06/18/08 — Thompson named Economic Developer of Year

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Thompson named Economic Developer of Year

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on June 18, 2008 1:45 PM

Nominated on the basis of a successful 2007, Wayne County Development Alliance President Joanna Thompson has been named the 2008 North Carolina Economic Developer of the Year.

Ms. Thompson received the honor at the 42nd annual North Carolina Economic Developers Association conference last week in Atlantic Beach.

"2007 was perhaps the best year Wayne County has ever had in economic development," said Jimmie Edmundson, senior vice president of BB&T in Goldsboro and a WCDA board member.

Among the achievements highlighted in the award presentation were the announcements of at least 1,000 new jobs over the next five years, including the expansion at Reul Inc. and AAR Corp., the recruitment of AT&T and the beginning of the Northern Wayne Task Force.

"It wasn't just one thing," said Mark Clasby, executive directory for Haywood County's economic development corporation and co-chairman of the professional development committee. "It's her leadership and the number of projects that were accomplished -- everything she's done for her county.

It was, Ms. Thompson said, a "humbling" honor.

"No one could have been more shocked than me," she said. "There have been a lot of successful people (who have won)."

Ms. Thompson, 46, has worked in economic development in Wayne County for 15 years, the last six of which she's served as president. During those years, she has helped guide the organization from a county-funded entity, to its current private/public partnership form. Prior to joining the county she worked as a site planner and community developer in the private sector.

"When you look out and see 400 of your peers staring back at you, you realize what a huge honor it is to be recognized," she said. "And it feels great."

But, she emphasized, she couldn't have accomplished it by herself.

"It's not about me. It's about our organization, our board and our programs. I couldn't have gotten this without being part of a bigger organization," she said. "It's not just me working out there. I just kind of steer the ship, but I've got a lot of people pushing the oars."

Still, Edmundson said, having Ms. Thompson on Wayne County's team, especially with this latest honor, is extremely beneficial.

"It's well deserved," he said. "I think it puts Wayne County in the forefront. We've been working a long time to make our economic organization the best in the state. This is what we've been working for. It can't be anything but good news for us."

But, Ms. Thompson cautioned that people shouldn't necessarily expect her to win again in 2009.

"Success in economic development comes and goes," she said. "The new projects have slowed down a little bit, but there's a lot in the existing industry realm. We've got a lot going on right now and I don't see it slowing down."