10 to Watch: Addison Davis

From the Salisbury Post

By Andie Foley

SALISBURY — For years, the future of the former site of Salisbury Mall was uncertain.

It was purchased in 2013 by Rowan County as a space for county government offices and was renamed West End Plaza.

But even with county offices moved there, there much space remained available for development. The county commissioners discussed possible hotels and convention centers, speculating that the former mall could be transformed into a hub for tourism.

Some four years after the purchase, county officials allocated $145,000 to the Rowan IDEA Center, a project that would occupy 39,000 square feet of the the plaza’s available 320,000.

IDEA is an acronym for innovation, development, entrepreneurship and acceleration — a fitting name for what will eventually become a entrepreneurial business incubator, museum, digital media lab and cafe.

Addison Davis is spearheading the center as project manager, and he’s one to keep an eye on as the center’s vision comes to life.

Davis grew up in Rowan County, leaving only for college and to pursue a career. He later joined Chrysler Corp. and moved to Detroit, beginning what he describes as a “totally fascinating journey that traversed the supply chain.”

While away, Davis served on the board of the LandTrust for Central North Carolina, working closely with Jason Walser.

“That experience introduced me to a Salisbury that showed true spirit for giving back to the community,” he said.

After retiring from manufacturing management, Davis returned to Salisbury, eventually working with the LandTrust and the Economic Development Commission and serving on local boards and in local initiatives.

This, he said, led to an invitation from Elaine Spalding of the Rowan Chamber of Commerce to join the IDEA Center project.

Davis said the IDEA Center is still in its early stages. As project manager, he is working on organization, planning and resourcing to ensure the project proceeds smoothly and within projected timelines.

Plans for 2018 include workshops for entrepreneurs scheduled to start Feb. 7. IDEA Center partners, including the county, Rowan-Cabarrus Community College, Catawba College, Livingstone College and Rowan-Salisbury Schools, will also host a “Shark Tank”-style program in April.

The hope, he said, is for the center to be a “bustling, growing place, full of aspiring entrepreneurs driving projects that will change the world.”

The biggest challenge for the center in 2018? Funding, said Davis.

“This is genuinely a long-term project that will require ongoing support of the business, academic and government sectors to create the change we seek for our county,” said Davis.

Addison Davis

Age: 62

Address: Salisbury

Job: Project manager, Rowan IDEA Center

Birthplace: Salisbury

Favorite book: “Good to Great” by Jim Collins. “It embodies a way of thinking that applies not only to business but at its root to life in general.”

Who would play you in a movie: “Ron Howard, with hair. People have kidded me about the Opie thing forever.”

What would you want for your last meal? “Spaghetti carbonara, my go-to comfort good. Ranks right above shrimp and grits.”

Biggest challenge for the year ahead: “I love to work, so spending more time with family and friends is always a challenge. We are spread all over the country, but our roots are here. Tough.”

Biggest hope for 2018: “That the leaders of our community continue to work together in a strong, positive way for the common good, with respect for each other and for new ideas.”

Who will you be watching in 2018? Elon Musk. “Never boring (OK, you can groan with that one).”

What do you think about being named as one to watch? “It’s not about me. It’s about the IDEA Center. I appreciate the vote of confidence, of course, but the IDEA Center will take quite some time to become a successful, productive space and able to stand on its own. Let’s watch it happen.”