WilmingtonBiz Magazine

The WilmingtonBiz 100: The Power Players

By Staff Reports, posted Dec 16, 2022

The Power Players – The businesspeople and officials having the greatest impact on the region’s business and economic landscape

Jeffery Bourk

Airport Director, Wilmington International Airport
Jeffrey Bourk started in his position at Wilmington International Airport in January after serving at the helm of Branson Airport in Missouri for 14 years, during which he built the airport from the ground up through investments in infrastructure development and low-cost carriers.


In his first year as airport director, ILM saw significant increases in passengers and revenues. More than one million passengers traveled through ILM in fiscal year 2022, during which the airport brought in revenues exceeding $13 million, a record annual amount.

ILM secured its chances of future revenue growth with a flurry of business activity over the past year,  with the airport bringing in 90 acres worth of new ground leases for its business park. A hotel near the airport is in the works, with plans released this summer outlining a 150-room building outfitted with 5,000 square feet of event space, a restaurant and a rooftop bar. 

ILM netted four new nonstop routes this year with the addition of low-cost carrier Avelo Airlines, contributing to the increase in total passengers along with the legacy carriers American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines expanding service at ILM. Next up for the airport is a five-year capital program totaling $125 million to fund terminal curb front improvements, the addition of two new gates in the terminal, runway overlay, and taxiway relocation among other projects. 

PANDEMIC RECOVERY: Pre-pandemic passenger numbers totaled 1,007,500 for the fiscal year ending in June 2019, compared to 1,017,500 for fiscal year 2022.

Spence Broadhurst & Hannah Dawson Gage

Chair & Vice-Chair, New Hanover Community Endowment
Chair and vice-chair of the New Hanover Community Endowment, Spence Broadhurst and Hannah Dawson Gage, have led the new organization through its first year in operation.  

WHY THEY’RE POWER PLAYERS: Created by the sale of New Hanover Regional Medical Center to Novant Health, the New Hanover Community Endowment oversees a $1.1 billion fund. As leaders of the board, both Broadhurst and Gage have helped the new nonprofit entity in its inaugural year, which began with the hiring of its first CEO and president, William Buster. Over the summer, the board and staff settled on grant criteria for its inaugural funding cycle and opened grant applications in September.  

The organization received nearly 300 proposals, and the more than 100 grant awardees were announced publicly on Dec. 9. The board has the ultimate authority over which organizations are selected and what total amounts are awarded. Grant awards will be considered from four categories: community safety; health and social equity; community development; and public primary, secondary and post-secondary education.

BIZ BACKGROUNDS: Broadhurst, a former mayor of Wilmington, is president of the Eastern North Carolina region for First National Bank. Gage has an extensive career in media and previously owned Cape Fear Broadcasting in Wilmington. She also served on the University of North Carolina Board of Governors for 16 years and was the board’s first female chair.

William Buster

CEO & President, New Hanover Community Endowment

Named the first leader of the county’s $1.1-billion endowment, William Buster oversees a large nest egg created by the 2021 sale of New Hanover Regional Medical Center to Novant Health.  


Buster is arguably one of the most in-demand leaders in the Cape Fear region. Tasked with overseeing the management and dispersal of more than $1 billion in hospital sale proceeds, Buster has been a highly sought-after fixture since he arrived in the area in March.  

So far, Buster is leading the community endowment through the development of infrastructure and strategic development for the fledgling organization.  

Previously the Asheville-based Dogwood Health Trust’s senior vice president of impact, Buster had experience navigating a new health legacy foundation attempting to gain its footing. Before the Dogwood Health Trust, Buster was the executive vice president of community investments at St. David’s Foundation in Austin, Texas, and he worked for nine years at the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. Buster is currently the national advisory committee chair for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Forward Promise initiative. 

BILLION-DOLLAR DEAL: The New Hanover Community Endowment will be the area’s largest charitable funding organization and one of the largest endowments in the state.

Bill Cameron

Co-Founder & President, Cameron Management

Bill Cameron's investment management company focuses on real estate development, brokerage and property management, and he and his family have a long history of both shaping the region.
WHY HE’S A POWER PLAYER: New Hanover Community Endowment board and will chair it next year.

He was a founding member and director of Port City Capital Bank and director of Crescent State Bank following its acquisition of Port City Capital Bank in 2006. Cameron currently serves on the board of directors for Live Oak Bancshares, Cape Fear Memorial Foundation and Champion McDowell Davis Foundation.

The impact of Cameron’s family on the area extends back before the Civil War and is evident in the region today.

Recent Cameron developments include shopping and entertainment center The Pointe at Barclay in midtown Wilmington and the International Commerce Center at the International Logistics Park in Brunswick County.

A LONG TIME COMING: Because of the efforts of Cameron’s firm, Brunswick County’s International Logistics Park of North Carolina is finally active (after about a decade of sitting unused) with its first tenants settled and operating. The industrial site’s three tenants (as of press time) – Precision Swiss Products, Lowe’s Companies and Tri-Tech Forensics – moved into the newly completed International Commerce Center at the park. 

Brian Clark

Executive Director, N.C. State Ports Authority 

As the leader of the N.C. State Ports Authority, Brian Clark oversees activity surrounding the state’s two deepwater ports and its inland port in Charlotte.  

WHY HE’S A POWER PLAYER: The Port of Wilmington has seen major capital investments in recent years to enhance and increase its offerings. 

The ports saw record operating revenue in fiscal year 2022, bringing in $68 million. The Port of Wilmington handled its highest-ever refrigerated container volume, at nearly 18,000 containers, and a record-breaking total of more than 2.8 million tons of general cargo, a 27% increase from fiscal year 2021.

Clark is overseeing major capital expansion projects, including phase two of Wilmington’s $22.6-million refrigerated container yard. The port’s investments have spurred private development nearby, including the planned Port City Logistics warehouse and Cold Summit Development’s cold storage facility.  

Clark was named director of the ports authority last year and served as its chief operating officer from 2017 through 2020.  

With more than 25 years of maritime experience, Clark has served in senior-level positions at ports in various locations across the U.S. 

In June, U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg appointed Clark to the Maritime Transportation System National Advisory Committee.  


Brian Eckel

Partner, Cape Fear Commercial

Developer and commercial real estate broker Brian Eckel is involved in multiple companies, having co-founded Wilmington-based Cape Fear Commercial with Vin Wells in 2001 and partnering in Cape Fear Development and Cape Fear Construction.


In addition to being a key leader in the commercial real estate industry in Wilmington and in major development projects such as Autumn Hall, Renaissance on Military Cutoff Road, Echo Farms and the redeveloped New Hanover County Government Center, Eckel is a trustee on the Novant Health Coastal Board of Managers and the overall Novant Health Board of Trustees.
Eckel has been working this year on convening a coalition to address the dwindling health care workforce. This work resulted from friends and community members who knew of Eckel’s role with the hospital telling him they were having a difficult time getting relatives seen at the hospital, according to a Greater Wilmington Business Journal story in October. “That’s a direct correlation to the employee shortage,” he said in the article. “So I started thinking, there’s nothing I can do that I know of today. But what can we do long-term in this community?”

In one of its first big efforts, the group was able to secure a $2 million pledge from Novant Health to speed up its progress. Eckel also negotiated a contract for a downtown building that could become Cape Fear Community College’s planned expanded nursing and allied health facility.

BY THE NUMBERS: Eckel’s companies have made more than $3 billion in sales, with $400 million in development under construction and 3 million square feet under management.

Natalie English

President & CEO, Wilmington Chamber of Commerce  
As head of the Wilmington Chamber of Commerce, Natalie English represents and advances business interests in the region.  
WHY SHE’S A POWER PLAYER: The Wilmington Chamber of Commerce plays a key role in several regional initiatives, serving as an advocate or a convener for a number of issues. English has decades of experience in the chamber industry and joined the Wilmington chamber in 2017 from the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce, where she was the chief public policy officer.  

Last year, English advocated to secure federal funding to establish a pilot program focusing on small business retention, expansion and recruitment and hired Josh Hallingse to head the new initiative. The chamber took over organizing the Minority Enterprise Development (MED) Week program in October 2021 and led the program again this year, which featured dozens of seminars and set records for registration and attendance. English has championed the need to fund a replacement for the Cape Fear Memorial Bridge and support other infrastructure needs in the region. She continues to push for reliable and recurring long-term funding from the state’s Coastal Storm Damage Mitigation Fund. 

Each year, the chamber hosts over 100 events, from small-scale networking get-togethers to panel discussions to help the business community connect and grow.  

SIGN UPS: The chamber has more than 1,000 members and is managed by a staff of seven.

Huntley Garriott

President, Live Oak Bank

Huntley Garriott joined Live Oak Bank as president in 2018 after more than 20 years at Goldman Sachs, where he was a partner in the firm’s investment banking division.

WHY HE’S A POWER PLAYER: Garriott is president of a bank that has been the top SBA lender in the country for five years running, with $1.7 billion loaned to small businesses during the 2022 fiscal year. 

In line with the organization’s focus on supporting small businesses, Live Oak launched Tidal Small Business Checking this year, adding its first-ever checking product to its suite of services for small business owners. 

In September, Live Oak announced a $25 million investment to construct a fourth building on the company’s midtown campus, an addition that will provide space for more than 200 new jobs added to the local economy over the next five years. Another investment in the local economy is Channel, Live Oak’s inclusive small business center serving minority entrepreneurs, which opened the doors to its downtown Wilmington location late last year. 

Garriott also serves as a board member of the Carolina Small Business Development Fund.

Michele Holbrook

Capital Program Manager, Corning Incorporated

While based in Wilmington, Michele Holbrook’s role with Corning extends worldwide. She is responsible for the delivery of major optical fiber and cable capital projects across Corning’s global footprint.


Closer to home, Holbrook holds several positions with significant influence over community and business focuses. At the Wilmington Chamber of Commerce, she serves as the board’s immediate past chair and is co-chairing the chamber’s strategic plan committee. That group is looking at the chamber’s five-year strategy, to keep it “focused on impactful areas that will position our community for prosperity by cultivating business growth,” Holbrook said.

She also sits on the 13-member New Hanover Community Endowment board, created from the sale of New Hanover Regional Medical Center to Novant Health and charged with overseeing how the $1.1 billion fund will be run as well as how grants from it will be dispersed.

With the endowment board, Holbrook serves as chair of its governance committee, “as well represent(ing) the importance of economic development for job creation and education for developing local talent and our future workforce.

PREVIOUS ROLE: Holbrook served as Corning’s Wilmington optical fiber plant manager between 2014 and 2019.

David Johnston

Senior VP & President, Clinical Research, Thermo Fisher Scientific

Following Thermo Fisher Scientific’s purchase late last year of Wilmington-based PPD, David Johnston was appointed to lead the company’s PPD clinical research business and is a member of the corporate leadership team.

Johnston became the top local official of the contract research organization after former PPD CEO David Simmons stepped down as planned as part of the acquisition.

There are more than 30,000 employees in PPD, now a business unit under Massachusetts-based Thermo Fisher Scientific, and 1,800 employees are based in Wilmington either in the office or working remotely.

While under new ownership, the PPD clinical research business remains a major employer in the region and nucleus of the area’s growing clinical research sector. This year, the National Cancer Institute awarded PPD a 10-year contract to help the federal agency’s cancer trials support unit. The unit also continued to receive industry accolades this year for PPD’s role in helping Moderna develop its mRNA vaccine against COVID-19.

Before the acquisition, Johnston served as executive vice president and global head of clinical development for PPD. In that role, he was responsible for the company’s early development services; patient recruitment and site networks; and Phase II-III clinical development operations. Other roles with the company were as executive vice president and head of PPD Laboratories.
BOARD SEAT: Johnston serves on the Association of Clinical Research Organizations’ board of directors.

Russ Lopatka

Wilmington Plant Manager, Corning Incorporated

As plant manager, Russ Lopatka is head of Corning’s Wilmington optical fiber manufacturing facility, which employs about 1,000 people.

Lopatka has been with Corning for 20-plus years and is originally from the Wilmington area.

Corning’s optical communications division focuses on innovating to increase the speed and capacity of optical networks, helping network operators upgrade their infrastructure as usage increases. The Wilmington facility on North College Road makes the optical fiber needed to respond to the increased demand.

New York-based Corning opened the Wilmington plant in the mid-1960s. The company’s Optical Communications division, headquartered in North Carolina, provides solutions for growing segments like outdoor and indoor 5G networks and hyperscale data centers.

Growth in fiber-based networks stems from public and private investments in broadband, 5G and the cloud. In his third-quarter earnings remarks, Corning CEO Wendell Weeks said the company saw 16% year-over-year growth in its optical communications segment – the largest contributor to the company’s third-quarter sales.

Demand for network infrastructure is expected to continue to grow.

HISTORY LESSON: The Wilmington facility was the world’s first optical fiber manufacturing plant.

Chip Mahan

Chairman & CEO, Live Oak Bancshares

Live Oak Bank, the commercial banking subsidiary of Live Oak Bancshares, was founded in 2008 by James “Chip” Mahan III in Wilmington. 


Live Oak Bank specializes in lending and deposit services to small businesses nationwide. It has grown into the nation’s leading SBA and USDA lender. Locally it was a catalyst company for building the area’s fintech cluster, and Mahan has played key roles in several companies formed and growing in their own directions.

He co-founded banking technology firms nCino and Apiture and is a managing partner at Canapi Ventures, a venture capital firm investing in early- to growth-stage fintech companies.

He sits on the board of directors for digital payments company Payrailz; cloud-based cyber security firm DefenseStorm; and the American Bankers Association.

He previously served on the board of Finxact, the cloud-native core-as-a-service platform founded in part by Mahan. 

Many of those activities are consolidated on Live Oak’s growing campus on Tiburon Drive, including Apiture, DefenseStorm and Canapi.
LOCAL BASE: Currently, nearly 700 of Live Oak Bank’s 900-plus employees are in Wilmington.

Tim Milam & Denise Kinney

CEO & President, Coldwell Banker Sea Coast Advantage

Tim Milam and Denise Kinney lead one of the largest residential real estate firms in Southeastern North Carolina, with a cadre of 800 agents and 70 staff members. 
WHY THEY’RE POWER PLAYERS: For the past four years, Coldwell Banker Sea Coast Advantage has surpassed $2 billion in closed sales volume. In 2021, that number reached $3.2 billion. Coldwell Banker Sea Coast and the Advantage family of companies were named the No. 1 Coldwell Banker company in the nation last year. 

As CEO, Milam has been looking at the company’s big picture, focusing on builder and developer relationships, along with the formation of vendor partnerships to provide services for clients. Potential expansion projects are also part of his responsibilities for the company, which was founded in 1988 and purchased by Milam in 1997. 

Kinney was promoted to president after previously serving as senior vice president and general manager. Her roles include providing agents with exclusive tools and systems to ensure their success, serving on boards and speaking at local and national events to build strong relationships within the company and the community.
RECENT EXPANSIONS: A merger with Coldwell Banker Alliance Group Realty in Jacksonville, along with new North Carolina offices in Havelock, Boiling Spring Lakes and St. James.

Jim Morton

President, CFCC

Jim Morton was named to the top spot at Cape Fear Community College in 2018 after previously serving as executive vice president and vice president for business and financial services at the community college. 

WHY HE’S A POWER PLAYER: CFCC continues to grow and expand its suite of apprenticeship programs under Morton’s watch, moving from the seventh-largest community college in the state to the fifth-largest last year.

The college has joined forces with more than 70 partners to allow CFCC students in the college’s Economic and Workforce Development and Career and Technical Education programs to learn with industry professionals while earning a salary during their programs of study. 

Its newest continuation of this initiative is focused on addressing a nursing shortage and other staffing issues in the health care system with a proposed expanded nursing and allied health facility downtown. 

This expansion, the product of recurring meetings of a coalition of community stakeholders throughout the year, will be enabled by New Hanover County’s purchase of a 55,000-square-foot facility to expand these programs coupled with Novant Health’s pledge of $2 million in funds to accelerate the group's progress. 

Additionally, the college received an economic impact grant totaling nearly $100,000 from the State Board of Community Colleges to expand its associate degree in nursing program, which has consistently ranked first in the state in various analyses. 

CAMPUS EMPLOYMENT: CFCC has nearly 1,500 employees.

Pierre Naudé

CEO & Chairman, NCINO

Pierre Naudé was a key player in founding nCino, a spinoff of Live Oak Bank, in 2011. He has more than 30 years of financial technology experience.


Naudé has headed up the fintech company since its early days and has been a key figure in its growth. The cloud banking software company now has more than 1,750 customers live on its platform, with assets ranging from $30 million to more than $2 trillion. 

This past year, it has grown its international footprint, with recently opened offices in Paris and Madrid. That brings nCino’s number of locations to 11 in seven countries. 

In January, the company acquired SimpleNexus, a home ownership platform, to further support nCino’s mortgage solutions. During a recent quarter, SimpleNexus signed 26 new customers, including community and regional banks, credit unions and independent mortgage banks.

Overall, the Wilmington-based, publicly traded company now has about 1,750 employees worldwide.

Locally, work wrapped up late this year on its expanded headquarters in the Mayfaire area. The construction project included a new building, parking deck and outdoor activity center for employees.

NEW HAT: Naudé recently added board chairman to his title, while continuing in his role as company CEO.

Shelbourn Stevens 

President, Novant Health NHRMC & Novant's Coastal Region

Shelbourn Stevens leads Novant Health New Hanover Regional Medical as well as Novant Health’s Coastal region, which includes the Wilmington facilities and the Novant operation in Brunswick County. Stevens started his career with Novant as a respiratory therapist and previously served as president and COO of Novant Health Brunswick Medical Center before the sale of NHMRC to Novant.
WHY HE’S A POWER PLAYER: There are more than 8,000 employees between Novant Health NHRMC and Novant Health Brunswick Medical Center, easily the area’s largest employer and a primary source of care for residents. Another 200-plus work for Novant Health Pender Medical Center, which is operated – but not owned – by Novant Health. Stevens heads up the Winston-Salem-based health system’s hospital facilities in the coastal region as well as its area medical group.

Staffing shortages, lingering impacts of the pandemic and continued integration with Novant Health, which purchased the New Hanover County health system in 2021, were all issues Stevens and other local system officials faced this year.

Meanwhile, capital projects are progressing as the system plans for a new, 66-bed hospital in the Scotts Hill area, a neuroscience tower at Novant Health NHRMC’s 17th Street campus and two medical office buildings in Brunswick County.

HOSPITALS UPDATE: Officials are expected to break ground on the Scotts Hill hospital in northern New Hanover County early next year.

Neil Underwood

Partner, Canapi Ventures

Neil Underwood brings his banking experience as a partner of Canapi, a venture capital firm he helped co-found in 2018 along with Gene Ludwig, founder and chairman of Promontory Financial Group, and Chip Mahan, chairman and CEO of Live Oak Bancshares. Underwood also co-founded nCino, Apiture, and Live Oak Bank and serves as president of Live Oak Bancshares, the holding company of Live Oak Bank. 


Canapi is a fintech venture fund focused on early- to growth-stage companies. It’s advised by CenterHarbor Advisors and Canapi Advisors LLC, a subsidiary of Live Oak Bancshares. Canapi is closing its most recent fund at $800 million; its inaugural fund was $650 million.

With his involvement in Canapi, Underwood has helped incubate companies focused on digital bank transformation, including Finxact, Payrailz, DefenseStorm and Greenlight.

This year, Canapi led Series A funding for cyber insurance startup Elpha Secure Technology Inc. and Able, a company that has built a system to speed up the processing of documents and other data required for commercial loans. Other companies invested in this year include Middesk, a provider of identity infrastructure tools, and Codat, a universal API for business data.
ON BOARD: Underwood also serves on the boards of Live Oak Bank, Greenlight, Notarize, Defense Storm, Apiture, Posh and Able.

Aswani Volety

Chancellor, UNCW
Aswani Volety took the reins as chancellor of UNCW in July of this year following the retirement of former chancellor Jose Sartarelli in June. Volety came to Wilmington from Elon University, where he held the positions of provost and vice president for academic affairs. But in a sense, he was returning to Wilmington as he previously served as dean of the UNCW College of Arts and Sciences. 
WHY HE’S A POWER PLAYER: Volety serves at the helm of a nationally ranked university enrolling nearly 18,000 students – in fact, this year the school earned high placement on U.S. News & World Report’s annual list of best colleges. 
Volety has reinvigorated the university’s strategic planning process, including development of a strategic plan to guide the school’s growth over the next decade. These initiatives will follow a slew of construction projects across the school’s growing campus in recent years that have added or restored 23 buildings, four parking lots and more. 
Continued investments in the future of UNCW will be funded by the “Like No Other Campaign,” which this fall exceeded its $100 million fundraising goal and established a new goal of $125 million under Volety’s leadership. Funds raised from the initiative will support unique features of the university identified by alumni and staff as those that make the school exceptional. 
CAMPUS EMPLOYMENT: UNCW has about 2,500 employees.

Trey & Jim Wallace

President & Founder/CEO, Intracoastal Realty Corp.

Jim Wallace founded Intracoastal Realty after moving to Wilmington in 1976. Today, his son, Trey Wallace, serves as president and manages the company’s day-to-day operations.
WHY THEY’RE POWER PLAYERS: The Wallaces head up the largest independent residential real estate company in the region. During 2022, the firm grew into South Carolina markets such as Little River, North Myrtle Beach and Cherry Grove Beach. It also continued activity on Bald Head Island, where Intracoastal took over sales and rental operations after merging with Bald Head Island Limited real estate.

The residential market overall this year was strong throughout the region as limited inventory and continued migration of new residents into the area pushed up demand and prices for sellers. Those trends didn’t start slowing down until the second half of the year as inventory loosened and mortgage rates increased.

Intracoastal Realty in 2021 surpassed $2 billion in sales for the first time in its company’s history on a 12-month basis. It now has more than 400 real estate agents and 100 staff members.
BEACHCOMBER: Separately, Jim Wallace was part of a group of partners that bought the 112-room Golden Sands hotel and the Ocean Grill and Tiki Bar in Carolina Beach for $16.8 million.

Laurie Whalin

COO, Novant Health NHRMC & President, Scotts Hill Medical Center

In 2021, Laurie Whalin became president and chief operating officer of Novant Health Brunswick Medical Center. This year she continued career moves within the hospital by accepting the promotion of chief operating officer of Novant NHRMC and president of Novant Health’s future community hospital in the Scotts Hill area of northern New Hanover County.

WHY SHE’S A POWER PLAYER: Whalin is a power player in the region’s health care industry and is one of the leaders overseeing Novant Health NHRMC’s expansion of services in Southeastern North Carolina.

As part of this expansion, Whalin will be head of Scotts Hill Medical Center, a new $210 million acute care facility planned to be built on the site of the existing free-standing emergency department and surgical center NHRMC Emergency Department-North. Officials said in a previous story that Novant expects to finish the facility in 2024.

Whalin is involved with the planning and designing of the hospital and medical campus, to include a medical office building with a cancer center and other specialty services.

NEURO NOTES: Another project Whalin has worked on is the final stages of completing the Novant Health Neuroscience Institute-New Hanover, which is slated to open on the main hospital’s 17th Street campus in January.

Jay Wileman

President & CEO, GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy

Since 2015, Jay Wileman has led the company, which has been based in Wilmington for more than 50 years. He has an extensive career in the nuclear industry.
WHY HE’S A POWER PLAYER: As head of GE Hitachi, Wileman leads the business in the development of new nuclear power plant technology, the design and manufacturing of nuclear power plant fuel (through the GE-led Global Nuclear Fuel joint venture) and the delivery of maintenance services for plants.

In October, GE Hitachi announced it is expanding its operation at 3901 Castle Hayne Road by about 500 jobs in the next five years.

Wileman said some of that work would focus on the future of advanced nuclear growth, including the commercial deployment of its BWRX-300 small modular reactor. The company is working with others domestically and abroad to deploy that reactor technology.

The announcement also included plans for a new $200 million fuel facility at the Castle Hayne site.

Global Nuclear Fuel-Americas (GNF-A), a GE-led joint venture, and TerraPower, a Bill Gates-founded nuclear innovation company, plan to build a Natrium fuel facility. The new GE employees will also boost the Natrium reactor technology being jointly developed by GEH and TerraPower.

FULL STORY: For more info about the Wilmington plant's future, click here.

Read more about the 2022 WilmingtonBiz 100 honorees by clicking here.

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