02/22/06 — Duplin honors former commission member

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Duplin honors former commission member

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on February 22, 2006 1:49 PM

KENANSVILLE -- The late Wilbur Hussey was honored by the Duplin County business community Tuesday during the 19th Annual Industry Appreciation Luncheon held by the county Economic Development Commission.

Bob Johnson, chief executive officer of Nash Johnson Group, also was named the Industrialist of the Year by commission members.

EDC Director Woody Brinson told about 150 people gathered for the meeting that Duplin County has never had a more dedicated servant than Hussey, the former mayor of Beulaville, who died in November. He said during Hussey's tenure of more than 27 years on the EDC, he worked to help the county as a whole.

"Wilbur worked for all of Duplin County, and sometimes he got criticized," Brinson said. "He never once pressured me or his fellow EDC members to do something in Beulaville."

For example, Brinson said, U.S. Cold Storage was looking at sites in Goldsboro and Warsaw. Brinson negotiated with a property owner who raised the price of the land after finding out the industry was interested.

"I told the EDC, 'We're in trouble.' Then, I got a call from Wilbur saying, 'I found you another tract of land in Warsaw.' He found it for us, and it wasn't in Beulaville. It was in Warsaw, and that was the beginning of West Park."

Brinson said he has one regret.

"A year ago county commissioner Zettie Williams came to me and said, You know, Wilbur Hussey does a lot for Duplin County. We need to honor him.' I did not react in a timely manner. I tell all of you today, don't make the mistake I made. Honor those among you while you can. Honor the leaders of this great county."

Hussey grew up in the Seven Springs area of Lenoir County and came to Duplin to teach school. But after he and his wife, Teresa, started a business in the early 1970s, he left the teaching field to help her run it.

Brinson noted that during the last few months of Hussey's life a dream of his became a reality. The county started a project to bring water and sewer service to East Park at Beulaville.

The other honoree at the banquet is among the Who's Who of Eastern North Carolina, "a leader in the business community and government, volunteerism and religious affairs," Brinson said.

Bob Johnson began his tenure as chief executive officer in 1997 and has led the company through its largest expansion in its history. Brinson said the Nash Johnson Group has tripled its size and helped the House of Raeford become one of the top 10 in the nation.

The company employs 5,000 people, including farmers who have hatcheries and those who grow turkeys and chickens and others who work in the mills and processing plants.

The speaker at the event was Jim Chestnut, president and chief executive officer of National Spinning. He said the county must do more to improve education and its infrastructure if it is to compete for new industries and jobs.

He said people who come to apply for jobs at his company "don't know a lot and don't care a lot. "

"Education is abysmal," Chestnut said. "When people come to apply for jobs, we have to retrain them. They go to schools to learn how to take tests. Why don't we teach things they need to know, like reading, writing and arithmetic? Teach them to come to work every day and come to work on time and dress appropriate for the environment in which they work -- and clean up their language and keep it out of the gutter."