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May Steps Down as MCEDP Board Chair

Local attorney John May, described as quiet and always humble by colleagues, has stepped down from his position as chairman of the local economic development organization.

“I’m too old to keep doing it,” May said, with a laugh.

He’s been involved with the organization, originally known as Partners in Progress, for over two decades. Renamed the Moore County Economic Development Partnership last year as part of a new branding effort, the group assumed responsibility in 2002 for recruiting new business to Moore County. Previously, that duty was handled by the Sandhills Area Chamber of Commerce, now the Moore County Chamber of Commerce.

May said he started connecting with people in the 1990s but has been a board member since the revamp in 2002. He transitioned to chairman in 2012.

“I’ve always been a firm believer that if you have any talents that somebody might like you to put back into the community, you ought to offer them.”

The core group, with the exception of him, were key business leaders in the area, giving it the “credibility needed to sustain itself” and attract new business, May said.

He’s been in Moore County since August 1972 and has witnessed the change in the area’s economy over that time. Once, the large resorts were closed in the summer and local stores closed on Wednesday afternoons.

May said his chapter with the MCEDP board is coming to a close, “following the same pattern” as natural turnover in business owners in the area.

“I probably have stayed too long, but I don’t want to stay any longer and prevent other capable people from being involved with better ideas and more current ideas,” May said.

He said he is proud of the MCEDP and how it has changed over the years.

“Moore County is particularly well-suited for the type of organization that MCEDP has evolved into. It’s very much focused on the entrepreneur and the small business and providing an attractive place to live and work. And I think as we go forward, we will only be more and more attracted to businesses that have that as an objective.”

The highlight of his work as chairman was the acquisition of what’s been named the Iron Horse property, he said. That 73-acre site, located off N.C. 211 in Aberdeen, has rail access, natural gas and municipal sewer and water utilities. Local officials had considered it a valuable industrial site for years.

“We have always struggled with having a place for an industry that was interested in locating here to come to — something other than retail. And it’s taken almost the entire lifetime of (MCEDP) to come to a reality.”

Natalie Hawkins, who became the president of the MCEDP in 2021, was vital in securing Iron Horse and the plan to clear the land to make it more attractive to businesses. She called May a “very valued mentor” and “tremendous advisor.”

She’s known him since the early 2000s, but has worked closely with him for the past three years.

“I think John is a very level-headed and pragmatic leader,” she said. “He is a leader that considers issues from a variety of perspectives.”

She added he is also “politically astute” and can anticipate issues or questions.

“He just has this innate ability to know the right questions to ask and can anticipate questions and issues you might encounter.”

Hawkins said the organization will miss having him on the board, but “wish him the very best going forward.”

May was also involved with recruiting First Bank’s headquarters to Southern Pines in 2013. He believes it’s been beneficial for the area and for First Bank.

“I think the town and the county are very proud to have it as a local, home-based entity. You don’t see many counties or cities of our size being able to claim that.”

Pat Corso, former MCEDP president and one of its founders, worked alongside May for about two decades. Corso joked that May knew when to “pull in the reins” on him. He called May the “epitome of a Southern gentleman.”

“There’s an old saying, ‘humbleness is greatness,’” Corso said. “And he has a great degree of humility. But he has incredible integrity and character. And that’s what so many folks respect about him. I’ve never heard anyone ever say a negative word about John May — and he’s an attorney.”

May said he’s “always been fortunate to have a lot of very capable people around” while operating as board chair, not wanting to take credit for any of the group’s work. Corso said that is May’s style.

“He is one of those people who takes credit for nothing, but yet, when you see so many things that have happened around the community, he’s touched all of them.”

On top of Iron Horse and First Bank, Corso said May also had a hand in recruiting the USGA to Moore County.

While ready to step down, May said he’s sure to miss being involved.

“As an aside, as a lawyer, you produce a piece of people. You don’t build any houses, you don’t see any bridges, you don’t see any highways. It’s difficult to see anything that manifests what you’ve done for 51 years of practicing law around here. So it’s nice to have something that has had some tangible impact on the area as well as quality of life.”

He later added, “We’ve got some good people and some good young people. We’ll continue to make a big difference.”

Adam Kiker, one of three managing partners at LKC engineering, has been tagged as the next chairman.

“I think Adam’s indicative of a new wave of younger people that have come to the area and have been successful business-wise,” May said. “And (they) are smart and much more technologically literate than I am, which seems to be the name of the game these days in almost everything.”

Kiker has overlapped with May on the MCEDP board for nearly three years. He also knows him from the Moore County Airport Authority board, which Kiker was named the chairman of in 2023.

Kiker believes May’s history within the community and his accomplishments professionally, have been “advantageous” for the board.

“John is a listener. He’s not an overly loquacious person. He listens,” Kiker said. “And to me, he’s the kind of person who doesn’t speak a lot, but when he does speak, you want to listen because what he is going to say is important.”

Kiker also spoke of May’s ability to “listen, understand and connect” with individuals. He’s “honored” to be chosen as the next board chair.

“It’s an honor. I feel honored that others will have the confidence in me to attempt to take over for John. I wouldn’t even want to say fill John’s shoes because I don’t think anyone could fill John’s shoes.”

(Article by Ana Risano, The Pilot)

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