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Amrita Gurney

Amrita Gurney is the Head of Marketing at CrowdRiff, where she leads a team responsible for brand, content and demand generation. CrowdRiff is a visual marketing platform used by tourism brands to discover, organize, acquire rights and publish the most engaging visual content across every channel, at scale. Amrita loves digital marketing, contemporary art, drinking tea and travelling. You can find Amrita on Twitter @amritagurney

Sessions: Breakout Session I
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Dale Brill

Dr. Dale Brill serves as Senior Vice President of Research and Community Development for the Orlando Economic Partnership. “The Partnership” serves as Central Florida’s catalyst driving regional economic prosperity. Most recently, Dale served public and private sector clients in pioneering innovative policy and strategy frameworks as a principal with Thinkspot, a Florida-based consultancy.

Prior to launching Thinkspot, Dale served as president of the Florida Chamber Foundation, the public policy research and development division under the umbrella of the Florida Chamber of Commerce. Dale’s experience includes public service as the Director of the Governor’s Office of Tourism, Trade and Economic Development in Florida. His marketing background includes tenure as Chief Marketing Officer for VISIT FLORIDA, during which the Sunshine State’s tourism marketing corporation earned the “Atlas Award for Best Destination Branding” from the Association of Travel Marketing Executives. He also served as General Motor’s first Dean of e-Commerce and as a Global Business Leader for General Motors-Europe.

Dale has been recognized by the Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International (HSMAI) as one of the Top 25 Most Extraordinary Minds and selected among the inaugural class of Fast Company Magazine’s “Fast 50 Innovators.”

Dale and his wife, Stephanie, are doting parents of two and devoted Chicago Cubs fans.

Sessions: Opening Keynote - Dr. Dale Brill
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Destiny Monyhan

Convention Services Manager, Louisville Convention & Visitors Bureau

Destiny Monyhan, CMP, CTA has worked as a Convention Services Manager with the Louisville Convention and Visitors Bureau since 2010.  As a services manager, she was honored as a Rejuvenate Meetings “40 Under 40” in 2013 for her work with faith-based meetings.  Additionally, Destiny is the administrator of the Louisville Tourism Ambassador program, overseeing the program launch and implementation in 2017. 

Sessions: Breakout Session II
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Jennifer Foster, CHIA

Jennifer Foster is a Business Development Executive, Destinations for STR (STR, Inc.).  STR provides clients from multiple market sectors with premium, global data benchmarking, analytics and marketplace insights.  Founded in 1985, STR maintains a presence in 10 countries around the world with a corporate North American headquarters in Hendersonville, Tennessee, and an international headquarters in London, England.

In her role, Mrs. Foster is responsible for building and maintaining positive relationships between STR and both new and existing destination clients in the Southeast, Midwest and East Coast regions of the U.S.  She is often featured as a guest speaker for hotel industry presentations. 

Prior to joining STR, Jennifer served as the Regional Sales Manager for Mayflower Tours and Vacation Express, where she worked on worldwide tour packages for a variety of groups and travel agencies.  She is a graduate of Vanderbilt University with a bachelor’s degree in European Studies. 

Sessions: Learning Labs
Jim Walker

Jim Walker is CEO and lead artist with Big Car Collaborative, an Indianapolis-based nonprofit socially engaged art and placemaking organization he helped found in 2004. Jim serves as lead artist on Spark Placemaking, a partnership with the City of Indianapolis that began in 2015 and was funded by the NEA to reimagine Monument Circle in the center of the city through new physical design and public programming.  Jim and the team of Big Car artists operate Tube Factory artspace, the Listen Hear community radio and sound art space, and an affordable housing program with multiple homes for artists — all on one block in the Garfield Park neighborhood. Jim also works with communities beyond Indianapolis to support connectivity, comfort, community, and culture in public places and spaces.

Sessions: General Session
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Karen Purves

How do attendees describe Karen Purves?  “Refreshingly honest”, “relatable”, “contagiously enthusiastic”, “attention grabber and keeper”, “breath of fresh air” and giving “real answers to real life”.

 Karen combines a Bachelor’s Degree in Business, Master’s Degree in Public Policy and over 25 years working experience along with extensive training at “The Second City” to empower audiences to make a difference in the session and in their lives.

The guarantee? Attendees receive useful material, in an engaging way, and practical tools to implement immediately for success!

Sessions: Breakout Session I, Breakout Session II
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Leanna H. Comer

Leanna H. Comer is owner and CEO of Comer Research Consultants, a firm that plans and implements market and opinion research projects and provides strategic analysis of the resulting data.

With nearly 30 years of experience, Comer specializes in developing research studies that support and advance clients’ marketing and public relations strategies. Comer has extensive experience with a wide array of research methods including focus groups, in-depth interviews, and surveys conducted online, via mail, or through telephone interviews.

Prior to the launch of her own firm in 2012, Comer served as the president of research for Preston-Osborne, a Lexington-based marketing communications and research firm where she worked for 23 years.

Comer has assisted clients in a variety of industries, including higher education, health care, banking, hospitality, tourism, associations, and utilities, among others.

Comer serves on the Hospice East board of directors and the Winchester-Clark County Tourism Commission. She also serves on the advisory committees for the Clark County Cooperative Extension Council and 4-H Council. In addition, she volunteers with Clark County Community Services, Clark County 4-H, and Boy Scout Troop 56.

A graduate of Morehead State University, where she double-majored in Journalism (Public Relations and Advertising emphasis) and Radio/Television Production, Comer lives in Winchester, Kentucky, with her husband and their two children.

Sessions: Breakout Session I
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Lee Fisher

Lee Fisher is Senior Advisor to CEOs for Cities. From 2011-16, he served as its President and CEO. CEOs for Cities is a national innovation network of cross-sector urban leaders who share the smartest ideas and practices for city and regional economic competitiveness and success.  

Lee is also the Dean of Cleveland-Marshall College of Law at Cleveland State University; Senior Fellow with the Center for Economic Development at Cleveland State University’s Levin College of Urban Affairs; and Urban Scholar with the College of Urban Planning and Public Affairs and the Great Cities Institute at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Lee’s extensive public service career includes Ohio Lt. Governor ; Ohio Attorney General; Director of the Ohio Department of Development; Chair of the Ohio Third Frontier Commission; Chair of the Ohio Economic Growth Council; Chair of the Clean Ohio Council; Ohio State Senator ; and Ohio State Representative.

During the time Lee led Ohio’s economic development efforts as Lt. Governor and Director of Development, Site Selection magazine awarded its highest economic development award, the Governor’s Cup, to Ohio three consecutive years and with the Competitiveness Award, recognizing the Ohio Department of Development, under Lee’s leadership, as the most effective economic development agency in the country. Lee also led the development of Ohio’s first strategic plan for economic development which focused on Ohio’s distinctive regional economic assets; targeted industry clusters; strategic business retention, expansion, and attraction; demand-driven talent and workforce development; cutting-edge innovation and entrepreneurship, and marketing Ohio to the world.

As Ohio’s chief economic development officer, he managed a $1 billion budget and team of 400, including 14 international offices. 

Lee chaired the first-ever Ohio Economic Growth Council which worked to ensure that every state cabinet department had economic development as part of its mission.  He led Ohio’s business and investment mission to Japan and traveled to Russia to persuade one of Russia’s largest steel companies to build a plant in Ohio. Under his leadership, Ohio launched the Ohio Historic Preservation Tax Program and re-established the Ohio Film Office.

 During Lee’s tenure as Director of Development, Ohio funded more than 3,600 economic and community development projects and leveraged more than $14 billion in non-state investments. Ohio created more than 53,000 jobs, retained 195,000 jobs, and trained 85,000 workers. Ohio led the nation in new and expanded facility projects in the renewable energy sector. During his tenure as Chair of the Ohio Third Frontier Commission, the Third Frontier created over 3,000 direct and 5,000 indirect jobs, and created or attracted 211 companies. Lee played a hands-on leading role in over 100 successful economic development projects.

Lee is a graduate of Oberlin College and served on the Oberlin College Board for 12 years. He earned both a law degree and master degree in nonprofit organization from Case Western Reserve University, and received the law school’s first-ever Distinguished Recent Graduate Award.

Lee is married to Peggy Zone Fisher, the President and CEO of the Diversity Center of Northeast Ohio. They have two children, Jason (33) and Jessica (26).





Sessions: General Session
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Mark Eddy

Mark serves as the executive director for Leadership Southern Indiana and in his seven years, Mark has transformed the organization from a one-stop program shop to an organization serving all generations of professionals-in-development by adding two programs and diversifying funds to accommodate the growing organization. Mark is also the current Board President of the Indiana Leadership Association.

Sessions: Breakout Session II
Nancy Allen Turner

Nancy Allen Turner is in her 15th year as executive director of the Winchester- Clark County Tourism Commission and serves as site manager for the Civil War Fort at Boonesboro.  She is a graduate of Western Kentucky University with a BA in Government and a minor in History.

Nancy is an active Board member of the Kentucky Travel Industry Association and serves as Treasurer of the Kentucky Association of Convention and Visitor’s Bureau as well Kentucky’s Bluegrass Tourism Marketing Region.  She serves on the Practitioner Advisory Council for Eastern Kentucky University Parks and Recreation Department as well as the Tourism, Historic Preservation, Recreation Advisory Committee for the Bluegrass Area Development District. Turner is the past chair of both Preservation Kentucky, Inc. and the Bluegrass Tourism Marketing Region and past Board member of the Kentucky Civil War Sites Association.

Prior to working for the Tourism Commission, Turner served as Tour Coordinator at White Hall Historic Site, Director of Operations for the UK Basketball Museum and Director of the Bluegrass Heritage Museum.

Nancy resides in her family home, circa 1792, with her husband Fielding, son Henry and dogs Brutus, Willie and Tansy. 

Nancy Allen Turner is in her 14th year as executive director of the Winchester- Clark County Tourism Commission and serves as site manager for the Civil War Fort at Boonesboro.  She is an active Board member of the Kentucky Travel Industry Association and is Treasurer of the Kentucky Civil War Sites Association as well the Bluegrass Tourism Marketing Region.  Turner is the creator of the Beer Cheese Trail, a culinary adventure of Winchester and Clark Couty.

Sessions: Breakout Session I
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Ray Allison

Ray Allison

Vice President of Administration

Indiana State Fairgrounds & Event Center

Ray is a 1996 graduate of Bradley University with a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Communications, Magna Cum Laude.  He spent the first decade of his professional career working in the advertising industry, specializing in brand development for small to medium sized businesses.  During his time in college, and every August since, Ray worked the annual Indiana State Fair.  In search of a career change, Ray joined the Indiana State Fairgrounds & Event Center staff full-time in 2007 as the Public Safety Manager. He was promoted to Public Safety Director in 2009, Director of Operations in 2012 and VP of Administration in 2014.  In his current role, Ray oversees seven divisions in the organization, including Marketing, Communications and Human Resources.  He currently serves on the board of the Mapleton Fall Creek Development Corporation and is a member of the Purdue University College of Agriculture Dean’s Advisory Council.  

Ray is passionate about the Indiana State Fairgrounds & Event Center and its core values of supporting and promoting youth, agriculture and education.     

Sessions: Breakout Session II
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Stephen Ekstrom

Stephen Ekstrom, President of Fire Starter Brands, is a longstanding leader in the tour & travel industry. Having served several as board member, committee chair and mentor for several trade associations, Stephen has become the go-to person for suppliers and destinations that seek to more visitors.

His company, Fire Starter Brands, focuses on building and delivering successful strategies to connect with decision makers and manages a proprietary network that includes more than 5,000 buyers.

Stephen’s writing has appeared in popular industry publications, he’s lectured at Columbia University and been profiled by the New York Times.

Sessions: Breakout Session II
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Taylor Trusty

He is the guiding force for Blackstone Media, a web design and development agency with offices in Louisville, KY and New York City. He built and leads the company with an unconventional background.

A self-proclaimed computer nerd, Taylor began computer programming at the age of 13, and was working at a web design company by 15. At the age of 16, he was a territory sales manager for Hewlett-Packard, before becoming the head of customer service and webmaster of a sports memorabilia e-commerce startup. By the age of 20, he had co-founded and sold his own sports collectibles business and founded Blackstone Media.

As a popular speaker, Taylor credits a great deal of his success to being a voracious reader, including a few of the most influential authors: Derek Sivers, Seth Godin, and Tim Ferriss. Also an avid podcast listener (Planet Money, Startup, How I Built This, Corner Office from Marketplace, 99% Invisible) Taylor actively pursues and learns from remarkable mentors on all platforms — inside of his industry and out. This drive for knowledge has led to his realization of a years-long dream of living in New York, where he mans a second Blackstone office.

When he isn’t busy exploring future opportunities for Blackstone Media, Taylor can be found working off his cookie habit at a small gym, exploring the many parks of NYC, or taking a casual volleyball game way too seriously. On the off chance that he’s sitting still, you can find Taylor reading the latest tech brief from Elon Musk on his Tesla and SpaceX ventures.

Sessions: Breakout Session I
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Trevor Meers

Trevor Meers is Editorial Content Director of Meredith’s Midwest Living, a 950,000-circulation lifestyle magazine recognized three times by the Society of American Travel Writers for best general-interest travel content. The Great Plains Journalism Awards named Midwest Living 2016 Magazine of the Year, and Meers was a finalist for Folio’s 2017 National Editor of the Year. He leads the production of multiple state travel guides and custom content programs. He graduated from the University of Nebraska journalism school and Drake University’s MBA program.

Sessions: General Session
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