Recently, Leslie Boney at North Carolina State University’s Institute for Emerging Issues sat down with EDPNC’s new board chair, Frank Emory Jr.  Emory is a partner at Hunton and Williams LLP, specializing in complex commercial litigation and arbitration. We’ve compiled a few highlights from the interview.

On Emory’s experience growing up in rural North Carolina

Watch the full interview online: http://video.unctv.org/video/3002333818/

Growing up in Wilson, Emory felt the pains of a changing economy firsthand. He cited the tobacco industry’s historical dominance in the Wilson community, an industry that began to decline in the 1970s.

“Tobacco was a big deal…I grew up in the 1960’s and 70’s there and I still remember the smell of cured tobacco in the summer,” recalled Emory. “As [the industry] began to change, I think it was a tough transition there—a really tough transition—because [tobacco] drove real estate, it drove jobs, it drove banking, lots of things. For several years, I don’t know that people really accepted the fact that it was changing and so it took a little while for the community to get its footing back.”

On his education in and outside of North Carolina:

Emory received his undergraduate degree from Duke University, spent a summer studying at Oxford University in England, and received his law degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

“I remember going to Duke freshman year and meeting a fellow and he told he had gone to Choate, and I said ‘well that’s great, I went to Fike [High School]. I had no idea what that was,” laughed Emory. “But I learned that there are smart people everywhere, and that you can’t overlook folks. The background, the training, the support that I got from my little town was more than sufficient for me to be able to thrive in just about any kind of place.”

On his involvement with the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina:

“In my professional life, my job is to dispassionately analyze knotty problems and help people solve them, “ said Emory. “I think what I bring to the table [at EDPNC]…is a dispassionate look at the things people are worried about…to try to understand how we might do better at fixing them.“

Emory cites the urban and rural divide as a key area of focus. “One of the key things we’re thinking about…is how we spread economic prosperity further than just to tier three counties,” said Emory, referring to the tier designation for urban counties. and in particular, rural counties.

On his vision for North Carolina:

While Emory touched on past challenges, he remains focused on the future. “I would love for us to be a state that’s known for being at the forefront of knowledge and technology” said Emory. Being more intentional about entrepreneurship, and creating a trainable workforce are other key opportunity areas for North Carolina.

Today, Emory resides in Charlotte with his family. We are excited to have him on our board and we look forward to the fresh insight he brings to our organization.

This interview was part of the Institute for Emerging Issues’ First in Future podcast series. Watch the full interview.