2020 A.G. Gaston Conference focuses on Birmingham’s business growth

2020 A.G. Gaston Conference focuses on Birmingham’s business growth
Last year's panel discusses business opportunities and challenges at the annual A.G. Gaston Conference. (file)

The 16th annual A.G. Gaston Conference on Feb. 11-12 at the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex will feature an Opportunity Forum and a Town Hall Meeting focused on local efforts to promote minority business development and financial literacy.

George Fraser, CEO of FraserNet, will be the conference’s keynote speaker. (contributed)

The conference, named for the iconic entrepreneur A.G. Gaston, has a lineup that includes national and local speakers, authors and thought leaders.

“The A.G. Gaston Conference has always attempted to be relevant from both a philosophical as well as a practical perspective,” said Bob Dickerson, executive director of the Birmingham Business Resource Center, host of the conference. “Attending the Opportunity Forum, hearing firsthand from decision-makers as well as other advocates is a must for local business owners.“

The Opportunity Forum gives local businesses the chance to get a head start on “seizing opportunities resulting from the World Games, airport and transit expansion and the Protective Life Stadium under construction in downtown Birmingham,” said Dickerson.

Shelly Bell of Black Girl Ventures will address the 16th annual A.G. Gaston Conference. (contributed)

Keynote speakers scheduled for this year include headliner Dr. George C. Fraser, chairman and CEO of FraserNet, Inc., a company he founded 30 years ago to lead a global networking movement for people of African descent.

Fraser’s messages will focus on racial economic disparity and what blacks must do to close the divide. Eugene Mitchell and Maggie Anderson, both authors and past presenters at the A.G. Gaston Conference, follow Fraser in Tuesday’s lineup.

UAB’s Anthony Hood will lead a panel discussion on “The Next A.G. Gastons.” (contributed)

First-time conference speakers include Shelly Bell, founder of Black Girl Ventures, a social enterprise that creates access to social and financial capital for black and brown women business owners. Michael Graves, son of Black Enterprise Magazine founder Earl Graves, will close the conference. Graves’ ties to Black Enterprise, which named Gaston “Entrepreneur of the 20th Century,” are obvious. Graves, founding member and managing partner of the Graves Advisory Group LLC, launched Graves Advisory, a marketing firm based in New York that focuses on business development and analytical growth strategies, branding, image consulting and one-on-one coaching, services most businesses need.

Birmingham leaders scheduled to speak include: Fred McCallum, a former CEO of AT&T who came out of retirement to serve in his current role as interim president of the Birmingham Business Alliance; Ronald Mathieu, president and CEO of the Birmingham Airport Authority; and Anthony C. Hood, director of Civic Innovation in the Office of the President of UAB and an associate professor of management in the UAB Collat School of Business.

McCallum and Mathieu are among panelists serving on the 2020 Business Corner Opportunity Forum that kicks off the conference at 9:30 a.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 11. The panel discussion, moderated by Tracy Morant Adams of Renasant Bank, will focus on supplier diversity and what it takes to qualify for business contracts.

Other Birmingham leaders will appear on the Opportunity Forum panel:

Hood will lead a panel discussion, “The Next A.G. Gastons,” on Wednesday, Feb. 12 at 9 to 10:15 a.m. that focuses on how to develop the next generation of young entrepreneurs in Birmingham.

To see the full conference agenda and buy tickets, click here.

This story originally appeared in The Birmingham Times.

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