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With a little time to rest, recharge and take stock, I am looking back with real gratitude and great pride in the success of our 2018 Conference and Business Opportunity Exchange in Austin October 14-17.

When I stepped into the leadership of NMSDC in August, the Conference loomed on my calendar like the ultimate challenge. Still getting to know the people, the network and the scope of my new job, with only a few weeks to prepare, I was determined to be ready for my first Conference as President and CEO of NMSDC. And I wanted all of us to make this year’s Conference a great success. I think we did it!

I greeted, shook hands with and met as many people and groups as I could. Moving around the Austin Convention Center every day, I was impressed again and again by the energy, the commitment and the warmth of all of our members and stakeholders. What a thrill to have Austin Mayor Steve Marcus and Texas Secretary of State Rolando Pablos welcome everyone to Austin!

Once again, a big thanks to our Conference Co-Chairs. From the corporate membership, we welcomed Dell, Toyota and Wells Fargo as Co-Chairs; from our MBEs, we welcomed Ongweoweh; and, for the first time, a Corporate Plus Co-Chair – Acro Service Corporation.

This year, as well, we had a very special Platinum Sponsor – Vista Equity Partners, one of the great success stories in American business. Throughout the Conference, as it has been throughout the year, MetLife was a generous and vital partner with NMSDC as well.

I’m especially happy that I could kick off the Conference with a high-energy entrance to the Monday Breakfast – marching in to the tune of Bruno Mars’ “24K Magic”! I appreciate, more than I can say, the great welcome I got from everyone.

This Breakfast set the tone for all of our Conference events – fun and fascinating. What a thrill to have my old friend, Dallas Cowboys legend Emmitt Smith, as a guest. He was in the spotlight for a “Champion’s Huddle,” sponsored by Major League Baseball and introduced by MLB’s Corey Smith. Leading the lively conversation was another friend, Ying McGuire, Vice President of International Operations and Business Development, Technology Integration Group, who discussed with Emmitt his transformation from sports hero to successful businessman.

At the Monday Luncheon, I was honored to accept, from Wells Fargo, a check to NMSDC for $100,000, to seed our CEO Academies in the year to come. The Luncheon program also included a great fireside chat about access to capital, with three guests who are major players in providing capital – Fred Royall of Royall Capital, Richard Powell from AP Capital, and Winston Smith of BCF Capital. And although the weather failed to cooperate fully with our plans for the Lights … Camera … Austin! Reception at Star Hill Ranch, we rescued the evening and celebrated anyway.

Tuesday brought the Business Opportunity Exchange, for the first time on the central day at the Conference. The Tuesday Power Breakfast featured this year’s MBDA award winners and a rousing speech from MBDA National Director Henry Childs II. I was thrilled to host the energizing Industry Group Presentations that concluded the Power Breakfast – a great way to send everyone into the BOE with clear objectives and fresh inspiration. Seven of our Industry Groups participated this year – Financial Industry; Advertising/Entertainment/Media/ Sports; Professional Services; Utilities; Petrochemical and Energy; Technology Industry Group; and Automotive. Next year, I hope to see all 12 Industry Groups making their pitches!

I’m really pleased about NMSDC’s renewed commitment to our Corporate Plus members, which was reflected in Wednesday’s Networking Breakfast and Luncheon. Five Corporate Plus members – Chemico, Heritage Vision Plans, Hightowers Petroleum, Logistic Solutions and Pyramid Consulting – sponsored the Luncheon. It was my pleasure to moderate a fascinating discussion about the journey to the Fortune 500 with José Mas of MasTec, Inc., and Lance Hyde of EQT Corporation.

And, before we knew it, we were at the spectacular Awards Banquet Wednesday evening!

What a great evening that was and, for me, a gratifying one. I’m proud of all the award winners for Council of the Year, Supplier of the Year and Corporation of the Year. I was touched to see Casilda del Valle and Louis Green both receive the Harriet R. Michel Chairman’s Award for their extraordinary service, also when Michael Robinson was announced as winner of the Legacy Award. For me, frankly, the Banquet – was entertaining as it was energizing, thanks to emcee Chuck Nice – was the end of a marathon.

I have to say that it felt like a victory, though. Not my victory, but ours. Everyone pulled together to make the Conference such a success, and I’m inspired by what I saw, heard, learned, felt and came to believe in Austin. I was reminded that our best days are ahead of us, and I couldn’t be happier to be leading NMSDC into the future.

Speaking of the future – it’s not too early to turn your attention to the 2019 Leadership Awards Gala on May 16, 2019, at the New York Hilton Midtown. This is the most dazzling night of the year for NMSDC, the grand finale of Leadership Week in New York. Have you made your plans yet to be part of it? I’m looking forward to seeing you there!