GEOFF DURHAM

president, CEO | Greater Durham Chamber of Commerce

Durham

The Randolph-Macon College graduate was named CEO in 2016. He had been the head of the Downtown Durham booster group for the three previous years after serving as director of economic development for the city of Fairfax, Va.

NATALIE ENGLISH

CEO | Wilmington Chamber of Commerce

Wilmington

English, 53, was named CEO in March 2017 after working at the Charlotte Chamber for 11 years. She has helped the region weather the effects of Hurricane Florence and the pandemic. She is an N.C. State University graduate.

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SCOTT HAMILTON

CEO | Golden LEAF Foundation

Rocky Mount

The UNC Greensboro graduate joined the foundation in 2019 after leading the Appalachian Regional Commission for five years.

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CHRIS JOHNSON

executive director | Johnston County Economic Development

Smithfield

Johnson, 55, has been executive director since 2013. The East Carolina University graduate has set lofty goals for this year that include finding the county’s next big job creator in the life-sciences sector.

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HOWARD JOHNSON

CEO | Cary Chamber of Commerce

Cary

A UNC Chapel Hill graduate, Johnson has been CEO since 1986. During that period the city’s population has increased from 30,000 to 166,000. Big recent news includes a revitalized downtown and Epic Games’ new headquarters at the Cary Towne Center property.

BOB JOYCE

senior director, business retention and expansion | Sanford

Sanford

An East Carolina University graduate, Joyce was named 2019 North Carolina Economic Developer of the Year by the N.C. Economic Development Association. He was president of the Sanford Area Chamber of Commerce from 2007-15. 

STAN KELLY

CEO | Piedmont Triad Partnership

Greensboro

Kelly, 63, is an N.C. State University graduate who was a veteran executive at Wachovia and Wells Fargo before joining the partnership in 2015.

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JANET LABAR

CEO | Charlotte Regional Business Alliance

Charlotte

Queen City leaders recruited LaBar in 2019 to lead the organization formed by the merger of the Charlotte Chamber and Charlotte Regional Partnership. A graduate of the University of West Florida and the University of Phoenix, she previously led the Portland, Ore., chamber.

SCOTT LEVITAN

CEO | Research Triangle Foundation of North Carolina

Durham

Levitan, 66, has degrees from Louisiana State University, Harvard University and the University of York. He’s been CEO of the Research Triangle Foundation since 2017. Biogen recently announced a
$200 million factory and Longfellow Real Estate Partners unveiled a $150 million lab project at RTP.

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SCOTT MILLAR

president | Catawba County Economic Development Corp.

Hickory

Millar, 60, was named EDC president in 1998. He led the county through a manufacturing recession and a pandemic. The EDC and Hickory City Council in January approved $2.5 million in incentives for manufacturer American Fuji Seal, which is creating 101 jobs.

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RYAN NANCE

director of economic development | North Carolina’s Electric Cooperatives

Apex

The UNC Chapel Hill graduate, 40, joined the cooperatives’ group in 2019 after working for the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina. 

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JOHN NELMS

senior economic development manager | Duke Energy

Raleigh

A staffer at Duke and predecessor Progress Energy since 2005, Nelms is a board member for the N.C. Rural Center and the N.C. Economic Development Association. He has a bachelor’s degree from N.C. State University and is a Campbell University MBA graduate.

MARK OWENS

president, CEO | Greater Winston-Salem Inc.

Winston-Salem

Owens, 35, has been CEO since 2018. The Presbyterian College graduate came to Winston-Salem in 2017 after leading the Greer, S.C., chamber for four years.

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CHRIS PLATÉ

executive director | Monroe-Union County Economic Development

Monroe

Since 1999, the Clemson University graduate has been an economic develop-ment leader in Union County involving several roles for the city of Monroe. Over that period, Union has been among the state’s fastest-growing regions and developed a major aerospace industry cluster.

JULIE ROPER

economic development, local government manager | Dominion Energy North America

Mount Holly

Roper, 54, manages the natural gas supplier’s community engagement and communications with local government officials. She has a bachelor’s degree from Belmont Abbey College and a master’s degree in public administration from Appalachian State University.

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GARY SALAMIDO

CEO | NC Chamber

Cary

After working for the business advocacy group since 2011, Salamido, 58, was named president and CEO in 2019. A former director of government affairs for GlaxoSmithKline, he holds a pharmacy degree from Albany College of Pharmacy and an MBA from the University of Texas.

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BEN TEAGUE

vice president, strategic development | Biltmore Farms

Fletcher

Teague, 42, is a University of Mississippi graduate and former executive director of the Asheville-Buncombe County Economic Development Coalition.

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NORRIS TOLSON

CEO, president | Carolinas Gateway Partnership

Pinetops

An N.C. State University graduate, Tolson, 81, served in the N.C. House and was secretary of the state’s Commerce, Transportation and Revenue departments.  He was N.C. Biotechnology Center president from 2007 to 2014.

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ROBERT VAN GEONS

president | Fayetteville Cumberland Economic Development Corp.

Fayetteville

Van Geons, 45, has helped the region add $225 million in investment and 2,000 jobs since joining the group in 2017. He previously worked in economic development jobs for Rowan and Stanly counties. He has a bachelor’s degree from Catawba College and a doctoral degree in international development from the University of Southern Mississippi. 

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PATRICK WOODIE

president | NC Rural Center

Cary

Woodie, 56, has led the center through a transition, encouraging more community engagement. He has bachelor’s and law degrees from Wake Forest University.

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STEVE YOST

president | North Carolina’s Southeast

Whiteville

Yost, 54, has led the regional development group since 2009. He has degrees from Appalachian State University and UNC Chapel Hill.

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