HICKORY — Edward C. “Ed” Neill, president of Neill Grading and Construction Co. Inc. recently received the Industrial and Systems Engineering (ISE) Distinguished Alumnus Award during a ceremony at North Carolina State University.
Neill graduated from NC State in 1972 with a Bachelor of Science in Industrial Engineering Furniture Manufacturing and Management. He worked in the furniture industry for two years before taking over a struggling grading and landscape business. Over 40-plus years, Neill grew the company into a large commercial construction and site preparation business with operations both locally and in Florida.
Neill Grading and Construction Co. is a turnkey site preparation, water-sewer utility, historic restoration, and residential-commercial building contractor located in Hickory.
Neill is the founder of Carolina Properties LLC and Neill Properties LLC, residential and commercial real estate development companies and Little Mountain Farms FLP, a Catawba County working cattle and tree farm of 1,095 acres. It includes a 3,000-foot paved runway at Little Mountain Airport, as well as two private competition water ski lakes.
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Neill’s niche of building private water ski lakes led to a family legacy of championship water skiers including himself, his son Clay, and two grandchildren. His love of waterskiing also led him to develop a water-ski-centered community in Winter Garden, Florida, that is recognized as one of the best in the world, with people from all over the globe competing at the site.
In Hickory, as textiles moved away from the area, a number of vacant buildings were left behind. Neill Construction was the general contractor responsible for the rehabilitation of three of these old mills in the downtown area, that subsequently transformed those neighborhoods into prosperous areas.
His company was also awarded and responsible for the rework of Union Square, as well as both City Walk and Aviation Walk projects, all of which added to the beautification of the city.
Not so well known by many, is that Neill played a key role in saving the Target Distribution Center deal for Catawba County, via his knowledge of environmental rules. He was also responsible for assembling the land before partnering with Lat Purser and Associates to bring 340 apartments to the area located across from Catawba Valley Community College (Preston Ridge phase 1 and 2), as well as being responsible for assembling the land for 550 single-family homes that are currently being developed for the Hickory area.
In Florida, Neill was instrumental in the assembling, entitlement, and ultimate sale of a piece of property in downtown Orlando for the Amway Center where the Orlando Magic play basketball.
Other than his building and developing activities, Neill has been active in many volunteer and civic activities in Hickory and Catawba County. He has served on the City of Hickory Storm Water Committee, Catawba County Foresight Committee, Catawba County Planning Board, Sherrills Ford Small Area Plan Committee, Catawba County Unified Development Ordinance, Catawba County Air Quality Committee, Western Piedmont Water Resources Committee, and Bandys Fire Department board of directors.
The Distinguished Alumnus Award recognizes and celebrates Ed Neill’s outstanding contributions to the industrial engineering profession, service and support of NC State, and meritorious community and public service.
Neill’s son Clay is a civil engineering graduate of NC State and is a vice president in the family business.
Ed Neill is proud of organizing and looks forward each year to the annual Raleigh reunion of NCSU friends, this year being the 46th.
And while he is now looking for more time away from work, he has no plans to retire.
In his acceptance speech at NC State, Neill cited an article in the October issue of Progressive Farmer magazine in which Yoko Ono is quoted as saying “Keep going until your efforts start to make things better in your hometown.”
That quote rings true for a man whose personal motto is “whatever is necessary.”