New chamber chair appreciates small businesses, entrepreneurs


By Dave Yochum. Richard Pappas, the incoming chair of the Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce, is steeped in small business, the driving force of any chamber. His father owned and operated several food industry business in Charlotte.

“It is in my blood to connect with business owners,  thus my career of working with business owners as their banking partner to support their efforts and help them achieve their goals,” says Pappas, who has a degree in finance and a concentration in banking from East Carolina University.

Pappas is vice president and business banker at First National Bank. While he’s had a long career in banking, his first job ever was busing tables at Gus Sir Beef Restaurant in Charlotte. The owner was a family friend and Pappas learned the meaning of hard work, starting at age 14.

“I saw the owners work hard every day, all day. No breaks, no holidays, no vacations. Even at such a young age, I knew that was not the life for me,” Pappas says.

After graduating from ECU he volunteered at the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church Greek Festival to remind himself where he came from and how hard his father and grandfather worked to provide for their families.

“It’s the experiences of life and the actions we choose to make that make us who we are,” Pappas says.

Out of college, he went to work for the old SouthTrust Bank in Concord as an entry-level documentation processor. He went into consumer underwriting, before entering the bank’s commercial lending program where he learned the basic skills of business banking, his calling for the past 22 years.

Plans for growth

As the incoming chamber chair, he will be at the helm of an organization “in an industry of declining membership, as various community and on-line opportunities compete for the attention of business owners.”

Chamber membership is down from more than 1,000 a few years ago, but Pappas credits staff and volunteers and the inherent value of the organization for a slow but steady comeback. A new Huntersville chamber started by former Huntersville Mayor Jill Swain has 150 members.

At the end of last year, Lake Norman Chamber membership was at 857. By the end of the third quarter, it had risen to 874, and Pappas projects it to hit 880 by the end of this year.

“We hope to see that number continue to grow in 2020 as local business become aware of the value of being a Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce member,” Pappas said.

A mid-November board retreat will provide direction from the entire board, Pappas expects to see “more of the same.”

Last year the chamber launched a new and improved website, and staff is looking at ways to use that site to better communicate, inform and promote members.

Pappas will officially take over the volunteer reins from 2019 Chair Tricia Sisson who was recently elected to the Cornelius Town Board.


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