IEI keeps North Carolina’s attention on working toward a vibrant future. Each year, IEI focuses on an emerging issue that requires the entire state’s attention. IEI brings thousands of people together to discover the opportunities in these issues, identify innovative solutions and support leaders and communities seeking to implement those solutions.

For more than three decades, IEI has maintained a strong tradition of bringing the best and the brightest leaders to gather together to discuss the emerging issues that drive our state forward. Here are just a few key speakers.

Emerging Issues Forum Topics

2021: ReCONNECT for the Future

  • David Brooks, Chair of Weave: The Social Fabric Project, and New York Times Columnist
  • Harvey Godwin, Jr, Lumbee Tribal Chairman, Lumbee Tribe of N.C.
  • Jim Hansen, Regional President, PNC Bank Eastern Carolinas
  • Thomas Parrish, Acting Secretary, NC Department of Information Technology
  • Thomas Stith III, President, NC Community College System

2020: ReCONNECT to Move Forward: A three-part virutal meetings series

  • Impact on Higher Education and the Future of Work
  • A Digitally Inclusive North Carolina
  • Mental Health & Well-Being

2020: ReCONNECT to Technological Opportunity

  • Joshua Edmonds | Director of Digital Inclusion, City of Detroit
  • Roberto Gallardo, Ph.D., Assistant Director, Purdue Center for Regional Development
  • Marc Hoit, Ph.D., Vice Chancellor for Information Technology and Chief Information Officer, North Carolina State University
  • Larry Irving, President and CEO, the Irving Group
  • Zachary Mannheimer, Principal Community Placemaker, Alchemy Community Transformations

2019: ReCONNECT to Economic Opportunity

  • Brian Collier, Executive Vice President, Foundation for the Carolinas
  • Stephen De May, North Carolina President, Duke Energy
  • James Ford, Co-Chair, Leading on Opportunity
  • Honorable James B. Hunt, Jr., Former Governor, State of North Carolinan
  • Tara K. Myers, Deputy Secretary, North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services

2019: ReCONNECT Rural & Urban

  • Governor Roy Cooper
  • John Hood, President, John William Pope Foundation
  • Jane Leonard, President, Growth and Justice, Minnesota
  • Maurice Smith, CEO, Local Government Federal Credit Union
  • Chancellor Randy Woodson, NC State University

2018: ReCONNECT to Community

  • David Brooks, New York Times columnist
  • Lt. Governor Dan Forest
  • Senator Terry Van Duyn
  • Representative Chuck McGrady
  • Hope Williams, North Carolina Independent Colleges and Universities

2017: kidonomics: The Economics of Early Childhood Investment

  • Susan Gates, Special Advisor on Education, SAS
  • Nathan Fox, Distinguished Professor and Chair, University of Maryland
  • Kate McEnroe, National Economic Development & Site Selection Expert
  • Governor Roy Cooper, North Carolina

2016: FutureWork

  • Martin Ford, NYT Bestselling Author, The Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future
  • Devin Fidler, Research Director, Institute for the Future
  • Vivek Wadhwa, technology entrepreneur and scholar
  • Dambisa Moyo, international author, economist and futurist

2015: Innovation Reconstructed

  • Ray Kurzweil, renowned inventor, tech guru, and Google engineering director
  • ADM Michael S. Rogers, Director, National Security Agency
  • Steve O’Donnell, EVP Racing Operations & Chief Racing Dev. Officer, NASCAR


  • Amanda Ripley, Author, The Smartest Kids in the World
  • Pasi Sahlberg, Director General, Centre for Int’l Mobility and Cooperation (Helsinki)
  • Hon. William Haslem, Governor, State of Tennessee

2013: @Manufacturing Works

  • Chris Anderson, Former Editor, Wired Magazine
  • Will Powers, Executive Vice-President & Chief Financial Officer, Rolls-Royce North America
  • Jim Owens, Retired CEO, Caterpillar

2012: Investing in Generation Z

  • Robert Safian, Editor in Chief, Fast Company Magazine
  • Bill Haslam, Governor, State of Tennessee
  • Ray Mabus, Secretary, U.S. Navy

Ray Mabus

2011: An Idea Exchange for Healthcare

  • Clayton Christensen, Professor, Harvard Business School
  • Indra Nooyi, Chairman and CEO, PepsiCo
  • Sanjay Gupta, M.D., Chief Medical Correspondent and Neurosurgeon, CNN

2010: Creativity, iNC

  • Tim Pawlenty, Governor, Minnesota
  • Arne Duncan, U.S. Secretary of Education
  • Bill Strickland, Manchester Craftsman Guild

2009: Changing Landscapes: Building the Good Growth State?

  • Chris Dodd, United States Senator
  • David Brooks, The New York Times
  • Bruce Katz, The Brookings Institution
  • Wayne Klotz, The American Society for Civil Engineers

2008: North Carolina’s Energy Futures: Realizing a State of Opportunity

  • Thomas Friedman, The New York Times
  • Jeffrey Immelt, Chair and CEO, General Electric
  • Kenneth Lewis, Chairman, CEO and President, Bank of America
  • Rajendra Pachauri, Chairman, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

2007: Transforming Higher Education: A Competitive Advantage for North Carolina

  • Margaret Spellings, U.S. Secretary of Education
  • Ja Song, Former Minister of Education, South Korea
  • Lawrence Summers, Charles W. Eliot University Professor, Harvard University

2006: Financing the Future

  • Paul O’Neill, former Secretary of the U.S. Treasury
  • Paul Krugman, The New York Times
  • Steve Forbes, Forbes, Inc.

2005: My Health Is Your Business: Making Healthcare Work in North Carolina

  • Bill Clinton, 42nd President of the U.S.
  • Newt Gingrich, Former Speaker, U.S. House of Representatives
  • Steven Reinemund, Chairman and CEO, PepsiCo
  • Phil Bredesen, Governor, State of Tennessee

2004: Creative Responses for Global Economic Change

  • Richard Wagoner, Chairman and CEO, General Motors
  • Edward Rendell, Governor, State of Pennsylvania
  • Mario Rubert, City of Barcelona

2003: Jump Starting Innovation: Government, Universities & Entrepreneurs

  • Louis Gerstner, Jr., Former Chairman, IBM Corporation
  • Mary Harney, Deputy Prime Minister, Ireland

2002: Biotechnology and Humanity at the Crossroads of a New Era

  • Tommy Thompson, Former Secretary, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
  • John Edwards, Former U.S. Senator, State of North Carolina
  • Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, Former Lt. Governor, State of Maryland

2001: First in America: Charting the Course for Excellent Schools

  • William Raspberry, The Washington Post
  • Tom Vander Ark, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

2000: Shaping our Common Future

  • Roy Barnes, Former Governor, State of Georgia
  • Dan Glickman, Former Secretary, U.S. Department of Agriculture
  • Hugh McColl, Former Chairman and CEO, Bank of America

1999: Global Economic Storms

  • Robert Rubin, Former Secretary, U.S. Department of Treasury
  • John Rockefeller IV, U.S. Senator, State of West Virginia

1998: People and Planet: A Fragile Partnership

  • Sylvia Earle, National Geographic Society
  • Daniel Goldin, NASA
  • Michael Robinson, Director, National Zoological Park

1997: Economic Forces: Shaping the Next Half-Century

  • Erskine Bowles, Former White House Chief of Staff
  • William Weld, Former Governor, State of Massachusetts
  • Alice Rivlin, Vice Chair, Federal Reserve Board
  • Richard A. Gephardt, Former U.S. House Minority Leader

1996: The Knowledge Explosion: What is the Payoff for Americans?

  • Al Gore, Former Vice President of the U.S.
  • Bill Bradley, Former U.S. Senator, State of New Jersey
  • Richard Riley, Former Secretary, U.S. Department of Education
  • Marian Wright Edelman, Founder and President, Children’s Defense Fund

1995: Conflict, Competition and Cooperation: Power Politics in a Changing World

  • Sam Nunn, Former U.S. Senator, State of Georgia
  • Mickey Kantor, Former Secretary, U.S. Department of Commerce

1994: Investing in Health: An American Agenda

  • Hillary Rodham Clinton, U.S. Senator, State of New York
  • Joycelyn Elders, Former U.S. Surgeon General
  • Lawton Chiles, Former Governor, State of Florida

1993: Strengthening America: New Economic Strategies

  • Robert B. Reich, Former Secretary, U.S. Department of Labor
  • Janice Faulkner, Former Secretary, U.S. Department of Revenue

1992: Priorities for America’s Future

  • Diane Ravitch, U.S. Department of Education
  • Kent Hughes, Council on Competitiveness

1991: Changes in Europe: Challenges for America

  • Jimmy Carter, 39th President of the U.S.
  • Sam Nunn, Former U.S. Senator, State of Georgia
  • Madeleine Albright, Center for National Policy

1990: Global Changes in the Environment: Our Common Future

  • Al Gore, 45th Vice President of the U.S.
  • Carl Sagan, Former Director, Laboratory of Planetary Studies, Cornell University
  • Steve Cowper, Former Governor, state of Alaska
  • Madeline Kunin, Former Governor, state of Vermont

1989: Education for a Competitive Economy

  • David Kearns, Former Chairman and CEO, Xerox
  • Tom Kean, Former Governor, State of New Jersey

1988: Taking Control of the Future

  • Paul Volker, Former Chairman, Federal Reserve Board
  • Don Peterson, Former Chairman and CEO, Ford Motor Company
  • Bill Clinton, 42nd President of the U.S.

1987: Winning in the Global Economy

  • Ross Perot, Founder, Electronic Data Systems, Inc.
  • Michael Dukakis, Former Governor, State of Massachusetts

1986: The Challenge of Innovation and Competition

  • John Young, Former President, Hewlett-Packard
  • Richard Thornburgh, Former Governor, State of Pennsylvania
  • Jim Goodnight, President and CEO, SAS Institute, Inc.