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VOL. 130 | NO. 166 | Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Forum Connects Minority Businesses, Econ Opportunities


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This week’s Economic Development Forum is an opportunity for minority and women-owned businesses to connect to opportunities in the Memphis area.


In its eighth year, the forum is presented by the Mid-South Minority Business Council Continuum and runs Tuesday, Aug. 25 through Thursday, Aug. 27. Some 6,000 to 7,000 attendees are expected over the three-day event held at the Memphis Cook Convention Center, said Luke Yancy III, president and CEO of the Mid-South Minority Business Council Continuum.

A kick-off business reception started things Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday’s schedule begins at 7:30 a.m. with a power breakfast featuring speaker Richard Brown, the director of procurement for Bechtel National.

Other featured speakers include Shirley Franklin, former mayor of Atlanta, who will speak during Wednesday’s lunch from 11:45 a.m. to 1 p.m. and Sara Prince, principal of McKinsey & Co. Inc., speaking during Thursday’s lunch from 11:45 a.m. to 1 p.m.

The speakers, exhibit hall and seminars all have the purpose of helping connect the minority and women-owned business community to potential opportunities.

“It’s intended to pull together the corporate community, corporate CEOs and senior purchasing people with minority and women-owned businesses,” Yancy said. “This will center on what we’re doing in this community for growing the revenues and employees of minority and women-owned businesses. It seeks to show what’s actually going on. Too many times minority and women-owned businesses are not aware of what’s going on. And corporations aren’t aware of the businesses that exist. This creates exposure for our corporate members to know about our business members.”

The MMBC Continuum has more than 600 certified minority and women-owned business members and 120 corporate members. Many of those members are expected to have a presence at the forum, but Yancy said the organization wants the larger business community in Memphis to attend, as well.

Some of the corporate attendees will include FedEx, International Paper, Methodist Healthcare, Baptist Memorial Health Care, First Tennessee, Smith & Nephew, ServiceMaster, AutoZone and the Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority.

“This is open to everyone who is in business or those looking to get in business, as well as those who are just looking to network with purchasing people,” Yancy said. “This is a community gathering to grow jobs in our city.”

There will be nine seminars spread across Wednesday and Thursday. Topics include Corporate Insight, Business Opportunities in Agriculture, Population Health, Economic Inclusion, Supply Chain Efficiency and Construction Collaborations.

These seminars are all targeted toward helping business owners better understand the opportunities that exist in specific industries.

“This year as a difference we’re doing a whole lot of highlighting things happening as a result of macro situations in the world,” Yancy said. “What’s going on in China impacts what’s going on here. … We are talking to corporations and asking them beyond the regular things that appear in a (request for proposals), what are some things that are hot subjects for you in terms of competitive advantages of what a vendor may pursue?”

Thursday’s CEO/Presidents Roundtable is the forum’s signature event. “Rebuilding America’s Infrastructure: An Avenue of Growth for Minority Businesses” will begin at 8:30 a.m. John Schroer, commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Transportation, will facilitate the discussion that looks at opportunities for minority and women-owned businesses thanks to an estimated $3.6 trillion need for repairs and upgrades in America’s infrastructure.

Panelists will include Scott Brockman, president and CEO of the Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority; Bill Maddex, CEO of Portsmouth Gateway Group; Michael Russell, CEO of The Russell Cos.; and Stevan B. Bobb, executive vice president and chief marketing officer of BNSF Railway.

“There should be opportunities for minority companies to compete in that space,” Yancy said. “The minority companies already in that (infrastructure) space will have the ability to pick up more business and those not in the space can start planning for it.”

The forum is more than presenting opportunities for existing businesses. It will have a focus on the next generation of minority entrepreneurs with a seminar for youth attendees.

“We need to start working on high school and college kids and get them focused on products and services that are in high demand,” Yancy said.

Registration for the event is daily beginning at 7 a.m. Rates vary depending on what seminars and sessions are attended. Attendance to individual seminars or sessions is allowed.

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