Author:Mildenberg, David

The NC Chamber looked nationally for a new leader, then chose the in-house candidate, Gary Salamido, to lead the Raleigh-based business advocacy group.

He has worked for the chamber since 2011 after spending the previous 19 years at drug giant GlaxoSmithKline. Salamido has an unusual background for a business promoter, having earned a master's in pharmacy administration from University of Texas.

"Being a pharmacist defined who I am, because it's where I learned about the importance of relationships with patients, putting people first, doing no harm and looking at data before making a decision," he says. "I've tried to keep relationships at the front of everything I do."

Two of his important relationships are his mentors: former GSK CEO Bob Ingram and health policy consultant Glenna Crooks, a top health care adviser in the Carter and Reagan administrations and former senior executive at Merck.

Salamido was a pharmacy student when he first met Ingram, and they've stayed in touch ever since. "He's been incredibly important in my career," Salamido says.

Salamido named four key priorities for the organization, which he had led on an interim basis since he succeeded Lew Ebert late last year:

* Improving the state's education systems and improving its talent supply. "Our priority is to align the systems to move to be more nimble and demand-driven."

That requires the entire education spectrum to work more closely with businesses and communities so that more students have the skills required for success, he says. "The pace of change has never been this rapid before in our history."

* Retain the state's reputation for having a very competitive business climate, while working to improve the state's health care system. He cites a United Healthcare study ranking the state as 33rd nationally in terms of health care. The subpar ranking...

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