In accepting the Business Visions Spirit of Unity Award, Leroy Dixon noted: “The people of Robeson County can do anything if we come together as one people! I was raised on a farm in Marietta, and I love Robeson County; this is home.”
Dixon, who began his career as a dishwasher, has faithfully served Robeson’s neediest people for the past 20 years as the cook and welcoming face of the Lumberton Christian Care Center, a community soup kitchen and homeless shelter. At UNC Pembroke’s 17th annual Business Visions Awards Banquet on April 24, Robeson County’s diversity and unity were on display.
The event, held in the Robeson County Farm Bureau Auditorium of the Regional Center, honors outstanding students, individuals, businesses and nonprofits. The Nonprofit of the Year Award was new this year. Next year, Business Visions will expand to honor the best of the entire region, said Regional Center Director Darek Hunt.
“The Regional Center is the university’s face to the community,” Hunt said. “This is the annual event where we honor the people, businesses and students who have excelled in their field of endeavor. We believe you will be impressed with this year’s award winners.”
Winners this year included; Kency Alberto, Robeson Community College’s Business Administration Student of the Year; Daniel Bougt, UNCP’s MBA Student of the Year; U.S. Army Captain La Tise Higgins, UNCP’s MPA Student of the Year; Robert and Lanette Locklear, Entrepreneurs of the Year; Locklear, Locklear and Jacobs Engineering, Business of the Year; Harvey Godwin Jr., Business Person of the Year; and the United Way of Robeson County, Nonprofit of the Year.
The winners are pieces of the quilt that is Robeson County today. Bougt is an international student who came to UNCP from Sweden to study and play soccer. English is Alberto’s second language, and she enrolled at RCC five years ago as a high school student in the Early College program. Capt. Higgins’ next stop is Afghanistan.
The United Way, which is 30 years old, has raised $17 million dollars, all for local causes, said its director Sandra Oliver. Harvey Godwin’s company, Two Hawk Employment Services, played an important role in this year’s United Way Campaign. Robert and Lanette Locklear started their business with one truck and expanded with the help of UNCP’s Small Business and Technology Development Center (SBTCD) and consultants from UNCP’s MBA students. Today, they have 39 employees and 25 trucks.
The moment was not lost on keynote speaker Tony Tata, secretary of the North Carolina Department of Transportation. “What an amazing event,” said Tata, who is a retired U.S. Army brigadier general. “This is a community event where you do come together to celebrate every aspect of this community. The fabric of this community is strong.”
Tata leads the state’s $4 billion transportation enterprise that includes many thousands of miles of roads, two ports and the nation’s second largest ferry system. He said the state’s infrastructure is at a “tipping point.”
“North Carolina is at a critical moment with an aging infrastructure that is 50-60 years old,” Tata said. “Transportation is the backbone of North Carolina’s economy.”
Tata said DOT is pulling out all the stops. “We’ve currently got more contracts in place that at any other time in the department’s history,” he said
The state’s transportation leader listed recent highway projects in Robeson County that included the three roads surrounding UNCP and two major access roads to the university, N.C. 711 and U.S. 74.
“I read this list because we are proud to be part of this community,” Tata said. “I am really impressed with this community and how you stitch it all together. I’m really blown away.”
Robeson Community College Business Administration Student of the Year
Kency Alberto (left) with George Pate, chair of RCC’s Business Department
UNC Pembroke MBA Student of the Year
Daniel Bougt (left) with Nick Arena, director of UNCP’s Master of Business Administration program
UNC Pembroke MPA Student of the Year
U.S. Army Captain La Tise Higgins (left) with Dr. Michael Pennington, director of UNCP’s Master of Public Administration program
Entrepreneurs of the Year
From left: Lanette and Robert Locklear, with Beth Wilkerson of UNCP’s SBTDC program
Business of the Year
Locklear, Locklear and Jacobs Engineering. Back row from left: Seneca Jacobs, owner, Eric Locklear, senior project manager, Jonathan Locklear, owner; middle row: Krystal Harris, director of operations; and Illya Chavis Lindsey (front row), representing the Pembroke Area Chamber of Commerce
Business Person of the Year
Harvey Godwin Jr. (left) with Cindy Kern, representing the Lumberton Area Chamber of Commerce
Nonprofit of the Year
Sandra Oliver (left) of the United Way of Robeson County with Darek Hunt of the Regional Center
For more information about Business Visions and the Regional Center, please contact them at (910) 775-4000 or firstname.lastname@example.org.