2019 POWER 100.

 
FREE EXCERPT

Power is a fleeting thing. Just ask anyone who has worked for General Electric Co., the cream of the international corporate crop for decades. Now, the struggling organization is valued 30% less than industrial rival Honeywell Corp., which will soon make Charlotte its home base. Likewise, the churn of power is evident in our second annual listing of the state's most influential leaders.

A year ago, Can' technology executive Tim Sweeney was little known outside the videogame industry. Now, his company's Fortnite game is an international phenomenon that could morph into a major social-media network. Epic Games, which had revenue topping $3 billion according to press reports, raised another $1.25 billion in capital in October.

Sweeney was an easy addition to the Power 100, compiled after securing ideas from dozens of N.C. businesspeople and our staffs multiyear experience of tracking the state's economy. We didn't include those who spend little time here or political leaders. Other newcomers include Carolina Panthers owner David Tepper, Lowe's CEO Marvin Ellison and Duke University President Vincent Price.

A majority of the Power 100 are holdovers from last year. Influential people are rarely in a hurry to hand over their reins. But there is an inevitable changing of the guard, particularly as North Carolina's technology industry blossoms with promising companies led by Michael Chasen, Abhishek Mehta, Todd Olson and others. Leaders of traditional industries that built North Carolina in the 20th century exert a fraction of their previous influence.

It's a subjective list, and we know that some deserving folks aren't on it. In addition to corporate power, we looked for those making an impact on the broader community, including behind-the-scenes operators. No doubt some of the missing are glad to remain under the radar, while others would love to be cited. Just tell us who they are--we are all ears. If we are doing our job, that's never going to change.

JENNIFER APPLEBY

MARKET MAKER

55, PRESIDENT AND CHIEF CREATIVE OFFICER, WRAY WARD CHARLOTTE

When civic ventures such as planning for a new downtown public library or developing branding for the new Charlotte Regional Business Alliance are underway, the leader of one of Charlotte's largest marketing companies is often at the table. The Penn State graduate joined the agency as senior art director in 1993 and has been the top executive since 2001. It's one of Charlotte's largest woman-owned businesses.

ROB BARNHILL III

FAMILY TRADITION

47, CEO, BARNHILL CONTRACTING ROCKY MOUNT

The third-generation leader of the family-owned business was named to his post last year, succeeding his father, Robert Barnhill Jr., whose work earned him a place in the N.C. Business Hall of Fame. Grandfather Robert Sr. formed the company in 1949, spinning off an enterprise started with surplus World War II equipment. Rob III has worked for the builder of highways, airports, commercial buildings and infrastructure since 1998. A key company project is Wilmington's $83 million, 13-story River Place mixed-use development.

EDWARD BROWN III

WHEELER DEALER

69, CEO, HENDRICK AUTOMOTIVE GROUP CHARLOTTE

The Harvard MBA didn't exactly unwind when he retired as a top investment banking executive with Bank of America. In 2010, Brown joined privately held Hendrick. which owns 96 dealerships and posts annual revenue of $9 billion. He also chairs Atrium Health, the state's biggest hospital system. He shepherded the hiring of Gene Woods as CEO in 2016 and presided over last year's aborted merger of Atrium and UNC Health Care, which could have resulted in a system with 90.000 employees. Still, he keeps mission focus. "We take care of all God's children," he told BUSINESS North Carolina.

JEFFREY BROWN

ONLINE BY DESIGN

45, CEO, ALLY FINANCIAL CHARLOTTE

Ally's online-only banking strategy is thriving. with deposits growing at a double-digit pace for 35 consecutive quarters, now topping $100 billion. Earnings increased 30% in the first nine months of 2018 despite slowing car sales. The former Bank of America executive, who has led the company since 2015, received total compensation of $8.8 million in 2017.

CARL ARMATO

NOVANT SAVANT

54, CEO, NOVANT HEALTH WINSTON-SALEM

Alma maters UNIVERSITY OF LOUISIANA AT LAFAYETTE, B.B.A NORWICH UNIVERSITY. MBA

Armato oversees a 27,000-employee system where $4.6 billion in annual revenue and higher profit enabled thousands to receive annual bonuses, including the boss, whose compensation tops $3 million. Inspired to work in health care because of his experience as a Type 1 diabetic, Armato joined Novant in 1998 and became CEO in 2012. He's led steady growth to its current roster of 14 medical centers and more than 1,500 physicians, mostly in the Charlotte and Triad areas.

What is North Carolina's key challenge?

Affordability. There are significant differences among our community members, which have translated into a discrepancy in opportunities. We've seen that social determinants of health, like housing and education, have a direct impact on quality of life. Our challenge is to provide for our communities through affordable health care, but also partner with organizations to improve access to affordable housing and education. The business community has an opportunity to partner to address these disparities and make our communities stronger.

Did your lifelong experience with Type 1 diabetes motivate you to spend your career in health care?

My journey with diabetes is one of the main drivers for a career in health care, and I have not shied away from talking about it. If we want to truly improve our country's health care system, we must be compassionate caregivers and draw upon our own experiences. Managing a lifelong condition such as diabetes provides a unique perspective to running a health system beyond numbers on a spreadsheet or discussions in the boardroom.

What is something people don't know about you?

I live on a farm. I have always been an outdoors person, and I own horses, chickens and even feed deer on my farm. I get a lot of joy from being outside with my animals. including my golden retriever.

Key 2018 accomplishments?

Over the past several years, we've taken significant and intentional steps to care for and engage our own team members. It's important to me that Novant Health is a great place to work in addition to being a great place to receive care. We've increased our team-member engagement rankings from around the 40th percentile in 2015 to the 87th percentile in 2018.

LEAH ASHBURN

CRAFT PLAYER

48, PRESIDENT AND CEO, HIGHLAND BREWING ASHEVILLE

Alma mater UNC CHAPEL HILL. B.A.

When Ashburn first asked her father. Oscar Wong, for a job at his brewery, he turned her down, citing lack of experience. She figured out how the business world worked, then joined the family company in 2011 and became president four years later. She has kept the state's largest craft-brewer, now topping 40,000 barrels a year, on a steady expansion path amid exploding competition. Ashburn, who has a journalism degree from UNC Chapel Hill, was a semi-finalist for the coveted James Beard Foundation brewer award last year.

What is North Carolina's key challenge?

Education. Can we carry through from K-12 to fill current and emerging employment needs from trade to tech? And how can we best inspire and prepare future generations to tackle climate, agriculture and health?

Share an insight about your community.

Ashevillians share a pursuit for quality of life. The Asheville community pulled through decades of debt from the Great Depression and rebuilt itself into a thriving city that offers natural wonders and deep connections to craft--in art. music, food and beverage.

What is something people don't know about you?

I jumped out of an airplane once, and I've played dozens of volleyball tournaments from Michigan to New York to Florida. Three of them were in mud.

Key 2018 accomplishment?

Highland's brand refresh, launched in February, aligned our brand with our beer and ignited our team to continue creating a path in N.C. brewing. We're celebrating our first 25 years this year.

What advice do you offer newcomers?

I ensure that we share our 10 core attributes, which our management team developed and believes in. As a small, family-owned company, alignment in values is more important here than at a large corporation because we see each other daily, and we can feel the effects of each person's work.

What do you enjoy most about your work?

I most enjoy seeing our beer bring people together--whether to celebrate or commiserate, great beer makes it easier.

STEVE BERLIN

HOLDING ONTO HIS MARBLES

59, PARTNER, KILPATRICK TOWNSEND & STOCKTON WINSTON-SALEM

Alma mater WAKE FOREST UNIVERSITY, B.A., J.D.

The Michigan native is an arts advocate, serving on the boards of the UNC School of the Arts and the Arts Council of Winston-Salem and Forsyth County. He's also the immediate past chair of Winston-Salem Business Inc. and chairman of the local United Way annual campaign. Berlin, whose clients have included Lowe's Cos. and Wake Forest University, was Business North Carolina's 2018 Legal Elite winner in environmental law.

What is North Carolina's key challenge?

Having a competitive workforce and complementary environment, and involving the most people in the process.

Share an insight about your community.

We are blessed with deep talent and an exceptionally cooperative spirit, but most of all, the most charitable people one could imagine.

What is something people don't know about you?

I am an avid marble collector.

Key 2018 accomplishment?

Signing the first major tenant [medical-device maker Cook Medical] for the redevelopment of the Whitaker Park tobacco manufacturing plant.

What have you learned from your work as chair of Winston-Salem Business Inc.?

Jobs and economic progress solve a myriad of problems.

HAROLD BRUBAKER

POWER POLITICO

72, FOUNDER, BRUBAKER & ASSOCIATES RALEIGH

It's been seven years...

To continue reading

FREE SIGN UP