Partner up for success, says Economic Development Forum keynoter


Warren Thompson guides the largest minority-owned restaurant/hospitality company in the country, with revenues of over $320 million. He knows about the value of partnerships.

On Wednesday (Aug. 28), Thompson, president and chairman of the Thompson Hospitality Corporation, pitched the importance of partnership and having like-minded partners while delivering the keynote address at the Economic Development Forum Power Breakfast at the Memphis Cook Convention Center.

The Mid-South Minority Business Continuum (MMBC) produces the Economic Development Forum (EDF) annually. For President & CEO Luke Yancy III and the MMBC team, the 2013 Economic Development Forum is another step in an ongoing push to grow minority and women-owned business enterprises (M/WBEs).

This year's forum kicked-off Tuesday with a business reception and concludes on Thursday.

Mayor A C Wharton Jr. and Shelby County Mayor Mark H. Luttrell Jr. welcomed participants to the Power Breakfast and after a sponsor's spotlight segment, Martha Perine Beard, regional executive of the Federal Reserve Bank – Memphis Branch, Thompson.

Radiating the spirit of a diligent entrepreneur, Thompson highlighted peak relationships throughout his career that have helped shape his business into a success beacon. In 1992, he leveraged the buyout of 31 Big Boy (Shoney's) restaurants.

"Be willing to hustle," Thompson advised the attendees. "Get the job done before others realize there is a job to get done."

After the breakfast session, which was emceed by WREG TV news anchor Markova Reed, a ribbon-cutting ceremony signaled that participants were free to make their way to the exhibit hall and to the various seminars that featured representatives from myriad industries and agencies

WMC-TV5 news anchor Kym Clark guided the luncheon session, with MMBC Continuum President & CEO Luke Yancy III introducing the keynote speaker, Cedrick Sparks, the executive director for the City of Birmingham Mayor's Office – Division of Youth Services.

Sparks exuded a long-standing passion for supporting the youth. His witty, sermon-like message registered, with the audience giving him a standing ovation.

Business owners, said Sparks, must pave the way for future generations.

"Are you living the dream, or are you a part of the nightmare?" Sparks asked, connecting his speech to the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his now famous "I Have A Dream" speech.

On Thursday, the EDF luncheon speaker will be Dr. Ting Ho, executive director of Symphony Holding. He will address Business Acceleration with a National/Global Strategy.

Featured seminars will be held throughout the day and followed by the closing ceremony.

The Business Expo floor will be open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and will feature 150-plus businesses.