GREENVILLE, NC – The Greenville-Pitt County Chamber of Commerce honored the business leadership and community advocacy efforts of Tom Kulikowski by naming him its 2022 Citizen of the Year during the chamber’s annual membership celebration on Saturday, January 21, at the Hilton Greenville.
Kulikowski is native of Pittsburgh, PA, and a graduate of Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. He performed his graduate studies in business at Widener University in Chester, PA. He located to Greenville in 2013, bringing with him decades of experience in industry, manufacturing, economic development, and corporate leadership. He served as president and CEO of Greenville-based Penco Products Inc. for eight years before retiring in December 2021.
During Kulikowski’s tenure as president and CEO of Penco Products, a nationwide manufacturer of lockers and other storage systems, the company made significant capital investments to expand its capabilities, increase productivity, and improve the quality of its products. Penco was selected by Pitt County Economic Development as the county’s 2017-18 Industry of the Year as a manufacturer that best demonstrates its ongoing commitment to innovation, sustainability, employee retention and corporate citizenship.
In 2018, Kulikowksi initiated a work release program for incarcerated inmates at Penco that initially began with six men. The program grew to 26 men who would come in everyday to begin work at 5:00 a.m. and then return to prison at the end of the workday. Kulikowski hired several of the men upon their release and some of them have since been promoted into more impactful roles. He also initiated a Penco Humanitarian Award – Penco’s highest honor – to annually recognize a team member for their commitment to improving the lives of others. Penco celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2019.
“My father taught us to get involved and make a difference,” Kulikowski said. “Whenever there is an opportunity to help make a difference in our community, I am eager to draw upon my life experiences and contribute in any way I can to make an impact.”
Upon retirement, Kulikowski served as board chair of the Greenville-Eastern North Carolina Alliance (GENCA) and in March 2022 was named the organization’s interim president and CEO, providing leadership and stability while the organization performed an executive search for a president. After the GENCA announced its current president, Kulikowski resumed his role as board chair and is currently serving his second year.
In addition to his work with the GENCA, Kulikowski has a strong commitment to community involvement and serves on a variety of nonprofit boards and foundations. He has been a member of the Pitt County Educational Foundation (PCEF) Board of Directors since 2017 and is currently serving his second year as chairman of the board. The mission of the PCEF is to transform the community through excellence in public education.
“Tom leads by example,” said Beth Ulffers, executive director of the Pitt County Educational Foundation. “He is incredibly disciplined, sets goals, and constantly analyzes movement towards those goals. Tom is faith driven, a man of his word and believes in using his gifts and passion to help others reach their potential.”
Kulikowski is a member of the Vidant Health Foundation Board of Trustees and serves on the board of directors for the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Coastal Plain. He provides additional service to the Halifax Reentry Council, Churches Outreach Network, S. Rudolph Alexander Performing Arts Series at ECU, and Ironwood Golf and Country Club.
Kulikowski works closely with Greenville Cops and Barbers to organize community events and break down barriers between police and citizens. He has championed and provides leadership for various community initiatives such as the Churches Outreach Network’s Father and Men’s Conference, Toys for Tots, and other youth entrepreneurship programs.
“In my nearly 40 years of practicing law in eastern North Carolina, I have met many capable and talented business leaders,” said Steve Stephenson, business development attorney for Ward and Smith, P.A. “None surpasses Tom in terms of pure intelligence, integrity, and genuine desire to make the community better. Nobody I have come across demonstrates servant leadership better than Tom.”
Kulikowski is the 55th recipient of the award that honors a man or woman whose services have had the greatest impact on the overall quality of life for the Greenville-Pitt County community in recent years.
Additional awards presented during the celebration included the 2022 Greenville-Pitt County Chamber of Commerce Ambassador of the Year and Pitt County Young Professional of the Year.
Justin Bernel, account executive for Curtis Media Group, was named the 2022 Ambassador of the Year, as voted on by his peers in the chamber’s Ambassador Program. The Ambassador Program consists of volunteers from the chamber membership who play an essential role in member communication and retention, while also encouraging member involvement. Bernel is the 12th recipient of the award.
Robert “Chap” LaChapelle, regional manager of the Greenville market for Telco Credit Union, was named the 2022 Pitt County Young Professional of the Year. LaChapelle is the seventh recipient of the award that recognizes a Young Professionals of Pitt County member who demonstrates a dedication to the organization and to Pitt County through strong leadership, teamwork, and integrity.
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