Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Western: Tough Tom

Western North Carolina loses lots of clout with Tom Apodaca’s departure from the North Carolina Senate, but he’s not going far. The Hendersonville Republican expects to open a “business development and government relations” firm — others call it lobbying. He resigned in July and under state rules must wait until January before plying his new trade, which he expects will model former House Speaker Harold Brubaker, a top-ranked lobbyist.

He’s spurned job offers from Raleigh law firms, noting, “I don’t always play well with others.” A lot of political opponents say amen to that, frustrated by Apodaca’s heavy hand in House Bill 2, redistricting and other contentious scraps. The payoff is that Republicans have transformed North Carolina’s economy by reducing tax rates, restoring public-school funding and “keeping regulations in check,” says Apodaca, a Texas native who entered the Senate in 2003 and has owned various businesses, including a bail bonds office and a travel agency. “Growth is now outpacing our projections, and I think we are in a great position,” Apodaca says.

Rated the second-most effective senator in an April study by the N.C. Center for Public Policy (Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger was deemed No. 1), Apodaca isn’t bashful about his influence. “I was the rules chairman, which has way more influence than the lieutenant governor. I killed so many bad bills, you wouldn’t believe it.”

One bill he didn’t kill was HB2, which blocks nondiscrimination policies from protecting lesbians, gays and transgender people. Apodaca, 58, says he preferred that the bill not emerge, but he accepted the House’s decision to move forward because of its  supporters’ passion.

Looking out for western North Carolina remains his priority, Apodaca says. He’s most proud of helping speed Duke Energy’s plan to expand natural-gas production, spurring the economy and hastening the shutdown of coal plants. He will push for stronger collaboration between lawmakers and business interests in the east and west, where growth has lagged compared with metro areas. He favors state incentives for companies expanding in rural areas, while withholding most assistance for those moving to Raleigh and Charlotte. “[Companies] are going there anyway,” he says.

Increased agriculture production will be the salvation of the east, which has abundant water and can supplant farm output in drought-stricken California, Apodaca says. He thinks the west’s natural beauty makes it an inevitable magnet for business and residents.

While Apodaca will have a lower profile, his new role should prove more lucrative than the $22,000 in annual salary and expenses paid to N.C. lawmakers. “I want to be one of the guys holding the shovel when they unveil the new manufacturing plant at a megasite,” he says.

HomeTrust Bancshares named Thomas Goins executive vice president and consumer banking executive. A UNC Charlotte graduate, he comes from MUFG Union Bank in San Diego where he was managing director for residential lending marketing for six years. Goins, 49, previously worked for Bank of America, Bank of Boston and Wells Fargo. North Carolina’s sixth-largest community bank, Asheville-based HomeTrust Bank has assets of $2.7 billion and operates 39 branches in the Carolinas, Tennessee and Virginia.

FRANKLIN — Craig Fowler was named a director of Entegra Financial, which has 15 branches in western N.C. and assets totaling about $1.2 billion. Fowler is chief information officer at Western Carolina University in Cullowhee and previously held roles at Corning Cable Systems, Dell and Raytheon. Previously Macon Bank, Entegra also opened a loan production office in Clemson, S.C.

BOONE — Appalachian State University launched two new business degree programs. The bachelor of science business administration in supply chain management will focus on procurement, logistics, distribution and other topics. The master of science in applied data analytics will teach students to work with data in a business context, offering concentrations in supply-chain analytics and sustainability analytics.

David Mildenberg
David Mildenberg
David Mildenberg is editor of Business North Carolina. Reach him at

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