Changes are taking place within the hierarchy of the Carolinas Gateway Partnership.
As the partnership continues its search for a new president and chief executive officer, another move was recently made at the top by the local public-private industrial recruitment agency. Carolinas Gateway Partnership Vice President Krista Ikirt, who oversees Nash County, said the partnership’s Board of Director unanimously voted to name Don Williams, president of Lewis Advertising Inc., as the new chairman of the Carolinas Gateway Partnership.
Williams replaces Frank Harrison, who served in the post for the past seven years. Harrison now serves in the role as the organization’s past chairman. Williams said Harrison will continue to be in charge of the ongoing search to fill the position to replace former president and CEO John Gessaman. According to partnership’s website, Gessaman serves as vice president of special projects.
“We have multiple candidates that are being interviewed for the position,” Williams said. “We hope by September, we will have a new president and CEO in place.”
Williams is widely known in the local business community for his work at Lewis Advertising. Williams became the co-founder and creative director of one of North Carolina’s largest and the state’s oldest independent full service advertising agencies in 1969.
Ikirt said Williams actively has been involved over the years in the partnership’s capital campaign. Harrison said the total amount from the partnership’s fifth capital campaign fund since it started was its highest ever, exceeding more than $2 million from private sector investment.
“Don has extremely great community ties,” Ikirt said. “He is well-known and well-respected in this community. He also has a tremendous marketing background and has done all the advertisement and marketing for the Partnership for many years.”
Williams said the opportunity to help spur economic development in the Twin Counties was an important factor in taking on the volunteer position.
“I’ve been in Rocky Mount for 46 years, and I think the thing I enjoy the most is working within the business community,” he said. “I’ve been on the Rocky Mount Area Chamber board and boards of numerous Rocky Mount area charitable groups to help with fund raising. I have always considered this as a great community of great people. I think there is great opportunity here not just from economic development industrial standpoint, but I believe we’re on the threshold of some good things happening in tourism and happening within residential development.”
However, the need to create more jobs in the area, Williams said, continues to be the partnership’s top priority.
“The Carolinas Gateway Partnership is going to be a really vital tool for economic development for years,” he said. “We had some great leaders in the past within the position that had one focus, which was to grow the area and bring jobs to this area. They’ve had a monumental task and done a great job because we have lost a lot of jobs in the last 15 to 20 years, such as textile businesses. This group (Carolinas Gateway Partnership) has brought 8,500 jobs to the Twin Counties, so when were losing jobs, the partnership was able to replace them with the new type of great quality jobs. We know this an important factor going ahead. Without the jobs, we don’t grow.”
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