A senior member of the North Carolina Department of Commerce and one of the state’s premier economic development experts round out the agenda for Vision Northwest North Carolina. The one-day summit will highlight local trends in economic, workforce and talent development is set for May 22 at Appalachian State University’s Leon Levine Hall of Health Sciences in Boone.

Delivering the afternoon keynote address is George Sherrill, chief of staff of the North Carolina Department of Commerce. Sherrill is a 41-year career state employee, serving many roles during his service, including more than 30 years in various management capacities with the Department’s Community Development Block Grant Program, most recently as its director. Earlier in his career, Sherrill worked as a grant manager for the N.C. Division of Air Quality and in the Governor’s Office of Intergovernmental Relations.

One of the state’s most respected economic development voices, Pat Mitchell, will deliver remarks pertaining to economic leadership during the afternoon keynote session. Mitchell currently serves as interim director of the MPA Program in the Department of Government and Justice Studies at Appalachian State University. Mitchell is also the incoming president of the North Carolina Economic Development Association and has served as assistant secretary for Rural Development with the North Carolina Department of Commerce.

The morning keynote session will be headlined by Christopher Chung, chief executive officer of the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina. Chung has held the position since January 2015, where he works to advance the economic interests of North Carolina’s people and communities, primarily through EDPNC’s success in new business recruitment, existing business expansion, international trade and export assistance, small business start-up counseling and tourism, sports and film promotion.

The opening keynote session will include remarks about growing business through leadership transition from Talia Freeman, director of marketing at Beech Mountain Resort. Celebrating 50 years of operation in 2019, Beech Mountain has experienced transition in long-held senior leadership positions while also making major investments in the resort’s food and beverage operations while adding events and working to update general infrastructure.

The focus of Vision Northwest North Carolina is to spark dialogue regarding economic leadership in the 12-county Northwest Prosperity Zone, as defined by EDPNC. Those counties include Alexander, Alleghany, Ashe, Avery, Burke, Caldwell, Catawba, McDowell, Mitchell, Watauga, Wilkes and Yancey counties.

“We are excited to round out our agenda with some of the best economic development minds in the state of North Carolina,” said David Jackson, president and CEO of the Boone Area Chamber of Commerce. “Not only will these speakers provide thought provoking ideas and insight about trends that matter in Northwest North Carolina, they will be present in our area as they hear success stories that make this region a unique and vibrant part of the state’s overall economic landscape.”

The agenda includes a series of panel discussions that will drive deeper conversation about community development strategies, employee retention and education initiatives and unique workforce development programs that are currently in place in the region. Those panels include:

Beyond Borders: Lessons learned, and opportunities shared from development-minded leaders in the region and beyond.

  • Bob Boyette — manager, city of Marion
  • Deborah Murray — Caldwell County Economic Development
  • Brantley Price — manager, town of West Jefferson
  • Tonya Triplett – community development coordinator, town of Abingdon
  • John Ward — manager, town of Boone

May the Force Stay with You: Discussion regarding workforce development trends, employee retention and benefit strategies in the Northwest prosperity zone.

  • Sara Chester — project and communications manager, Work in Burke
  • Jimi Combs — Tsuga, culture breeds longevity / human capital
  • Becky Gosky — relocation and retention coordinator, ASU Human Resources, dual career family placement

Build Your Future: Focus on talent development and trends in training/education of the workforce of tomorrow.

  • Kevin Baxter — director of Western Campus Planning, NC School of Science and Math
  • David Bennett — president/CEO, EJ Victor
  • Cindy Fulbright — project manager, Catawba Valley Furniture Academy

A collaborative that includes the Boone Area Chamber of Commerce, Watauga County Economic Development Commission, the Career Development Center at Appalachian State University and the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina, serves as the host organizers of the summit.

Registration begins at 8 a.m. and the event concludes with a networking reception from 4-6 p.m. Cost is $95 per person and includes meeting materials, lunch and snacks throughout the event. You can register by visiting www.boonechamber.com/events/vision. Special hotel rates and state rates are available for attendees at the Meadowbrook Inn and Holiday Inn Express — Boone. Attendees should contact the properties directly and mention Vision Northwest North Carolina to receive the discounted rate when making reservations.

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