The Opportunity Central Speaker Series is a unique cultural and economic development forum that highlights diverse opinions, provides insight and spurs fascinating discussions on a broad scope of issues and topics that could have impact on Valdosta-Lowndes County. Speakers include industry experts in economic development, urban planning, authors and other celebrated professionals who enlighten and inspire leaders and citizens in the Valdosta-Lowndes County area.

Past Speakers

Howard Morrison

Howard Morrison spent nearly 30 years in the banking world before retiring in 1996. His experience includes serving as the Chief Financial Officer for the NYSE listed, Citizens and Southern Realty Investors (Southmark Properties) and helping develop C&S Bank’s (now Bank of America) High Technology Banking Group. Read more...

Christian Sottile

Christian Sottille, a professor at SCAD and principal of Sottile & Sottile Urban Design firm, gave an eye-opening look at how communities can transform into alluring places that are compact, walkable and diverse. Sottille focused on reducing sprawl by taking an alternative view to land use, transportation and lifestyle to reconnect a community. “People want to live in a place where they have choices, not at the end of a cul-de-sac and where they must take an automobile to participate in day-to-day lifestyle,” Sottille commented, “Communities with 150 years of history are way ahead of the curve and are encompassed with the ‘bone structure’ of this type of living.” The event was held at bas bleu and Bennie’s Gallery in Downtown Valdosta.

Click here to view highlights from Sottile's presentation.

Peter Kageyama

Peter Kageyama, formerly of Creative Tampa Bay and part owner of Creative Cities Productions, spoke at the Speaker Series luncheon held at the Rainwater Conference Center.

Kageyama discussed ways to attract and retain talent, build attractive communities for the “Creative Class” and how the above relates to the Chamber's IMPACT 2012 goals of Targeted Business Expansion. “Peter gave us some great examples of simple things we could accomplish very inexpensively with the right people at the table. These simple additions can make a world of difference to get people to not only come and visit but to stay,” said Anne-Marie Wolff, City of Valdosta and Chairman of MetroOne.

Chris Miller

The Chamber and Valdosta State University hosted Chris Miller with Creative Cities Consulting. Chris Miller with Creative Cities Consulting spoke to local business leaders and VSU faculty at the Speaker Series held at VSU. Miller’s presentation centered on being creative with one’s business to weather the economic crisis. “Small businesses that can be diverse and creative with their product or service, will be the driving force out of the economic fog we are in,” said Miller. Miller has been working with the Chamber on the Opportunity Central initiative since 2008.

Charles Landry

Charles Landry helps cities reach their potential by triggering their imagination and thinking. Working closely with decision makers and local leaders and acting as a critical friend, he inspires, facilitates and stimulates so cities can transform for the better. He helps find original solutions to seemingly intractable urban dilemmas such as marrying innovation and tradition, balancing wealth creation and social cohesiveness, or local distinctiveness and a global orientation. Seen as an international authority on creativity and city futures he focuses especially on how the culture of a place can invigorate and revitalize the economy, enhancing the sense of self and confidence.

Martin Melaver

Martin Melaver is a principal and founder of Melaver McIntosh. From 1992 – 2009, Martin served as CEO of Melaver, Inc., a real estate business devoted solely to sustainable principles and practices.

Martin received a BA from Amherst College. He holds a Masters and PhD from Harvard University and an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern.