Ernie Pearson is a member at the Maynard Nexsen Law Firm where he serves as an economic development attorney. Best Lawyers in America listed Ernie as one of only 28 lawyers in the country in the category of Economic Development in 2013, and he has been listed in this category every year since. Ernie has served as Assistant Secretary for Economic Development, worked with over 100 companies in site selection and incentive negotiation projects, and worked in numerous fields like corporate, real estate, and employment law. He obtained his JD from UNC Chapel Hill and his BA from NC State University.
For the past 20 years Raul has served as Sr. Vice President, ECS Southeast, LLP. Responsibilities include overseeing the Company’s economic development efforts across the southeast. In NC, Raul has been instrumental in implementing the NC Certified Sites Program. Additional responsibilities include serving in leadership positions on meaningful organizations and supporting a wide range of site as well as project-related economic development efforts.
Raul holds a BS from North Carolina State University. Raul has served in the following organizations: Southern Economic Development Council (SEDC) – Chairman and North Carolina Economic Developers Association (NCEDA) – Two Terms Board Member. He is currently serves on the NC Community Colleges Foundation Board.
Gary Lanier previously served on NCEDA’s board of directors from 2014 – 2020. He is executive director of the Columbus County Economic Development Commission, a position he has held since 2010. Since 2014, Gary has also served as the county’s planning director. His entry into the economic development profession came after a 30-year career in engineering and manufacturing with Black & Decker, Eaton Corp. and Hubbell Power Systems. Gary holds a BS in engineering operations from NC State University, where his outstanding scholarship earned him the JW Joseph Award. He also holds an MBA from Western Carolina University and an Ed.D in adult and community college education from NC State. In addition to his service to NCEDA, Gary is on the board of directors of North Carolina’s Southeast. A longtime scout Leader, he is on the executive board of the Cape Fear Council of the Boy Scouts of America and is a Vigil Honor member of the Klahican Lodge of the Order of the Arrow. Gary and his wife, Emily, have two grown sons.
Crystal Morphis, CEcD is the Founder and CEO of Creative Economic Development Consulting. Crystal started the firm in 2012 and built it to become the “go-to” economic development consulting firm. The entrepreneurial firm has launched four proprietary programs and has a unique commitment to pay-it-forward through several nonprofit initiatives. Crystal’s experience is as a practitioner and consultant as well as she has expertise in strategic planning, product development, organizational development, economic impact studies, existing business retention and expansion programs, and site selection. In 2005, Crystal earned the designation of Certified Economic Developer (CEcD). She obtained a Master of Science from UNC Charlotte and B.A. from Salem College.
Todd Tucker currently serves as the Director of Economic Development for the Sandford Area Growth Alliance. In his previous experience he was President of the Surry County Economic Development Partnership for over 13 years . Prior to that, he was a Senior Business Development Representative at Progress Energy in Raleigh before the utility’s merger with Duke Energy. In addition, Todd held positions at the North Carolina Department of Commerce for over seven years. He is a 1991 graduate of NC State University and holds a CEcD designation from the International Economic Development Council. He and his wife, Conni, have two children, Anna Kate and Grey.
Natalie Hawkins is the President of Moore County Economic Development Partnership (MCEDP). Before joining MCEDP in 2021, Natalie had a distinguished 20-year career in local government, serving as the Assistant Village Manager of Pinehurst for 17 years and the Finance Director for three years. Prior to that, Natalie spent the first five years of her career in public accounting. Natalie is a current member of the Board of Directors for the Moore Regional Hospital, the Moore County Chamber of Commerce, and the Moore County Convention & Visitor’s Bureau. Previously, she served on the board for Moore County Habitat for Humanity and as a volunteer state & national Baldrige examiner. Natalie holds a Master of Accounting and a BS in business administration, both from the UNC Chapel Hill. She is also a certified Project Management Professional (PMP) and a former Certified Public Accountant (CPA). Natalie and her husband, Scott, live in Pinehurst and have four adult children.
Julie Pruett is the Development Manager at Marlboro Development Team. She joined Marlboro Development Team with over 24 years of experience in economic development in the Charlotte region of North Carolina. She works to expand Marlboro Development Team’s presence in North Carolina through the pursuit of build-to-suit industrial projects, speculative development, sale/leasebacks, and strategic acquisitions in the industrial sector. Julie obtained the internationally recognized designation of Certified Economic Developer in 2009. She holds an MPA from Appalachian State University and a BA in political science from Lenoir-Rhyne University. Julie is also a graduate of the University of Oklahoma Economic Development Institute.
Timothy Downs is the Regional Director for North Carolina Economic Development with Thomas & Hutton, a multidisciplinary civil engineering firm. Partnering with local and state-level agencies, Timothy helps clients develop a vision for attracting industries to their communities through various engineering services. He has nearly 20 years of professional public experience with a range of expertise in law and economic development. Timothy’s previous roles include Senior Vice President of Economic Development for the Greater Durham Chamber of Commerce; Director of Economic Development for Craven County; Executive Director for the Craven 100 Alliance; and Deputy Director of the Office of Economic Development for Dayton, Ohio. A licensed attorney in Ohio and North Carolina, Timothy earned his law degree from Thomas M. Cooley Law School in Lansing, Michigan, and a BS in Zoology from NC State University. He is a certified Economic Development Finance Professional by the National Development Council. Timothy is an active member of NCEDA, ULI, and SEDC and a graduate of Leadership North Carolina, Class XXIX. Timothy and his wife, Emily, have three children.
Andre Lennon, PE, is Civil Practice Lead at Civil & Environmental Consultants. He has held his current position at the firm’s Charlotte office since April of this year. Andre was previously Senior Project Manager there. His work primarily involves projects in commercial and residential development, educational facilities and the power industry. He is a 1999 graduate of Auburn University, where he majored in civil engineering. Andre also holds a Professional Engineer designation. He and his wife, Danielle, live in Fort Mill, SC, with their two young children.
Clark Duncan is Executive Director and Senior Vice President of the Economic Development Coalition for Asheville-Buncombe County, a program of the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce. Clark has held his current position at the Asheville Area Chamber since June 2018, previously serving as the organization’s Vice President for Economic Development. He joined the chamber’s staff in 2008. Clark is a 1993 graduate of Wake Forest University, where he studied politics and French literature. He also earned a Diploma in French Civilization from Sorbonne University in Paris. A devotee of all things outdoors, Clark lives on the family farm with his wife, Sumner, and son, Sam.
Josh Hallingse is Vice President of Small Business Development and Business Retention at the Wilmington Chamber of Commerce. He was named to the position in 2021 after serving as Executive Director of Transylvania Economic Alliance in Brevard for 6 years. Prior, he worked for the Charlotte Regional Partnership and the Henderson County Partnership for Economic Development. Josh is a 2006 graduate of UNC Charlotte, where he majored in political science and religious studies. He also holds an MPA from Appalachian State University and is a graduate of the Economic Development Institute at the University of Oklahoma, where he was a Governor James Holshouser Scholar. Josh and his wife, Christy, have two young children and reside in Wilmington.
Chris Platé joined the NCEDA board in July 2017. He is executive director of Monroe-Union County Economic Development, which oversees economic growth and diversification in one of North Carolina’s fastest-growing counties. Chris was NCEDA’s Economic Developer of the Year in 2016, an award that recognized his success with major expansions at O’Neil Digital Solutions, ATI Specialty Materials, Glenmark Pharmaceutical and other companies. In 2002, he launched the Aerospace Initiative in Monroe, a cluster development strategy that has since yielded the highest concentration of aerospace companies in the Carolinas. Prior to joining the staff of Monroe-Union County Economic Development in 1999, Chris held economic development positions in York and Chester counties, South Carolina. He earned a BS degree in economics from Clemson University, where he minored in political science and law. Chris and his wife are parents of two children.
Dr. Pat Mitchell began her latest leadership role at NCEDA in 2017. She was an officer and director of the organization prior to becoming assistant secretary of Commerce for rural economic development in September 2013. Pat is an assistant professor at Appalachian State University’s Department of Government and Justice Studies. She served nine years as director of economic development in Ashe County and two of those years as county manager. From 2001 until 2004, Pat taught courses in East Carolina University’s MPA program. She is a graduate of Berry College in Rome, Georgia where she studied language arts and political science, and she holds masters and doctoral degrees in public administration from the University of Georgia. She also holds the CEcD designation from the International Economic Development Council. In addition to her service at NCEDA, Pat serves on UNC School of Government Foundation’s board of directors. She lives in Fleetwood.
Joanna Helms is Economic Development Director for the Town of Apex, a post she’s held since 2014. She began her economic development career in 1993 as Vice President of the Wayne County Economic Development Commission in Goldsboro, rising to led that organization in 2000 and continuing her service as President after the organization was reconstituted as the Wayne County Development Alliance Inc. in 2006. Joanna served on NCEDA’s board from 2008 to 2011, chairing the Professional Development Committee and editing the 2009 revision to the North Carolina Economic Development Handbook. The organization named Joanna Economic Developer of the Year in 2008. She is also active in the Apex Rotary Club and Meals on Wheels, and chairs the Business Alliance Advisory Board of Apex Friendship High School. Joanna is a 1984 graduate of Western Carolina University, where she earned a BS in geography planning. She and her husband Tim have two adult sons.
Carl Rees serves as Senior Economic Developer for ElectriCities of North Carolina. In this role he has the privilege to work on community and economic development projects in some 70 public power communities across the state. A native of Eastern North Carolina, he has worked in a variety of capacities for North Carolina local governments since 1995. Prior to ElectriCities, Rees served as Economic Development Manager for the City of Greenville, North Carolina. In this capacity Rees led a full-service economic development office that engaged in business recruitment and expansion activities as well as support for small business and entrepreneurship. Beginning in 2004, Rees accepted the challenge of leading redevelopment efforts in Greenville’s urban core while serving as primary staff person to the City’s Redevelopment Commission. From 1995-2003, Rees served in a number of city planning positions for municipalities in eastern North Carolina. Rees is a proud graduate of East Carolina University, University of Oklahoma Economic Development Institute and Leadership North Carolina and was previously an enlisted soldier in the U.S. Army’s 1st Infantry Division.
Kelly Andrews, CEcD, has been Pitt County’s Economic Development Director since October 2020. She previously served as the organization’s Associate Director since 2006. Prior to her career in economic development, Kelly worked as an Apprenticeship and Training Consultant at the North Carolina Department of Labor. She currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Greenville-Pitt County Chamber of Commerce and the ECU Engineering Advisory Board. From 2007 to 2014, Kelly was on the board of United Way of Pitt County, serving as Secretary for two years and chairing its Workforce Development Committee. A native of Bethel, she holds undergraduate degrees from Peace College (now William Peace University) and UNC Chapel Hill’s Kenan-Flagler School of Business. Kelly earned an MBA from East Carolina University and is a graduate of the Economic Development Institute at Oklahoma University. She was awarded her CEcD designation from the International Economic Development Council (IEDC) in February 2020.
Brittany Brady has been President and CEO of the Henderson County Partnership for Economic Development and its sister organization, the Economic Investment Fund of Henderson Count, since October 2017. A 9th generation native of Henderson County, Brittany served in marketing and business development positions at the Partnership prior to beginning her current role. Her work there has involved lead generation, marketing, digital media, workforce development and client development. Brittany also helped launch Made in Henderson County, a campaign to showcase locally made products and build connections among manufacturers and public-school students. She holds a BS in child and family studies from East Tennessee State University and a Master’s in international hospitality and tourism management from the University of South Carolina. Brittany also is a graduate of the Economic Development Institute at Oklahoma University and the Advanced Economic Development Leadership Program.
Loren Hill is the Carolina Core Regional Economic Development Director for the Piedmont Triad Partnership. He has been in that role since early 2021, working with the 17 counties of the Carolina Core – Alamance, Caswell, Chatham, Cumberland, Davidson, Davie, Forsyth, Guilford, Harnett, Lee, Montgomery, Moore, Randolph, Rockingham, Stokes, Surry, and Yadkin. He returns to the NCEDA board for 2021-2022 after serving previously from 2013-2016. For twenty years, he was president of the High Point Economic Development Corporation. In that role, he worked closely with the Greensboro Chamber of Commerce in the Guilford County Economic Development Alliance, formed as a collaborative effort with Guilford County, City of High Point, and City of Greensboro. His career also includes being Vice President of Public Affairs and Communications for the Greensboro Chamber, a governmental affairs consultant for the Greensboro-High Point real estate industry, and a Marriott hotel general manager in several states. A former two-term councilman for the Town of Jamestown in Guilford County, Loren earned a BA in political science from UNC-Chapel Hill. He and his wife Joyce live in High Point.
Ryan Nance joined North Carolina’s Electric Cooperatives in 2019 to lead the organization’s statewide economic development program. He most recently served as Director of Business Development for the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina (EDPNC), where he led efforts to identify and cultivate business prospects considering the state for new investments. Ryan worked at both the local and regional levels prior to his time at EDPNC. An alumnus of NC State University, Ryan also earned an MBA from UNC-Chapel Hill, but still pulls for the Pack.
Jason McLeod has been a member of NCEDA since 2014 and joined ECS in 2013 after almost a decade working in commercial real estate brokerage across southeastern North Carolina. His career transition to ECS was fortified by the company’s commitment and investment in local economic development throughout the state. Jason is the immediate past chair of Brunswick BID, serves on the board of directors of North Carolina’s Southeast, and was a member of the executive committee for BASE. He volunteers regularly on various subcommittees focusing on funding and strategic planning. In 2020, Jason was appointed by the New Hanover County Board of Education to serve on the board of trustees of Cape Fear Community College.
Martyn Johnson has worked in economic development for 40 years, for local, regional, and state economic development agencies in Michigan and North Carolina. Over those forty years Martyn has been involved in projects creating over 16,250 jobs and $2.6 billion of investment. He is an IEDC Certified Economic Developer, an NDC Certified Economic Finance Professional with a Bachelor of Economics from the University of Sydney, Australia, Master of City Planning from the University of Pennsylvania, and a Master of Business Administration from Michigan State University.
Andrew Tate is the vice president of real estate for the North Carolina Railroad Company. He previously was president and CEO of the Henderson County Partnership for Economic Development, leading the recruitment of business and industry to the area, including Raumedic, GF Linamar, Demmel, Norafin and Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. Andrew joined the North Carolina Economic Development Association board of directors in 2011 and was the association’s president in 2016-17. He is a graduate of UNC Chapel Hill and Leadership North Carolina. Andrew and his wife, Brooke, are in the process of moving from Hendersonville to Raleigh with their three young sons.
Randall Johnson joined NCEDA’s board of directors in 2013. He is executive director of the North Carolina Biotechnology Center’s Southeastern Office in Wilmington. The office strengthens the region’s life science economy through the development of jobs, businesses and investment in clinical research, renewable energy, and marine, agricultural and industrial biotechnology. Randall is a cum laude graduate of Wake Forest University, where he studied psychology. He holds an MBA from WFU’s Babcock Graduate School of Management and has completed numerous International Economic Development Council courses. He is also a graduate of Leadership North Carolina. In addition to his service to NCEDA, Randall has voluntary leadership roles with the Southeastern Economic Development Commission, the North Carolina Sustainable Energy Association, the Institute for Emerging Issues’ Environmental Council and the Advisory Committee for Biotechnology in Southeastern North Carolina, which he co-founded. Randall resides in Wilmington with his wife, Leigh, and their young son, Ace.
Julie Roper is Economic Development and Government Relations Manager at Dominion Energy North Carolina, overseeing communication with city and county officials and managing the company’s community engagement. Nearly 7.5 million customers in 18 states energize their homes and businesses with electricity or natural gas from Dominion Energy, headquartered in Richmond, VA. The company is committed to safe, sustainable, reliable and affordable energy, and is one of the nation’s largest producers and transporters of energy with about $100 billion of assets providing electric generation, transmission and distribution, as well as natural gas storage, transmission, distribution and import/export services. Julie currently serves on the boards of the Schiele Museum, Montcross Chamber, NC Heroes Fund and Gaston County EDC. She holds a BS in business administration from Belmont Abbey College and earned her MPA from Appalachian State University. Julie and her husband Don reside in Mount Holly.
Alan Wood has been President and CEO of Burke Development Inc. since 2015. The public-private partnership promotes economic growth, innovation and sustainability in Burke County. From 2009 until 2015, he was director of the Stokes County Economic Development Commission, where he led efforts to expand broadband deployment, diversify regional agribusiness and provide digital marketing opportunities for small businesses. As senior development manager at the Caldwell County Economic Development Commission, Alan helped recruit the Google Data Center, as well as important projects in the biopharma, consumer foods and composites industries. He worked in the furniture manufacturing and local banking earlier in his career. Alan serves on the board of directors of the Burke County Chamber of Commerce and on the Advisory Committee of the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina. He holds a CEcD designation from the International Economic Development Council (IEDC). Alan is a graduate of UNC Chapel Hill, where he received a BS in business administration with a concentration in marketing. He and his wife, Kelly, live in Morganton.
NCEDA President Mark Pope joined the organization’s board of directors in 2011 and previously served as vice president and secretary-treasurer. In August 2018, he was named president of the Wayne County Development Alliance, Inc. Prior to that, Mark served as executive director of Lenoir County Economic Development for 13 years. While there, his leadership helped facilitate the arrival and expansion of numerous companies in Lenoir County, including Spirit AeroSystems, Sanderson Farms, West Pharmaceuticals and Moen. Mark joined the economic development profession in 2005 after a 20-year career in banking. He was named North Carolina Economic Developer of the Year by NCEDA in 2010-2011. A Kinston native, Mark holds an AA in arts from Lenoir Community College and a BS in business administration from East Carolina University. In addition to numerous voluntary leadership roles, he is active in Westminster United Methodist Church and has coached little league baseball, soccer and basketball.
Chris Kouri has worked as an attorney with the firm of Nexsen Pruet PLLC in Charlotte since 2015. From 2011 to 2015, he practiced economic development and corporate law at the firm of Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice. He was General Counsel and Director of Government Affairs for the Charlotte Motor Speedway for the prior six years. Chris was a member of the Charlotte Regional Partnership’s executive committee from 2008 to 2018, serving also as the organization’s general counsel from 2015-2018. He was a candidate for the US House of Representatives (8th District) in 2002. Chris is a 1992 graduate of Yale University, where he earned a BA in African American Studies and excelled athletically as Varsity Captain on the Yale football team. He also holds a Master of Public Policy from Duke University and a JD from UNC’s School of Law in Chapel Hill.
John Nelms has been a member of the NCEDA board since 2015. He is senior economic development manager for Duke Energy, where he supports the recruitment and expansion of businesses in the company’s service area. The nation’s largest utility, Duke Energy, has facilitated the development of traditional industries such as textiles and furniture, as well as others such as bio-manufacturing and data centers that have emerged more recently. John joined the Duke team by way of Progress Energy’s economic development staff, where he had worked since 2005. His career has also included experience with the NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the NC Department of Commerce and the Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce. In addition to his voluntary service to NCEDA, John is on the boards of the North Carolina Rural Center, the North Carolina Military Foundation and North Carolina’s Southeast. He holds a BA in business management and economics from NC State University and an MBA from Campbell University. John and his wife, Autney, live in Raleigh with their two teenage children.
Ryan Wetherington joined the board in 2018. In September of that year he was named vice president at Armstrong Relocation in Charlotte. Prior to that, Ryan served as vice president of corporate services at the Allen Tate Companies, where he provided relocation assistance to clients in the manufacturing, office, professional sports, commercial real-estate, I/T and other industries. He also spent two years as director of marketing, public relations and research at the Lancaster County (SC) Economic Development Corporation and has held economic development and policy positions at the Charlotte Regional Partnership, the City of Wilmington and the Cape Fear Council of Governments. Ryan joined NCEDA in 2013 and co-founded the organization’s Emerging Executives Program, which he co-chaired from 2016 to 2018. He is on the executive committee of the University City Partners, a group that promotes economic vitality in and around Charlotte’s University Research Park and 2nd Vice Chair of the Charlotte Chamber Metro Chapter. A native of Wilson, Ryan graduated from Campbell University with a degree in government and history before earning his MPA from UNC Wilmington. An Eagle Scout, he lives is Charlotte with his wife, Keri, and their two children.
Ben Teague joined NCEDA’s board of directors in 2017. He is vice president of strategic development at Biltmore Farms LLC, where he crafts and executes strategies for attracting capital investment and jobs to Western North Carolina. Ben previously served as executive director of the Economic Development Coalition of Asheville-Buncombe County and chief operations officer of the Asheville Chamber of Commerce. His professional background includes extensive regional economic development work in Mississippi. In January 2017, he was named one of the economic development profession’s “40 Under 40,” a national citation awarded at IEDC’s Leadership Summit. Ben holds a B.S. degree in Business Administration from Mississippi College and earned an MBA from the University of Mississippi, where he was a John N. Palmer Fellow and president of the campus MBA Association. He is a graduate of the Economic Development Institute at Oklahoma University and earned the designation of Economic Development Finance Professional (EDFP). Ben resides in Buncombe County with his wife, Haley, and their two sons, Campbell and Coleman.
Maureen Little joined the NCEDA board of directors in 2015. She is vice president of economic development at the North Carolina Community College System. The system and its 58 campuses serve approximately 720,000 learners across their academic, technical, continuing education and customized training programs. Maureen began her economic development career in 1987 as director of business and industry services at Stanly Community College. A Union County native, she is an honors graduate of UNC Charlotte, where she earned a BA. Maureen also is a graduate of Leadership North Carolina and a recipient of the Stanley Frank Class Award. A competitive shag dancer, she and her husband, Rick, are both members of the Beach Shaggers National Hall of Fame. Maureen serves as an officer of the North Myrtle Beach-based organization. The couple lives in Monroe.
NCEDA President Steve Yost joined the board in 2012. Since 2009, Steve has been president of North Carolina’s Southeast, an 18-county regional marketing organization based in Elizabethtown. NC’s Southeast collaborates with businesses and county and state-level governmental partners in bringing job growth and economic investment to a region stretching from the Atlantic Ocean to the Uwharrie Mountains. A native of Stanly County, Steve has worked in the economic development profession since 1994, and his background includes experience as executive director of the Columbus County Economic Development Commission and as senior developer for the North Carolina Department of Commerce’s southeastern regional office. He holds a BA in political science from Appalachian State University and an MPA from UNC Chapel Hill. In addition to his NCEDA leadership role, Steve has served on the boards of the NC Museum of Forestry Board of Directors and the Cape Fear Council Boy Scouts of America. He is an Eagle Scout. He and his wife, Deborah, live in Whiteville.
Jessica Martin-Lane joined NCEDA’s board of directors in 2016. She is the president of Asheville-based WR-Martin (formerly Martin-McGill, Inc.), a women-owned business that provides management consulting services to North Carolina government clients and private businesses throughout the United States. The firm’s more than 30-year expertise helps communities and private clients embrace opportunities in strategy, operations, planning, funding, communications, real estate, and financial management. Before joining WR-Martin in 2007, Jessica began her career as a management consultant for Ernst & Young, and later directed client solutions for Hewitt Associates / Exult. In addition to her NCEDA leadership role, Jessica serves on the board of Eliada Homes, an organization that provides housing, therapy and social services to children and families in need. Jessica holds BS and MS degrees in Industrial Engineering and an MBA from the University of Tennessee – Knoxville. Jessica and her husband, Alan, are the parents of two young sons and live on a blueberry farm in Western North Carolina.
Speaker Tim Moore is currently in his second term as the presiding officer of the North Carolina House of Representatives. First elected to the General Assembly in 2002, Speaker Moore represents Cleveland County. He is a lifelong resident of Kings Mountain and holds a B.A. in Political Science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He earned is Juris Doctor degree from the Oklahoma City University School of Law. After passing the North Carolina Bar Exam, Speaker Moore returned to Cleveland County to practice law in Shelby, becoming a partner at the firm of Flowers, Martin, Moore, & Ditz, P.A., where he practiced until 2009. He then founded his own firm, Tim Moore, Attorney at Law, P.A., in Kings Mountain, where he currently practices. Speaker Moore also serves as the County Attorney for Cleveland County and General Counsel for the Cleveland County Water Board of Commissioners. He resides with his two sons, McRae and Wilson, in Kings Mountain, where he is a member of First Baptist Church.
State Senator Phil Berger has served as President Pro Tempore of the North Carolina Senate since 2010, the first Republican to hold the office since the 19th century. Representing Rockingham County, he was first elected to the Senate in 2000, where he quickly earned respect for his advocacy for common sense, conservative reforms in state government. In 2004, his Senate colleagues elected him Minority Leader. Senator Berger grew up in a working-class household in Danville, Virginia, where he learned the value of hard work. He worked in a local factory and as produce manager in a grocery store while attending Averett University and raising two children. He was the first in his family to graduate. Senator Berger then worked his way through law school at Wake Forest, graduating early. He practiced law briefly in Charlotte and Raleigh before settling in Eden, where he runs the Berger Law Firm. Senator Berger is married to his high school sweetheart, Pat. The couple has three kids – Phil Jr., Kevin and Ashley – and four grandchildren.
Gary Lanier has served on NCEDA’s board of directors since 2014. He is executive director of the Columbus County Economic Development Commission, a position he has held since 2010. Since 2014, Gary has also served as the county’s planning director. His entry into the economic development profession came after a 30-year career in engineering and manufacturing with Black & Decker, Eaton Corp. and Hubbell Power Systems. Gary holds a BS in engineering operations from NC State University, where his outstanding scholarship earned him the JW Joseph Award. He also holds an MBA from Western Carolina University and an Ed.D in adult and community college education from NC State. In addition to his service to NCEDA, Gary is on the board of directors of North Carolina’s Southeast. A longtime scout Leader, he is on the executive board of the Cape Fear Council of the Boy Scouts of America and is a Vigil Honor member of the Klahican Lodge of the Order of the Arrow. In 2012, Gary was honored with the Silver Beaver Award. A resident of Tabor City, he and his wife, Emily, have two grown sons.
Adrienne Cole began serving as an NCEDA board member in 2016. She is president and CEO of the Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce, the Research Triangle Region’s largest business association, with over 2,300 members. Prior to assuming her current position in 2017, Adrienne was executive director of Wake County Economic Development, a program of the chamber. She and her team worked with the county’s 12 municipalities, the Research Triangle Park, county and community leaders, and state and regional partners to market Wake County and region as a global destination for jobs, companies, people and investment. Adrienne’s professional background includes experience as business development director at the global construction giant Lend Lease and economic development leadership roles in Carteret and Pamlico counties. Adrienne is a 1993 graduate of Meredith College, where she majored in American civilization and political science. She also holds an MPA from Appalachian State University. Along with her NCEDA service, she is a member of the boards of directors of the RDU Airport Authority, Marbles Kids Museum and Research Triangle Regional Partnership. Adrienne, her husband, Walt, and their three children are residents of Raleigh.