Alumni Spotlight: James Milner supports student entrepreneurs, fosters community development

Appalachian State University alumnus James Milner earned his degree from the Walker College of Business in 2004. Back then, as a finance and banking major earning a certification in financial planning, Milner spent his days studying in Peacock (then Raley) Hall.

Since graduation, Milner has amassed nearly 15 years of business experience — not in banking, but in the real estate industry, serving in various roles throughout his career from paralegal to development consultant and analyst to his current role as president of Appalachian Commercial Real Estate.

Milner is also a Certified Commercial Investment Member (CCIM), designating him as a leading expert in commercial investment real estate. In fact, Milner is the only CCIM in Boone, NC.

Milner says the skills he learned in college, both inside and outside of the classroom, were not only transferable but critical to achieving his career goals. He added that Boone and Appalachian State University — an integral part of the town — is not only his home, but a place he feels passionate about.

Appropriately, Milner's work helps develop the Boone economy and supports local businesses in maintaining the charm so many students-turned-alumni love. He says that entrepreneurship, as well as small business owners, are foundational to Boone and its economy. He hopes that — while challenges exist, including appropriate housing and the cost of development, more small-to-mid-sized businesses will set up in downtown Boone in the future.

This year, Milner has added "guest speaker," "student network builder" and "financial supporter of Appalachian's Association of Student Entrepreneurs (ASE)" to his resume.

ASE is a student-run organization for those interested in exploring entrepreneurship, and it provides opportunities to network, exchange ideas, manage projects, participate in workshops, and visit with guest speakers. It's an organization Milner says is making a major impact on the local economy.

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Through Milner's interactions with the ASE members this semester, he says he is inspired by the ambition and ability of the students and recognizes the spirit of entrepreneurship they are helping to cultivate in the community. Excited about the future he sees in the undergraduates, Milner is helping fund the group's operations for the 2017-18 year, allowing them to focus on their goals rather than their expenses.

The Walker College of Business did a lot for me," said Milner. "I'm excited to have the opportunity to give back to Appalachian and the business school."

Transportation Insight Center for Entrepreneurship Director Erich Schlenker said that student-community interaction through ASE adds value to the students' experience.

While Milner said he was not a member of ASE while a student at Appalachian, the importance of joining an organization on campus contributes to a graduates' ability to succeed in the workplace.

Milner grew his network as a founding member of the university's chapter of Alpha Sigma Phi fraternity. He has previously served as a member of the Board of Adjustment for the Town of Boone, is a past chair for the Western Youth Network, and helped found Young Professionals of Boone, whose mission is to cultivate next generation leadership in the High Country by retaining and recruiting young professionals through business and social networking.

About Transportation Insight Center for Entrepreneurship

The Transportation Insight Center for Entrepreneurship at Appalachian State University was founded in 2006 and is housed within the university's Walker College of Business. The center helps Appalachian students — regardless of major — faculty, staff and alumni conceive, develop, incubate and launch new business ventures, turning their ideas into reality. In 2011, the center was rebranded to include Transportation Insight in its name to acknowledge a $1 million gift that enabled the center's renovation, as well as 10 years of funding. Transportation Insight is a nationally recognized third-party logistics (3PL) company specializing in supply chain management. Learn more at

James Milner, right, speaks to students in Appalachian State University’s Association of Student Entrepreneurs
Published: Apr 30, 2018 1:35pm