List of Speakers



Confirmed SPEAKERS

policy innovator and banking expert  – John A. Allison

President and CEO of the Cato Institute; Retired Chairman and CEO of BB&T Corporation

John Allison joined BB&T Corporation in 1971 and became its Chairman and CEO in 1989, transforming it into the nation’s 10th-largest financial services holding company. After retiring from BB&T at the end of 2008, he took the reins of the Cato Institute as President and CEO of the libertarian think tank. Allison remains a staunch advocate for capitalist principles, and elaborated on his support in this speech at the Cato Institute.

National Leader in Technology Policy – Robert D. Atkinson

Founder and President of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation

Named by Washingtonian Magazine as one of their 2011 “Tech Titans,” Robert D. Atkinson has an extensive background in technology policy. He is also author of Innovation Economics: The Race for Global Advantage, Understanding the U.S. National Innovation System and the State New Economy Index series. Atkinson conducts ground-breaking research projects on technology and innovation and is a valued adviser to state and national policymakers.

Guiding voice on Emerging Issues – Anita Brown-Graham

Director, Institute for Emerging Issues

Anita R. Brown-Graham joined the Institute for Emerging Issues (IEI) as director in January 2007. Anita previously worked at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill’s Institute of Government for 13 years, training communities in strategic planning to revitalize their distressed rural communities. Anita has provided significant training and written books and articles focused on developing the economic base of distressed communities. She also currently serves on the boards of several development organizations and foundations. Anita earned an undergraduate degree from Louisiana State University and, after attending graduate school at LSU, she earned a law degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Brown-Graham is active on various national and state boards and committees.  In 2010, the Kenan Institute for Engineering, Technology and Science awarded her a three year fellowship for a global comparative study on the role of higher education in driving innovation-based economies. In 2005, Brown-Graham earned an Eisenhower Fellowship, awarded by the Eisenhower Foundation in recognition of leadership impacts, to travel to South Africa for a comparative examination of issues of race and class. In 2004, she served as an American Marshall Fellow in Europe. Among a variety of additional honors and recognitions, Brown-Graham was awarded The Order of the Long Leaf Pine in 2001.

Impact Investment Innovator – William Burckart

Co-founder of Impact Economy

William Burckart is an independent impact investment advisor who helps clients integrate their philanthropic and investment goals through the sourcing, structuring and execution of impact investment strategies across a range of sectors. He serves on the Working Capital Group of the national Micro Capital Task Force (MCTF) and the Global Advisory Council of Cornerstone Capital Group, and he co-founded Impact Economy. An accomplished author, Burckart sat down with NextBillion Financial Innovation for an interview examining the future of impact investment.

Inventor and startup guru  – Scott Case

Founding CTO of Priceline, CEO of UP America

Timothy “Scott” Case is a technologist, entrepreneur and inventor and was founding CTO of Priceline, the “Name Your Own Price” company that was one of only a handful of startups in US history to reach a billion dollars in annual sales in less than 24 months.  In 2011, Scott was named founding CEO of the Startup America Partnership, and now serves on the board of Up Global where he invests his energy to support high-growth startup communities in the U.S. and around the world.  Prior to joining the Startup America Partnership, Scott served as CEO of Malaria No More, where he worked to inspire individuals and institutions in the private sector to end deaths caused by malaria.

Business Leader and Institutional Leader – Jack Cecil

President, Biltmore Farms LLC, & Chair, Institute for Emerging Issues

John F. A. V. “Jack” Cecil, president and chief executive officer of Biltmore Farms in Asheville since 1992, has focused its ventures on his five tenets of community development: healthcare, education, economic development, quality of life and the environment, and the arts and crafts of the region. This has made for a perfect fit with the Institute for Emerging Issues (IEI) and its similar missions. After joining IEI’s National Advisory Board in 2005 and becoming vice chair in 2010, Cecil was named board chair in 2014. An active business and community leader, Cecil has been involved with multiple boards and commissions over the years, including the UNC Board of Governors, the NC Biotechnology Center, the NC Arboretum and the Research Triangle Foundation of North Carolina. Cecil received his M.I.M. from The American Graduate School of International Management and B.A. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.


CEO, Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina

Appointed in January 2015 to reinvent the way North Carolina attracts business, industry, and investment, Chung has a proven track record with running Missouri’s similarly-structured public-private partnership. Under Chung’s leadership, since 2010, the Missouri Partnership helped recruit nearly 10,000 jobs, $500 million in new annual payroll, and $1.2 billion in capital investment to the state. Chung received the Missouri Economic Development Council’s 2009 President’s Award and the Site Selector Guild’s inaugural “Excellence in State Economic Development” award in 2012. In 2013, he was named by Development Counsellors International (DCI) as one of the nation’s “Top 40 Under 40” economic development practitioners.


Strategic innovator, Innopro

Enric Fuster Martí is an industrial engineer (Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya and INSA Lyon) and MSc in Economics (Barcelona Graduate School of Economics UPF+UAB). After starting his career in industrial companies (BoschRexroth, Groupe Suez), he collaborated with the Catalan Association of Public Universities and La Caixa in the design of the program RecerCaixa, which supports applied research in social and health sciences. Soon afterwards, he became general manager at MOVE, a new Economics research institute. Since 2010, Fuster joined Innopro as consultant in the areas of R&D, technology transfer, strategy and urban innovation. Recently, he has been involved in the definition and implementation of Research and Innovation Strategies for Smart Specialisation (RIS3) on behalf of the European Commission, the Catalan government and several municipalities, universities and research centers. He is also collaborating with urban development and urban renewal projects in Spain and Latin America, applying the “Innovative Urban Areas” model created at 22@ and formalized at Innopro Consulting.


President and CEO of the Research Triangle Foundation of North Carolina

Since joining the Foundation in November 2011, Bob Geolas has led a process to create a powerful 21st-century vision for the Research Triangle Park (RTP), one of the state’s most powerful economic engines. He recently unveiled their dazzling plan to transform RTP into a bustling innovation hub that integrates work, housing, retail, recreation, and high-tech amenities, with light rail connections to local communities and RDU Airport. Geolas has a proven track record of leveraging world-class education, research, and business activities. Prior to joining RTF, Geolas served as Executive Director of the Clemson University International Center for Automotive Research. In his earlier career, Geolas led NCSU’s Centennial Campus and Centennial Biomedical Campus.

Data AnalyTics Pioneer – Jim Goodnight

CEO and Co-founder of SAS

Jim Goodnight has been called  the “Godfather of Data Analytics” by Forbes. He continues to lead SAS as they develop new and powerful analytics tools. Not only are his innovation credentials impeccable, but he was a speaker at the first-ever Emerging Issues Forum, also on the topic of innovation! Here’s his keynote address from the SAS Analytics Conference 2013 in Orlando.


General Partner at Durham-based Hatteras Venture Partners

A former CEO/Chairman of GlaxoWellcome and a driving force in the merger that created GlaxoSmithKline, Bob Ingram remains a major figure in both health and energy innovation. He is Lead Director of Valeant Pharmaceuticals International and Lead Independent Director at Cree, Inc. Ingram will be honored with the North Carolina Award, presented by Gov. Pat McCrory, on November 13, 2014. See Ingram’s interview with Carolina Business Review here.

Social entrepreneurship Leader – Jenny Kassan

CEO at Cutting Edge Capital

Jenny Kassan has nearly two decades of experience as an attorney for and creator of social enterprises.  She is the CEO of Cutting Edge Capital, a consulting firm helping social ventures raise capital in alignment with their goals and values.  Jenny is also an attorney at Cutting Edge Counsel, a law firm serving social enterprise, and serves as the President of Community Ventures, a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting the economic and social development of communities. She also co-founded the Sustainable Economies Law Center, a nonprofit providing legal information to support sustainable economies, and serves on the Board of Directors of the Post Carbon Institute.

Pioneering futurist and inventor – Ray Kurzweil

A Director of Engineering at Google

A tireless inventor and brilliant futurist, Ray Kurzweil has been shattering expectations and shifting paradigms for decades. As a Director of Engineering at Google, Kurzweil currently leads a team exploring the boundaries of artificial intelligence and natural language understanding. Kurzweil’s name is synonymous with innovation in technology, human intelligence, and music. He invented the first text-to-speech conversion program, first major commercial speech-recognition software, and first robust music synthesizer, each a breakthrough with enormous economic and human impacts. He has also written five national bestsellers. Kurzweil’s extraordinary creative contributions have earned him the National Medal of Technology, the MIT-Lemelson Prize for Innovation, and 20 honorary doctorates.


President of the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond

Jeffrey M. Lacker has earned a reputation as an intelligent and independent voice in the leadership of the Federal Reserve. A native of Kentucky, Lacker taught at Purdue University from 1984 until 1989, when he joined the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond as an economist.  Lacker rose through the ranks to become research director in 1999, and was appointed in 2004 to lead the Richmond Fed. In 2013, The New York Times described Lacker as “a bold dissenter” in a profile piece.

Making Seafood Safer for Everyone – Jennifer Rettew McCall

Co-Founder & CEO, Seatox Research, Inc.

Jennifer McCall is a biotechnologist and innovator in the field of bioassay development. She is the cofounder and CEO of SeaTox Research Inc., a biotech startup located in Wilmington, NC focused on research and development utilizing marine toxins. Dr. McCall received her PhD from UNC Charlotte, conducting research at the interface of immunology and endocrinology. She also holds an MBA from UNC Wilmington’s business of biotechnology program.


Managing Director, Goldman Sachs Urban Investment Group

Good schools and sources for fresh, wholesome food choices are among the key ingredients necessary to create healthy communities. That’s why Dan Nissenbaum has led inventive teams dedicated to investing in creative, sustainable urban development projects. At Goldman Sachs, Nissenbaum leads Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) activities, including the capital component of the 10,000 Small Businesses program. With a career focused on real estate and community development finance, Nissenbaum has held positions at Chemical Bank, Chase Manhattan Bank, J.P. Morgan and Merrill Lynch. In these roles, Nissenbaum has led transaction teams, directed bank CRA regulatory and compliance groups, and overseen philanthropy and community outreach programs. Nissenbaum serves as a board member for the Center for Housing Policy, an affiliate of the National Housing Conference, and for the Community Restoration Corporation, a national nonprofit addressing the home foreclosure crisis.

Speeding Towards an Innovative Future – Steve O’Donnell

EVP of Racing Operations and Chief Racing Development Officer, NASCAR

Steve O’Donnell is NASCAR’s Executive Vice President of Racing Operations & Chief Racing Development Officer, providing oversight of all operations in NASCAR’s Research & Development Center, including Racing Development and Innovation, as well as Competition. He is also a member of the company’s Executive Council and holds positions on the NASCAR Hall of Fame nominating committee and voting panel. In 2008, he was named to Sports Business Journal’s prestigious “Forty Under 40” list. A native of Flemington, N.J, he is a graduate of Rollins College in Winter Park, Fla.

OUTGOING Congressman and chair of the house committee on intelligence – MIKE ROGERS

Seven-term Congressman from Michigan’s 8th District

Michael J. “Mike” Rogers is the host of the nationally-syndicated program Something to Think About and a CNN national security contributor. He is the recently retired Chairman of the U.S. House Intelligence Committee, a post he held from 2011–2014 while representing Michigan’s 8th District (2000-2014). Earlier, Rogers served in the Michigan State Senate, an FBI Special Agent, and U.S. Army Officer.  In March 2014, Rogers announced he’d be retiring from Congress and launching a nationally-syndicated radio show. Here’s his address on cybersecurity and the economy to the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

President and owner of one of America’s fastest-growing engineering companies – Sepi Saidi

SEPI Engineering

A native of Iran and an NCSU grad, Sepi Saidi leads a thriving company, with offices in Raleigh, Charlotte and Wilmington. Check out her March 2014 profile in the Triangle Business Journal, in which she advocates for more women in STEM fields and describes some of the challenges she has overcome while building her business.

World-class Management THinker and Author  – Don Tapscott

Author, The Digital Economy – 20th Anniversary Edition; Co-author, Macrowikinomics and Wikinomics

Don Tapscott is an entrepreneur, an internationally sought consultant, and an adjunct professor of Management at the University of Toronto’s Joseph L. Rotman School of Management. He’s the leader of U of T’s Global Solution Networks, a new, landmark study of the potential of global web-based networks for cooperation, problem solving and governance. He is CEO of The Tapscott Group, and was founder and chairman of the international think tank New Paradigm. He is Vice Chair of Spencer Trask Collaborative Innovations, a new company building a portfolio of companies in the collaboration and social media space. Tapscott holds a B.Sc. in Psychology and Statistics, and an M.Ed. specializing in Research Methodology. He also holds three honorary Doctor of Laws (honoris causa), granted by the University of Alberta in 2001, Trent University in 2006, and McMaster University in 2010.

Adaptive Capacities Expert – David Woods

Professor of Cognitive Systems Engineering and Human Systems Integration at The Ohio State University

David Woods stole the show at the recent O’Reilly Velocity conference, explaining ways to engineer adaptive systems to respond to complex challenges facing technologists today. As a professor at The Ohio State University, Woods studies the decision-making processes of large groups in crisis situations and examines how we deal with challenges. Forbes featured Woods’ work September 23, 2014.


Chancellor, NC State University

Dr. Randy Woodson, the 14th chancellor of NC State University, is a nationally recognized scholar and academic leader and oversees the largest university in North Carolina with more than 34,000 students and a budget of $1.4 billion. Under his leadership, NC State has built upon its reputation as a preeminent research institution and has witnessed many transformative changes – the opening of the James B. Hunt Jr. Library on Centennial Campus, the launch of the College of Sciences and the completion of the Lonnie Poole Golf Course. He came to NC State from Purdue University, where he most recently served as Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs. Dr. Woodson is an internationally renowned plant molecular biologist specializing in reproductive processes in agricultural crops. He earned his undergraduate degree in Horticulture from the University of Arkansas and his M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Plant Physiology from Cornell University.