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A.G. Gaston Business Conference Begins Tuesday at BJCC, will Feature Free Town Hall Meeting

BIRMINGHAM, Alabama — The A.G. Gaston Conference, an annual event designed to encourage small business and entrepreneurship in the Birmingham area, will take place at the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex (BJCC) on Tuesday and Wednesday.

And the event will feature a free town hall meeting on Tuesday that will allow attendees — including those who do not pay for admission to the entire conference — to learn more about efforts to develop new businesses in deteriorating communities in the Birmingham metro area.

The conference pays tribute to Gaston, a pioneering African-American entrepreneur in Birmingham who was a multi-millionaire by the time of his death in 1996 at the age of 103.

The conference is “another opportunity to look at Gaston’s model and find ways to emulate it,” said Bob Dickerson, a conference co-founder and the executive director of the Birmingham Business Resource Center, on Feb. 3. “And moreover it helps us to identify the ingredients necessary to perhaps create the next A.G. Gaston.”

That need to find the new A.G. Gastons who can help start and sustain viable businesses in the inner city is part of the reason the town hall meeting is being held.

“We want to examine why we haven’t created another A.G. Gaston in Birmingham,” Dickerson said in a conference news release today.

The town hall meeting will take place in the BJCC east meeting rooms on Tuesday from 5:30-7:30 p.m.

The four keynote speakers at the two-day event will serve as panelists for the town meeting and will talk about the economic challenges that cities face today and the positive roles that education and entrepreneurship can play.

Dickerson will serve as moderator along with Tracey Morant Adams, a senior vice president at Renasant Bank in Birmingham and former director of economic development for the city of Birmingham, according to the news release.

The speakers are as follows:

–John Sibley Butler, director of the Kelleher Center for Entrepreneurship at the University of Texas.

–Dr. Julianne Malveaux, founder of Last Word Productions and former president of Bennett College in Greensboro, N.C.,

–Melvin Gravely, an author and director of The Institute for Entrepreneurial Thinking in Cincinnati, Ohio.

–George Fraser, CEO of FraserNet, a Cleveland-based business networking consulting firm.

Dickerson said the free town hall meeting will allow participation by those who cannot afford the conference registration and those unable to attend because of work obligations during the day.

Dickerson sent an invitation to the presidents of all 99 Birmingham neighborhoods, encouraging them to attend, the release states.

The Gaston conference, now in its 10th year, was co-founded by Dickerson and Gaynelle Adams Jackson of Advanced Planning Services.

In addition to the speakers and the town hall meeting, the conference will feature two luncheons and a poster session.

On-site registration for the event begins Tuesday at 8 a.m. Registration is $150 for two days or $75 for one day.

To register or to get more information about the conference schedule, call 205-250-6380 or go to

February 17, 2014

 By Jesse Chambers |

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