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IMAF Cape Fear Members

North Carolina Biotech Center

The NC Biotechnology Center's mission is to provide long-term economic and societal benefits to North Carolina through support of biotechnology research, business, education and strategic policy statewide.

The General Assembly funds the Biotechnology Center as a private, non-profit organization dedicated exclusively to biotechnology development. NC Biotech is headquartered in Research Triangle Park, with regional offices in Asheville, Greater Charlotte, Winston-Salem, Greenville and Wilmington.

Dallas Romanowski - Fund Manager

Dallas Romanowski has played a critical role in the success of many businesses ranging from the Fortune 100 to scores of small companies. Dallas currently facilitates 3 TAB peer advisory boards and also manages the IMAF Sandhills Angel Fund. His talents include strategic planning, executive / business coaching, organizational management and finance.

Before founding Cornerstone, Dallas Romanowski was a business development executive for IBM (2000 to 2007) and a management consultant for Accenture (1997 to 1999). For over fifteen years, Dallas helped organizations achieve their business objectives through process re-engineering, new technology and change management.

Dallas Romanowski is an active member in Rotary, the Cameron Executive Network and also serves on NewBridge Bank's Advisory Board and on the Wilmington Chamber Board of Directors. On multiple occasions, Dallas has been a guest speaker at the UNCW Cameron School of Business. He has an undergraduate degree in management from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington and an MBA from Emory University.


Rich Novak - Fund Manager

Rich Novak has led numerous strategic business initiatives to increase sales, upgrade quality, enhance customer service and improve productivity. His experience ranges from Fortune 100 companies to mid-sized privately owned businesses. As an equity partner in a business owned by a private equity firm, he had the opportunity to play a major role in transforming a business to meet the financial return required by the private equity investors.

Rich has conducted strategic planning reviews, implemented benchmarking and competitive assessments, and performed SWOT analysis at all organization levels. He facilitates 2 peer advisory boards, conducts “Creating Effective Workplace” workshops based on Marcus Buckingham’s “First, Break All the Rules,” and serves as an Executive Business Coach. He also undertakes private equity/restructuring assignments.

Prior to joining Cornerstone Advisory Partners, Rich held senior level organization management and human resource positions and was a member of several Executive Committees in diverse business sectors. Having walked in the shoes of the leaders he consults, Rich brings tremendous credibility and wisdom to improving business processes and organizational effectiveness.

Rich earned a Bachelors of Science in Economics from Rutgers University. He has served on the Boards of UNC-Greensboro, School of Human Environmental Sciences, Guilford County Partnership for Children, and North Carolina Manufacturer’s Association. Currently, he is a member of the University of North Carolina-Wilmington Cameron Executive Network.


Brian Smith

Brian Smith is a senior executive with experience in demanding complex business situations including start-ups, restructuring, turnarounds, acquisitions, rapid expansion and growth. He is a strong, effective leader attuned to service economy businesses including financial and retail services with ability to deliver consistent revenue growth as well as EBIT and stock growth.

Brian Smith is a founding member of Life Equity, LLC, a leading Life Settlement Company. In this role, Brian secured over $1 billion of financing from institutions including Berkshire Hathaway, Bear Stearns, JP Morgan and Mizuho Bank. He also negotiated the sale of majority interest to Kohlberg & Co., in 2011.

Prior to founding Life Equity, Brian was the President and COO of Cole National Corporation, a $1.1 billion company operating over 3,400 specialty retail locations including 800 Things Remembered personalized gift stores located in regional malls, and 2,600 optical locations (corporate and franchised in North America and Europe). Total system wide revenues of $1.6 billion. Cole National operated the second largest network of optical manufacturing labs in the United States. The corporation had over 20,000 full and part-time employees.

Brian earned both his MBA (Accounting & Finance) and Bachelor of Science (Marketing) Degrees from Cornell University.

Randy Swartz

Randy Swartz has been a leader of various global organizations during a career span of more than 25 years. Brian has served as the CEO of two companies in addition to leadership positions in manufacturing, marketing/sales, financial management, product research and development, and engineering/ construction. His company affiliations have included DuPont, Day & Zimmermann International (CEO), CH2MHill, BE&K, and Chemtex International (CEO).

Randy served for three years as the membership chairman for the national Construction Industry Institute. He has also been honored by the Georgia Institute of Technology as one of their "Distinguished Alumni". Randy has always taken pride in building a team of people to develop and implement a clearly defined strategy to reach extraordinary business and personal results. He knows many people in the business world and has placed many people into responsible positions in various companies.

Randy is a mentor in the UNCW Cameron Executive Network and earned his Bachelor of Science Degree in Engineering from North Carolina State University. He also has a Master of Science in Engineering from The Georgia Institute of Technology.


IronGate Partners

Steve Coggins, AIF® - Chief Investment Officer, has spent his entire career in financial services, including commercial banking and wealth management. He was a Senior Vice President with First Citizens Bank, and later joined what is now known as Wells Fargo Advisors. At IronGate Partners, Steve concentrates on developing, executing and monitoring investment strategy for clients, including overseeing the firm’s alternative investment offerings with partner, David Hartness. He also manages the firm’s retirement plan advisory division. An analyst at heart, Steve enjoys translating the theoretical into tangible success, taking large amounts of complex information from multiple sources and paring it down into practical strategies.

Steve is an Accredited Investment Fiduciary®. He frequently speaks on financial topics, and has been quoted in local and national publications on financial planning and investment issues. A native of Charlotte, Steve graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and has served as president of the board of directors of both the Louise Wells Cameron Art Museum and Sandhills Area United Way.

David R. Hartness, CFP®, CLU®, AIF® - Chief Client Officer, also brings extensive banking and wealth management experience to the IronGate team, along with an unrelenting thoroughness and a passion for helping people. Prior to IronGate Partners he was with First Union for six years and American Express for nine years, where he achieved numerous accolades and was a member of the prestigious Platinum Financial Services group. As a Certified Financial Planner® practitioner, a Chartered Life Underwriter®, and an Accredited Investment Fiduciary®, David’s primary focus at IronGate Partners is serving the complex needs of retirees and those nearing retirement. He is integrally involved with nearly every aspect of the firm’s financial planning, as well as asset and risk management, and he thrives on developing strong client relationships.

David is treasurer for the New Hanover County Estate Planning Council, and has served in various capacities with several non-profit organizations, including Habitat For Humanity, Boy Scouts of America, and the Sandhills Area United Way. David grew up in Fayetteville, North Carolina, and is a graduate of Wake Forest University.  

Chris Jones, CFP®, AIF® - Chief Operating Officer, has also spent his entire career in financial services. After several years with MassMutual Financial Group he left to open his own firm. A Certified Financial Planner® practitioner and an Accredited Investment Fiduciary®, Chris focuses his expertise on advanced estate and asset protection planning, as well as risk management services, and he works directly with the firm’s business and executive clients. As the overseer of day-to-day operations, Chris is driven to make IronGate Partners the best it can be for both clients and employees.

A native of Marion, North Carolina, Chris graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, earning a double major in Economics and Biology. Active in the community, he has served as past president of the Wilmington Civitan Club, as a current mentor in UNCW’s Cameron Executive Network Student Mentor program, and as a member of both the New Hanover County Estate Planning Council and The Alternative Board (TAB).


Tom Barber

Tom's career spans ownership of various small businesses as well as senior management positions in a Fortune 500 Company. Currently, Tom owns the Great Clips hair salon franchise in the Wilmington area with fourteen locations. In addition, he has an ownership interest in A&B Personnel Services, a Wilmington temporary staffing company. During his sixteen year career at Continental Airlines, Tom served as Vice President of Continental Airport Operations worldwide. Other positions included VP of Alliance Operations where he was responsible for negotiations and operations integration of numerous Code-Sharing Agreements with airlines in the USA and around the world. His last position prior to retirement was Vice President of the Houston Hub where he had responsibility for 550 flights per day and 10,000 employees. Tom served as an Army Officer 1967-1970. He served as a Helicopter Commander with the 9th Infantry Division 1968-1969 in the Mekong Delta during the Vietnam War.

Tom holds a Bachelor's of Science degree from Virginia Tech University; pursued graduate courses at University of Southern California and earned his MBA at the University of Denver.


Michael McWhorter

Michael McWhorter is the President and CEO of Mojo Musical Supply. He started the company in 2000 as a mail order catalog business selling parts for guitars and guitar amplifiers. Sensing a need for a company that was more of a one stop shop for guitar players, amplifier builders and other musicians, he has expanded Mojo's line of business to include contract manufacturing, warehousing and fulfillment services and custom audio design.

Michael is a graduate of Wake Forest University and has served on various boards and committees around the region including the Executive Committee for the Boy Scouts of America, Young Life Committee, Burgaw Chamber of Commerce Board, as well as President of the Burgaw Rotary Club.


Duane Hixon

Graduate of Indiana University. Co-Founder and CEO of N2 Publishing, the nations leading provider of HOA and community specific publications. Strengths lie in sales management/teaching, and creating infrastructure to duplicate a local business model on a national level.


Pete Hexter

Founded CUI in 1980 , a company that produced retail licensed(NFL, MLB, Collegiate and entertainment) hard line goods offshore with offices in Hong Kong, China and US .Company moved to Wilmington in 1985 and sold in 1998.

Founded BRAX in late 1999, a virtual company with 5 employees and all services and manufacturing outsourced. Brax moved back into licensed goods, but diversified into the 3 billion dollar school and youth sports fundraising market. Brax moved all production on shore (Alabama) and convinced NFL, MLB and roughly 100 colleges to allow BRAX to develop a fundraising channel of distribution. Built primarily around a single product, Spirit Cups, BRAX has experienced 35% annualized growth for the past 7 years and now has 40 employees and distributed in all 50 states.


Michael Jacobs

Michael Jacobs, the founder and CEO of Jacobs Capital, LLC has an extensive background managing corporate finance practices for major firms. After a summer on Wall Street working for the nation's top M & A advisor, he began his investment banking career with Robinson Humphrey, the largest securities firm in the southeast. Michael subsequently managed the corporate finance practice for one of the 20 largest commercial banks in the United States; for a global consulting firm; and most recently, before founding Jacobs Capital in 1998, he served as Managing Director and head of the Atlanta office for the nation's premier business valuation firm, Houlihan Lokey. Michael served as Director of Corporate Finance at the U.S. Treasury Department during the Bush (Sr.) Administration (1989-1991), where he was responsible for national policy in the areas of mergers and acquisitions, leveraged buyouts, corporate governance, and certain banking and tax matters.

Michael is the author of Short-Term America (Harvard Business School Press) which was named one of the ten best business books in 1991. He later published Break the Wall Street Rule: Outperform the Stock Market by Investing as an Owner (Addison Wesley) which was the main selection of the Fortune Book Club in spring 1993. He has served on several corporate boards and is a graduate of the University of North Carolina and Harvard Business School. He is Professor of the Practice of Finance at the University of North Carolina, where he teaches part-time in the MBA School.


Tobin Geatz

Tobin Geatz is a graduate of West Virginia University with an extensive background in business start-ups, expansions, and technology applications. Tobin was founder and Chairman of the Board of PharmaTech Solutions in 1999; he then became CEO and Chairman of the Board of Inclinix, Inc. He has been instrumental in the founding and development of several successful ventures, introducing innovative technologies to improve operating processes, including the Inclinix VMR™ technology.


Robert Preville

Robert founded grew Global Test Supply into a leading B2B company in the Test and Measurement industry, ranking #800 on Inc's 5000 list in 2010. Robert successfully exited Global Test Supply facilitating its acquisition by a leading industry competitor. Prior to founding the Global Test Supply, Robert founded MFG, Inc., an online marketplace contract manufacturing services. He served as its first employee as well as Vice President of Sales and Marketing.  MFG is a now portfolio company of Fidelity Ventures and Jeff Bezos's Bezos Expeditions.

His career began at Electronic Data Systems (EDS) an application engineer and channel manager for Unigraphics Solutions. Robert was also a founding member of Adtell Developing, Inc., an internet solutions provider. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Maryland, where he also participated in the four-year IBM Total Quality Management Program.


Mike Orr

With 32 years of experience in the IT industry, Mike's background in product development, services, support, and process design allow him to provide insight and experience for optimum customer solutions.

Mike has worked with all levels of customer organizations, from CIOs to technical staff, to define requirements, develop designs, implement solutions, and provide product support to address increasingly complex systems and network management challenges. He has worked with over 300 of IBM’s clients in Europe and the Americas.

Mike has two hardware design patents, achieved 100% Sales Club for three consecutive years and three levels of ITIL certification. He serves on the Cameron Executive Network at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, and is a member of the University’s Information Systems and Operations Management and Computer Science Advisory Board.

Jason Nista

Jason Nista is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Wilmington with a BS in Finance and Accounting. Upon graduation, Jason worked at Citigroup in the Global Investment Banking arm where he managed a portfolio of over $30B in syndicated loans.

Jason left Citigroup in 2009 to launch the Fuzzy Peach Frozen Yogurt bar located in Wilmington, North Carolina. Along with his partners, they have been able to grow the chain from a one store operation into five locations and have recently begun franchising operations under his direction. Jason is in the process of launching his third company. 


Mort Neblett

Is the Founder and Managing Partner of Owencroft Financial Partners, LLC., a private equity consulting and investment firm. Prior to founding Owencroft, Mort was the Managing Director and Senior Investment Banker for Morgan & Keegan & Co. He was also the Managing Director of Robinson-Humphrey Co. from 1973 to 1993.

Mort has been involved in multiple start up companies as a founding shareholder and has spent the majority of his career investing in early stage companies.


Don Bullard

Don Bullard, has been an insurance agent in the Wilmington area since 1972 becoming an Independent Agent in 2008. Don holds certifications and degrees as a CPCU (Chartered Property and Casualty Underwriter), CLU (Chartered Life Underwriter), CHfC (Chartered Financial Consultant) and a CASL (Chartered Advisor for Senior Living).

While with State Farm, Don was the top agent in NC for over 20 years and on several occasions was the leading agent in the United States and Canada. Don was awarded the prestigious Presidents Club Trophy 12 times and qualified as a president’s club member over 70 times. During Don’s career with State Farm he traveled, at the company’s request, to over 15 different regions to assist other agencies in their career development by sharing his practices and office procedures.


Marcia Rowan

Marcia is a business and corporate attorney and consultant. Most of her career has been as an executive in healthcare management. She was President and CEO of Health Management Corp. until 2004. During her nearly 20 years with HMC she led it from a small, local company with 5 employees to a nationally recognized leader with staff numbering nearly 400. After HMC Marcia began strategic and operations consulting for major employers (as well as for smaller, local organizations) and completed her law degree. She is now engaged both in legal practice and strategic business consulting. She holds degrees from Syracuse University and T.C. Williams School of Law at University of Richmond.


Randy Long

Randy M. Long, JD, CFP®, is a native of Wilmington, NC and President of Long Investment Advisory, Inc. His firm provides NC and CA clients with sophisticated investment management, estate planning and exit planning services. Randy has practiced law for over 20 years in California, primarily in the areas of estate planning, exit planning and business law. Randy is a graduate of Liberty University and of San Joaquin College of Law. He has served as a Trustee and as a Member of the Board of Directors of several national Christian religious Non-Profit Organizations over the past 25 years. 


Jim Moore

More than 40 years practicing as a professional insurance agent and insurance agency owner. Professional designations include Chartered Property & Casualty Underwriter (CPCU), Chartered Life Underwriter (CLU), and Certified Insurance Counselor (CIC). Have served on Advisory Boards for several major insurance companies. Served for 6 years on Board of Directors of The NC Joint Insurance Underwriting Association (Beach Plan). Locally, former president of The Wilmington Association of Independent Insurance Agents and former long time insurance advisor to Wilmington & New Hanover County as a member of The Wilmington-New Hanover County Insurance Advisory Committee

Stan Romanowski

Patrick Stoy

Andy Turner