Bob Joyce, the economic development executive director for the Sanford Area Growth Alliance (SAGA), was named the 2019 North Carolina Economic Developer of the Year by the N.C. Economic Developers Association during their fall conference on Tuesday.

Joyce, a longtime business leader in Lee County and the former president of the Sanford Area Chamber of Commerce, “landed a decade’s worth of capital investments and new job creation” in Sanford in 2019, according to a press release from SAGA. In a single calendar year, Joyce responded to nearly 80 project opportunities and led the effort to land two large-scale projects — Project Christmas and Project Forge — which will ultimately add $670 million in investment and create 760 new jobs with an annual payroll of more than $40 million upon project completion.

The NCEDA’s annual award is presented to the man or woman who best exemplifies leadership in the state’s economic development efforts.

“We did indeed have a great year — the result of more than 10 years of work by a lot of talented and dedicated people,” Joyce said. “This is, without question, a team sport. I accept this award on behalf of the whole team — my office mates, our business leaders and elected officials and government staff, the community college, the business developers at the state level and our marketing partners and allies. We all stand on the shoulders of giants. I was fortunate to watch and learn from two consummate professionals, Bob Heuts and, of course, Hal Siler, who was a model of servant leadership and a real mentor to me. We would not be where we are today without their diligent work over 35 years.”

SAGA CEO Jimmy Randolph said the organization’s “highly effective public-private partnership model” has drawn national attention from other similar communities hoping to replicate its economic development formula.

“Unfortunately for those communities, there is only one Bob Joyce,” Randolph said. “His quiet determination, humble leadership and relentless drive to overcome the next challenge has truly been the “secret ingredient” of SAGA’s recent economic development success.”

Economic Development Executive Director Michael Smith, who nominated Joyce, added, “Bob Joyce is one of the most thorough, hardworking and meticulous economic developers I have ever seen. His level of detail and knowledge of Sanford and Lee County allowed the community to win several exceptionally competitive projects. We often speak of economic development as the ultimate team sport. Bob is the epitome of how this can work, as everyone in Sanford and Lee County want to be on Bob’s team. He keeps a quote on his office wall, ‘Press On.’ He lives that quote every day.”