August 22 - 24, 2021 (GMT-5)

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Embassy Suites by Hilton Jonesboro Red Wolf Convention Center

223 Red Wolf Boulevard
Jonesboro, Arkansas

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Ted Abernathy (Managing Partner at Economic Development Leadership, LLC)

Ted Abernathy

Managing Partner at Economic Development Leadership, LLC


Ted is the Managing Partner of Economic Leadership LLC, a consultancy that is currently working in more than a dozen states to develop economic and workforce strategies. Ted has 35 years of experience in directing economic development and workforce development programs. From 2008-2013, Ted was the Executive Director of the Southern Growth Policies Board, a 42-year old public policy think tank that provided economic development research, strategy and marketing advice, to states and communities across the South. He also served as economic development policy advisor to the Southern Governors Association.

Before coming to Southern Growth, Ted was a practicing economic developer for 28 years. From 2000-2008, he served as Executive Vice President and COO for the Research Triangle Regional Partnership. During his eight years directing RTRP’s operation he worked with hundreds of clients and helped generate 65,000 new jobs and almost $10 billion in investment.

Ted’s current projects include developing economic and workforce strategies in more than a dozen states and regions across the country, designing an economic development and innovation ecosystem for a new science city in Kenya, evaluating cluster opportunities ranging from value added agriculture to advanced technologies, building dashboards using advanced data analytics, and producing the annual Home of Future Thinking conference.

Over the past five years Ted has worked on close to 100 projects. He has developed plans for the eight states that comprise the Mississippi Delta, coauthored Reimaging Workforce Development, conducted a southern citizen input process on economic vitality for the Kettering Foundation, developed best practices in manufacturing and innovation for the U.S. Economic Development Administration, helped the Organization for International Investment create an economic development coalition to better attract foreign investment and help launch a new company that assesses and improves Group Leadership.

Ted speaks to groups across the country and internationally on many topics including the economy, the future of work, trendspotting the future and organizational leadership. In the past year, he keynoted conferences for the International Economic Development Council, The Southern Economic Development Council, The Southern Regional Education Board, The National Association of Workforce Professionals, The International Eisenhower Fellowships, the Society of Industrial Realtors, The Seattle Eastside Futures Conference and dozens of private business retreats and gatherings.

Born in Dallas, NC, Ted received his bachelor’s degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; his Master’s from Johns Hopkins University, is a graduate of the Economic Development Institute and is an Eisenhower Fellow for global economics.

Dave Adkisson, CCE (Author & Veteran Chamber Executive)

Dave Adkisson, CCE

Author & Veteran Chamber Executive

A veteran chamber executive and former mayor, Dave Adkisson, CCE, served as the CEO of three chambers: his hometown chamber in Owensboro, KY; the metro Birmingham (AL) Regional Chamber, and the Kentucky (state) Chamber. On the national level, he served as the 2010 chairman of the board of the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives (ACCE), was the 2014 chairman of the board of the Council of State Chambers (COSC), was a founder of the national State Chamber Policy Center, served six years on the board of the U. S. Chamber and served as the chairman of the U.S. Chamber’s education policy committee. He is a past chair of the ACCE Foundation. Together, he spent more than 30 years in the chamber field.

Adkisson retired from the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce in 2019 after 15 years as president and CEO. During his tenure, the Chamber was routinely ranked as the top lobbying organization in Kentucky, tripled its budget, doubled its staff, and was named the 2017 State Chamber of the Year. In addition to achieving several landmark legislative victories, Adkisson created the Kentucky Chamber Workforce Center and the Leadership Institute for School Principals, a program that has invested more than $3 million in executive leadership training for school principals.

Earlier in his career, he was elected mayor of Owensboro, KY at age 34 and re-elected four years later without opposition. He championed the creation of the RiverPark (performing arts) Center on the Owensboro riverfront, the Mid-America Airpark, a city-county workforce center, and the 13-mile-long Greenbelt Park which was later named in his honor. He was a co-founder of Leadership Kentucky and is a former chairman of the Kentucky Advocates for Higher Education. He serves on the board of the Kentucky American Water Company.

Originally from Owensboro, Adkisson received his B.A. in philosophy and political science from Georgetown College, where he is the immediate past chairman of the board of trustees, and earned his masters in ethics from Harvard University. He was the 2019 recipient of Leadership Kentucky’s “Flame of Excellence” award and in 2020, was one of two recipients of ACCE’s Life Member Award. He and his wife, Bonnie, reside in Lexington, KY, along with their two children and three grandchildren.

Julie Allen, PCED (Executive Director of Newport Area Chamber of Commerce)

Julie Allen, PCED

Executive Director of Newport Area Chamber of Commerce


Julie Allen, Professional Community and Economic Developer, is executive director of Newport Area Chamber of Commerce where she has served the community since 2002. She is a 1994 graduate of Arkansas State University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Communications - Radio/Television. Prior to her position at the Chamber, she worked as a radio DJ in Jacksonville, Florida and Jonesboro, Arkansas.

Mrs. Allen is an active volunteer. She currently serves on the board of directors for the Downtown Revitalization & Volunteer Improvement Effort, Newport School District Charitable Foundation, the Jackson County Humane Society, Newport Country Club, Jackson County Community Foundation, the Newport Rotary Club and is a Rotary Paul Harris Fellow.

Her work at the Chamber of Commerce also makes her the lead contact and organizer for the Depot Days Festival, Arkansas Scholars Program, Retail Merchants Committee, Business After Hours, New Vision Newport leadership development course, Chamber Scholarship Program and the Newport Christmas Parade.

She has lived in Newport since 1998, the year she married her husband, Michael. The couple has two children - Jessica, age 1 and Meagan, age 15.

Mayor Harold Copenhaver (Mayor at City of Jonesboro)

Mayor Harold Copenhaver

Mayor at City of Jonesboro


Elected as mayor in November 2020, Copenhaver was previously senior business development officer at Centennial Bank, worked as a farm manager and in the insurance industry.

Experience in those positions, plus a term in the Arkansas Legislature, composed the foundation for a Copenhaver administration focused on strong fiscal management, public safety and quality of life.

A graduate of Jonesboro High and alumnus of Arkansas State University, Mayor Copenhaver has an extensive background in insurance and agri business.

Copenhaver, 59, and his wife, Kathleen, have dedicated their lives to giving in Jonesboro, volunteering and serving on community boards and committees. They were selected at the 2009 Red Wolf Family of the Year, awarded to the family that best exemplifies support for Arkansas State University.

A member of First Baptist Church, Copenhaver sings as a member of the ASU Alumni Men’s Trio and has served as a member of the Board of the Jonesboro Noon Rotary Club. He volunteered with City Youth Ministries and North East Arkansas Food Pantry.

In the 89th General Assembly, Copenhaver chaired the Revenue and Taxation subcommittee on sales, use, miscellaneous taxes and exemptions. He served on five committees and three subcommittees. He was tabbed a “Distinguished Legislator” by the Arkansas Municipal League for his dedication to municipalities.

He and Kathleen have been married 39 years, and have three children: Lauren Copenhaver Nunnally, Austin and Myles, and four grandchildren.

Leo Cummings III (Director of Member Engagement at Conway Area Chamber of Commerce)

Leo Cummings III

Director of Member Engagement at Conway Area Chamber of Commerce


Leo Cummings III helps area professionals build successful businesses in his role as director of sales and member engagement for the Conway Area Chamber of Commerce. He introduces prospective members to the Chamber’s suite of promotional opportunities and connects existing members with new ways to achieve their business goals. Leo is pursuing the Institute for Organization Management graduate recognition and has completed two years of the program.

Outside of work, Leo serves on the board of directors for United Way of Central Arkansas and is a founding board member of the Arkansas Creative Institute. He is the co-founder and co-host of Black Dude White Dude, a podcast that explores a wide range of topics from the differing perspectives of two best friends.

Leo is a product of Conway Public Schools and a graduate of the University of Central Arkansas, where he studied public relations. He resides in Conway with his wife and two children.

Rose Davidson (Senior Vice President at JLL)

Rose Davidson

Senior Vice President at JLL


Rose is a Senior Vice President of JLL's Location Economics Practice where she specializes in identifying, negotiating, and securing impactful business incentives for all industry sectors.

Rose has secured financial business incentives for large and small clients, in multiple industry sectors, including manufacturing, distribution, professional/financial services, healthcare, and retail. Rose has extensive knowledge and experience with both statutory and discretionary incentives programs in the Southeast as well as across the nation. Rose is a leading industry expert on tax credits and their applicability to a corporation's tax liability and the ability to monetize credits resulting in a cash equivalent incentive benefit.

Prior to joining JLL, Rose served as Director of Credits and Incentives with Corporate Tax Incentives ("CTI") where she directed the company's Southeast Division and serviced clients nationally. She was also a lead member of Ernst & Young's Southeast Credits and Incentives Practice based in Atlanta, GA where she led key incentive account projects for both new and long-term clients. Rose began her incentives career with ADP Tax Credit Services where she managed and fostered multiple client relationships.

Rose leads JLL's Location Economics Practice tax credit advisory team where she analyzes client tax and project profiles for matching with state and local tax credits. This team is responsible for reducing a client's corporate, sales, property, and payroll taxes when making job and/or capital investments within a new or existing business portfolio.

Rose has earned a B.S. in Political Science at Kennesaw State University and a M.S. in Urban Policy Studies/Economic Development at Georgia State University. Rose has presented on numerous webcasts and training conferences and is an active member of the Institute for Professionals in Taxation.

Cecilia Elliott (Executive Assistant at Conway Area Chamber of Commerce)

Cecilia Elliott

Executive Assistant at Conway Area Chamber of Commerce


Cecilia Elliott is the executive assistant at Conway Development Corporation/Conway Area Chamber of Commerce. She was born in Detroit, Michigan, but moved to Camden, Arkansas, at the age of 10 to live with maternal grandparents after the sudden passing of her mother. She has been a resident of Conway, Arkansas, for 16 years.

At the age of 16, Cecilia went on a school field trip to KTVE Channel 10, which was the local television station based in El Dorado, Arkansas. She left the station that day feeling intrigued and inspired by the on-air personalities as well as seeing the control room and all the ins and outs that’s required to put a newscast on air. She vowed to herself to one day be a television personality.

In 1973, Cecilia was hired as the office receptionist at KTVE. She persevered and worked her way up to being the first African American female on-air field reporter for KTVE.

After being at KTVE for about 12 years, Cecilia was afforded the opportunity to work at a radio station and became shared owner of the sister station, KMGC-FM, in Camden, Arkansas. She owned the station for a decade before relocating to Los Angeles, California, with her husband, Don Elliott. They lived in L.A. for five years before returning to central Arkansas. Cecilia started her position at the Conway Area Chamber of Commerce the following year and has been with the organization since.
Cecilia says she is often asked when will she retire. Her reply is that she loves her job and gets to work with a great staff of people every day. “As long as God provides me with good health,” she says, “I’ll continue to work in some capacity. Retirement is definitely on the horizon, though, but no date as of yet!”

Cecilia has always been that person who strives to do her best, to do all she can, and to give her upmost in any and all endeavors to achieve a goal. Hard work and “stick-to-itiveness” are her greatest attributes. She and Don have been married for 24 years, and between the two, they have a blended family of seven children, 12 grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren.

Shelby Fiegel, PCED (Director - Center for Community & Econ. Dev. of UCA's Center for Community & Economic Development)

Shelby Fiegel, PCED

Director - Center for Community & Econ. Dev. of UCA's Center for Community & Economic Development


Shelby Fiegel is the Director of the University of Central Arkansas Center for Community and Economic Development (CCED) and the Community Development Institute (CDI). Shelby is a certified Professional Community and Economic Developer (PCED) and is a 2016 graduate of CDI. She has also completed the Mid-South Basic Economic Development Course. She serves on the Conway Historic District Commission and is an Arkansas Municipal League City & Town magazine contributor. She is a graduate of the inaugural class of the Conway Area Leadership Institute (CALI) in 2017, a Certified Strategic Doing Workshop Leader, and a current member of LeadAR Class 19.

Tonya Fletcher (Executive Director of Paris Area Chamber of Commerce)

Tonya Fletcher

Executive Director of Paris Area Chamber of Commerce


Tonya is the Executive Director for the Paris Area Chamber of Commerce serving the Logan County businesses and surrounding areas. Tonya has a unique role serving the citizens of Paris as a City Council Member, where she is in her second term. Prior to her appointment as Executive Director for the PACC, she previously served as Regional Sales Director for Avon Products, Inc. and was a District Manager at Russell Cellular.

Tonya is the President of the TriPeaks Regional Tourism Association, a Main Street Paris Board of Directors; member of the Arkansas Economic Developers, she serves as a board member for Western Arkansas Planning and Development District as well as the Fort Smith Regional Alliance and is a member of the First Freewill Baptist Church in Paris.

Tonya is a graduate of Community Development Institute and has completed Western Arkansas Economic Development Boot Camp.

Tonya is married to Brian Fletcher and they reside in Paris. Together they have four daughters, one son and three grandchildren; her oldest daughter Megan is a cardiac catheterization technologist at Boston Scientific; his daughter, Caleigh, lives in Oklahoma City; her daughter Alyssa works for Logan County Bank; his 16 year old son, Bennett, attends Subiaco Abbey; her 14 year old daughter, Piper, attends Paris High School. They are very proud of their perfect grandchildren Maddux , CC and Baylor. Tonya greatest passion is being a cheerleader for her family and enjoys watching the kids play softball, baseball, basketball and soccer.

Kristie Flynn (Sr. Public Relations Manager at Stone Ward)

Kristie Flynn

Sr. Public Relations Manager at Stone Ward


As a senior public relations manager at Stone Ward, Kristie works to build positive public images for her agency clients. By fostering relationships between her clients and the media and public, Kristie is able to promote an organization’s goals and help increase their overall success.

She is a certified crisis communicator and is responsible for planning, executing and maintaining public relations strategies on behalf of her clients. She has worked with national, regional and local clients and is currently integrated into several accounts including Snap-on Tools, Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield, Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, Redwood Services and Sissy’s Log Cabin.

Ginger Harper (Executive Director of Heber Springs Area Chamber of Commerce)

Ginger Harper

Executive Director of Heber Springs Area Chamber of Commerce


Ginger has served as the President/CEO of the Heber Springs Area Chamber of Commerce since 2019. Ginger graduated from Arkansas State University in 2002 and attended the UALR William H. Bowen School of Law where she received her law degree in 2006. She completed the Mid-South Basic Economic Development Course in 2020. Ginger was born and raised in Heber Springs, and her love for the community led her to her position at the Chamber. She has a passion to serve the community and help it grow and thrive. Ginger resides in Heber Springs with her husband, Joe, and their two daughters, Ella and Emily.

Mike Harvey (Chief Operating Officer at NWA Council)

Mike Harvey

Chief Operating Officer at NWA Council


Mike Harvey is a professionally trained economic developer with 26 years of experience at the local and regional levels.

He is a graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi, earning a Bachelor’s Degree in Marketing in 1991, and a Master’s Degree in Economic Development in 1995.

Mike has successfully built one-stop operations that deliver site selection assistance, existing business services, entrepreneurial support, and workforce development solutions to job seekers and employers alike throughout his career. He has accomplished this with both individual and multiple organizations in 4 different states.

Mike started at the local level in Marshall County, Alabama in 1995 before moving on to do regional work in Knoxville, Tennessee in 2001. He left Knoxville in 2007 for a regional job in Charlottesville, Virginia, and joined the Northwest Arkansas Council in 2011.

Bethany Hildebrand, IOM (President & CEO of Stuttgart Chamber of Commerce)

Bethany Hildebrand, IOM

President & CEO of Stuttgart Chamber of Commerce


Bethany Hildebrand is the CEO for the Stuttgart Chamber of Commerce, a 300- member organization dedicated to community and economic development. She began her career with the Chamber in April of 2010 as the Director of Programs. In 2014, she was promoted to President and CEO. As President, she works on community and economic development with the Stuttgart Industrial Development Corporation and the City of Stuttgart. Her job responsibilities include providing strategic leadership and vision for the chamber as well as facilitating community and economic growth in the city of Stuttgart and supporting an environment for new and current businesses to thrive. She is also a 2018 graduate of the Institute for Organization Management, IOM, a program of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation. She has also served on the Board of Directors of Arkansas Economic Developers and Chamber Executives (AEDCE), the professional association of economic developers in the state. Bethany is married to Chance and they reside just outside of Stuttgart on their rice farm with their 2 children, Holden (4) and Hattie Jo (2).

Katherine Holmstrom, PCED (Senior Project Manager, Business Development at Arkansas Economic Development Commission)

Katherine Holmstrom, PCED

Senior Project Manager, Business Development at Arkansas Economic Development Commission


Katherine Holmstrom is a Senior Project Manager in the Business Development Division at the Arkansas Economic Development Commission (AEDC). Her primary responsibility is facilitating the growth of both new and expanding companies in Arkansas including recruitment and expansion projects. Since becoming a project manager she has worked with companies such as Mars Petcare, Simmons Foods, Walmart, Tyson, Aerojet Rocketdyne, SAF Holland, FMH Conveyors and American Airlines to help them expand or locate within the state.

Katherine has 12 years of community and economic development experience in Arkansas. Prior to joining AEDC in 2011, Katherine worked for Arkansas Congressman Marion Berry in several distinct roles including constituent services, appropriations management, community development, and intergovernmental affairs.

She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Journalism with an emphasis in Public Relations and a minor in Ag Business from Arkansas State University. She is a graduate of the University of Oklahoma’s Economic Development Institute, the University of Central Arkansas’s Community Development Institute and the Delta Regional Authority’s Delta Leadership Institute. She also serves as Vice President on the Board of Directors of Arkansas Economic Developers and Chamber Executives (AEDCE), the professional association of economic developers in the state.

Governor Asa Hutchinson (Goveror at State of Arkansas)

Governor Asa Hutchinson

Goveror at State of Arkansas


Asa Hutchinson is the 46th governor of the State of Arkansas. In 2018, he was re-elected with 65% of the vote, having received more votes than any other candidate for governor in the state's history.

He has won recognition for the state as a leader in computer science education, cut taxes by $150 million, and signed a law that exempts the retirement pay of veterans from state income tax.

President Ronald Reagan appointed Governor Hutchinson as U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Arkansas. In 1996, he won the first of three successive terms in the U.S. House of Representatives. During his third term in Congress, President George W. Bush appointed him director of the Drug Enforcement Administration and later as an undersecretary in the newly created Department of Homeland Security.

His experience has established him as a national resource for his expertise on trade, energy, national security, and education. The governor has been invited to the White House several times to join discussions about health care, Medicaid, and education issues.

The Governor is the current Vice Chair of the National Governors Association. He is the former co-chair of the Council of Governors and the former chairman of the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission (IOGCC), Southern States Energy Board (SSEB), and the Southern Regional Education Board.

Governor Hutchinson grew up on a small farm in Gravette. He is a graduate of the University of Arkansas law school. He and his wife, Susan, have been married 47 years. They have four children and six grandchildren.

Brad Lacy, CCE, IOM (President & CEO of Conway Area Chamber of Commerce/Conway Development Corporation)

Brad Lacy, CCE, IOM

President & CEO of Conway Area Chamber of Commerce/Conway Development Corporation


Brad Lacy is a native of Ida, Arkansas, and began his economic development career in 1997 with the Arkansas Economic Development Commission as a community development consultant and later as a project manager, where he worked to recruit companies to the state.

Brad has served as the President/CEO of the Conway Development Corporation (CDC), the city of Conway’s non-profit economic development entity, since 2000. In December 2006, Brad became President/CEO of the Conway Area Chamber of Commerce. It marked the first time in nearly two decades that the Chamber and CDC have been under the leadership of the same person. The combined management of both organizations brings the city a larger staff to focus on economic development activities. In 2013, the Conway Area Chamber of Commerce was named National Chamber of the Year by the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives, and in 2018 was named runner-up.

He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Geography from the University of Central Arkansas, and a Master of Public Administration from the University of Arkansas Little Rock. He is a graduate of the Community Development Institute at UCA, the Economic Development Institute at the University of Oklahoma, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Institute for Organization Management.

He is a member of Conway’s Second Baptist Church. Brad is former member of the University of Central Arkansas Board of Trustees, and served two terms on the Board of Regents for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce West Institute of Organization Management.

J.D. Lowery (Manager - Community & Economic Development at Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas)

J.D. Lowery

Manager - Community & Economic Development at Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas


JD Lowery is the Manager of the Community and Economic Development for the Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas. JD, originally from Maumelle, holds a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism from the University of Arkansas. He also has a Master in Public Service from the University of Arkansas, Clinton School of Public Service in Little Rock, and holds MBA at Harding University in Searcy, AR.

Previously, he worked for the Little Rock-based energy efficiency consulting firm Viridian (now Entegrity Partners), Governor Mike Beebe. He spent more than four years at the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, where he last served as director of the Arkansas Energy Office. He holds a LEED AP BD+C (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, Accredited Professional, Building Design and Construction).

Lowery serves on the National Rural Economic Developers Association. Locally, JD has served on the Arkansas Pollution and Ecology Commission, is on the Board of Directors for the Centers for Youth and Families Foundation, and is a member of the Little Rock Rotary Club. JD is married to Jennifer Lowery, who works as a speech-language pathologist for the Pulaski County Special School District. They have a eight-year-old daughter Blakleigh, who attends Maumlle Charter Elementary and a three-year-old son Barrett.

Bill Luther (President & CEO of El Dorado-Union County Chamber of Commerce)

Bill Luther

President & CEO of El Dorado-Union County Chamber of Commerce


Bill Luther is President and CEO of the El Dorado- Union County Chamber of Commerce. He is University of Arkansas graduate with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering. He is a Certified Professional Community and Economic Developer, a Registered Professional Engineer in the state of Texas, Licensed Pilot, Advanced Emergency Medical Technician, a graduate of the Mid-South Basic Economic Development Course and a graduate of LeadAR Class 14. In March of 2014, Bill was inducted into the Arkansas Academy of Electrical Engineers.

Bill has served on numerous boards and commissions including METROPLAN (the Central Arkansas Metropolitan Planning board), chair for the United Way of Union County, chair of the El Dorado–Union County Chamber of Commerce and vice chair of the El Dorado Water Utilities Commission. He presently serves on the Arkansas State Board of Election Commissioners, the Arkansas Economic Developers and Chamber Executives board, the Golden Triangle Economic Development Council and as a class director and advisory board member for the Community Development Institute Central at UCA.

Wade McCune (SVP/Creative Director of CJRW)

Wade McCune

SVP/Creative Director of CJRW


Wade McCune is an award-winning writer, strategist, and creative director with more than two decades of experience in the marketing industry. He is a leader in leveraging research, data and client insights to craft compelling creative work that drives results. For the last five years, Wade has directed the CJRW’s creative efforts for Arkansas Parks and Tourism and AEDC.

Alan Morse (CEO of Ritter Communications)

Alan Morse

CEO of Ritter Communications


Alan Morse was named President of Ritter Communications in February 2014. Alan is a highly accomplished telecommunications executive with an extensive background in strategic planning, sales, marketing, network engineering, and operations. Immediately prior to joining Ritter, he was the principal of the Morse Consulting Group, having successfully served as President and CEO of Integrated Mobile, Inc. leading up to its 2012 acquisition.

From 2002 to 2007 Alan was COO for iPCS, Inc., a publicly traded wireless communications affiliate of Sprint based in Chicago with service areas spanning 15 states. Prior to that, he was COO for Telepacific Communications, Inc., a private equity-backed CLEC providing business internet, telephone, and data services in the California and Nevada markets.

Alan is a graduate of The Ohio State University. He's involved in numerous philanthropic organizations, including the American Cancer Society, the Arkansas State University EARIS business incubator program, the Jonesboro Chamber of Commerce, and The Ohio State University President's Club.

Julie Murray, PCED (President & CEO of Van Buren Chamber of Commmerce)

Julie Murray, PCED

President & CEO of Van Buren Chamber of Commmerce


Julie Murray has served as the President and CEO of the Van Buren Chamber of Commerce since 2019. She earned her undergraduate degree from the University of Arkansas and a Master of Science in Leadership from John Brown University. In 2018, she graduated from the Community Development Institute, and has earned the certification of Professional Community and Economic Developer (PCED).
Julie currently serves on the boards of Western Arkansas Planning and Development District, and Arkansas Economic Developers and Chamber Executives.

Travis Napper (Director of Tourism at Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage, and Tourism)

Travis Napper

Director of Tourism at Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage, and Tourism


Travis Napper is the Director of Tourism within the Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage, and Tourism. Napper previously served as President & CEO of the Ruston Lincoln Parish Convention & Visitors Bureau and the Director of Orientation at Louisiana Tech University in Ruston, LA before his move to Arkansas.

Napper serves on the Board of the Southeast Tourism Society (STS) and Travel South USA. He is a member of U.S. Travel Association and Destinations International, previously serving on the Foundation’s Board of Trustees. He was recognized as a future leader in the industry through DI’s 30 Under 30 program in 2013.

Napper attended Louisiana Tech University, earning his bachelor’s degree in marketing in 2006 and received his CDME (Certified Destination Management Executive) designation in 2016.

Travis is married to his wife Brittany and has 3 children; Emory, Stover, and Millie.

Rick Neal (Director, Workforce, Education and Data Transformation of Office of Governor Asa Hutchinson)

Rick Neal

Director, Workforce, Education and Data Transformation of Office of Governor Asa Hutchinson


Mr. Neal recently joined Governor Asa Hutchinson’s staff. As Director of Workforce, Education and Data Transformation, In this new role, he will coordinate the Arkansas Ready for Life initiative, a program to connect employees and employers. Rick previously served as Education to Employee Director for the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce where he was responsible for engaging state business and industry partners and communicating their workforce needs to education leaders in Arkansas, while creating a seamless transition between high school, post-secondary education and the workforce. Rick has also served as superintendent of the Pea Ridge School District and has worked in public education for the past 36 years. Prior to becoming Pea Ridge School District superintendent, he served as the high school principal for seven years at Pea Ridge School District. He was also middle school principal of Berryville Middle School in the Berryville School District. He began his career as a social studies teacher and basketball coach at Siloam Springs Junior High School. He earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Physical Education from the University of Arkansas, and a Master’s Degree and a Specialist Degree from the University of Arkansas. He is passionate about preparing students to enter the global workforce through the integration of technology, real-world STEM learning, and linking to today’s college/career workforce.

Clint O'Neal (Deputy Director & Executive Vice President, Global Business of Arkansas Economic Development Commission)

Clint O'Neal

Deputy Director & Executive Vice President, Global Business of Arkansas Economic Development Commission


Clint O’Neal is the Deputy Director of Global Business at the Arkansas Economic Development Commission. Clint has 14 years of economic development experience and is passionate about making a difference by helping communities win economic development projects and helping companies to be successful in Arkansas.

Clint is responsible for overseeing the following AEDC divisions: Marketing, Business Development, Existing Business, Small Business & Entrepreneurship Development, Minority and Women-Owned Business, Film and Military Affairs. Clint also serves as Governor Hutchinson’s Designee to the Delta Regional Authority.

Before rejoining AEDC in 2018, Clint served as Vice President of Business Recruitment for the Missouri Partnership, the state’s principal business recruitment and marketing organization. Prior to that position, he was a Project Manager at AEDC.

Clint is a graduate of the Economic Development Institute at the University of Oklahoma and is a Certified Economic Developer through the International Economic Development Council. He holds a Master’s degree in Community and Economic Development from the University of Central Arkansas.

Clint and his wife, Heather, live in Conway with their four children, Chloe, Ellie, Ava and Caleb.

Corey Parks, PCED MBA (Vice President of Economic Development at Conway Area Chamber of Commerce/Conway Development Corporation)

Corey Parks, PCED MBA

Vice President of Economic Development at Conway Area Chamber of Commerce/Conway Development Corporation


Corey Parks is the Vice President of Economic Development for the Conway Area Chamber of Commerce and Conway Development Corporation. He manages the organizations' community and economic development efforts, provides statistical analysis of the regional economy, oversees talent and workforce development initiatives, and assists with the government affairs agenda.

Corey earned a Bachelor of Business Administration in Insurance & Risk Management and Master of Business Administration from the University of Central Arkansas. Corey is a certified Professional Community and Economic Developer (PCED), designated by the Community Development Council, and is a graduate of the Community Development Institute and the University of Oklahoma Economic Development Institute.

He currently serves on the University of Arkansas Community College at Morrilton Board of Visitors, and the Board of Directors for the Arkansas Economic Developers and Chamber Executives, University of Central Arkansas Alumni Association, and the Children's Advocacy Alliance.

Dr. Ivy Pfeffer (Deputy Commissioner at Arkansas Department of Education)

Dr. Ivy Pfeffer

Deputy Commissioner at Arkansas Department of Education


As deputy commissioner, Dr. Pfeffer works with Division of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) team members, legislators, community members, school district personnel and educators on finance, legislation and other education issues. Pfeffer joined DESE (formerly the Arkansas Department of Education) in 2013 as the director of educator evaluation, where she coordinated the administration of the new teacher and principal evaluation systems. She was hired as assistant commissioner for Educator Effectiveness and Licensure July 1, 2014. Prior to coming to DESE, Pfeffer worked at the Pocahontas School District for 18 years. She taught Spanish and English at Pocahontas Junior High School before being named the secondary assistant principal at the high school. She served as principal and as an adjunct Spanish instructor for Black River Technical College. She has a Bachelor of Science in Education in Spanish and English from Arkansas State University at Jonesboro, a Master of Science in Education in Integrated Technology in the Curriculum from Walden University in Minneapolis, MN., completed the ASU program of study for administrative certification and earned an Educator Specialist in Educational Leadership. She received a Doctorate of Education in School Leadership from Arkansas Tech University at Russellville. Pfeffer is from Pocahontas.

Secretary Mike Preston (Secretary at Arkansas Department of Commerce)

Secretary Mike Preston

Secretary at Arkansas Department of Commerce


Gov. Asa Hutchinson appointed Michael “Mike” Preston executive director of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission (AEDC) in March 2015 and Secretary of Commerce in July 2019. Preston is highly regarded as a leading advocate of economic development.

Over the years, Preston has made successful business recruitment trips to Japan, China, France, Germany, Israel, Cuba, Mexico, Italy, United Kingdom, New York City, and Silicon Valley. The trips continue to play an important role in the state’s economic development efforts and have led to more than 451 projects with companies signing agreements with AEDC to locate or expand in Arkansas. These companies are investing $9.24 billion and creating more than 19,794 new jobs.

Before joining AEDC, he served six and a half years as the Vice President of Government Relations for Enterprise Florida, the state’s primary economic development organization. During his tenure at Enterprise Florida, he was part of the team that helped create more than 147,000 jobs, paying an average wage of $56,437, and generating $10.07 billion in capital investment.

In 2018, Preston was selected to join The Wall Street Journal’s prestigious CEO Council. It is an invitation-only group that connects some of the world’s most ambitious and influential leaders to discuss the issues shaping the future. The members lead companies that collectively employ more than eight million people, generate $2.9 trillion in annual revenue, and represent 20 countries in a wide cross-section of industries.

A 2005 graduate of the University of Florida, Mike and his wife Anne – along with their young son Pierce – are proud to call Arkansas home. They both volunteer in the community in a variety of ways, including the Children’s Advocacy Centers of Arkansas and the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

Chris Schastok (Senior Vice President at CBRE)

Chris Schastok

Senior Vice President at CBRE


Chris Schastok is a Senior Vice President in the Advisory & Transaction Services Practice and a member of CBRE's Location Incentives Group. This advisory group assists clients globally with site selection and economic incentive negotiations, in conjunction with the overall strategy and execution of corporate real estate initiatives. With over 13 years of experience aligning location decisions with business strategy, Mr. Schastok has negotiated more than $1.2 billion in incentives and has vast experience representing clients on corporate headquarters, back-office strategy, food production/processing, manufacturing and distribution center projects.

Prior to joining CBRE, Mr. Schastok was a part of Jones Lang LaSalle’s Business and Economic Incentives Group, where he focused on site selection, economic incentive negotiations, and overall real estate strategy.

Prior to his role at Jones Lang LaSalle, Mr. Schastok served as an Associate at SmithBucklin, where he acted as the liaison between professionals from a large Mergers & Acquisitions association and lead decision makers from national Private Equity Groups to enhance M&A capabilities.

Mr. Schastok is a dual citizen and has contributed to several business publications, including the Chicago Council on Global Affairs Foreign Direct Investment study and Area Development Magazine. As a frequent guest speaker on site selection trends, he has addressed many professional economic development organizations including Boise Valley Economic Development, Jonesboro Unlimited, Columbus2020, New Orleans Regional Leadership Institute, Michigan Economic Development Corporation, Dallas Regional Chamber, Missouri Partnership, North Alabama Industrial Development Association, Indiana Economic Development Corporation, Kentucky Economic Development, and various other industry related events.

Tony Schum (Vice President, Site Selection & Incentives Advisory at Duff & Phelps)

Tony Schum

Vice President, Site Selection & Incentives Advisory at Duff & Phelps


Tony Schum is a vice president in Duff & Phelps’ Site Selection & Incentives Advisory practice in Austin, Texas. Tony specializes in identifying, negotiating, and implementing economic development incentives for companies that are expanding or relocating. He also assists clients in the pursuit of workforce training awards, R&D funding, and other grants expected to generate significant economic impact.

Prior to joining Duff & Phelps in 2011, Tony was a director of economic development for the Austin Chamber of Commerce, where his primary role was recruiting new technology companies to Central Texas. Other areas of responsibility included business retention & expansion, marketing, and public policy work. Prior to joining the Austin Chamber in 2004, Tony worked for Texas Governor Perry’s Office of Constituent Services.

Since 2004, Tony has worked with hundreds of companies to secure federal, state, and local incentive awards, from high-tech startups to the Fortune 500. Tony’s expertise spans the automotive, creative media, distribution & logistics, energy, manufacturing, and software industries.

Kyle Sexton (CEO of ChamberThink Strategies)

Kyle Sexton

CEO of ChamberThink Strategies


Kyle Sexton is an award-winning marketing strategist and international speaker and author on the topics of membership development, marketing and innovation. He was recognized in 2011 by Chamber Executive magazine as one of the most influential innovators in the chamber of commerce industry.

He is the chamber industry's foremost authority on membership tiers, and guides organizations through the transition from a traditional dues method to value-based tiers. His research and methods have been featured in industry publications, as well as national conventions and regional conferences.

Kyle's innovative social media accelerator has been featured in The Wall Street Journal and is the author of Follow You Anywhere and ReMembership - New Strategies for Remarkable Membership Organizations.

Shawna Stengel (Director of Main Street Paris)

Shawna Stengel

Director of Main Street Paris


Shawna Stengel is the Main Street Paris Director and Secretary of our Chamber board. She has lived in Paris for 15 years and is married with four children ages 17, 15, 14 and 11 years old. When she is not busy taking her kids to school functions she is working on the farm, hiking, fishing or going on vacation!

Secretary Larry Walther (Chief Fiscal Officer at State of Arkansas)

Secretary Larry Walther

Chief Fiscal Officer at State of Arkansas


Larry Walther began his career as an Engineer at SBC Communications, rising to the role of Vice President of Corporate Services and also serving as Chairman of SBC’s Foundation.

Following his extensive career with SBC, now AT&T, Walther has received appointments to serve in the administrations of two Arkansas Governors along with appointments from two U.S. Presidents, including leading a federal agency.

Walther’s public service career was initiated in 2003 when Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee appointed him to lead the Arkansas Economic Development Commission (AEDC) as Director.

He moved from a position in state government leadership to a federal leadership position in 2008 when President George W. Bush nominated him to serve as Director of the U.S. Trade and Development Agency (USTDA), a nomination confirmed by the U.S. Senate. In 2011, Walther received a second presidential nomination when President Obama nominated him to serve on the Board of Directors for the Export-Import Bank of the United States, again receiving U.S. Senate confirmation.

In January 2015, Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson announced the appointment of Mr. Walther as Chief Fiscal Officer for the State of Arkansas and Director of the Department of Finance and Administration (DFA). Under his leadership, DFA has transformed the ways in which services are provided to Arkansans. When he joined DFA, one Revenue Office-related service was available online (renewal of car tags). He led an effort to move as many of these services online as possible, understanding the time and effort this would save citizens. As a result, the majority of Revenue Office-related services may now be completed on DFA websites, from ordering a duplicate driver’s license to transferring vehicle ownership. In early 2018, Director Walther joined Governor Hutchinson to announce Arkansas is among the first states in the country to make online vehicle registration available to citizens.

Mr. Walther serves on the Board of Trustees of the College of the Ozarks in Point Lookout, Missouri, since 1992, serving as Chairman of the Board from 2001 to 2007. In December 2010, he was elected Treasurer of the Republican Party of Arkansas. Mr. Walther has also been a member of the Executive Board for Quapaw Area Boy Scouts, Downtown Little Rock Rotary, the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences’ BioVentures Advisory Board and Easter Seals Arkansas’ Board. He currently serves as a member of the University of Arkansas Walton School of Business Dean’s Executive Advisory Board.

He is actively involved at Immanuel Baptist Church in Little Rock. He and wife Janice, married for more than 48 years, have two children, Bill and Mandy, and seven grandchildren. He is a graduate of the University of Arkansas at Monticello.

Mallory Weaver (Communications Director of City of Gravette)

Mallory Weaver

Communications Director of City of Gravette


Mallory Weaver is the communications director and assistant to the Mayor at the City of Gravette in northwest Arkansas. She manages the city’s various social media accounts, handles media relations, works on economic development, and coordinates city events like Gravette Day and the Independence Day fireworks show. She has a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Arkansas and recently completed the Mid-South Basic Economic Development Course. She lives in northwest Arkansas with her husband and their three children.

Adena White, APR IOM (Editor, Conway Publications at Conway Area Chamber of Commerce/Conway Development Corporation)

Adena White, APR IOM

Editor, Conway Publications at Conway Area Chamber of Commerce/Conway Development Corporation


Adena J. White, APR, IOM is a mission-driven, accredited public relations professional with more than a decade of experience leading communications efforts for nonprofits. She has worked for the Conway Area Chamber of Commerce for 10 years, first as director of communications and currently as editor of its subsidiary, Conway Publications. Prior to her role at the Conway Chamber, Adena served as public relations coordinator for the University of Arkansas System’s Winthrop Rockefeller Institute, an educational institute and conference center.

A strong believer in the power of storytelling for social change, Adena founded Blackbelt Media LLC in 2017, which produces the nationally recognized Blackbelt Voices podcast. The podcast propagates the richness of Black Southern culture by telling stories from and about Black folks down South. It has been ranked among the Top 100 on Apple Podcasts and has been featured on OprahDaily.com (formerly O, The Oprah Magazine) and VanityFair.com.

A lifelong Arkansan, Adena was raised in the small town of Center Ridge and attended Arkansas Tech University in Russellville, where she obtained a bachelor’s degree in speech communication and journalism with an emphasis in public relations. She later completed a master’s degree in applied communication studies from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. In 2013, she achieved her Accreditation in Public Relations (APR) through the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA).

Adena has served in leadership roles for PRSA at the Chapter, District, and National levels. She served on the board of directors for the Arkansas Chapter of PRSA for nine years and was elected president of the 100-member chapter in 2019, making history as the first Black person to hold this office. She is a current executive board member for PRSA's Association/Nonprofit Section and serves on the National Communications Committee.

She is also a member of the Independent Practitioners Alliance.
Adena resides in Conway with her husband and son.

Judge Joseph Wood (County Judge at Washington County, Arkansas)

Judge Joseph Wood

County Judge at Washington County, Arkansas


Judge Joseph Wood is a foundling. Abandoned in the streets of Chicago at birth, he was placed in an orphanage and adopted at 10 years old. He grew up with his two brothers and sister in the tough neighborhoods of Chicago. Joseph’s mother was an educator and his father was a construction worker. Education and hard-work, along with serving the community were expected in the family. Joseph held these values and continues to instill them in his children and grandchildren.

Judge Wood is the first black elected County Judge in Arkansas history. He is serving now in his second term in Washington County which is the third largest county in the state and one of the fastest growing in the nation. Judge Wood works to ensure Washington County has the resources, skills, and support needed to meet the need of the county’s growing population. He is active with the National Association of Counties (NACo) and is the current Chair of the Community, Economic and Workforce Development (CEWD) Steering Committee.

Mark Young, CEcD (President and  CEO of Jonesboro Unlimited)

Mark Young, CEcD

President and CEO of Jonesboro Unlimited


Mark Young is President and CEO of the Jonesboro Regional Chamber of Commerce, serving in that capacity since April 2006. The mission of the Chamber is to enhance the quality of life in our community through service, leadership and economic development. Mark also leads the economic development organization, Jonesboro Unlimited, serving as President. Jonesboro Unlimited has recently embarked on a bold five- year strategic plan to increase prosperity in Jonesboro.

Prior to being named President of the Jonesboro Regional Chamber of Commerce, Mark served as Executive Director of the Delta Center for Economic Development at Arkansas State University from 2000 to April 2006.

Mark has provided economic development leadership in four other communities. He served as the Director of the Cross County Business Development Center in Wynne and as Director of the East Arkansas Community College Business Development Center in Forrest City. He then left Arkansas to serve as Executive Director of the Miami Area Economic Development Services, Inc. in Miami, Oklahoma, and served as Executive Director of the Richmond Economic Partnership in Rockingham, North Carolina.

Mark received his B.S. in Journalism with an emphasis in Public Relations from Arkansas State University. He is a Certified Economic Developer, receiving that designation in 1994.

Mark serves on the Arkansas District Export Council and is currently the Chairman of the Northeast Arkansas Economic Development Coalition.

Mark is married to Mitzi. They have two sons- Adam and Alex.

Randy Zook (President/CEO of AR State Chamber of Commerce/AIA)

Randy Zook

President/CEO of AR State Chamber of Commerce/AIA


Randy Zook is the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce and the Associated Industries of Arkansas. Prior to taking the helm of the State Chamber/AIA, Randy was the Deputy Director of Administration and Finance for the Arkansas Economic Development Commission. For 34 years, he worked for Atlantic Envelope Company of Atlanta, Georgia, a $200-million manufacturer of custom-printed envelopes and business products, serving as President and CEO of the company from 1989 to 2004. He is currently serving on the boards of KIPP Schools in Helena-West Helena, Economics Arkansas and McGehee Farm & Real Estate Co. He and his wife, Diane, have three grown children and five above-average grandchildren.