The spirit of entrepreneurship was alive and well at the 16th annual Business Visions Awards Banquet on April 26.
Hosted by UNC Pembroke’s Regional Center for Economic, Community and Professional Development, the Business Visions Banquet honors the university’s top business students and the area’s top business people. Sponsors for 2012 were Lumbee Guaranty Bank, Southeastern Regional Medical Center, Holiday Inn Express of Pembroke and Robeson Community College (RCC).
Keynote speaker Randall Johnson, executive director of the southeast regional office of the North Carolina Biotechnology Center (NCBC), extolled the benefits of biotechnology that are spreading across the state.
“When it comes to biotechnology in North Carolina, we have a long history of visionary leadership and achievement,” Johnson said. “It’s agriculture-related, and it’s education-related.”
NCBC has partnered with UNCP scientists, including Dr. Ben Bahr and Dr. Len Holmes, who are investigating new pharmaceuticals and insecticides, respectively, as they train the biotech scientists of the future. NCBC is also a partner with Robeson Community College’s BioAg Center, which trains workers for the biotech industry.
“The bottom line is jobs,” Johnson said. “We invest in companies across the state.
Aquaculture, switchgrass for biofuels and biodefense are in the future of the region,” he added.
“It was a personal pleasure of mine to introduce my Leadership N.C. classmate as the keynote speaker,” said Teresa Oxendine, director of the Regional Center. “To hear him expound upon the biotech opportunities that are available in our region was an important message.”
Fairmont Mayor Charles Kemp received the Collie Coleman Spirit of Unity Award. Kemp is a relentless supporter of his community and could be heard before dinner praising the benefits of several new businesses in the town.
“Every day, I try to think of how to help my community,” Kemp said. “That’s what public service is about, and we should not lose sight of that.”
Greg Cummings, Robeson County’s economic development director, said Kemp “has a vision for marketing the I-95/U.S. 74 corridor.” But his biggest asset, Cummings said, “is a big heart for helping people.”
James Chavis accepted the Business Person of the Year Award on behalf of Holiday Inn Express of Pembroke. “Chavis and the hotel have been active in the community and beyond,” said Kim Pevia, program coordinator for the Southeastern Entrepreneurial Alliance and current chair of the Pembroke Area Chamber of Commerce.
“James led a missions team to Japan after the tsunami,” Pevia said. “Here they support the Chamber of Commerce, Relay for Life, hospice and UNCP.”
Chavis said the community has supported his business, and he tries to give back. He thanked UNCP and the Small Business and Technology Development Center (SBTDC) for consulting with his business even before construction began.
“We’ve got a great hotel because of this community,” Chavis said. “We have a great staff, and together we are trying to make this the greatest county is the U.S.”
James Freeman of Mighty J’s restaurant in Pembroke accepted the award for Business of the Year. Freeman and his business partner, Jason Kennedy, started their business right out of college and located it just across the street from the university. They reaped the benefits of both customers and business consulting from the university.
“Mighty J’s wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for the university and people like Beth Wilkerson (assistant director of SBTDC at the Regional Center), Phyllis Queen (of UNCP’s Thomas Family Center for Entrepreneurship) and the many professors who helped us,” Freeman said. “We’ve been welcomed by our customers and the community.”
The Entrepreneur of the Year Award went to R&R Security Services, a 2010 start-up owned by a father and son, Randolph and Rory Eddings. “Beginning with just three employees, they currently employ 26 people in the business of armed and unarmed security,” Wilkerson said introducing the award.
“My son and I were very fortunate that this area needed security,” Randolph Eddings said. “We saw the need, and with Beth Wilkerson’s help, we’ve come a long way.”
This was Oxendine’s first Business Visions Banquet as director of the Regional Center. “I was thrilled with the nominations received from our local Chambers of Commerce for these coveted awards,” she said. “The wonderful thing about these awards is, we have so many more deserving community businesses and leaders to choose from who are yet to be recognized.”
The Business Visions Banquet annually gives awards to the top business students at RCC and in UNCP’s Master of Business Administration and Master of Public Administration programs.
George ‘Noel’ Brown was named RCC’s Business Administration Student of the Year. “He has inspired me more than any student I can remember,” said business instructor George Pate.
“I’m 66 years old,” Brown said, “and I’ve never felt out of place one day at Robeson Community College. I was treated like everybody else, and I’m thankful.”
UNCP’s top MBA student, Brian McCormick, has built a strong resume. He is a 2010 UNCP graduate and was the first graduate student ever to be elected president of the Student Government Association.
“He excelled in everything,” said Dr. Howard Ling, director of UNCP’s MBA program. “He tutored students taking the GMAT (graduate school entrance examination) and found time to consult with the Maxton-Laurinburg Airbase. He will make a presentation on that project in June for the North Carolina General Assembly.”
McCormick said it has been a busy year. “But it’s been a great year,” he said. “I got to work with some really great professors who have been a great help to me.”
William Munn III was named the top MPA student. “This is the first time we’ve named a first-year graduate student to receive this honor,” said Dr. Warren Eller, director of UNCP’s MPA program. “William has been the ‘go-to’ guy in our program, whether it’s volunteering or forming study groups to help his colleagues grow.”
“From the first day, I’ve been welcome in this program, and every question I’ve asked has been answered,” Munn said. “This has been a great opportunity to come back to school.”
Teresa Oxendine concluded: “I was pleased with the caliber of individuals recognized last night. Their accomplishments are a testament to the excellent education and personal guidance these students receive at UNCP and RCC.”
For more information about Business Visions, please contact the Regional Center at 910.775.4000 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Spirit of Unity – Fairmont Mayor Charles Kemp, with award, is flanked by, from left: Town Commissioner Carol Leak-McKenzie, Commissioner Perry Ashley, Town Manager Linda Vause, Mayor Kemp, Town Clerk Jenny Larson and Robeson County Economic Development Director Greg Cummings.
RCC Business Student of the Year – George ‘Noel’ Brown and George Pate, an instructor at the community college.
MBA Student of the Year – Brian McCormick and Dr. Howard Ling, director of the MBA program
MPA Student of the Year – William Munn III and Dr. Warren Eller, director of the graduate Public Administration program
Business Person of the Year – James Chavis, president and CEO of Holiday Inn Express of Pembroke, is pictured with Kim Pevia, coordinator of the Southeastern Entrepreneurial Alliance.
Business of the Year – Mighty J’s, a Pembroke restaurant, was represented by co-owner James Freeman. He is pictured with Kristen Freeman and Kim Pevia.
Entrepreneur of the Year – R&R Security Services are Randolph and Rory Eddings. From left are Beth Wilkerson, assistant director of the Small Business and Technology Center (SBTDC) and Bonnie and Sandra Eddings.