Title and Organization: President & CEO, North Carolina Restaurant & Lodging Association
Education: Peace College & N.C. State University, B.A. in political science
Family: Husband Brad, daughters Caroline and Elizabeth
Early jobs: Babysitting; managing summer program for youth to teach job skills
Hometown: Bladenboro, N.C.
Recent accolades: Order of the Long Leaf Pine; Old North State Award for Public Service; 2012 Business and Professional Women of Raleigh’s Career Woman of the Year; Triangle Business Journal’s Outstanding Women in Business Award
Fun facts: Breeds golden retrievers; was “cover girl” for Electricities’ 2013 NC Public Power Calendar
“Have passion, will travel” could well be the motto for Lynn Minges’ career.
Missions to “every nook and cranny of North Carolina,” along with 25 foreign nations, mark Minges’ 20-year quest to market our state, an effort that has helped grow tourism into a $19.9 billion industry and earn this the rank of sixth most-visited state.
“I’m driven by a passion I can’t explain, to promote North Carolina,” said Minges, former assistant secretary for Tourism, Marketing and Global Branding in the N.C. Department of Commerce.
This year she’s taken on a new way to serve, as president and CEO of the North Carolina Restaurant & Lodging Association, which provides a voice for the state’s $18.5 billion restaurant and lodging industries.
The association represents the interests of thousands of businesses which generate more than $1 billion in tax base each year, and manages the ProStart program for high school students interested in careers in the restaurant industry.
For Minges, the job represents a shift from managing a staff of 200 and a budget of $13 million, to advocacy work with a “nimble” staff of six, and a budget of $1 million.
“After 20 years at the Department of Commerce, it’s exciting and exhilarating to find new ways of doing business,” she said. “The fun part is rolling up my sleeves and seeing progress.
“We advocate for the interests of our restaurants and hotels every single day, the largest private employment sectors in the state. They are creating jobs, generating taxes and providing amenities that make our state better.”
With an original career goal of becoming an attorney, Minges changed her mind about law school post-college and never looked back.
Step by step she developed the skills that would define her career, from her first professional job in sales for Xerox.
“Xerox was known for its training, a technique of creating win-win solutions that meet customers’ needs, not just sell products,” Minges said. “I still use that technique today, to find the balance between what the needs are and what you can offer.”
Her introduction to tourism came through her next post, managing marketing and events for the Callaway Gardens resort in Georgia. She’s still building on those skills, too, at NCRLA and as assistant secretary, where she led promotion and development of the state’s tourism, film, sports and wine industries, and helped position North Carolina for domestic and international business investment.
“I’ve also had the opportunity to work with three governors and five secretaries of commerce, all with different leadership styles,” Minges said. “Each of these individuals have inspired me and taught me quite a bit about leadership.”
Despite the numerous professional honors hanging in her office, Minges says it’s not about her but about the work.
“Awards are nice, but the greatest reward is how I feel about what I do,” she said. “I’m incredibly proud of being part of positioning North Carolina as a premiere destination.”
The only thing more inspiring to Minges than promoting her home state is her family.
“My greatest accomplishment is being married for 32 years to a wonderful man,” she said. “We have a happy, healthy marriage, we’re supportive of each other, and we’ve raised two amazing daughters.”
Minges was a stay-at-home mom and local volunteer for seven years before heading back to work, juggling travel schedules with her husband so that the children always came first.
“My family still knows I’m available for them 24/7,” she said. “And now that my children are 26 and 28, they pick me up at the airport or bring in dinner! All those investments come back.
“There are sacrifices we as women make, and guilt often goes along with it,” she said. “But there’s a trade-off: My children are amazing young women who know how to make decisions and mediate for themselves. I like to think part of that comes from sharing my challenges with them.”
Organized and self-driven, Minges rises very early each morning to work out, read and handle emails before heading to the office.
“Women are amazing at organization, skilled and adept at managing shifting priorities,”
Minges said. “It’s important to find that piece of time, whenever it works for you.”
She routinely speaks to civic groups and business groups, and coaches students in the Appalachian State University (her daughters’ alma mater) hospitality and tourism management program.
Evenings and weekends are family time, to enjoy their home at Indian Beach and yes, maybe do a little work.
“My kids might say I’m a workaholic, but it’s my passion,” she said. “I love to sit and reflect on reports on Saturday mornings.
“I’ve never been motivated by money or goals,” Minges said. “More than anything, it’s that everything I’ve ever done I’ve given 110 percent. I bring that same attitude to my work, which is why I have to pick and choose what I do.
“I’d rather do a few things really well, and for me those are work and family.”