Dec 10, 2022 - News

Axios Power Players: The people shaping North Carolina's Triangle

Illustration of two rows of dominos falling with text overlaid that reads Power Players Raleigh.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

As Axios Raleigh's first year in existence comes to a close, we've been reflecting on who in the capital city and the greater Triangle area have the greatest influence on our communities.

  • So we compiled a list of some of the Triangle's most prominent movers and shakers. These are people we've talked to throughout the year and kept an eye on, or they came up often as we sought to deliver the most important news of the day to your inbox over the last seven months.

Why it matters: These individuals are shaping our city.

Methodology: We selected these power players using our own expertise, polling readers and through interviews with influential people.

  • This unscientific list is produced entirely by the Axios Local editorial team and is not influenced by advertising in any way.
  • People who made the power list were not notified of their selection until publication.

Meet our 2022 power players, listed in alphabetical order.

Bill Spruill, tech entrepreneur

A headshot of Bill Spruill
Photo: Global Data Consortium

It would be hard to find someone who had a better 2022 than Bill Spruill.

  • He sold his startup, Global Data Consortium, for a huge sum, made many of his employees millionaires, started an investment firm, and was added to the boards of the Council for Entrepreneurial Development and nCino, one of the state's largest tech companies.

Spruill, one of the few Black tech leaders in the Triangle, has become one of the most influential business leaders in the state.

Courtney Crowder, APCO Worldwide

Photo: Courtesy of APCO

Courtney Crowder, a lobbyist who represented major clients like the RDU Airport Authority and the state's hospital association this year, has been a fixture in the state legislature since he began his lobbying career nearly two decades ago.

  • Crowder also sits on numerous city boards, including UNC Rex Healthcare, North Carolina League of Conservation Voters and the YMCA of the Triangle.

David Meeker, Trophy Brewing

A headshot of David Meeker with the Raleigh skyline in the background
Photo: Courtesy of David Meeker

One of the city's most influential young, unelected leaders, David Meeker has his hands in so many projects and initiatives its hard to keep track.

What he's been up to: Meeker owns numerous Raleigh staples like Trophy Brewing, Young Hearts Distilling and State of Beer.

  • He's active in local, state and national politics, hosting numerous events for Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Cheri Beasley, speaking out against gun violence, and advocating for the Raleigh Parks Bond on this year's ballot.

I-540, the road changing the Triangle

Map: N.C. Department of Transportation.

Perhaps nothing is shaping the growth of our region more than Interstate 540, the road also known as the Triangle Expressway.

  • The southern section of the road, edging toward completion in the spring of 2024, stretches from Holly Springs to Clayton, some of the fastest-growing towns in Wake County.
  • I-540 has become a magnet for homebuilders, ensuring that the Triangle's growth will have a southern Wake County flavor for years to come.

What's next: The final portion of the expressway, from Clayton to Knightdale, is expected to be completed by 2030.

Janet Cowell, CEO of the Dix Park Conservancy

Photo: Courtesy of the Dix Park Conservancy

Janet Cowell has been climbing the ranks of city and state politics since 2001 when she served on Raleigh City Council. She also served as a state senator and the state treasurer.

Jim Goodmon, Capitol Broadcasting Company

Photo: Courtesy of Capitol Broadcasting Co.

Longtime political heavyweight, political donor and media executive, Jim Goodmon became the CEO of CBC, the parent company of Raleigh TV station WRAL, some 40 years ago.

  • His company's expansion of the American Tobacco District will be downtown Durham's largest project getting off the ground next year.

John Kane, Kane Realty Corporation

Photo: Courtesy of Kane Realty

The man who needs no introduction in the city of Raleigh, John Kane is the city's most prominent developer and the person our readers nominated the most by a wide margin.

  • But perhaps no individual has had more influence on the city's skyline and growth than the man who transformed North Hills from a dying mall into a hub of business, retail and people.
  • Downtown South could be his most ambitious project yet, as it will shape the southern entrance to Raleigh for decades to come.

LeVelle Moton, NCCU basketball coach and builder

Photo: Joe Robbins/Getty Images

LeVelle Moton's influence is no longer confined to N.C. Central University's McDougald-McLendon Arena.

  • Moton, one of the best basketball coaches in the country, has moved into the development world and is trying to help stabilize some of the area's most vulnerable neighborhoods.

What he's doing: Moton co-founded Raleigh Raised Development, which is redeveloping affordable housing communities in Raleigh. The firm is also a partner in the Downtown South development.

Lorrin Freeman, Wake County district attorney

If you've read our newsletter, you know Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman, who has regularly been in the public spotlight this year.

Catch up quick: Freeman, not one to shy away from public attention, made headlines earlier this year when her office began pursuing charges against North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein.

  • She's also seeking to try the 15-year-old mass shooter who killed five Raleigh residents in October as an adult.

Mike Lee, owner of M Restaurants

Photo: Courtesy of M Restaurants

Mike Lee's influence can be seen all over downtown Durham, where his collection of Korean and Japanese-influenced restaurants draws hundreds every night. Ask someone in the Triangle where the best sushi is, they will likely point you down an alleyway to M Sushi in Durham.

  • This year he expanded his restaurant empire, opening a second location of M Sushi in Cary's Fenton development.

On our radar

Illustration of stars with the words "People We're Watching."
Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

Here are some of the folks we didn't mention above that we'll be keeping a close eye on in the coming years.

Carly Jones, a Raleigh native, was tapped to lead Artspace last summer.

Cheetie Kumar ran the beloved Garland in Raleigh until it closed in August. Her next venture is yet to be announced.

State Rep. Erin Paré, state Sen. Jay Chaudhuri, state Sen. Sydney Batch: These Triangle lawmakers were re-elected this year and represent a new generation of their parties or are helping to usher that new generation in.

Erkang Zheng is the founder and CEO of JupiterOne, one of the fastest-growing unicorn startups in the Triangle.

L.T. McCrimmon was the first Black woman to serve as legislative director for the governor, in a year Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper cut numerous deals with the Republican-led legislature. McCrimmon left the governor's office to join APCO this year.

Mary Black was elected to her first term on Raleigh City Council in November. Black, 28, will be one of the youngest members on the council.

Go deeper: See all 200 of Axios Local's Power Players in 2022

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