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SELMA — The Smithfield-Selma Chamber of Commerce has officially become the Triangle East Chamber of Commerce.
The rebranding was announced at the chamber’s 49th annual meeting Jan. 28 at The Farm at 95 in Selma.
The keynote speaker, Ryan Combs, addressed some of the reasons it’s time for the chamber to take a more regional approach. Combs is executive director of the Research Triangle Regional Partnership.*
“Most companies use site selection consultants to help them determine where to locate,” said Combs. “A group of six prominent consultants were flown in and blown away by what they saw.”
Combs said one of Johnston County’s strengths is its Southern hospitality.
“It’s who we are,” said Combs. “The greatest force for change is a job. Every month, more people are flying in and out of Raleigh-Durham International Airport. We have the second-largest technological hub in the U.S.”
Combs said North Carolina has a positive business ecosystem, which he said is one of 1,000 ways this region is light years ahead of its competition.”
“We’re also building a marketing campaign to make us an agricultural hub,” said Combs. “We’re seeing a cross-pollination of industry and agriculture here.”
Johnston County’s population is projected to double by 2029 to 265,000 people, said chamber President and CEO Mike Mancuso.
“We’ve had great leadership through the years,” said Mancuso. “Voters have approved $550 million in bonds for Johnston County Public Schools and Johnston Community College. We’re always striving to improve and stay ahead with education that promotes technological advancement. Talent is the key for growth. We’re blessed with the best school system I’ve ever seen.”
The N.C. Department of Transportation is working to improve the county’s infrastructure and Johnston County has a great regional airport, said Mancuso.
Mancuso also stressed the need for a commuter rail line that connects Johnston County with Raleigh and the Research Triangle Park.
Mancuso offered a positive report for 2018.
“We added 80 new members in 2018,’” said Mancuso. “We hope to have 600 new chamber members by 2020. We want to attain a 94 percent retention rate and a wide range of cost saving programs from discounted workers’ compensation to prescription drug discounts and discounts on OSHA training.“We also want to integrate online training for our members act as advocates for our members, proactively working to find solutions and meet needs.”
More than 300 people, a record number, attended the annual meeting, which included members from Kenly, Princeton and Wilson’s Mills, in addition to Smithfield and Selma.
CITIZENS OF THE YEAR
Instead of two distinguished citizens of the year, the chamber, for the first time, recognized five distinguished citizens.
The 2019 Smithfield Distinguished Citizen of the Year is Mayor Andy Moore. Before his election as mayor in 2015, the 47-year-old Smithfield native served 16 years on the town council. This is his second term as mayor. He has worked for 19 years in the pharmaceutical industry, most recently for Pfizer since 2011.
The Selma Distinguished Citizens of the Year are Tom and Kathleen Hinnant. The Hinnants were high school sweethearts and have been married for 72 years. Tom Hinnant’s company built banks in the Carolinas, post offices including the one in Selma, Parrish Funeral Home, the Selma Fire Department and the Selma Police Department.
The Kenly Distinguished Citizen of the Year is Jennifer Holloman. Holloman owns Jennifer’s Dance Academy in Kenly, is employed by the Johnston County Health Department and is an active member of Kenly Missionary Baptist Church. She has been the coordinator of the annual Kenly Christmas Parade for more than a decade.
The Princeton Distinguished Citizen of the Year is semi-retired pharmacist Carlyle Woodard. His uncle, the late Barney Paul Woodard, established Woodard Drug Store in Princeton in 1943. Woodard has worked at the store for nearly 52 years. He is an active member of Princeton Baptist Church and is a member of the Princeton Lions Club.
The Wilson’s Mills Distinguished Citizen of the Year is Councilman Johnny Eason. Eason was first elected in 2011. He was raised in Wilson’s Mills and graduated from Wilson’s Mills High School. He and his wife Brunette have six children, 15 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. Eason retired after 16 years as owner and CEO of Dunn Scrap Iron & Metal.
The Citizen of the Year is Warren Grimes, retired executive director of the Smithfield Housing Authority. Grimes is a former director of Four Oaks Financial Corp. and Four Oaks Bank and Trust Co. He is a 1966 graduate of Smithfield High School and a 1970 graduate of High Point College, now High Point University.
The Jimmy Creech Small Business Person of the Year is Melissa Overton, owner of MedicalTraining.me, which provides continuing nursing education certified by the North Carolina Nurses Association, an accredited approver by the American Nurses Credentialing Center’s Commission on Accreditation. MedicalTraining.me is a continuing education institution for paramedics credentialed by the N.C. Office of Emergency Medical Services.
* = CORRECTION, Feb. 7 — The original version of this story misstated the keynote speaker's name. The Research Triangle Regional Partnership's executive director is Ryan Combs, not Chris Key. References to the speaker have been changed in the story to correct the error.