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County’s top business leaders honored at Business Visions

May 6, 2009

North Carolina’s top business recruiter told guests at the 2009 Business Visions Award Banquet that business is booming.

State Commerce Secretary J. Keith Crisco spoke on April 30 at UNC Pembroke’s Regional Center for Economic, Community and Professional Development. He said North Carolina continues to be a popular destination for businesses, large and small.


Speaker – J. Keith Crisco, North Carolina Secretary of Commerce

“North Carolina continues to be a very attractive place to do business, and we are busy,” Crisco said. “Gov. Bev Perdue’s motto is ‘jobs, jobs, jobs.’”

Crisco knows about business. He was born on a Stanly County farm, earned a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree from Harvard University and owns a successful textile company with five factories, three in North Carolina.

“In North Carolina, we’ve been leaders and innovators,” he said. “Through bold moves and strong leadership, we will continue to be successful.”

Honored as Robeson County’s Business Persons of the Year were Jerry Johnson, owner of the county’s largest General Motors auto dealership in Lumberton, and Aaron Thomas, the president and CEO of Metcon Construction Company in Pembroke.

Both honorees have deep family ties to Robeson County and both combine business with community leadership. Johnson’s grandfather founded Rowland Motors, and Thomas’ grandfather founded Pembroke Hardware.

“This is a community with a long history of entrepreneurial spirit,” Thomas said. “That spirit was alive in the founders of this University in 1887.”

Johnson, whose community work includes Relay for Life, Boy Scouts, United Way and board directorships with BB&T and Southeastern Regional Medical Center, “exemplifies unselfishness,” said Ann McLean.

Other awards:

  • Spirit of Unity Award was awarded posthumously to Collie Coleman, UNCP’s former associate vice chancellor for outreach. Hereafter, this award will be known as the Collie Coleman Spirit of Unity Award.
  • Entrepreneur of the Year – First American Hotel Group LLC and its managers James Chavis and John Tyler. With a group of local investors, bankers and builders, they are constructing Pembroke’s first hotel.
  • Business of the Year – BB&T. Founded in 1872, the bank continues to be a major employer, with 623 local workers, and a financial engine for the county. Local executives Sue Dickason and Glen Heintz accepted on behalf of BB&T.
  • Outstanding Business Administration Student at Robeson Community College - Lois Faye Lovell, an employee with the county’s Department of Social Services.
  • Outstanding MBA Student at UNCP - Dr. Thomas S. Stewart, an urologist.
  • Outstanding Master of Public Administration (MPA) student - Ashton Slate of Raleigh.

In closing remarks, Sylvia Pate, director of the Regional Center, thanked sponsors Lumbee River Electric Membership Corp., BB&T, Lumbee Guaranty Bank, Progress Energy, Southeastern Regional Medical Center, the Robeson County Committee of 100 and UNC’s Small Business and Technology Development Center.



Business Person of the Year - From left: Ann McLean, Jerry Johnson and Sylvia Pate



Business Person of the Year – From left: Sylvia Pate, Aaron Thomas and R.D. Locklear



Entrepreneurs of the Year – From left: John Tyler, Sylvia Pate, Beth Wilkerson (SBTDC) and James Chavis



BB&T was named Business of the year. Pictured from left are Ann McLean, Sylvia Pate and representing BB&T Glen Heintz and Sue Dickason.



RCC Business Student of the Year – From left Sylvia Pate, Lois Faye Lovell and George Pate



MBA Student of the Year - Dr. Thomas S. Stewart, Sylvia Pate and Dr. Howard Ling



MPA Student of the Year – Sylvia Pate, Dr. Robert Schneider and Ashton Slate