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Philip Wilheit honored for innovation, entrepreneurship

Philip Wilheit, far right, shares the story of his entrepreneurial success during the "Entrepreneurs: Masters of Innovation" event Nov. 6 at Featherbone Communiversity. Wilheit was one of nine people honored as Featherbone Entrepreneurs of the Year for 2013.

On Nov. 6, Philip A. Wilheit Sr. was honored as a Featherbone Entrepreneur of the Year for 2013. Wilheit was nominated for the award by the University of North Georgia (UNG) and the Mike Cottrell College of Business.

Wilheit honor
Philip Wilheit, left, accepts the Featherbone Entrepreneur
of the Year award from Dr. Merrianne Dyer, superintendent
of Gainesville City Schools, and William Schofield,
superintendent of Hall County Schools.

"This award is designed to recognize the hard work and skill of local entrepreneurs who create jobs for the region and provide quality goods and services to our communities," Dr. Donna Mayo, dean of the Mike Cottrell College of Business, said. "We nominated Philip because this describes him perfectly. His entrepreneurial spirit and his philanthropy make him an excellent role model for all of us."

Wilheit was among nine people recognized during the fourth annual "Entrepreneurs: Masters of Innovation," event held at the Featherbone Communiversity in Gainesville, Ga., sponsored by BB&T. By showing recognition and appreciation for successful local entrepreneurs, the event aims to encourage and provide a path for others to strive for excellence through innovation.

Wilheit is president and CEO of Wilheit Packaging Inc. and vice chairman of the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia. Wilheit began working at Wilheit Packaging Materials upon graduating from college 40 years ago and has worked in all facets of the organization – warehousing, delivery, purchasing, sales, and management. Wilheit also has been very active in civic groups on the local and state level, having served as chairman of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce and Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce. He also has served on the Georgia Department of Economic Development Board of Directors, the Commission for a New Georgia, the Georgia Chamber Transportation Commission, and the Georgia Chamber Advisory Committee on School Board Governance.

Wilheit has a bachelor's degree from the University of the South in Sewanee, Tenn.

At the event, honorees shared their stories of entrepreneurial success with hundreds of guests, including some 150 high school students from across Hall County, and took questions from the audience.

"I'm just thrilled about being honored today and that the University of North Georgia nominated me for this great honor," Wilheit said. "I've been so impressed with the presentations I've heard this morning. I think we're never too old to learn and I'm learning something today."

Wilheit talked about how he grew Wilheit Packaging from a company that sold material used to wrap chicken parts to one that has some $70 million in international sales annually. He talked about overcoming a fire that destroyed company headquarters and buying back the company he had sold to a larger corporation when he wasn't happy with how it was being run.

Among the words of advice Wilheit had for students – look like you mean business.

"You have one chance to make a good first impression. It sounds simple, but there's nothing truer," Wilheit said. "When I look into the audience at our Featherbone scholars, I can't tell you how impressed I am. If one of you came to see me to apply for a job dressed like you are today, I'd listen to you."

Others honored at the Nov. 6 event include Rich Cavangnaro, AdEdge Water Technologies Inc.; Dennis Darnell, Direct Medical Imaging; Tony Paramore and Jason Everett, Gainesville Design Center; Lewis Halski, Halski Systems; Sheri Hooper, Interactive Neighborhood for Kids; Heather Wayne, Performing Arts Dance Academy; and Noah McNealy, Slingshot.

The event is one of a series of events established in 2009 by Featherbone Communiversity to honor "masters" in a variety of areas including teaching, nursing, building, and entrepreneurship.

Featherbone Communiversity is a collaborative learning community supported by UNG, Brenau University, Interactive Neighborhood for Kids, Lanier Technical College, the University of Georgia Small Business Development Center, Georgia Tech Enterprise Innovation Institute, Gainesville City Schools, the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce, and Hall County Schools.

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