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Regional Report Triad November 2010


Kirkman exits partnership 

In early September, Don Kirkman insisted that he was comfortable in his new role as the No. 2 person at the Piedmont Triad Partnership, the Greensboro-based nonprofit he had run for 10 years before being demoted. Sixteen days later — after last month’s issue of Business North Carolina had gone to the printer with a story about how well the transition was going — he resigned, effective Oct. 31. The partnership, which recruits industry to the 12-county region, isn’t replacing him.

What happened? Kirkman now says he had always planned to re-evaluate his new role as chief operating officer after David Powell, who took over Aug. 23, had been CEO long enough to set a vision for it. “It was always understood that once he was in place, there would be a discussion about the future of the organization that would impact my decision.”

While there were no specific conflicts with the new boss, Kirkman says his presence might have hindered Powell’s efforts to make changes. “It was clear that it’s real hard to move in a new direction when the architect of the prior direction is in the office next door.” He says he wasn’t pushed out, but Powell agreed that his decision to leave was best for the partnership.

The decision to hire a CEO and demote Kirkman — though allowing him to keep his CEO salary of at least $231,848 a year — came after a merger of the partnership’s board in February with the executive committee of the Piedmont Triad Leadership Group, an organization that included Kelly King, CEO of Winston-Salem-based BB&T Corp. King, who had led a drive to raise more than $7 million for recruiting, became chairman of the new board. In an e-mail, King called the resignation unexpected. He didn’t answer a question about the fiscal wisdom of keeping Kirkman in a job the partnership now doesn’t plan to fill.

Board member Nido Qubein, president of High Point University and chairman of the committee that hired Powell, says only the timing of the resignation surprised him. “When you have a leadership change at the top, people choose to realign their roles and move on to other things. I can’t say I was shocked.”

Publicly, board members have said nice things about Kirkman, but privately some complained about the partnership’s recruiting and are looking for improvement. Nevertheless, Qubein says the board believed Kirkman and Powell could coexist. “If we didn’t think that both could be functionally productive and meaningful contributors, we would have made other arrangements. We’re big boys and girls, and we’ve made tough decisions before.”

Bell Partners Inc. continued to narrow its focus on apartment investments and management by selling the 21-story Wachovia Tower in downtown Greensboro to an undisclosed purchaser for $45 million. The 324,000-square-foot office building, formerly First Union Tower, was deveoped by Atlanta based Cousins Properties in 1989 and bought by Bell for $36 million in 2004. Bell will lease two floors as its headquarters.


WALLBURGTIMCO Aerosystems, the interior-furnishings unit of Greesnboro-based TIMCO Aviation Systems, plans to open a factory that will employ 500 within seven years. The jobs will pay an average of $34,728 a year. The Davidson County average is $29,640. TIMCO employs about 1,800 in the region.

REIDSVILLE — Federal agents seized Chinqua Penn Plantation, a historic 1920s mansion that was part of tobac- co heir Jeff Penn’s much larger estate. Gene Tarr, bankruptcy examiner for Mocksville-based Renegade Holdings, sued Renegade owner Calvin Phelps, contending that he improperly transferred money from the company to help buy the mansion.

BURLINGTON — Medical-testing company Laboratory Corporation of America Holdings agreed to buy Cambridge, Mass.-based Genzyme’s genetic-testing division for $925 million. LabCorp plans to keep the division’s 1,900 employees.

HIGH POINTBaltek, which makes wood materials used in windmill rotors, boat hulls and other products, will move here from Northvale, N.J., by the end of 2011 and create 68 jobs within three years. Its parent is Switzerland-based 3A Consultants.

LEXINGTONValendrawers, part of Italy-based Valen Group, plans to add 50 jobs at its plant here within three years, bringing employment to 86. Hiring will start by the end of the year. The factory will expand its cabinet-door product line. It also makes custom-drawer components.

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