Vision Northwest North Carolina: Returning & Retaining Today's Workforce

Economic Development summit focused on Northwest North Carolina

Thursday, May 25, 2023
8:00 AM - 5:30 PM (EDT)

Leon Levine Hall of Appalachian State University

1179 State Farm Road Boone, NC 28607-4943 United States
Event Sold Out
Event Sold Out
Category: Signature Events



The 4th annual Vision Northwest North Carolina summit will take place Thursday, May 25, 2023, at Leon Levine Hall in Boone. This year's event is focused on Returning & Retaining Today's Workforce. Vision Northwest North Carolina brings together thought leaders from across the region to discuss current economic development trends impacting businesses, agencies, and communities. The event features expert speakers and presenters, bringing thoughtful conversation and best practices focused on the way we approach the training of a modern workforce and the factors that drive people in the current employment market.

Vision Northwest North Carolina is presented by SkyLine/SkyBest and Carolina West Wireless. The event is organized by a regional partnership that includes the Boone Area, Blowing Rock, and Ashe County Chambers of Commerce, Watauga County Economic Development Commission, Appalachian State University Career Development Center, High Country Council of Governments, High Country Workforce Development Board, and Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina.


In-Person Ticket ($95) - Includes event materials, networking opportunities, breakfast, lunch, post-event reception, and recordings of all sessions.

Agenda at a Glance

8:00-9:00   Registration, Breakfast & NetworkingProvided by Chetola Resort

9:00           Welcome Remarks & Agenda ReviewSponsored by Skyline/Skybest

Morning Keynote Session sponsored by DMJPS PLLC

Training for Tomorrow – The future of degree and credential attainment.

Keynote Presenter:

Cecilia Holden, President/CEO, My Future NC

Building and maintaining a skilled and trained workforce is essential for the growth of Northwest North Carolina. Area educators are working to make the attainment of post-secondary degrees and credentials more efficient and affordable.

My Future NC works to engages local, regional, and statewide stakeholders to communicate the need for both greater educational attainment and deeper economic alignment. The organization's goal is to help 2 million North Carolinians achieve a high-quality credential or postsecondary degree by 2030. 

Keynote presenter Cecilia Holden, President/CEO of My Future NC, will provide an update on the organization's progress and provide information about how educators are adapting to provide the necessary training that local employers need to succeed. 

Featured Panel Discussion sponsored by First Security Peak Insurance: 

Creative Credentials: How educators are training students of all ages, abilities, and professional backgrounds to positively impact the region's workforce. 

  • Panelists include:
    • Karen Barnes, Interim Director, NC Tech Paths – emerging program linking participants to high-wage jobs in the tech sector
    • Dr. Mike McKenzie, Vice Provost of Academic Program Development & Strategic Initiatives, Appalachian State University – strategic goals of the App State Hickory campus and its tie to professional education opportunities
    • Rick Shew - Associate Dean of Business & Career Services, Caldwell Community College & Technical Institute – deeper connections between business and industry through skill development and work based learning
    • Dr. Katie Wall, Associate Professor & Program Coordinator, Lees-McRae College: Outdoor Recreation Management, Ski Industry & Business Instruction, and Wilderness Medicine & Rescue – using location and unique expertise to serve the workforce needs of the region

10:30-10:45    Break & Networking - Sponsored by Spangler Restoration

10:45-Noon   Morning Breakout Sessions sponsored by Truist:  

  • Professional Education: Continuing education for professionals and discussion on growing business with staffing needs in mind.
    • Chris Grasinger, High Country Regional Manager, Mountain BizWorks
    • Lily Laramie, Small Business Center Director, Western Piedmont Community College
    • Dr. David Shows, Director of Professional Education, Walker College of Business, Appalachian State University
  • Training a Digital WorkforceHow regional partners are working to enhance skill development and provide businesses with a tech-savvy workforce.
    • Chris Beckwith-Taylor, Founder & Chief Strategist, GREENstick
    • Nathan Born, Technology Operations Manager, Lowe's Companies, Inc
    • Carl Gilbert, Sr. Director, Tech Launchpad, Lowe's Companies, Inc
    • Ariana Williamson, Director of Strategic Partnerships, NC Tech Paths
  • Work Based Learning: What’s the most efficient way to keep staff up to date on training, technical updates, and new processes? Hear examples of local providers that are offering industry-specific training inside the workplace.
    • Sherry Baird, Curriculum & Instructional Management Coordinator, High School Career Development Coordinator, Internship Coordinator, Wilkes County Schools
    • Ted Ollis, Director of Industry Training & Career Development, Mayland Community College
    • Pam Wilson, Center Manager, NCWorks Career Center, Avery, Mitchel, Yancey Counties

Noon-12:45    Lunch & Networking - Provided by Blue Ridge Energy

12:45          Welcome back, sponsor introductions, instructions for the afternoon

Afternoon Keynote Session

What are Employees & Candidates Telling You?

Adapting to today’s changing workforce landscape.

Small Business Case Study: Booneshine Brewing Company & Stick Boy Bread Company

Hiring and Retaining Employees to Staff and Grow Business in Northwest North Carolina

Hiring and retaining a capable and versatile staff is essential to the growth of small businesses, no matter what product or service they provide. With the fluid nature of today’s workforce climate, businesses that refine their hiring practices and create a positive workplace culture are winning the staffing game.

Booneshine Brewing Company and Stick Boy Bread Company are two of the most recognizable brands in the region, and have worked to become destination employers in the High Country. With an intentional on-boarding process to produce a customer service-driven staff, these businesses work through the same trial and error as others when identifying the factors that make a difference in selecting and keeping top talent. What have they learned? Where do they still struggle? What’s it like to build a staff in a transient community?

Carson Coatney, Michelle Bollman, and Tim Herdklotz discuss the challenges and best practices of staffing small businesses in Northwest North Carolina.

Featured Panel Discussion sponsored by Appalachian Commercial Real Estate:

Employer-led Leadership: Examples from employers in the region working to solve housing, childcare, and workforce culture challenges.

  • Aaron Dawson, Senior Director of Workplace Development, The Industrial Commons, Morganton - Employee ownership as motivation and a business succession strategy
  • Cassia Dowdy, Director of Human Resources, Design Foundry - Workplace culture and employee onboarding
  • Shane Fox, Town Manager, Blowing Rock - Childcare option for Town of Blowing Rock Employees
  • Talia Freeman, Director of Marketing, Beech Mountain Resort - Housing effort for resort employees

2:15-2:30        Break & Networking - Sponsored by Lifestore Bank & Insurance

2:30-3:45       Afternoon Breakout Sessions: sponsored by Truist: 

  • Friendly Workspaces: Policy discussion around family-friendly and recovery-friendly workplaces.
    • Lisa Finaldi, Community Engagement Leader, The North Carolina Early Childhood Foundation
    • Devin Lyall, Executive Director, Wilkes Recovery Revolution
    • Lindsey Sullivan, Health Strategist, STABLE Workplaces, AppHealthCare 
  • Prioritizing Professional Development & Workplace Culture:
    • Danielle Stilwell, Human Resource Development & Recruitment Manager, Columbia Forest Products
    • Leah Perkins, Finance / HR Director, Watauga Opportunities, Inc.
    • Thea Young, Executive Director, Footsloggers
  • Experiences from the Front Lines: Hear directly from recently hired young professionals in the region about what they prioritized when seeking employment
    • Kelsea Dixon, Team Coordinator WNC, Spangler Restoration
    • Allison Dodson, Chief of Staff, Mananalu, LLC 
    • PJ Hennessey,  Senior Risk Advisor, Granite Insurance

3:45-5:15pm   Networking Reception - Provided by Beech Mountain Resort 


Additional event support comes from Appalachian Commercial Real Estate, LifeStore Bank, Blue Ridge Energy, Peak Insurance Group, Beech Mountain Resort, Spangler Restoration, Chetola Resort at Blowing Rock, DMJPS PLLC, Truist and the Watauga County Economic Development Commission.

For questions regarding registration, promo codes, or agenda, please contact us at or call 828-264-2225.

Event Sold Out
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For More Information:

Carrie Henderson

Carrie Henderson

Director of Events, Boone Area Chamber of Commerce

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