Achievers & Accolades

Clinton-Sampson Chamber of Commerce celebrates area businesses at the 77th annual awards ceremony

By Staff Report, posted 1 month ago

More than 340 business owners, leaders and members of the Clinton-Sampson Chamber of Commerce all came together at Prestage Hall in Clinton on Thursday, March 14 for a night to recognize and celebrate businesses throughout their community. 

The evening featured a special casino theme with guests able to network, eat, drink and try their chance to win free prizes before finding out the chosen businesses honored in 10 categories. Former WRAL Meteorologist Greg Fishel served as the master of ceremonies for the event and welcomed the crowd with a pleasant collection of weather-based puns before announcing the winners and highlighting all the economic growth and developments of the individuals and their businesses. 

Chamber Executive Director Matt Stone sheared some of the growth seen by the Chamber in 2023 sharing: 

  • The Chamber has grown to include a total of 307 members 
  • 2023 saw an added 26 new members for the Chamber resulting in a 15 percent increase in membership from the prior year 
  • The total number of employees represented by the Chamber is 12,414
  • The Chamber executed a total of 16 ribbon cutting, groundbreaking and other celebrations to welcome new businesses in 2023
  • The Chamber hosted a total of 18 networking events in 2023

This year, the Chamber worked to increase the objectivity of their award recipient selection process. All nominations were submitted to a blind panel of chamber executives from outside the community to judge the entries and select winners.

The 2024 Clinton-Sampson Chamber of Commerce Award winners are:

Entrepreneurial Success - Tickled Pink - Sue Smith

From left to right: Clinton Sampson Chamber Executive Director Matt Stone, Entrepreneurial Success winner Sue Smith and Chamber Board Chair, Pat Nobles. Photo provided by: Clinton Sampson Chamber of Commerce.

Carolyn Sue Hatch Smith, who has never met a stranger, was born on Nov. 17, 1949, to Ira and Leaster Hatch. At the age of five, Sue moved to Clinton with her parents and four brothers. In 1969 she graduated from Clinton High School and went on to Methodist College where she earned her degree in education, which led her into a career as a kindergarten teacher at Kerr School that lasted more than 32 years. She helped shape the lives of countless young minds and that is one of her greatest accomplishments. 

After filling in for many long-term positions within Clinton City Schools after her official retirement, she and her friend Lesa Moore decided to open Tickled Pink Consignment Shop in 2009. Sue is very engaged with the community. She consistently participates in downtown activities and actively attends Chamber networking events and the Business-to-Business roundtable meetings hosted by the Chamber of Commerce and Small Business Center. Tickled Pink isn’t just a store, it is a community within the community and means so much to so many people.


New Business of The Year - The Rink (Jerris McPhail)

From left to right: Clinton Sampson Chamber Executive Director Matt Stone, New Business of the Year winner Jerris McPhail and Chamber Board Chair, Pat Nobles. Photo provided by: Clinton Sampson Chamber of Commerce.

It’s only been a few months since The Rink Family Center opened its doors, but the fun and excitement has been nonstop. Jerris brought back to life the old Seven Gables Skate Rink with a fresh renovation and more. There are already plans to expand the existing facility, creating a larger space to accommodate more patrons, as well as the addition of a bowling alley on the property.

The Rink has quickly become a hotspot for fun in the Greater Sampson Community, bringing new faces and old together with nostalgia. With an extensive renovation and makeover to the business space, folks young and old can spend time at The Rink making memories and sharing smiles.

Community Impact Award - First Methodist Church for hosting “Night To Shine”  

From left to right: Clinton Sampson Chamber Executive Director Matt Stone, Community Impact Award winner First Methodist Church representatives and Chamber Board Chair, Pat Nobles. Photo provided by: Clinton Sampson Chamber of Commerce.

First methodist Church brought the first “Night to Shine” event to the Sampson County Expo Center on Feb. 9.

Founded by the Tim Tebow Foundation, hosted by Clinton’s First Methodist Church and supported by other area churches and well over a hundred volunteers, the event showed how our community “loves, values and celebrates people with special needs as God’s image-bearers.” 

The Expo Center was turned into a grand prom, complete with bright lights, red carpet, limousines and so much love the facility was nearly bursting at the seams. The place was filled with 117 wide-eyed, smiling, joyful people, all with special needs. There were also some 282 volunteers on hand to assist in the event and who saw to it that their night was one of the most memorable of their lives.


Economic Impact Award - Sampson Community College

From left to right: Economic Impact Award winners Sampson Community College representatives,  Clinton Sampson Chamber Executive Director Matt Stone, and Chamber Board Chair, Pat Nobles. Photo provided by: Clinton Sampson Chamber of Commerce.

 Sampson Community College (SCC) is the only post-secondary educational institution in Sampson County and trains much of the local workforce. An Economic Impact Analysis published in 2021 by EMSI concluded SCC added $80.5 million in income to the county and supports 1,561 jobs within the county. In 2022-2023, SCC provided literacy instruction, occupational training, and college transfer opportunities to 2,200 students.

Over 700 of these were dual-enrolled students from the Clinton City Schools, Sampson County Schools and two private schools. The college conferred 294 degrees (and multiple short-term healthcare certifications) in 2023 sending skilled workers into the labor market in healthcare, business, agriculture, education, construction trades, information technology and other fields.

The College developed a Transportation campus in the industrial park for Truck Driver Training that produced 175 CDLS in 2023 and public safety programs. Additionally, the college recently established a Heavy Equipment Operator short-term certification program at the site. The first cohort graduated 13 students in December 2023 with all students receiving job offers.

SCC was the first institution in North Carolina to be recognized as a Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI). Census data indicates the county population growth will be in the Hispanic demographic, so the College is responding by providing more financial support and hiring more bi-lingual staff and faculty. Over 300 people completed English as a Second Language (ESL) courses in 2023 elevating potential for long-term success in the workforce.


Innovation & Advancement - Star Communications

From left to right: Clinton Sampson Chamber Executive Director Matt Stone, Innovation & Advancement Award winner Star Communications CEO Donna Bullard and Chamber Board Chair, Pat Nobles. Photo provided by: Clinton Sampson Chamber of Commerce.

Star Communications is transforming their network from copper to fiber optic, the dominant modern telecommunication technology available today. Star’s fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) infrastructure delivers fiber optic lines that run all the way to the home. Using Calix Wi-Fi 6e technology, subscribers are receiving seamless connectivity throughout their homes and businesses.

With the USDA Reconnect Program, Star received a $24.9 million dollar grant. This provides connections to thousands of rural residents, farmers, and businesses in our area to reliable, affordable high-speed internet.

On Nov. 4, 2023, Star Communications broke ground for its future headquarters located at 1322 Sunset Avenue in Clinton, NC. The two story, 33,000 square foot corporate office building will house a modern display of technology, multipurpose rooms for education, training facilities, providing a versatile space for learning, events, and activities, and a drive- through.


Non-Profit Of the Year - Sampson Arts Council

From left to right: Clinton Sampson Chamber Chamber Board Chair, Pat Nobles, Non-Profit Of the Year Award winner representative Kara Donatelli, executive director of the Sampson Arts Council and Executive Director Matt Stone. Photo provided by: Clinton Sampson Chamber of Commerce.

Sampson Arts Council just celebrated its 50th Anniversary. It serves the community through many initiatives including classes, gallery shows, their Alive After Five events, Christmas in the City and more.

This year, membership has increased to its highest level in the history of the organization; it is anticipated that SAC will participate annually at various events exceeding 20,000 participants. It has awarded over $50,000 in grants to organizations across Sampson County. 

Projects supported by SAC include the “Alive After Five” series which attracted approximately 3,500-4,000 attendees and garnered 92 sponsors. Sponsored the New Year's Eve Celebration drawing over 300 attendees, sponsored Summer Art Camp with over 100 attendees with 70 youth attending via a SAC scholarship. SAC has also hosted six artist receptions featuring each artist’s artwork and more.


 Outstanding Support Staff Award - Nicole Rackley from the Dental Office of Brittany W. Ackerman, DDS, PA

From left to right: Chamber Board Chair, Pat Nobles Outstanding Support Staff Award winner Nicole Rackley and Clinton Sampson Chamber Executive Director Matt Stone. Photo provided by: Clinton Sampson Chamber of Commerce.

Nicole was born and raised in Clinton. She graduated from Cape Fear Community College as a dental assistant in 2010. After working in Wilmington for several years, she moved back to Clinton and joined Dr. Ackerman’s practice in 2015.

Over the past few years, she has transitioned into a new role as office manager for the dental practice. Nicole goes above and beyond every day to keep things running smoothly in the office. She is energetic and friendly with patients, proactive in anticipating issues and strives to reach the best possible outcome. She never backs down from challenges and is always open to new ideas. She takes difficult situations in stride and gets along well with co-workers while promoting workplace unity.


Business Excellence – H N Carr Inc.,  

From left to right: Clinton Sampson Chamber Executive Director Matt Stone, Business Excellence Award winner Hugh Carr, president of H.N. Carr, Inc. and Chamber Board Chair, Pat Nobles. Photo provided by: Clinton Sampson Chamber of Commerce.

In 1986, Hugh, his wife, and children, moved back to Clinton from Raleigh to start a general contracting business known as H N Carr, Inc., serving Sampson and surrounding areas. Since then, they’ve grown into larger office/warehouse space, grown the number of employees from just 2 to the now double-digit number of folks on the payroll by striving to provide superior service to the customer and the community.

During some of the hardest times, H N Carr, Inc. has survived and subsequently thrived. Even in tight economic dips (when things looked bleak) Hugh continued to push his motto of quality-built buildings and renovations, paired with straightforward honesty, to build a name for himself and his business. H N Carr, Inc. has helped shape many of Sampson county’s commercial, industrial and agricultural buildings and in 2026,

HN Carr, Inc. will celebrate 40 years of successful operations. 

Member of the Year - Jeremy Edgerton

From left to right: Clinton Sampson Chamber Executive Director Matt Stone, Member of the Year Award winner Jeremy Edgerton and Chamber Board Chair, Pat Nobles. Photo provided by: Clinton Sampson Chamber of Commerce.

Since the time Jeremy was a young boy, he has been heavily involved with Expo and other community organizations, alongside his hero and role model-his father, Quincy Edgerton. Following in his father’s footsteps, Jeremy is the 5th generation owner & operator of the family business, “NC Marble & Granite Company.”

 Jeremy and his business are members of the Monument Builders of the Carolinas & Monument Builders of North America.” He also serves on the Clinton City Cemetery Board.

When Jeremy isn’t working on monuments, he can be found volunteering with Kiwanis, or organizing events as a committee member with Ducks Unlimited or checking at Kirtwood Park and swimming pool where he is President.

He is also active in public service and was recently re-elected to a second term on the Board of Education for Clinton City Schools. 

Business Leader of the Year– Mary Mack’s, Inc: Gary Mac Herring.

Clinton Sampson Chamber Chamber Board Chair, Pat Nobles (right) with Business Leader of the Year– winner Gary Mac Herring of  Mary Mack’s, Inc. 
 Photo provided by: Clinton Sampson Chamber of Commerce.

In Newton Grove, 25 years ago, a 19-year-old entrepreneur embarked on a sweet venture that would eventually blossom into a multi-million-dollar business. It all began with passion for creating delightful treats at his roadside Hawaiian Shaved Ice snow cone stand, mixing syrups in mom’s kitchen. His homemade concoctions would pave the way for a thriving enterprise, today known as Mary Mack’s.

Over the years, Mary Mack’s has evolved into more than just a snow cone business. The company expanded its product line to include Cotton Candy Express® home-use machines and floss sugars, as well as Scoot® Frozen Lemonade. The secret to Mary Mack’s success lies not only in its delectable treats but also in its commitment to quality. All syrups, sugars, and frozen lemonades are meticulously crafted right here in Sampson County.

Mary Mack’s and Gary Mac himself, for that matter, are pillars of the local community. The company actively supports schools, churches, and nonprofits through volunteer efforts and product donations.

He is a past president of the Sampson Chamber of Commerce, the current chair of Sampson County Economic Development Commission, and the vice chair of Harrells Christian Academy Board of Trustees. Additionally, he has served on the CommWell Health Board of Directors, Sampson Community College Foundation Board, Sampson County Zoning Board, and previously served as Town Commissioner for Newton Grove.

 Mary Mack’s is currently experiencing further growth and impact, with exciting developments on the horizon. This includes the opening of a new 60,000 square-foot manufacturing facility in Sampson Southeast Business Industrial Park. The expansion will double their production capabilities.

Following the presentation of the awards, featured speaker Ray Starling who serves as general counsel of the NC Chamber and president of the NC Chamber Legal Institute. Starling shared some economic insight on the area and the state at large. 

CHS DECA and Sampson Jr. Leaders who helped with the execution of the 77th Chamber Awards 

The Chamber also extended their gratitude to student volunteers who kept the evening running smoothly. CHS DECA and Sampson Jr. Leaders were on the go most of the night checking in attendees, seating guests, working the prize wheel and more. 

Full photos of the event can be found online here

Learn more about the Clinton-Sampson Chamber of Commerce online here

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