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Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Power List 2023: Manufacturing

Leah Wong Ashburn
Lynn Bamford
Jamie Bartholomaus
Michael Bell
Alex Bernhardt Jr.
Stephen Bratspies
Jim Bryan
Wes Carter
Ted Doheny

Geoff Foster
Bobby Frye*
Matt Gregory
Hooper Hardison Jr.
Frank Harrison III
Stan Jewell
Vimal Kapur
Gregg Lowe
Eugene Lowe III

Robert Luddy
Kent Masters
Guy Meldrum
Thomas Nelson
Ward Nye
Leib Oehmig
Jordan Schindler
Glenn Sherrill
Alex Shuford

Jim Shuford III
Eddie Smith
Harry Smith
Sean Suggs
Leon Topalian
Anderson Warlick
Howard Woltz III


BOBBY FRYE 

CEO, president | Mt. Olive Pickle Co.
Mount Olive

Family history says Bobby Frye’s grandmother, Birdie Robinson, was a star sales representative for Mt. Olive Pickle Co. when it started in its namesake community in the 1930s. He’s doing her proud today as leader of the company, which packs more than 130 million jars of pickles, relishes and similar products annually. It operates from a 150-acre campus intersected by Cucumber and Vine streets in this eastern North Carolina town.

Frye, who started as a pickle peddler in 1980 after graduating from Lenoir-Rhyne College, has not rested on tradition. In 1984, he became district manager, six years later, regional sales manager, and in 1997, head of national sales. He became president in 2015 and has pushed company growth. Last year, he announced Mt. Olive would spend more than $35 million to expand manufacturing, warehousing and other operations in Goldsboro with two new sites totaling almost 300,000 square feet and adding 170 jobs.

The new plants will accommodate more growth in the future, he says. Altogether, Mt. Olive has more than 1 million square feet of production space, employs more than 500 and has sales topping $220 million annually.

Favorite family tradition: Christmas Eve dinner

Favorite N.C. place to visit: Pinehurst 

What do you listen to on your commute: CNBC

Major inspiration: Building a great team to lead Mt. Olive that continues to innovate and grow our company.

Career highlight: The Mt. Olive team executing our plan to become the No. 1 brand of pickles sold in the United States.

Favorite hobby after work: Exercise and golf.  

Best advice for industry newcomers: Surround yourself with talented teammates.


LEAH WONG ASHBURN

owner, president, CEO | Highland Brewing
Asheville

Ashburn, 53, leads the city’s original craft brewery and was named president in 2015. Her father, Oscar, founded the company in 1994 amid a successful engineering career. He initially nixed his daughter’s request to work at Highland, so the UNC Chapel Hill journalism school graduate worked for a Charlotte yearbook publisher before signing on. She has been a leading promoter of Asheville and expanded opportunities for women in business. 

Favorite family tradition: Sunday brunch. Slow food on a slow morning.

Favorite N.C. place to visit: Wilmington 

What do you listen to on your commute: NPR

Major inspiration: Oscar Wong, my father. He enjoys life fully and has that rare quality that brings people together with joy and purpose — true charisma.

Career highlight: Being a James Beard Award semi-finalist in the Beer, Wine and Spirits Professional category. 

Favorite hobby: Sand volleyball

Best advice for industry newcomers:  It really is collegial with fun benefits, fascinating science and great relationships. It’s also not an easy road. 

Key industry change in next five years: Beverages will continue to divide into smaller subsegments, such as adding alcohol to traditionally alcohol-free beverages, removing it from alcohol beverages, using non-traditional ingredients, and blending beverage categories.

LYNN BAMFORD

chair, CEO | Curtiss-Wright
Davidson

The 30-year company veteran became CEO in 2021, then chair last year. The maker of high-tech components for aerospace, defense and power generation uses has
$2.6 billion in annual revenue. She has a
master’s in electrical engineering from George Mason University.
The company’s share price has doubled in the past
three years.

JAMIE BARTHOLOMAUS

co-owner | Foothills Brewing 
Winston-Salem

A North Carolina craft brewing pioneer, Foothills has three Winston-Salem locations including a brewing facility that churns out 40,000 barrels a year. Bartholomaus started brewing as a student at the University of Georgia, where he majored in anthropology.

MICHAEL BELL

senior vice president, general manager |
Corning Optical Communications
Charlotte

Bell joined the fiber maker in Hickory in 1991 and became cable manufacturing manager for Corning Cable Systems America in 2004. He moved to his current post in 2020. After graduating from West Virginia University, he served four years as a Navy submarine officer. He has an MBA from UNC Chapel Hill.

ALEX BERNHARDT JR.

president, CEO | Bernhardt Furniture
Lenoir

He’s the fourth generation to run the 134-year-old North Carolina furniture company. It’s now one of the oldest family-run furniture companies in America. Bernhardt employs more than 1,500 people at eight N.C. factories and has manufacturing reps in 50-plus countries.

STEPHEN BRATSPIES

CEO | HanesBrands
Winston-Salem

The University of Pennsylvania MBA joined the 59,000-employee apparel maker in 2015 after senior management posts at Walmart and Frito-Lay. He became CEO in 2020. Shares have declined sharply over the last two years with a net loss of $127 million in 2022. Bratspies is also a graduate of Franklin & Marshall College.

JIM BRYAN

president | Fairystone Fabrics
Burlington

Bryan managed Fairystone for more than a decade before buying the business from the  founder’s son, Tom Bobo, in 2011. Bryan spent 17 years with Burlington Industries prior to moving to Fairystone. The Burlington-based company makes a variety of fabric products, including materials for automobile interiors.

WES CARTER

president  | Atlantic Packaging
Wilmington

The UNC Chapel Hill graduate, 44, became president in 2016. He started working at the company, which was founded by his grandfather, at the age of 14. His father, Rusty, led rapid growth at the company, which is one of the biggest privately held U.S. packaging firms.  

Favorite family tradition: We always travel to somewhere special for Christmas. We have Christmas morning in places that inspire us.  

Favorite N.C. place to visit: Wrightsville Beach and Cape Hatteras

What do you listen to on your commute: Usually the Grateful Dead. 

Major inspiration: My father built an amazing business rooted in family values, ethics and culture. He has been able to maintain that culture even as the business has grown to global levels of influence.  

Career highlight: Launching and building our sustainability initiative, A New Earth Project.

Favorite hobby after work: Playing the guitar. Nothing sets the tone and allows me to relax like playing music.

Best advice for industry newcomers: Be yourself. Regardless of the industry or organizations, we all need the unique talents and passions that only you can bring.  Diversity of talent and collaboration is the secret to success in business and in life. Find something you are truly passionate about, learn it, drive it and then bring that passion to your industry. Inspire other people with your dedication to your talents and vision.  

Key industry change in next five years: Massive shift away from environmentally problematic packaging to sustainable packaging.

TED DOHENY

president, CEO | Sealed Air
Charlotte

The packaging company’s board extended Doheny’s contract through 2027. He joined the company in 2017 and was named president and CEO four months later. Sealed Air is best known for Bubble Wrap, but it makes other packaging-related products. The Cornell University graduate previously worked as CEO of Milwaukee-based Joy Global.

GEOFF FOSTER

president, CEO | Core Technology Molding Greensboro

Foster and his wife, Tonya, formed the company in 2006. The N.C. A&T State University industrial technology graduate also has an MBA from Wake Forest University. The former Corning Life Sciences manager has a patent for an electric-motor part that has been used in more than 31 million vehicles. 

Favorite family tradition:
Celebrating holidays with family. 

Favorite N.C. place to visit: Coastal for tourism and activities, and Outer Banks for peaceful purposes.

What do you listen to on your commute: Music from the 60s to the 90s on Satellite XM radio.

Major inspiration: Dr. Harold Martin, chancellor at N.C. A&T State University. Leads the largest HBCU but does not settle and wants his faculty, students and alumni to continue to strive to be better. It’s what Aggies do.

Career highlight: Ernst & Young Southeast Entrepreneur of the Year winner

Favorite hobby: Swimming

Best advice for industry newcomer: Stay focused and block out the outside noise. 

Key industry change in next five years: Sustainable materials and energy sources.

MATT GREGORY

chief customer officer, senior vice president of health and beauty | Clorox
Durham

Gregory has led 500 employees at the company’s Durham office and Morrisville factory since 2017. A third location, housing the company’s technology, finance and supply chain teams, opened in Durham earlier this year. Clorox bought Durham-based Burt’s Bees, for $1 billion in 2007.

E. HOOPER HARDISON JR.

CEO | Charlotte Pipe & Foundry
Charlotte 

The UNC Chapel Hill graduate became CEO of Charlotte Pipe in 2022 in his 34th year with the pipe manufacturer. The Dowd family’s 122-year-old company expects to open its new 500-employee Stanly County plant in August. He is on the boards of Queens University and Central Piedmont Community College.

FRANK HARRISON III

chair, CEO | Coca-Cola Bottling Co. Consolidated
Charlotte

Harrison has chaired and been CEO of the nation’s largest Coca-Cola bottler since 1996 after joining the family business in 1977. His great-grandfather introduced the soda to North Carolina in 1902. Revenue increased 13% to $6.2 billion in 2022.

STAN JEWELL

president, CEO | Renfro Brands
Mount Airy

Jewell oversees a 2,000-employee, century-old sock manufacturing company with brands including Polo and Fruit of the Loom. Jewell joined as CEO in 2017 after spending 10 years at VF Corp. He’s a Georgia Tech University graduate.

VIMAL KAPUR

chair, CEO | Honeywell
Charlotte

The native of India is succeeding Darius Adamczyk as the diversified company’s top executive in June. He’s been at the company for more than 30 years and was appointed president and chief operating officer last year after leading units in Houston and Atlanta. Adamczyk will become executive chair.

EUGENE LOWE III

president, CEO | SPX
Charlotte

The former Milliken & Co. executive leads about 4,500 employees in 17 countries. Revenue in 2022 was almost $1.5 billion. SPX makes heating and air conditioning products. He has a bachelor’s degree from Virginia Tech University and a Dartmouth MBA.

GREGG LOWE

president, CEO | Wolfspeed
Durham

In six years as CEO, Lowe has shifted Wolfspeed’s focus from lighting products to semiconductors. The company is building plants in Germany, New York and Chatham County, entailing investments of more than $9 billion. The former Texas Instruments executive is a former chair of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

ROBERT LUDDY

president | CaptiveAire Systems
Raleigh

The kitchen-equipment company that Luddy founded in 1976 includes operations in eight states, 90 sales offices and more than 1,400 employees. It has continually added new facilities in recent years. The U.S. Army veteran is a LaSalle University graduate.

KENT MASTERS

chair, president, CEO | Albemarle Corp.
Charlotte

The Georgia Tech University graduate has led the largest U.S. lithium producer since 2020, a golden position as demand has skyrocketed for for batteries for electric vehicles and devices. The former CEO of Foster Wheeler joined Albemarle’s board in 2015 and became lead director in 2018. The company employs 5,400 employees 
in 100 countries, and is planning to reopen a Cleveland County mine in the next few years.

GUY MELDRUM

president, CEO | Reynolds American
Winston-Salem

The New Zealand native has worked for Reynolds’ parent, British American Tobacco, since 1998, including stints in Australia and Hong Kong. He moved to the top N.C. post in 2020. The Macquarie University graduate oversees about 4,300 employees, down 11% from a year earlier.

THOMAS NELSON

chair, CEO | National Gypsum
Charlotte

The Harvard MBA graduate has run the wallboard manufacturer since 1999. The business had been acquired four years earlier by his late father-in-law, Charlotte investor C.D. Spangler Jr. A former member of the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond’s board, Nelson also serves as board chair of Advocate Health, the parent of Atrium Health, and is a director at Yum! Brands, Bechtel and Milliken.

WARD NYE

chair, CEO | Martin Marietta Materials
Raleigh

The Wake Forest University law graduate has led the 9,000-employee construction- supplies company since 2010. Annual revenue increased from $1.5 billion to $6.2 billion during his tenure. He practiced law in Raleigh before entering the aggregates industry in 2006.

LEIB OEHMIG

president, CEO | Glen Raven
Burlington

Oehmig joined Glen Raven after graduating from Clemson University. He became CEO in 2017. Glen Raven is making a $250 million capital expansion at plants in the Carolinas. Glen Raven produces the Sunbrella and Dickson
fabric lines.

JORDAN SCHINDLER

CEO, founder | Nufabrx
Conover

Starting from a dorm room at the University of Washington in 2011, Schindler founded the health-wear manufacturing company. The business ranked eighth on Deloitte’s list of fastest-growing U.S. companies in 2021. He chose North Carolina for his operation because of its textile heritage and business-friendly climate.

Favorite family tradition: Summer trips together no matter what’s going on and even though we’re on separate coasts. Travel allows us all to get out of the daily routine and just enjoy spending time together.

Favorite N.C. place to visit: Divine Llama Vineyards. Wine and llama in a beautiful North Carolina mountain setting, what’s not to like?

What do you listen to on commute: “How I Built This” NPR podcast and audible books. Currently listening to “Worth Doing Wrong” by Arnie Malham, a great book about building a great culture and thinking about what truly matters to employees.

Major inspiration: All entrepreneurs, at any stage, in any industry. It is not easy making a choice to build something from scratch and laying it all on the line.

Best advice to industry newcomers: The intersection between traditional clothing and pharmaceuticals has a lot of challengess. Find people that have “been there and done that,” network, get your hands dirty. Send that extra email, text or LinkedIn message; you are always one action away from a life-changing conversation.

Key industry change in next five years: The rise of smart materials, apparel and clothing to help simplify people’s health and well-being; we call it HealthWear.

GLENN SHERRILL

chairman, CEO | SteelFab
Charlotte

The N.C. State University graduate leads the family-owned steel fabrication business founded by his grandfather after World War II. He became CEO in 2017 after leading its Atlanta and Alabama divisions. Many of the tallest buildings in Charlotte and Atlanta have SteelFab steel. Sherrill chairs the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond’s Charlotte board.

Favorite family tradition: Christmas Eve dinner at my mom’s house.

Favorite NC place to visit: Too many places in our great state that I love to visit to pick one.

What do you listen to on your commute: Playlist from Spotify or I am on the phone.

Major inspiration: My Dad, who passed in October of 2021. He believed in me and took the time to teach me the steel business. I think about him every day.

Favorite hobby after work: Have a nice dinner with family or friends.

Best advice for industry newcomers: Learn how to do everything you can in your chosen career. No job is too menial should be your approach. Avoid working from home, if you want to rise in your career you need to have “in person” interactions with your bosses and colleagues. Putting it another way, out of sight is out of mind.

ALEX SHUFORD III

CEO | RHF Investments
Hickory

Shuford is the third generation to lead Rock House Farm, started by his grandfather, and part of a prominent family of Hickory businessmen. The company, which bought the Classic Leather and St. Timothy Furniture companies last year, employs 1,750 at eight North Carolina factories.

JAMES SHUFORD

chair | STM Industries
Hickory

In 1994, only two years after receiving an MBA from UNC Chapel Hill, Shuford joined the family’s Shurtape division. He’s steered the expansion of brands such as Painter’s Mate and Duck. The Shuford family has run Catawba Valley area businesses since 1880.

Favorite family tradition: Beach trip with extended family each summer.

Favorite N.C. place to visit: Figure 8 Island

What do you listen to on your commute: CNBC

Career highlight: Seeing my brother, Stephen, take over as CEO. 

Major inspiration: My grandfather Harley Shuford — a serial entrepreneur. 

Favorite hobby: Surf and snow skiing  

Key industry change in next five years: Normalization of hybrid work.

EDDIE SMITH

owner, CEO | Grady-White Boats
Greenville

The UNC Chapel Hill graduate, 80, runs the boat-building company that he and his late wife, Jo Allison Smith, bought from its founder in 1968, nine years after its founding. About 450 workers turn out 26 models of boats from 18 feet to 45 feet long. He’s a former chair of the National Marine Manufacturers Association.

HARRY SMITH

CEO | Pamlico Air, Rise Capital
Washington 

The former CEO of publicly traded Flanders Filters leads the filter manufacturer and his  diversified investment company. In 2022, the 22,000-employee German industrial firm Mann + Hummel bought Pamlico, which had more than 1,600 employees. The East Carolina University graduate is a former chair of the UNC System Board of Governors. 

Favorite family tradition: Spending time outdoors. 

Favorite N.C. place to visit: Atlantic Beach

What do you listen to on your commute: Business podcasts

Major inspiration: Warren Buffett — he’s had enormous success but remains humble and lives simply.

Career highlight: Fixed or founded companies that now employ approximately 8,000  employees.

Favorite hobby after work: Boating with friends. 

Best advice for industry newcomers: Be strong enough, do the right things and be very careful who you let in your inner circle. Do your homework on people.  

Key industry change in next five years: Automation and artificial intelligence.

SEAN SUGGS

president, N.C. plant | Toyota Battery Manufacturing
Liberty

The Auburn University graduate is director of the company’s newest North America site in Randolph
County. Suggs, 57, supervises construction of the project that entails an investment of more than $3 billion. The plant will have four production lines and plans to hire 1,750 North Carolina employees. He joined the company in 2013.

Favorite family tradition: Creation of our annual Christmas calendar with all of my six kids and four grandkids. 

Favorite N.C. place to visit: Pinehurst. I love playing golf. 

What do you listen to on your commute: Tony Evans

Major inspiration: I am a spiritual man, so my major inspiration is God. 

Career highlight: Being able to lead this new project in North Carolina. We will be the first battery plant in North America. 

Favorite hobby after work: I am a golf fanatic; I have now played golf in all 50 states. 

Best advice for industry newcomers: Have a “I can, and I will” mentality. This industry requires inspiration and dedication. We need people that want to make a difference. 

Key industry change in next five years: Electrification will require agility and speed. This market is growing rapidly and our ability to flex and adjust will be critical for our future success.

LEON TOPALIAN

president, chairman, CEO | Nucor
Charlotte

Topalian joined the company in 1996, became CEO in 2020, and was named board chair last year. The largest U.S. steel company saw profits rise to a record $7.6 billion last year as revenue soared 14% to $41.5 billion. He’s a graduate of Massachusetts Maritime Academy.

ANDERSON WARLICK

chair, CEO | Parkdale Mills
Gastonia

Long among the most prominent U.S. textile executives, the 1979 Citadel graduate joined Parkdale in 1984. He later succeeded his father-in-law, Duke Kimbrell, as the company’s CEO. Last year, he received a top award for service, leadership and ethics from his alma mater.

HOWARD WOLTZ III

chair, president, CEO | Insteel Industries
Mount Airy

Woltz has been CEO at the company his grandfather founded since 1991 and has helped build Insteel into the largest U.S. maker of steel wire reinforcing products. Company revenues totaled $827 million last year. Woltz holds both a bachelor’s and an MBA from UNC Chapel Hill.

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