Lake gives nod to trail grant application

By: Jefferson Weaver, The News Reporter

The long-planned trail that would allow bicyclists and pedestrians to circle Lake Waccamaw got a new lease on life Tuesday.

Commissioners approved a request by the Friends of Lake Waccamaw State Park to apply for a Department of Transportation grant to study and plan a trail circling through the town and the park.

Commissioners approved a request by the Friends of Lake Waccamaw State Park to apply for a Department of Transportation grant to study and plan a trail circling through the town and the park.

Commissioners approved a request by the Friends of Lake Waccamaw State Park to apply for a Department of Transportation grant to study and plan a trail circling through the town and the park.

Harry Foley, president of the Park Friends, emphatically promised the board that the grant would come at no cost to the town. “We pledge that there will never be a request for town monies to fund any portion of this project,” he said.

The town’s only responsibility is to submit the application, Foley said. The $35,000 matching grant will require ten percent from the town. Foley said those funds have already been committed from other sources.

That money will be provided to the town as the grant applicant before the application is signed and sent to the DOT. “We will do all the work, and you will get all the credit,” Foley said.

A similar project was in the works while Foley was town manager, but funding for the program was stopped when Gov. Roy Cooper made changes to a number of programs shortly after his election.

The grant is for planning and engineering, not construction, Foley said.

Work would only begin if the grant application is approved in November. Foley noted that ecotourism is on the rise in North Carolina, and events like the annual Take The Lake challenge would make good use of the enhanced trail – and bring money into the town.

“Look at the loss of those jobs in Fair Bluff last week,” he said. “The future isn’t big manufacturers any more. We have to look at different forms of economic development. Ecotourism can be a godsend to our county. What better destination can there be than Lake Waccamaw?”

The commissioners unanimously approved submitting the application.

‘fifteen under 40’ class of 2019 announced; celebration is July 18 at Vineland Station

The “fifteen under 40” class of 2019 is another outstanding group. An outside panel of judges chose 15 young professionals from nominations submitted to The News Reporter.

The “fifteen under 40” class of 2019 includes Amanda Dale, Daniel Britt, Jordan B. Carter, Jenny Clore, Dustin Fowler, LaShoney Frink, C. Ashley Gore, Jason Graham, Kalee Hill, Greg Jacobs, Jennifer Cox Phipps, Jason Soles, Rachel Todd, Garrett Tolley and Nikki Walker. The News Reporter invites the public to celebrate the “fifteen under 40” class of 2019 with friends, family and co-workers July 18 at Vineland Station in Whiteville for an evening of music, fun and food.

2019 Class of Fifteen under 40

2019 Class of Fifteen under 40

The News Reporter, along with local businesses and organizations, uses the event to acknowledge the next generation of leaders for what they do above and beyond their workplaces to make Columbus County a special place to live. “Readers will enjoy learning how this group of influencers is making a difference in Columbus County. They have commitment and compassion for their communities,” said Becky High, director of business development at The News Reporter and organizer of the event.

A special, magazine style publication featuring the 15 young leaders will be included into the Tuesday, July 16 edition of The News Reporter. Judges found it difficult to select only 15 people, High said, and the panel encourages readers to resubmit nominees not selected this year for the class of 2020.

Actress lends a hand at Fair Bluff cat sanctuary under construction

Persistence and an inability to take no for an answer on the part of Shazir “Shizzy” Haque, developer of By By Allen Turner, The News Reporter

Shizzy’s Wildcat Rescue, resulted in a television and movie star being on hand in Fair Bluff Saturday to help about 60 other volunteers with development of the first of 11 planned habitats on the former Fair Bluff Motors property.

Canadian-born actress Jessica Parker Kennedy played in the CW’s “Secret Circle” and “The Flash” series, and in the Starz original “Black Sails.” She’s also appeared in the “Supergirl” TV series and the 2018 movies “Cam” and “Deep Murder.” But Saturday she was in Fair Bluff lending elbow grease to the wild cat sanctuary project.

Kennedy said she has always been a lover of animals and, because of that, Haque contacted her on Instagram to ask whether she would take his telephone call. “He was extremely persuasive,” she said. “He doesn’t know how to take no for an answer.” While she and Haque share a major love of animals, Kennedy said, “He’s the brains behind figuring out how to do something like this.”

Saturday was only the most recent of several days in which volunteers converged on the sanctuary site, and Kennedy flew into North Carolina from Los Angeles to take part. Other volunteer workdays are planned.

Actress Jessica Kennedy Parker volunteers in the construction of Shizzy’s Wildcat Rescue in Fair Bluff Saturday. Staff photo by Allen Turner.

Actress Jessica Kennedy Parker volunteers in the construction of Shizzy’s Wildcat Rescue in Fair Bluff Saturday. Staff photo by Allen Turner.


This weekend, volunteers concentrated on finishing an enclosed animal habitat, the first of 11 planned for the facility, and constructing platforms for the animals that will be included as part of the habitat. Kennedy wielded a power hammer to help drive nails into the platforms.

Haque, who is based in Greensboro but who plans to live in Fair Bluff full time when the sanctuary opens around August of 2020, says the project is on schedule. Clearing and de-stumping of one large lot that was previously forested has been completed and de-stumping efforts are continuing on an adjoining lot, in large measure due to financial assistance the non-profit venture is receiving from the Columbus Jobs Foundation.

Haque expects P&W Fencing Company to install the first 20 feet of a perimeter fence that will surround the entire property in about three weeks, after which inspectors from the U.S. Department of Agriculture will be called in. If those inspectors like the construction of the first 20 feet of fencing and the first animal habitat, construction of the rest of the fence and other animal habitats will be completed.

The property has already cleared environmental hurdles imposed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, as well as receiving zoning approvals from the Town of Fair Bluff. The USDA inspection process is the next step in the process.

The sanctuary will be located on about 50 acres donated by Capital Investments of Fair Bluff on the former Fair Bluff Motors property that was decimated in Hurricanes Matthew and Florence.

It already has four full-time employees funded through the N.C. Works program at Southeastern Community College and when it opens next year Shizzy’s intends to hire 10-20 full time employees and 30-50 unpaid volunteers.

The facility will be devoted primarily to big cats such as tigers, lions, jaguars and leopards, as well as black bears and wolves. While his group works primarily with a good mix of both predatory and prey animals, Haque says they don’t turn any animals away. “For example,” Haque says, “we recently got a call to rescue a cow.” The group has even been involved in the rescue of 86 dogs and cats from all over the United States.

There will be 16-foot fences around the animal enclosures – more than the required 12-foot fences – and additional eight-foot fence around the perimeter of the entire property, so Haque said that safety concerns and any potential fears about animals escaping are unfounded. He envisions his sanctuary as becoming a major tourist attraction which will help Fair Bluff recover after being devastated from Hurricanes Matthew and Florence. 

Grant will help ATMC bring high-speed internet to Beaverdam

By: Justin Smith, The News Reporter

ATMC has received a $1 million state grant to extend high-speed internet to 750 residents in the Beaverdam area, the utility announced Wednesday.

The funds are from the Growing Rural Economies with Access to Technology (GREAT) program, which provides grants to internet service providers and electric membership cooperatives to expand high-speed internet service in the state’s 40 most economically distressed counties.

Twenty-one applicants in 19 counties will receive a total of nearly $10 million in GREAT Grant funding, Gov. Roy Cooper’s office announced.

“Access to reliable, high-speed internet service is critical for businesses to grow, students to learn, and communities to thrive,” Cooper said. “These grants will help connect thousands of homes and businesses with opportunities across the state and around the world.”

Screen Shot 2019-05-21 at 3.05.59 PM.png

GREAT applicants are scored based on the number of households, businesses and agricultural operations they propose to serve, the average cost to serve those households and the speeds offered. Applicants receive higher awards for agreeing to provide higher speed service, defined as a minimum of 25 Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload.

SCC career fair connects manufacturers and jobseekers

Bringing students and industrial employers together was the aim of an Advanced Manufacturing Job Fair at Southeastern Community College Thursday. 

“These companies are looking for workers with the right skills, and we have students who are getting those skills,” said SCC President Tony Clarke, explaining that most of the companies represented were focused on electrical engineering and mechatronics. 

Clarke said the career fair grew out of the college’s Columbus County Industry Group, which is made up of area manufacturers, some of which struggle to fill positions when they advertise job openings. 

The fair was organized by Vice President for Workforce and Community Development Beverlee Nance and Vice President for Student Services Sylvia Cox in addition to the faculty of the electrical engineering technology, mechatronic engineering technology and welding programs, Clarke said. 

Heather Lewis and Whitney Tyler of Atlantic Packaging in Tabor City were set up at the job fair and displayed some of the products the company manufactures. They explained that many students at the fair may be interested in working outside as a lineman, but Atlantic Packaging offers design, printing, structuring and machine running jobs that create packages from start to finish. 

“We also came to the high school fair back in November, and we had a lot of South Columbus students not know who we are or where we’re located,” Lewis said. “So we’re here to give more visibility to our potential workforce who want to stay in Columbus County and be near their families because we offer on-site job training.”

Lewis and Tyler explained that a lot has changed over the past 10 years and jobs are available at Atlantic Packaging, but the challenging part is letting people know they exist and finding employees wanting to work. 

“I think we’re having trouble finding people who are willing to work — to show up every day,” Tyler said. “Sometimes we get people who don’t want to stay and work the whole day, so we need people with motivation to work.”

Electrical engineering student Josh Snyder said he came back to school after leaving it for 10 years to work in the prison system. Now with a wife, kids and safety concerns, Snyder decided to return and finish his degree. He felt confident in finding work after graduating from SCC and felt like the job fair helped him decide what he wants to do. 

“Electricity is in almost everything, so I could work in almost anything,” Snyder said. “And here, they’re showing us how to do it all from the small circuits in cell phones to the large stuff in industrial factories.” 

With the recent merger of NCI Building Systems and Ply Gem Siding Group, Plant Manager Tony Rogowski in Fair Bluff said the newly formed Cornerstone Building Brands was now the largest manufacturer of exterior building products. Located on the southernmost area of Fair Bluff near the armory, the company was not affected by Hurricane Matthew or Florence floodwaters. He explained that the operation in Fair Bluff specializes in making fence and rail profiles. 

Plant Manager Tony Rogowski of Cornerstone Building Brands explains how his company in Fair Bluff operates to students at the Advanced Manufacturing Job Fair in the Nesmith Student Center at Southeastern Community College Thursday.

Plant Manager Tony Rogowski of Cornerstone Building Brands explains how his company in Fair Bluff operates to students at the Advanced Manufacturing Job Fair in the Nesmith Student Center at Southeastern Community College Thursday.


Rogowski said the former Ply Gem was the first company to partner with SCC’s internship program and has provided internships for three SCC students, one of whom has become a full-time employee.

“We’re looking for more people to join on the operations side, but we’ll never turn away a good maintenance associate because they don’t just come knocking on your door,” Rogowski said. “Yes, we are hiring.”

Derrick Bennett of West Fraser lumber company in Riegelwood said he was looking for anyone willing to work in maintenance, fire watch, and operate heavy equipment — basically anyone who wants to come in and learn from the ground up. He said that since the economy is good, it’s hard to attract employees with competitors picking from the same pool of jobseekers. 

“Bring that energy,” Bennett said. “Bring that talent and come in to replace us older guys who are getting ready to retire.”

Main Street visits Madison Street

Story by Les High, The News Reporter

Two officials from the state Main Street program showed slide after slide of successful downtown revitalization projects in other cities during a meeting of nearly 30 downtown business, property owners and city officials Wednesday evening.

Their message was clear: this could be you.

Sherry Adams of the North Carolina Department of Commerce North Carolina Main Street and Rural Planning Center said there is hope for downtown Whiteville, which received significant flooding damage from Hurricane Florence, just as downtown seemed poised for a comeback after Hurricane Matthew.

Screen Shot 2019-05-02 at 11.16.31 AM.png

Looking at progress in places like Hendersonville, Bessemer City, West Jefferson and Shelby, Adams said there is reason for optimism here.

“You might say we’ll never be like that, but you can, you can,” Adams said. 

Among the keys to those cities’ restorations, she said, was planning, partnerships and measuring success in phases.

Whiteville already has some advantages. It has been accepted as an associate member of the state’s Main Street program, with hopes of being fully vested in two years.

It is also on the cusp of having enough conforming structures to create a historic district, which would allow property owners who restore their buildings according to U.S. Department of Interior standards to receive a 40 percent tax credit on renovation costs.

Adams said one misconception about historic districts is that they impose design limits on all buildings in the district. That’s not true, she said; the standards are applied only to building owners who want the tax credits.

Sean Martin, the city’s new economic development director, told the group about Lexington, the hometown of his wife.

“When we started dating, they were just like us. Now, they’re thriving and bustling. We all want something like that here that will last.”

Martin said city council will consider implementing a façade incentive grant program to help building and business owners restore their storefronts.

“Historic districts really make a difference,” Adams said.

After the meeting, Adams and colleague Chuck Halsall, took the group on a walking tour of Madison Street. They asked participants to make mental notes about what they liked and didn’t like about downtown, and to consider potential wins, both big and small.

Starting at Vineland Station, Halsall pointed out weeds growing between the memorial brick pavers and in nearby plant beds.

“See these weeds?” he asked. “They matter.”

The group continued south, noting downtown’s pluses and minuses.

“Look at downtown as a blank canvas,” Martin told the group. “It has a lot of character.”

The tour concluded at Vineland Station, which was a dilapidated eyesore before a $1.2 million community-wide effort to restore the historic building in 2005.

“Everything you’ve seen tonight,” Adams said, “think what you want visitors to see and say about your town.”

Community Foundation gives $56,000 in disaster grants

The board of advisors of the Columbus County Community Foundation recently awarded $56,000 in recovery grants from the North Carolina Community Foundation Disaster Relief Fund to support the longterm recovery from Hurricane Florence. Organizations receiving grants were: Community CPR, Columbus Baptist Association, Families First, Inc., Lake Waccamaw Food Ministry, Columbus County Arts Council, Men & Women United for Youth & Families, Columbus County Community Farmers Market and Whiteville Improvement Association.

“These grants are critical to the long-term recovery of Columbus County from Hurricane Florence,” said Becky High, CCCF advisory board president. “The North Carolina Community Foundation Disaster Relief Fund is a pivotal resource to our community, thanks to the generosity of many donors who gave to help eastern North Carolina.”

NCCF is keenly aware of how deeply Hurricane Florence impacted eastern North Carolina and devastated many communities in our state, according to Jennifer Tolle Whiteside, CEO and president. “The North Carolina Community Foundation has been in these communities for more than 30 years and will continue to be there supporting disaster recovery long after the TV cameras are gone,” she said.

“We were grateful to see the outpouring of generosity that supported the NCCF Disaster Relief Fund and are honored to steward these funds to support longterm recovery efforts and meet unmet needs.” The CCCF is an affiliate of the North Carolina Community Foundation.

In addition to High, board members include: Henry Edmund (vice-president), Liz McLean (secretary), Andy Wayne (treasurer), Amber Bellamy, Bill Gore, Gary Kramer, Lisa Richey, Terray Suggs, Kevin Williamson, Adam Wooten and Richard Wright.

County Schools’ Teacher of the Year and Principal of the Year named

By: Grant Merritt, The News Reporter

Georgia Spaulding, principal of Evergreen Elementary School, and Anna Slaughter, band teacher at Acme Delco Middle and Hallsboro Middle schools received the top honors.

Georgia Spaulding, principal of Evergreen Elementary School, and Anna Slaughter, band teacher at Acme Delco Middle and Hallsboro Middle schools received the top honors.

 Columbus County Schools honored 17 teachers and three principals at the Teacher of the Year and Principal of the Year Banquet Tuesday evening at Vineland Station. Georgia Spaulding, principal of Evergreen Elementary School, and Anna Slaughter, band teacher at Acme Delco Middle and Hallsboro Middle schools received the top honors.

Teacher of the Year nominees. Front row (L-R): Antoinette Evans (CES); Shonna Gurkin (SCHS); Heather Register (NMS); Marlene Capps (CGES). Second row: Christina Holland (ECHS); Brittany Ward (ODES); Erica Jackson (EES); Jeff Brown (TCES); Leigh Ann McPherson (WTS). Third row: Robin Reaves (HAES); Marc Edge (WCHS); Marilyn Elliott (TCMS). Back row: Herman Bland (ADES); Anna Slaughter (ADMS); Jason Nance (HMS); Rod Gore (GES); Adrienne Evans (CCCA).

Teacher of the Year nominees. Front row (L-R): Antoinette Evans (CES); Shonna Gurkin (SCHS); Heather Register (NMS); Marlene Capps (CGES).
Second row: Christina Holland (ECHS); Brittany Ward (ODES); Erica Jackson (EES); Jeff Brown (TCES); Leigh Ann McPherson (WTS). Third row: Robin Reaves (HAES); Marc Edge (WCHS); Marilyn Elliott (TCMS). Back row: Herman Bland (ADES); Anna Slaughter (ADMS); Jason Nance (HMS); Rod Gore (GES); Adrienne Evans (CCCA).

“What you have here is a sample of some of the best school administrators in the state of North Carolina,” said interim Superintendent Jonathan Williams as the principals made their way to the front of the room. “And I really say that with sincerity because I really mean that. These are wonderful people.”

He was equally complimentary of the teachers in the room. 

“Once again, we’ve got a fine group of educators in our school system,” Williams said as the teacher nominees stood at the front. “When you go to their classrooms, you can tell that these teachers want to be there, and you would certainly want your child in their class.”

“You all have been wonderful,” Spaulding said to her colleagues gathered for the banquet. “I’ve worked with some awesome educators, and I try to remember that we do it for the children.”

Spaulding said that principals don’t do their job for the recognition. They do it for the love of the children, she explained. 

Slaughter, who is early in her career, said she was shocked to receive the award. 

“This is the last thing I ever expected,” she said. “Goodness gracious, I’m a fourth year teacher.” 

Slaughter wanted to thank everyone for their support and especially her students. 

“Just like Ms. Spaulding said, we’re here for the kids,” Slaughter said during her acceptance speech. “And Mr. Kelly Jones, you have kept me here, and you have kept me sane more times than I can count,” Spaulding added, referring to the district’s arts coordinator. 

Principals and teachers nominated their peers for the awards, and an outside selection committee picked the winners. The committee included Ashley Hinson of Sandhills Regional Education Consortium, Donyell Roseboro of UNC Wilmington and Bess Shuler of Richmond County Schools. Roseboro was the only judge able to attend the banquet. 

“You all are so talented and amazing, and it was an honor to read your work,” Roseboro said. “To see what all of you are doing with our young people, you inspire us.”

Principal of the Year nominees. From L-R: Wendell Duncan of Nakina Middle, Georgia Spaulding of Evergreen Elementary and Terry Brown of Tabor City Elementary.

Principal of the Year nominees. From L-R: Wendell Duncan of Nakina Middle, Georgia Spaulding of Evergreen Elementary and Terry Brown of Tabor City Elementary.

Principal of the Year nominees were Wendell Duncan of Nakina Middle School and Terry Brown of Tabor City Elementary School. Teacher of the Year nominees were Herman Bland of Acme Delco Elementary School, Marlene Capps of Cerro Gordo Elementary School, Antoinette Evans of Chadbourn Elementary School, Adrienne Evans of Columbus Career and College Academy, Christina Holland of East Columbus High School, Erika Jackson of Evergreen Elementary School, Rod Gore of Guideway Elementary School, Robin Reaves of Hallsboro-Artesia Elementary School, Jason Nance of Hallsboro Middle School, Heather Register of Nakina Middle School, Brittany Ward of Old Dock Elementary School, Shonna Gurkin of South Columbus High School, Jeff Brown of Tabor City Elementary School, Marylin Elliot of Tabor City Middle School, Marc Edge of West Columbus High School and Leigh Ann McPherson of Williams Township School.

Chef Sherman Axelburg and her culinary students of Columbus Career and College Academy provided the meal at the banquet.   

Award sponsors were 2 Broke Teachers, BB&T, Brunswick Electric Membership Corporation, Collier’s Jewelers Inc., Columbus County Schools, DD Cox Agency, Dales Seafood of Whiteville, First Bank, First Citizens Bank Fuller Royal Photography, Pizza Village and Yam City Oil.  

Fair Bluff Town Hall open house is Saturday, March 30

An open house in the newly-expanded Fair Bluff Town Hall/Police Department will be held Saturday, March 30 from 2-4 p.m.

The newly-expanded Fair Bluff Town Hall/Police Department.

The newly-expanded Fair Bluff Town Hall/Police Department.

The town had been operating out of the former BB&T building since its previous town hall was destroyed by Hurricane Matthew more than two years ago, and a combination of state grants enabled a large expansion of the building.

While the former bank space has served as both the town hall and police department, the new expansion permits both town administrative functions and police department operations to operate more efficiently and in a less cramped manner. Officials expect the new facilities to be much more convenient for the public and more service-oriented than the previous quarters.

The Lumber River Visitors’ Center, also destroyed in Hurricane Matthew, now will operate in the older portion of the building that previously had been home to the bank.

New deal guarantees qualified SCC grads admission to UNCW

By: Diana Matthews, The News Reporter

Educators in Columbus County and in Wilmington say they are “very excited” about a new agreement that will guarantee university admission to qualified community college graduates.

Southeastern Community College President Tony Clarke signed an articulation agreement Monday with Jose Sartarelli, chancellor of UNC-Wilmington. The “Pathway to Excellence” program will allow SCC students to earn their first two years of credits toward a four-year degree locally, then move into the junior class at UNCW. 

Of the 4,500 to 5,000 students admitted to UNCW every year, about 1,500 are transfer students from community colleges.

“I would like to increase the number of transfer students from SCC coming to UNCW,” said Sartarelli. Seven SCC graduates are studying on the Wilmington campus this school year, “and I would like to double or triple that.” The UNCW chancellor has been negotiating the arrangements with SCC’s vice president of academic affairs, Michael Ayers.

UNCW offers outstanding programs in marine science, chemistry, business and creative writing, said Sartarelli. “We currently have the largest nursing program in the state,” and U.S. News and World Reportranked it eighth-best in the country, he said. 

A new major, coastal engineering, will combine civil engineering, marine science and environmental science beginning this fall, Sartarelli said. Rather than going “to Raleigh and pay high prices for things,” he said, students “can go to Wilmington and pay a lot less and have the beach nearby, too.”

UNCW students achieve the third best graduation rate in North Carolina’s public university system, behind UNC-Chapel Hill and N.C. State University, with 73 percent of those who enroll finishing their bachelor’s degrees within six years and 58 percent finishing in four years.

Tony Clarke, left, and Jose Sartarelli shake on a just-signed agreement between Southeastern Community College and UNC-Wilmington that will benefit students wanting to obtain a four-year degree.

Tony Clarke, left, and Jose Sartarelli shake on a just-signed agreement between Southeastern Community College and UNC-Wilmington that will benefit students wanting to obtain a four-year degree.


The average SAT score of a UNCW student is 1,251, Sartarelli said, and honors program participants average 1,383. 

To take advantage of the open door at UNCW, SCC students must earn an Associate of Science or Associate of Arts degree with a grade point average of 2.5 or higher. They will move into junior-year level classes alongside students who have been at UNCW for two years. Their GPA will start over being calculated from that point on toward graduation.

Previously, students applied to UNCW without a guarantee of admission, SCC director of marketing and outreach Liz McLean said. This articulation agreement guarantees admission to associate degree earners with the required average.

Pathway to Excellence differs from the Brave-Step agreement established with UNC-Pembroke in November, said McLean. Classes taken at SCC under the BraveStep program will count toward a bachelor’s degree from UNCP without a transfer process, and students enrolled in it will have both SCC and UNCP ID cards. 

Students will not be enrolled simultaneously at SCC and UNCW with Pathway to Excellence.

Financial aid

On the occasion of the November signing, both SCC and UNCP presidents stressed that taking two years of classes at the local community college is a cost savings and also helps students who aren’t sure they are ready to go to a university directly from high school.

Clarke pointed out in his remarks Monday that the new pathway with UNCW will not recruit students away from SCC. “Significantly, this agreement also supports students completing their associate of arts/associate of science degree. We all know that we have great students. A lot of different universities want our students. But not all universities say, ‘Finish your associate of arts/associate of science degree, then come to us.’ And that’s an important distinction,” he said, because if a student cannot complete the bachelor’s degree due to some adverse events, they have an important credential already.  

Sartarelli said UNCW also has about $350,000 in scholarship money available for community college students transferring into the university. “I’d like SCC to be part of that,” he said. Clarke said he and his colleagues will make sure to encourage SCC students to apply for the aid.

Fallen leaders honored at Tabor City Committee of 100 annual meeting

By Deuce Niven, Tabor-Loris Tribune

Long-serving Tabor City Committee of 100 President Jimmy Garrell and former Secretary Linda Bell were honored posthumously during Tuesday’s annual meeting of the economic development group.

Garrell’s widow, Martha Jo Garrell, accepted the honor from Committee of 100 President Trent Burroughs. Jimmy Garrell died on June 10, 2018. Garrell’s service to the Committee of 100, which he chaired for most of its existence, was unparalleled, Burroughs said.

Tabor City Committee of 100 President Trent Burroughs with Martha Jo Garrell, wife of the late Jimmy Garrell, long-time chairman of the group

Tabor City Committee of 100 President Trent Burroughs with Martha Jo Garrell, wife of the late Jimmy Garrell, long-time chairman of the group


Bradley Bell accepted the honor for his mother, who died on Nov. 19, 2018. She served as secretary for two years, ending in 2017.

Linda Bell's son, Bradley

Linda Bell's son, Bradley


Attorney R.C. Soles Jr., who has been a member of the Committee of 100 since its inception, was awarded honorary lifetime membership to the organization.

The Tabor City Committee of 100 named former North Carolina senator and Committee of 100 supporter R.C. Soles Jr. as a lifetime member emeritus. Chairman Trent Burroughs is at right.

The Tabor City Committee of 100 named former North Carolina senator and Committee of 100 supporter R.C. Soles Jr. as a lifetime member emeritus. Chairman Trent Burroughs is at right.


Board members

Four vacancies on the committee board were filled during Tuesday’s meeting, including Bradley Bell of Bell Supply Co., Atlantic’s Lex Johnson, First Bank’s Jessica Harper Edwards, and Kevin Norris of Carolina Insurers.

Treasurer Rod Sanders said the committee’s finances remain strong, and that an ongoing membership drive has already met $16,000 of a $20,000 goal.

Rural Center

N.C. Rural Economic Development Center Patrick Woodie was the keynote speaker, offering a hopeful and perhaps painfully honest assessment of the prospects and challenges facing rural North Carolina, 80 of the state’s 100 counties.

Patrick Woodie, president of the North Carolina Rural Economic Development Center

Patrick Woodie, president of the North Carolina Rural Economic Development Center


Leadership, Woodie said, like that demonstrated by the Tabor City Committee of 100, “is the single thing that makes the greatest difference in those communities.”

The Rural Center, he said, offers a variety of programs and efforts designed to make a difference in those rural communities, including leadership development training, interpreting research and how data impacts rural communities, and partnerships with the Golden LEAF Foundation on economic prosperity zone efforts.

North Carolina has changed dramatically in the past decade, Woodie said. In 2010, the majority of the state’s residents were native born and lived in rural areas. Today about 42 percent of the state’s population was born here, and about the same number lives in rural areas.

Urban areas have grown while urban areas have declined in population in the past decade, Woodie said, though the rate of decline in rural North Carolina is slowing.

Important issues facing rural North Carolina, and championed by the Rural Center, Woodie said, include access to broadband and health insurance, and small business development.

North Carolina Farm Act of 2019 Positions NC as National Leader in Hemp Production

 North Carolina General Assembly

Senator Brent Jackson


Contact: Ben King

March 19, 2019

North Carolina Farm Act of 2019 Positions NC as National Leader in Hemp Production

Federal rule changes permit hemp expansion

NC Farm Act of 2019 establishes regulatory requirements to allow NC to expand hemp production immediately following federal approval

Raleigh, N.C. – Senator Brent Jackson (R-Sampson) today announced the NC Farm Act of 2019, which uses recent federal rule changes to establish a regulatory framework for expanded hemp production in North Carolina. Senator Jackson was joined by Senators Norm Sanderson (R-Pamlico), Todd Johnson (R-Union), Harry Brown (R-Onslow), Vickie Sawyer (R-Iredell), Chuck Edwards (R-Henderson), Tom McInnis (R-Richmond), and Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler.

Senator Jackson said, “Now is the time to act to position North Carolina as a national leader in hemp production. The U.S. Department of Agriculture is finalizing new regulations, and the Farm Act will allow our state to move forward immediately upon federal approval. This is a potential boom industry, and we need to be ready to compete.”

Commissioner Troxler said, “By passing the Farm Act, North Carolina will have the guidelines in place for a hemp program that is compliant with federal law, protects public health, and fosters growth in the state’s agriculture industry.”

Senator Sanderson said, “A large percent of what has for decades been North Carolina’s primary farm money crop has been lost through the reduction in tobacco growth. Because of its many uses, the hemp production industry has the potential to provide North Carolina farmers with an additional source of desperately needed income. It is the responsibility of the State to take the lead in the oversight of this newly growing industry. This Farm Bill starts that process.”

Senator Johnson said, “Thank you to Senator Jackson and Commissioner Troxler for their work to continue to strengthen North Carolina’s agriculture industry. This bill’s focus on setting our state up to be a leader in the emerging hemp market displays the type of foresight that has made us so successful.”

Larry Wooten, President of the N.C. Farm Bureau, said, “North Carolina Farm Bureau appreciates the legislature’s continued work to lessen the regulatory burden that all too often weighs down North Carolina’s farmers and agribusinesses. Agriculture is North Carolina’s largest industry, but it is struggling because of, among other factors, bad weather, tough trade negotiations and low commodity prices. As with the previous six Farm Acts that have been enacted since 2013, this legislation is an important tool that will help North Carolina’s farmers remain competitive and continue to grow North Carolina’s number one economic driver.”

The federal government recently acted to bring laws governing hemp production in the United States in line with much of the world. Previously, Congress permitted only small-scale hemp pilot programs, which North Carolina adopted successfully. The 2018 Federal Farm Bill allows for wide-scale hemp production provided states adopt stringent licensing and enforcement standards.

Federal law requires hemp to contain less than 0.3 percent THC, which is a very small fraction of the THC contained in marijuana plants. The rules imposed by the 2018 federal farm bill require states to implement regulations to license hemp producers and to closely monitor the THC levels in their product.

To comply with those requirements, The NC Farm Act of 2019 establishes the North Carolina Hemp Commission, sets forth qualifications for hemp production licensees (including prohibitions on licenses to individuals with past drug offenses), and defines civil and criminal penalties for producers who violate the law. The bill also requires a valid license to market and sell cannabinoid-related products, including CBD oil.

In addition to the hemp provisions, The NC Farm Act of 2019 also:

·      Makes changes to rules governing easements;

·      Establishes that operators of farm equipment have the right-of-way if cars attempt to pass on the left;

·      Increases the maximum size of outdoor farm advertisements near highways and expands the types of farms that can display the outdoor advertisements;

·      Continues existing regulations governing agricultural storage;

·      Adds hunting, fishing, and shooting sports to agritourism;

·      Brands N.C. Sweet Potatoes;

·      Makes various changes to activities permitted for Soil and Water District staff.

Columbus Jobs Foundation lays out goals for the coming year

By Justin Smith, The News Reporter

The Columbus Jobs Foundation (CJF), a non-profit organization that supports economic development in the county, laid out a vision for the year ahead during its fifth annual meeting Thursday night.

The successor to the former Columbus County Committee of 100, CJF operates the Southeast Regional Industrial Park and administers a revolving low-interest loan fund to support small business. As a non-profit, the organization serves as a conduit for grant funds, such as a recent grant from Duke Energy that will help extend a water line to the new Helena Chemical facility and the eastern part of the Southeast Park.

“We can do things that government can’t do,” said CJF President Les High, who is publisher of The News Reporter. “We’re called on to entertain clients, and we have found time and time again that even if we don’t land clients, that they’re very appreciative of what our business community does in terms of being hospitable and making them feel welcome.”

Les High, president of the Columbus Jobs Foundation, addresses members gathered Thursday for the organization's annual meet at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences in Whiteville_2.jpg

Les High, president of the Columbus Jobs Foundation, addresses members gathered Thursday for the organization's annual meet at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences in Whiteville_2.jpg


High shared the organization’s four goals for the upcoming year with the members assembled for the meeting at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences in downtown Whiteville:

n Developing an entrepreneurial incubator that would provide workspace and resources to start-up businesses. Tom Hall, executive director of the Thomas Entrepreneurship Hub at UNC Pembroke, delivered a presentation about the incubator he runs in downtown Pembroke and offered his assistance to the Columbus Jobs Foundation;

n Promoting housing development in the eastern and southern parts of the county to take advantage of growth from Wilmington and the Grand Strand;

n Creating a paved trail that would connect Waccamaw Shores Road and Lake Waccamaw State Park. The 10-foot-wide trail could accommodate triathlons and other fitness activities; and

n Developing a Lumber River State Park presence in downtown Fair Bluff, which was devastated by Hurricanes Matthew and Florence.

High said Rep. Brenden Jones will convene a meeting of the county’s legislative delegation to discuss how they can support the initiatives.

Although 2018 will be remembered as the year in which Hurricane Florence caused widespread devastation in Columbus County, High said it was a “remarkably good year” for economic and business development. He pointed to a long list of highlights, including: BB&T’s plans to build a new $20 million regional headquarters and service center in Whiteville, school construction projects in Tabor City, Cerro Gordo and Whiteville, a $26 million natural gas conversion plant expected to break ground next month in Clarendon and an Advanced Manufacturing Training Center under construction at Southeastern Community College. 

Other highlights include new town halls in Fair Bluff, Whiteville and Cerro Gordo, significant road infrastructure projects that will move U.S. 74 closer to becoming I-74, the growth of Tabor City auto parts distributor DMA holdings, and R.J. Corman Railroad’s efforts to secure a major rail prospect at the former Georgia-Pacific site. 

Additionally, High said Shizzy’s Wildcat Rescue is moving forward in Fair Bluff, Malec Brothers plans to remain in Columbus County while opting not to apply for a methyl bromide permit, Cape Fearless Extreme has opened its ziplining attraction near Delco, Helena Chemical is constructing a new facility west of Whiteville, and Tabor City has secured an $800,000 federal grant to create a business incubator in a downtown storefront. 

High ended his comments by asking members to consider creative possibilities for the county.

“Don’t think I’m crazy, but I want to throw something out there that I think is going to be our future, and I think we have a bright future,” he said.

By the middle of the next decade, driverless cars are going to be a boon for areas like Columbus County, High said, because they will allow people to live in rural communities and effortlessly commute to jobs hours away and be productive during the drive.

“I don’t think the jobs are ever going to leave Raleigh, Wilmington and Myrtle Beach in a big way,” High said. “But what we offer is a great quality of life.”

He explained that continuing to make Columbus County a desirable place to live will be the key. 

“We have really begun to work on our infrastructure, but we have to keep it going. We have to keep pressure on for good roads, for good schools, to protect our environment — to do things like the path behind Lake Waccamaw — have good infrastructure like water and sewer, and strong downtowns.”

Tabor City receives grant for downtown business incubator

By: Deuce Niven, The Tabor City - Loris Tribune

Architects will be in Tabor City as early as next week to begin mapping out the future of the former Heilig-Meyers building downtown, now destined to become a business incubator fueled by an $800,000 US Economic Development Administration (EDA) grant announced last week.

 Town Manager Al Leonard, speaking at the annual banquet of the Greater Tabor City Chamber of Commerce last week, called the proposed incubator one of the top ten list of opportunities to address the “rural dilemma” challenging most of America’s small towns.

 Leonard spoke a day before the U.S. Department of Commerce announced the grant “to renovate a historic building for use as a business incubator that will support business growth in the region,” a news release said.

 “We commend Tabor City on their strategy to help support local entrepreneurs,” said Deputy Assistant Secretary for Regional Affairs Dennis Alvord. “This project will strengthen the local economy by providing new and existing businesses with the tools they need to grow and thrive.”

Downtown Tabor City

Downtown Tabor City


 Economic opportunity

There is no available space left in Tabor City for new business opportunities, Leonard told the Chamber audience, a good problem that can be remedied by converting the long-vacant former retail space into a business incubator, where fledgling business and industry can take root and grow.

Tabor City’s first business incubator, located in the Tabor Industrial Park, is full, Leonard said. A variety of businesses are operating in every one of the former tobacco warehouses across town, and in other available industrial space.

A business incubator downtown is part of an ongoing and renewed focus on that area of Tabor City, Leonard said last week. 

Architects will be charged with assessing the buildings town government took possession of last year, Mayor Royce Harper said. A bank that had foreclosed on the property donated it to the town.

“The bank gave it to the town to keep it from code enforcement,” Harper said. “They were either going to have to fix it or tear it down.”

Industrial space and offices for the business incubator are expected to go on the first floor, Harper said. It’s possible that apartments could be constructed on the second floor, if architects and inspectors deem that feasible, the mayor said.

Inspections and assessments will be among the first steps, and should begin soon, Harper said.



                     Downtown Tabor City 



Hurricane relief

EDA officials, in a news release, said the business incubator in Tabor City “will help the region recover from damage caused by Hurricanes Matthew and Florence, which caused significant business disruption and loss in 2016 and 2018 respectively. The new incubator will support local disaster resiliency efforts by helping new businesses grow and established businesses start over or expand.

“This project was made possible by the regional planning efforts led by the Southeastern Economic Development Commission.

“EDA funds the Southeastern Economic Development Commission to bring together the public and private sectors to create an economic development roadmap to strengthen the regional economy, support private capital investment and create jobs.”


Founded in 1913 in Greensboro, Heilig-Meyers went into bankruptcy in 2000, the Tabor City store one of the first 302 slated for closure at that time. Heilig-Meyers did not survive bankruptcy.

Tabor City’s store occupied four buildings on East 5th Street, opening in 1978


Whiteville Museum receives Duke Energy Foundation Grant

The North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences at Whiteville will continue to develop and implement educational opportunities for the public with a focus on science education thanks to a generous $35,000 grant from the Duke Energy Foundation.

 “STEM education is a critical focus area of the Duke Energy Foundation,” said John Elliott, Duke Energy’s director of government and community relations. “We’re proud to partner with the NC Museum of Natural Sciences at Whiteville to expand hands-on and STEM-focused learning opportunities for kids in southeastern North Carolina.”

Screen Shot 2019-03-05 at 4.41.52 PM.png

 “Duke Energy Foundation continues to be an important partner for STEM education in North Carolina,” said Charles Yelton, regional network chief for the NC Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh. In 2015 the Whiteville museum was awarded a $40,000 grant from the Duke Energy Foundation, the largest donation the museum has received to date. The grant was instrumental in allowing the museum to transition from a facility focused on forestry to one focused on the natural sciences.  

“The Duke Energy Foundation is a real friend to the museum,” says Bill Thompson, President of the Friends of the NC Museum of Natural Sciences at Whiteville. “Their support in the past has allowed us to become a unique part of the NC Museum of Natural Sciences. Their very generous gift now will allow us to provide a much-needed early childhood education program here in Whiteville. We appreciate very much their continuing support of the museum.”   

Funding from this grant will go toward development of public and early childhood educational programs, special after school and citizen science projects to connect children of all ages to nature and increase science literacy throughout the community.

For more information, please call the museum at 910-914-4185 or e-mail

Columbus Jobs Foundation sets annual meeting Feb. 28

The Columbus Jobs Foundation, the volunteer arm of economic development in Columbus County, will hold its annual business meeting Thursday, Feb. 28 at the Museum of Natural Sciences at Whiteville at 6 p.m.

Current members and prospective members are encouraged to attend as the meeting also kicks off the non-profit organization’s membership drive. New officers and directors will be announced. Les High is currently chairman.

The Jobs Foundation has two major initiatives this year, to work on establishing a small business entrepreneur incubator, and to recruit builders to construct new housing developments. Thomas Hall, director of the UNC Pembroke Thomas Center for Entrepreneurship, will be the guest speaker.

To join, email Madison Ward at the Columbus County Economic Development Commission office at, or go to the organization’s website, There are number of membership levels, including one for millennials, those under 40, for only $75.

Plan creates roadmap for 450 new jobs over several years

By Allen Turner, The News Reporter

It’s still a work in progress, but a job creation plan for distressed communities in Columbus County is in development with help from the N.C. Department of Commerce’s N.C. Main Street and Rural Planning Center.

While the estimated cost to purchase and upgrade buildings would be $7-9 million, a successful outcome would be the creation of more than 450 jobs to the county over several years.

A 73-page partial draft of the plan has already been completed with proposed projects identified for Bolton, Chadbourn, the International Logistics Park in Delco, Fair Bluff, Tabor City and Whiteville, and data is still being gathered for Lake Waccamaw.

Preliminary hopes are high. Two existing companies from out of state want to locate and expand in Bolton and Chadbourn, providing 45 jobs initially and 200 jobs longer-term. A commercial kitchen/produce processing plant and possible call center in Fair Bluff could create 100-150 jobs. With Tabor City’s first business incubator being close to 100 percent occupancy, a second incubator is being planned there. Opportunities in Whiteville include the establishment of a 10-barrel microbrewery. The plan will also provide an economic evaluation of a 100,000-sq. ft. shell building proposed for International Logistics Park.

‘Time for Lake Waccamaw’ 

Plans for Lake Waccamaw are still under development. About 15 community leaders representing business and local government met earlier this month to develop a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis for the town.

The Feb. 5 meeting in Lake Waccamaw was an assessment of economic, cultural, institutional, community, natural and governmental assets in the town, and other such meetings are anticipated.

Retired Boys and Girls Homes President Bill Thompson was a participant in the Lake Waccamaw meeting, and he said the greatest strength for Lake Waccamaw is the possibility of expanding eco-tourism. 

“The lake is our biggest asset, of course,” Thompson said, “and we need to find a way to utilize it in a way that won’t at the same time diminish its attraction as an asset. That’s a tough, thin line, but we want to look at as many possibilities as we can.”

Weather — the effect of storms and the susceptibility of the lake to flooding — was identified as the biggest weakness, according to Thompson. He said the group identified the current general timeline as the biggest opportunity. 

“This is the time for Lake Waccamaw to act,” Thompson said. “We’ve been sort of dormant for many years.” The biggest threat is the same as the identified weakness: the weather. “No matter what we plan for, there’s not much we can do about the weather.”

Others participating in the meeting included Lake Waccamaw Town Manager Gordon Hargrove, former council member Nancy Sigmon, Mayor Daniel Hilburn and numerous people from the private sector. 

“These were people who’ve been involved with the town for a long time,” Thompson said. “Although a date is not set, we will meet again and look back at what we came up with generally at our first meeting and then try to decide on the best steps to go forward.”

When the Lake Waccamaw plans are more complete, they will be added to the countywide plan that will eventually be presented to Columbus County commissioners, according to Grace Lawrence, community economic development planner for the N.C. Department of Commerce.

That plan, when finalized, will demonstrate an “excellent job development opportunity for municipalities in Columbus County,” Lawrence said. It will provide an implementation timetable, as well as potential sources of funding. Documentation will be given to grantors, legislators and other potential funders/investors. 

“We hope this plan will be used as a model for other rural counties,” said Lawrence.

The following proposed projects have already been identified in the portion of the plan that is complete:


“Project Bling,” a small manufacturer of high-end tech jewelry is owned by a woman who lives in San Francisco but still considers Bolton as her hometown. Her retired grandmother would run the manufacturing operation in Bolton. No building currently is available and construction of a 5,000-6,000 sq. ft. incubator building must be considered. The company would bring 15 jobs initially and up to 50 jobs long term.


“Project Medical” is a medical coding business which currently operates out of state. Similar to the Bolton project, the owner is originally from the Chadbourn. The company would bring 35 initial jobs and 150 more jobs in the long term. A suitable building doesn’t exist, but there are several vacant properties owned by private citizens and by the Town of Chadbourn that could house the business with upfitting.


A $4 million, 100,000-sq. ft. shell building is proposed by an industrial developer for the International Logistics Park. The project would bring 25 jobs initially and 50 total over a longer period. Truck driver positions would start at $16 per hour and forklift operators would earn $12.14 an hour. This would be a joint Columbus County-Brunswick County project.

Fair Bluff

The plan identifies both a commercial kitchen/produce processing plant and a possible call center for Fair Bluff. Local growers have asked for a commercial kitchen/produce center to be able to sell to grocery chains and others. One of those local growers is already producing 120,000 pounds of tomatoes annually. Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) certification would be sought by the growers. If a building was divided and used as a combined produce processing plant and as a call center, 100-150 jobs could be created. There are two location under consideration: a new 15,000-sq. ft. building on donated property near the downtown area or renovation of the 50,000-sq. ft. former Umbro building that would be donated to either the county or the Columbus Jobs Foundation. However, that building needs a new roof, HVAC systems, lighting and re-paved parking areas.

Tabor City

A second business development center, or incubator, is being planned since the first one is nearly at capacity.


Opportunities include the establishment of a microbrewery, which would employ 10-15 people initially and would bring destination businesses to the downtown area.

Duke grant to aid Helena Chemical facility under construction in county

By Justin Smith, The News Reporter

A Helena Chemical facility under construction west of Whiteville will benefit from a grant that will also make the nearby Southeastern Regional Industrial Park more marketable, the county’s economic developer announced Tuesday.

A $20,000 grant from the Duke Energy Carolinas Investment Fund will help extend a water main along the eastern edge of the industrial park and will serve a new Helena Chemical facility under construction at the intersection of Georgia Pacific and Midway roads, said Columbus County Economic Development Director Gary Lanier. 

Helena Chemical decided to construct the new facility after its building on West Virgil Street outside Whiteville flooded during Hurricanes Matthew and Florence, according to Jim Martin, the company’s division manager. The Whiteville location provides crop protection chemicals, seeds and fertilizer for farmers in Columbus, Bladen and Robeson counties. The new facility will include a 12,000 square-foot warehouse, 2,000 square-foot office and a liquid fertilizer operation. Helena has seven local employees and hopes to add more as business expands, Martin said. 

Columbus County Economic Development Director Gary Lanier accepts a check from Donna Phillips of Duke Energy

Columbus County Economic Development Director Gary Lanier accepts a check from Donna Phillips of Duke Energy


Duke Energy awarded the grant to the Columbus Jobs Foundation, a non-profit organization that supports economic development initiatives. The funds will be used for engineering design and preliminary work. Columbus County commissioners voted in December to spend up to $75,500 in already budgeted economic development funds for design costs associated with the water line extension. Lanier said fewer county tax dollars will be required thanks to the grant.

“This will be a true win-win for the Columbus Jobs Foundation, Columbus County, and our partners at Duke Energy,” Lanier said. “Duke Energy is one of the best economic development partners we have, willing to do everything in their power to make a project happen.”

Lanier added that Duke Energy has been involved for more than 25 years with the 160-acre Southeast Regional Park.

“It is great to have a wonderful partner like Columbus County that aggressively plans and recruits business to create new jobs and investment for the county,” said Donna Phillips, economic development manager for Duke Energy. “We are pleased to be a part of the community’s growth and prosperity.” 

Columbus Chamber honors Medford, Heller and Young

By Justin Smith, The News Reporter

 The Columbus Chamber of Commerce and Tourism honored local leaders at its Annual Meeting and Business Expo Monday night at Northwood Church in Whiteville. Jonathan Medford, owner of Inspire Creative Studios, was named the inaugural winner of the Young Professional of the Year Award.

 In addition to serving on the Columbus Chamber board of directors, Medford has held leadership positions in numerous community organizations, including the Columbus Jobs Foundation and Whiteville Rotary Club. He also coaches tennis and is an alumnus of Leadership Columbus, explained Joan McPherson, outgoing chair of the Chamber’s board of directors. She said Medford “was instrumental in the development of the Columbus Young Professionals group and served as the first chairman.”

 Medford, who was unable to attend the ceremony, lives in Whiteville with his wife, Sally, and their children, Carrie and Riley.

2019 Columbus Chamber Board of Directors

2019 Columbus Chamber Board of Directors

Left to right, Jonathan Medford, Rev. David Heller, Janice Young

Rev. David Heller, Columbus Baptist Association’s director of missions, was presented the Sol B. Mann Community Spirit Award. Whiteville Mayor Terry Mann said the Chamber created the award in 2002 to honor his late father. The award’s purpose is “to recognize an individual that goes out of their way to make our community a better place to live,” Mann said.

 Heller entered the ministry in 1982 and served for 18 years as the pastor of Pleasant Plains Baptist Church. He has served as the senior chaplain of the Columbus County Sheriff’s Office since 1998. He hosts a television show on Southeastern Community College’s EDU-Cable that highlights area non-profit organizations and volunteering opportunities. Heller was instrumental in establishing the backpack buddy program that provides non-perishable food to ensure that area school children in need do not go hungry over the weekends.

 Heller and his wife Cindy have three adult daughters and one granddaughter. “My wife and I have made Columbus County our home for the last 23 years,” he said. “We love the people of this county, and it’s an honor and a privilege to be able to serve.”

 Honorary Lifetime Membership Janice Young, the past executive director of the Chamber, was honored with a Lifetime Honorary Membership. She has served as president of the Reuben Brown House Preservation Society, deacon at First Baptist Church of Whiteville and a board member of Columbus County Tourism Bureau, American Red Cross and Habitat for Humanity. “The award pays tribute to individuals who use their time, their talent and their energy to change the lives of others and their community,” said John Elliott of Duke Energy, who presented the award.

Elliot explained that Young “has a long resume of service in Columbus County that epitomizes community leadership at so many levels.” She “is a stellar example of what can be accomplished with passion, conviction and dogged determination,” he said. Young has been married to her husband Bob, for nearly 50 years. They have two daughters, Julia and Peyton, and five grandchildren.

“It has been my honor for over 40 years to be a part of Columbus County,” Young said. “We moved here really hardly knowing anyone and were immediately embraced, and that is exactly what the people do here. They embrace you; they love you. We become family, and families can do anything together.”

LEAD Award Elliott presented Duke Energy’s the company’s Leadership in Economic Advancement and Development (LEAD) Award to outgoing Columbus Chamber Chairman Joan McPherson, owner of J. Mac’s Creative Plans by Design.

“The LEAD Award was created by Duke Energy to recognize deserving business leaders who have spent extraordinary time, effort and personal talent preparing the community for job growth, investment and a competitive economic development climate,” Elliott said. He explained the award is presented once a year in North Carolina, and it was last presented to someone in the eastern part of the state in 2015.

McPherson “is a community leader who employs inclusion as their mindset, integrity as their strength and collaboration as their practice,” Elliott said. “I hope that beyond anything else my love for Whiteville and Columbus County shines through,” McPherson said. “In light of negativity, I’m a firm believer that if we can all just say one thing positive every morning when we wake up and look at our business community and our community as a whole in a positive light, we can make great changes.”

 After accepting the LEAD Award, McPherson delivered a farewell speech, which is reprinted on page 10A.

Following her speech, McPherson introduced her successor as chair of the board, Jamille Gore of Tabor City, a financial advisor with Edward Jones Investments.

Winslow named Brunswick Electric CEO

By: The News Reporter

The board of directors of Brunswick Electric Membership Corporation (BEMC) have announced the appointment of Joshua L. Winslow as the new CEO and general manager of the electric cooperative. He succeeds retired executive Don Hughes who had been with BEMC since 1969 and had served as CEO and general manager since 2014. Winslow officially assumed his position Feb. 1.

Joshua Winslow, left, has been named to succeed retiring Brunswick Electric Membership Corporation CEO Don Hughes, right.

Joshua Winslow, left, has been named to succeed retiring Brunswick Electric Membership Corporation CEO Don Hughes, right.


“Josh is an excellent fit for BEMC because he has a proven track record of leadership and personnel development,” said Hughes. “Not only is he storm-tested, but he consistently demonstrates concern for the community’s needs while providing strength of leadership and support for the daily operation of the co-op.”

Winslow said he was honored to serve as CEO.

“We have an incredible team at BEMC, and a commitment to service is in the DNA of this cooperative,” he said. “We will continue to honor our founding principles as we face some of the most significant changes to our industry in decades.  Remaining focused on returning value to our membership in the form of safe, reliable, and affordable power will ensure success for the cooperative and support for the communities we serve.”

Hired in 2004, Winslow has served BEMC as a staff electrical engineer, manager of operations, and most recently as chief operating officer. Winslow holds a B.S. in electrical engineering and an MBA from NC State University and is a licensed professional engineer.

Winslow and his wife LeeAnna have been married for 16 years, live in Supply, and have three children: Raleigh, Reagan and Roslyn.  He is a member of the Brunswick County Chamber of Commerce board of directors.