75th Anniversary Celebration & Annual Conference - Tampa

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Sunday, August 15, 2021 to Tuesday, August 17, 2021
JW Marriott Tampa
510 Water Street
Tampa, FL 33602
United States

Event Details

The Southern Economic Development Council will be convening this summer for its Annual Conference in Tampa, Florida. August 15-17, the conference will be at The JW Marriott, located in the city's heart. The theme of this year’s event, RESILIENCE. We will bring together approximately 350 economic development professionals from around the world.

We invite you to join us this August in Tampa for a truly one-of-a-kind event and 75th Anniversary.  We encourage you to register and book your room early as we will sell out this year. Click the buttons below for more information.

Program (Subject to change:)

Sunday, August 15th
4:00 PM – 5:00 PM
Committee Meetings

5:00 PM – 6:00 PM               
State Caucus Meetings

6:00 PM – 7:00 PM               
Welcome Reception at Splitsville

Monday, August 16th

9:00 AM – 10:30 AM            
Opening Remarks and Welcome

Keynote: Repositioning You and Your Organization for the Post-Pandemic Reality

The past 18 months have reset the economic development world. Emerging trends have been accelerated. Client expectations, citizen priorities, consumer norms, and workforce demand have all be transformed. Economic developers are scrambling to reinvent and retool while running at full speed.  This session will consider the near future and suggest 10 actions that might make you and your organization more successful, and highlight a few pitfalls to avoid.

Ted Abernathy, Managing Partner
Economic Leadership, LLC

11:00 AM – 12:00 PM
General Session - Retail as a Catalyst for Economic Development

Is recruiting retail being driven by your economic development organization? Do you have retail-attraction efforts now but know your organization could do a better job?   

During this panel discussion, get insights from a municipality that successfully added retail to its traditional office/industrial recruitment efforts and learn from two of that city’s partners that are experts in recruiting shops, restaurants, and more.  The panel will cover current trends challenging retail, including workforce, construction, logistics, and COVID-19.  You will hear case studies and be given free resources to overcome these challenges facing the retail and communities in the south. 

Jennings Gray, Sr. Retail Developer
ElectriCities of NC, Inc.

Lacy Beasley, President
Retail Strategies

Loren Hill, Carolina Core Regional Economic Development Director
Piedmont Triad Partnership

12:00 PM - 12:30 PM
Recognizing Community Economic Development Awards & Communication Award Winners

12:30 PM – 2:00 PM
Luncheon with Whiskey & War Stories

Somerset-Pulaski Economic Development Authority, in partnership with the State of Kentucky, present Whiskey & War Stories, a historic, memorable luncheon featuring the founders of Horse Soldier Bourbon.   Guests will hear legendary stories from legendary men — men who were not only the first U.S. Special Forces soldiers to enter Afghanistan on horseback following the 9/11 attacks but who (as retold in the movie “12 Strong” and “Legion of Brothers”), upon completing their service, embarked upon an adventure to create a legendary bourbon brand.

2:00 PM – 3:00 PM
Concurrent Session - What's next for office space?

A nationally known real estate experts panel explores how the response to the pandemic is driving changes in real estate demand, office design, and more.   Our “new normal” must include working through how office spaces can function today and in the future with special new considerations of telecommuting, space requirements, and innovations to promote safer working environments.

Janet Miller, CEO and Market Leader Partner
Colliers Nashville

Larry Richey, Managing Principal, Florida
Cushman Wakefield

2:00 PM – 3:00 PM
Concurrent Session - Broadband as Essential Infrastructure for Community Resilience.  

The last year or more has underscored the obvious:  Broadband availability is one of the key factors for economic development, job creation and retention, community relevancy, and critical for a resilient community.  Broadband is the infrastructure component that makes all the other infrastructure relevant…it’s the bridge to everywhere!  The CEOs of Accelecom and Allpoints Broadband will speak to their experiences in completing a broadband middle mile – the interstate – and connecting that middle mile to the last mile via off-ramps to serve your communities.  The conversation will include case studies, some do’s and don’ts, and a question and answer session.

David Flessas, CEO

Jimmy Carr, CEO
AllPoints Broadband

3:30 PM - 4:30 PM
Concurrent Session - Urban Track

A panel of experienced economic developers discusses the future of redevelopment and urban design, focusing on questions about density, transportation, and urban planning. Conversations will include data and policies, and insights to better understand how human crisis generates a change in our environment.

David Bevirt, Executive Vice President
Strategic Property Partners LLC

Charles Woods, Vice President
Greater Chattanooga Chamber of Commerce

Dr. Eloisa Klementich, President & CEO
Invest Atlanta

3:30 PM - 4:30 PM
Concurrent Session - Rural Track
Building Community Resilience Through Planning

What is a community assessment, and why is that information important?  Strategic planning and implementation are imperative to success.  What community leaders need to be involved in your planning to ensure you achieve growth.  You will hear community success stories about surviving the pandemic. 

Stacey Duvic Neal, Director, Community Competitiveness
Louisiana Economic Development

6:00 PM – 7:30 PM               
Silent Auction Reception

Host Hotel:

JW Marriott Tampa Water Street
510 Water St, Tampa, FL 33602


The Westin Tampa Waterside and Embassy Suites Tampa Downtown Convention Center are the two closest hotels with a very short walk to the JW. 

Optional Activity - Fishing Tournament

Join us Sunday morning for a once-in-a-lifetime trip around Tampa bay with your fellow economic developers. Our experienced captains will take you to the hottest fishing spots in the bay for you to cast your line and compete against your fellow attendees to see who can score the largest catch! Your results will be tallied by our team and reported back to us at the end of the day. Your scores will be announced to your fellow peers for some serious bragging rights. We provide everything you need for your day on the water, including rods, reels, tackle, life jackets, and licensure. Pre-registration is required.

Tampa Fishing Charters, Inc.
401 Channelside Walk Way
Tampa, FL 33602

  • $150 per person
  • 9 AM to 1 PM
  • The dock is a short walk from the hotel
  • Please wear clothing appropriate for August in Tampa.

Acknowledgment of Enhanced Safety and Health Measures for All Attendees: Registration and attendance at, or participation in, SEDC's in-person events constitutes an agreement by the registrant to abide by SEDC's and the host property's efforts to comply with current CDC recommendations related to COVID-19 (and any state of Georgia requirements) and to engage in certain health-and-safety-beneficial conduct while attending the event as requested by SEDC (e.g., wearing a mask, engaging in appropriate physical distancing, not attending the event if feeling sick or showing certain symptoms).  You agree not to hold SEDC, Marriott Hotels, or any of their directors, officers, employees, or volunteers liable for any illness or injury.

Special Needs: In compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), conference management will make all reasonable efforts to accommodate persons with disabilities at its meetings. If you need assistance or if you have dietary restrictions, please indicate this on your registration form or call the SEDC Office at (404) 523-3030.

Registration Fees: Member and non-member registration fees include All conference sessions, Tuesday reception, breakfast, and lunch Tuesday, and breakfast on Wednesday. In order to obtain a refund, all cancellations must be received in writing at the SEDC office by July 1st. All cancellations will have a $50.00 administrative charge up until this date. Cancellations received after will have a $150.00 cancellation fee. Any registrant who does not submit cancellation correspondence by August 1st and does not attend the meeting is required to pay the balance in full. Registrants may substitute attendees without penalty. However, appropriate member/ non-member rates will apply to substitute attendees.

Consent for the use of Photographic Images: Registration and attendance at, or participation in, SEDC meetings and other activities constitutes an agreement by the registrant to SEDC’s use and distribution (now and in the future) of the registrant or attendee’s image or voice in photograph productions and audiotapes of such events and activities.

On behalf of SEDC, the local planning committee, and the entire State of Florida, including the great city of Tampa, please allow me to welcome each of you to the 2021 SEDC Annual Conference & 75th Anniversary Celebration.

Never to be accused of shying away from new ideas, this year’s conference theme, “RESILIENCE,” sets the stage for our presenters to showcase their groundbreaking and provocative ideas, which will ultimately help us re-build our communities and grow our economy.  Our world has changed…this Annual Conference will highlight those changes and then ask us to think of innovative ways to meet those challenges. 

You can rest assured that you will leave this conference replete with good food, challenging new ideas, and hearts of joy while celebrating SEDC's 75th Anniversary.  Our ever-changing world awaits us…let's meet it with enthusiasm and courage.  I look forward to being with you in Tampa and embracing all that SEDC offers.

Bob Helton, 2021 Chairman

Tuesday, August 17th   

8:00 AM – 9:00 AM               

9:00 AM – 10:00 AM
Building Community Resilience: Preparing your sites (and community) for the next big tech investment.

The pandemic has driven unprecedented consumer demand for online shopping & e-commerce, Netflix, Zoom, and other streaming services, which in turn has accelerated demand for technology-based infrastructure. From disaster recovery data centers to hyper-scale data center campuses, cold storage, cross-dock, and robot fulfillment center logistics facilities, from research & development operations to film & video game production studios, tens of billions of dollars of recurring annual investment is up for grabs.  How can you position your organization and available land sites to attract attention, compete, and win tech-intensive projects? Learn how the world’s leading companies are pioneering an evolving model of site selection that prioritizes speed to market, public infrastructure, sustainability & diversity/inclusion, and amenities that will attract a resilient STEAM talent pipeline.

Mike Grella, Founder
Grella Partnership Strategies

Gil Gonzales
Managing Director
Grella Partnership Strategies

Carl Nelson
Founder, CEO & Chairperson
Infrastructure Ready, LLC

10:30 AM – 11:45 AM
General Session - How to Become a Data Rock Star…Without Specialized Training

Businesses and site selectors come to your website to learn about your community, so you must highlight the local data that helps you tell your story. You need a technology that integrates all your data in one place, with simple tools that keep you in control. You also need to access your data seamlessly in virtual site visits. Only a complete GIS can do this. In this session, you will learn how leading economic developers are using the latest advances in GIS technology to take charge of their stories, create a competitive advantage for their communities, and become more efficient – all without specialized GIS training.

Jennifer Conoley, President & CEO
Florida’s Great Northwest

John O’Toole, Executive Director
Beaufort County Economic Development Corporation (SC)

Joshua Hudson, Redevelopment Manager
Charlotte County Economic Development (FL)

Ron Bertasi, CEO
GIS WebTech,

Michael Cleary
COO, GIS WebTech

Cathy Becker
Director of Customer Success, GIS WebTech

12:00 PM – 1:30 PM

1:30 PM - 2:00 PM
SEDC Awards Presentation and Annual Business Meeting

2:00 PM – 3:00 PM
General Session - Hacking the Talent Pipeline: Exploring the effects of a remote workforce on talent pipeline development

54% of work-from-home employees say they want to continue to work from home after the coronavirus outbreak ends. States and regions have begun to offer relocation incentives for skilled talent to move their home office, and employers are expanding their recruiting radius to include the entire country instead of a 30-minute commute. How do we develop quality talent that can compete nationally for employers thousands of miles away from our workforce, and how do we as a community prevent brain drain when the worker is not bound to an office downtown?

Denise Mott, Vice President
J. M. Mullis, Inc.

Dr. Chris Chmura, Founder
Chmura Economic & Analytics

3:30 PM- 4:30 PM
Site Selection Consultants Panel

Gray Swoope, President & CEO
Vision First Advisors, LLC

Mike Mullis, President & CEO
J. M. Mullis, Inc.

Mark Williams, President
Strategic Development Group

Amy Gerber, Executive Managing Director
Cushman & Wakefield

6:00 PM – 7:30 PM
Reception and Entertainment at Tampa Bay History Center

Fishing Tournament - Optional Activity

Join us Sunday morning for a once-in-a-lifetime trip around Tampa bay with your fellow economic developers. Our experienced captains will take you to the hottest fishing spots in the bay for you to cast your line and compete against your fellow attendees to see who can score the largest catch! Your results will be tallied by our team and reported back to us at the end of the day. Your scores will be announced to your fellow peers for some serious bragging rights. We provide everything you need for your day on the water, including rods, reels, tackle, life jackets, and licensure. Pre-registration is required, and space is limited.
  • 9 AM to 1 PM
  • $150 per person
  • Please wear clothing appropriate for August in Tampa

Click here to register for the tournament

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