Brian Blackford is a Project Manager for the Indiana Communities Institute (ICI) at Ball State University. Based in Indianapolis, Brian works with partners across Indiana to enhance quality of community and build human capacity through special initiatives and educational experiences, including the annual Indiana Basic Economic Development Course which Ball State has hosted for more than 35 years. ICI, through research, policy, and practice, works to connect university resources with cities, towns, and neighborhoods in an effort to support modern and comprehensive community economic development and advocate for talent-focused, asset-based approaches to building stronger places. Prior to joining Ball State, Brian worked for the Indiana State Fair Commission, the Indiana Office of Tourism Development, and Indiana Landmarks, the nation’s largest statewide non-profit dedicated to preserving the built environment. He graduated with honors from Ball State University in 2001, completed the Indiana Economic Development Course in 2010, finished the AgriInstitute’s two-year rural leadership program in 2016, and earned a Master in Public Administration degree with a concentration in community economic development in 2019 from Ball State. Brian helped establish and served as past president of both Dig IN and Indiana Artisan, non-profit organizations dedicated to enriching community through local food and art. Any spare time is spent biking, running, kayaking, traveling and, most importantly, enjoying the adventures of parenthood with his wife, Cindy, and son, Eli.
Brian Simmons, SHRM-SCP, CTA
CEO| President| Master Edutainer
Brian Simmons, SHRM-SCP, CTA, is the Founder, President and CEO of BEST Edutainment, LLC, where he creates, instructionally designs and facilitates customized workforce development and growth programs, courses, retreats and keynote workshops. Mr. Simmons is nationally known and recognized for his unique “Edutainment” style of Master-level presentation delivery behaviors and facilitation techniques which are educational, engaging and entertaining.
He is a Senior Certified Professional of Human Resources through the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) and the Human Resources Certification Institute (HRCI) and often appears in statewide media and newscasts as the "HR Expert".
Additionally, Mr. Simmons is a regional Radio/TV Broadcaster for Forcht Broadcasting and appears quarterly on Lexington CBS Affiliate WKYT’s Kentucky Newsmakers with Bill Bryant where they discuss “What’s Happening in the Workplace?” He recently embarked on two legendary media campaigns and programs – “Thank A Teacher Tuesdays” presented by Dairy Queen and “The BEST STARS® Radio Variety Show”. Brian is a Veteran of the United States Air Force and attended Murray State University.
Erick Rheam is a speaker and published author. He communicates and educates on topics related to discovering significance and the art of mastering human dynamics to achieve success.
Erick spent the past eight years training and educating association staff and executives on how to build programs and services that add value to customers. Erick partnered with leading software developer, Automated Energy, Inc., to help municipally owned utilities deploy energy efficiency software to assist large commercial and Industrial companies become more energy efficient and deploy green technology.
Prior to partnering with Automated Energy, Erick worked for a decade in the public power industry for two municipally owned utilities in Indiana and Colorado. He led a customer service division and served business communities to ensure local policy enhanced the business environment so that the business class could thrive, grow and create jobs.
Erick earned his Key Public Power Account Executive designation through the American Public Power Association (APPA). He also served on several national boards and committees to promote green technology, energy efficiency, and customer service. He was vice-chair for the National Customer Services Section for APPA. He also served as the chair for the National Key Accounts Committee for APPA.
Jake Myers, Vice President of Digital Revenue, Gatehouse Media+Thrivehive & Adjunct Professor in the OSU Fisher School of Business MBA Program
Jake Myers is an award-winning digital marketing executive and industry thought leader. After spending nearly a decade in sales and strategy, Jake knows what truly drives conversions and creates a far-reaching buzz. Currently, he heads up the digital advertising strategy in Ohio for Gatehouse Media + Thrivehive, the nation's reigning Best Digital Agency. In addition to his extensive digital experience, Jake is a highly sought-after speaker, presenting on topics ranging from digital marketing and brand storytelling to consumer behavior and advertising technology. His audiences have included university students (MBA candidates at The Ohio State University Fisher School of Business and members of the Latin American Institute of Business at The University of Akron, respectively), as well as CEO's, executives, entrepreneurs and more.
Janice Person has worked for a public relations agency in New York, a small company in Mississippi and a Fortune 500 firm in St. Louis over the past 25 years. During that time, she's announced major breakthroughs and been fire-tested in the world of issues management. Seeing the power of social media building, she established an online brand a decade ago that has kept her on the forefront of PR. She recently started her own communications consulting company -- JPlovesCOTTON, LLC -- to help others better understand the ever-changing communications & cultural landscapes. She's a sought after public speaker having spoken at major conferences like SXSW and elite groups like the San Francisco Professional Food Society. You can find her online at janiceperson.com and @JPlovesCOTTON on social media.
Jeff Ketterman is a lifelong Hoosier who resides in Corydon, IN. Jeff became active in theatre, comedy and music all at a very early age. Some of his first stage performances involved impressions and comedy. He has entertained and has appeared on stage hundreds of times over his lifetime. Over the years he has owned a theatre company, a country music venue and has served as a music director for both church and community productions. He has provide character voice work to the Terry Meiners show on WHAS-840 since the 1990s, serving as the voice for Bill Clinton, Ross Perot, George Bush, Jay Leno, Mitch McConnell, Ronny O'Brien (Elvis impersonator), Joe Beasman Hall and a host of other characters that have been a part of the Meiners radio show. Jeff has appeared in over 40 different theatre productions in just the last ten years. His wife, Carrie, is equally talented and they share their passion for entertaining on many levels. Carrie owns and operates The Old Capitol Tea Room in Corydon which hosts various themed teas, many of which feature entertainment. They also have two band that they perform with, Rosie & The Rockabillies and Tin Pan Alley Cats. Their bands and tea room can both be found on Facebook and Instagram.
Jeff Koleba, Vice President - Marketing & Programming
Jeff leads the marketing team for Churchill Downs Racetrack and the legendary Kentucky Derby. His team’s responsibilities include the development of new events & programming, advertising & earned media strategy, the creation of sponsorable assets, and the online guest experience. Prior to joining Churchill Downs, Jeff held several brand management positions at Colgate-Palmolive and Johnson & Johnson where he managed the growth and innovation plans for brands including: Colgate MaxFresh toothpaste, Fabuloso household cleaner and K-Y Yours + Mine. An active improv comedian with over 15 years experience, Jeff has a BA in Economics & Psychology from the University of Pennsylvania and an MBA from NYU’s Stern School of Business.
Jocelyn Vare is the founder and sole owner of Propeller Marketing. She is from South Bend, Indiana and graduated from Butler University. Jocelyn’s career began at Indianapolis advertising agencies with accounts including Coca-Cola, Papa John’s Pizza, the Hoosier Lottery and the Indiana Office of Tourism Development.
She started Propeller Marketing 18 years ago in Fishers specifically to serve the Indiana tourism industry. Today, Propeller is a full-service advertising agency with a hard-working staff of four and a client roster of destination marketing organizations, tourism-related associations, attractions, and economic development offices across the state.
Jocelyn is a board member of Nickel Plate Arts and Fishers Music Works, a graduate of the Fishers Government Academy, Hamilton County Leadership Academy, and Ball State's Community Development Course.
Julia Manoukian is the Senior Content Marketing Manager at CrowdRiff, visual marketing software loved by 800+ travel and hospitality brands. A former journalist, Julia has helped multiple Toronto startups raise their thought leadership profiles and scale their content efforts to directly influence overall revenue. Julia has a passion for storytelling, traveling and tech. You can find her on Twitter @juliamanoukian.
Julie founded CFO by design in 2012 with the vision of supporting executives and organizations by using finances as the foundation for organizational excellence. Since then Julie has had the privilege of working with DMO’s and associations across the nation. Julie’s experience does not follow the traditional path and includes serving two terms on the City Council in Bastrop. Julie is known for her expertise in developing easy to understand financial statements, training of executives and boards and taking a long-term, holistic strategic planning approach to organizational finances.
Kim Palmer is the Program Director at Miles Partnership for the company’s Google DMO Partnership Program. In addition to all things Google, she specializes in organic traffic generation and analytics for DMOs and resorts. She’s been involved in every aspect of digital marketing since starting by launching Miles Partnership’s first destination websites in the late 90’s. Kim is a frequent contributor to the Miles Partnership blog on topics surrounding SEO and Google’s evolving role in travel.
They are passionate about finding the funny in life and relationships, and when they aren’t
making family-friendly online videos, they are traveling the country as speakers and emcees,
entertaining audiences with their “Date Night With Kristin And Danny” and “Laughter Is The
Best Medicine” programs.
Kristin & Danny originally met and married in Los Angeles, California where they spent 15 years
working in the entertainment industry; Kristin as a television host and red carpet
correspondent, and Danny as an actor, comedian, and stunt man for sports commercials.
In 2016, the couple relocated to Danny’s hometown of Indianapolis, IN to begin a new family
venture of “creating online family-friendly content where God is always welcome.” In addition
to their feel-good and faith-based content, the couple is passionate about traveling and
experiencing America through the lens of finding joy in the simple things. This passion
culminated into a digital-series entitled “Local Treasures,” where they have showcased the
great state of Indiana, from places like French Lick, Fort Wayne, Hendricks County, Madison,
Terre Haute and more - to their online following of over 1 million people.
They have two children, Harper (8) and Holt (5) and are celebrating 11 years of marriage this
year. You can find out more about their story or watch their videos at
Kristin McGrath joined Visit Albuquerque as the organization’s vice
president of sales, services & sports in June 2017. McGrath has 20+
years experience in destination marketing and management and has
served in similar roles at both Richmond Region Tourism in Virginia and
the Providence Warwick Convention & Visitors Bureau in Rhode Island.
McGrath oversees the Sales, Services and Sports divisions, which are
responsible for generating qualified meeting, convention, sports and
group tour leads that are distributed to Albuquerque’s hotels, the
Albuquerque Convention Center and area event and sports facilities. In
her role, she guides the destination sales team to turn those leads into
definite business for Albuquerque and to ensure the groups have
successful and unforgettable meetings and events in New Mexico’s
Mike is VP of Marketing at Muck Rack, a company whose technology and services enable PR pros and journalists to have reciprocal and productive relationships built on respect, fairness and trust. Mike lead marketing for fast-growing startups like real estate technology platform Nestio and social customer care pioneer Conversocial, and was an early member of the team at the open source NoSQL database MongoDB. He previously founded and scaled a private digital media consulting firm whose clients ranged from real estate agents and rockstars to production studios and emerging YouTube influencers. You can follow him on Twitter at schneider_says.
- Group Tour Media
- Indiana State Festivals Association
- Gannett Indiana
- Midwest Living
- Indiana Connection
- Indiana Office of Tourism Development
- AAA Living
- Travel Indiana Magazine
- Longwoods International
- AAA Living
- Bookkeeping Plus, Inc.
- Market Street Group, Inc.