Memphis Delegation Travels to Colombia to Expand Economic Opportunities & Further Cultural Linkages

March 6, 2017. Memphis, TN. A group of 48 government and civic leaders from Memphis, Tennessee are traveling this week to Colombia, the honored country of the 2017 Memphis in May International Festival. Bobbi Gillis, 2017 Chair of Memphis in May International Festival, and James L. Holt, the festival’s president & CEO, are leading the group in a tour of Bogotá and Cartagena.

The delegation will host a reception for government officials and festival participants at the residence of the U.S. Ambassador to Colombia, Kevin Whitaker. Attendees will receive a sample of Southern hospitality during the reception, as Memphis-style barbecue is served and three-time Grammy nominee and Memphis’ own Preston Shannon plays the blues. The “King of Beale Street” has been mixing his specialty blend of Southern-fried soul and blues since he was discovered in the early 90’s. For many, Shannon exemplifies to listeners the power of Southern deep soul – gritty vocals, brassy arrangements and the emotional sound of Memphis music.

"I'm thrilled to be leading this trip and look forward to furthering our relationships with individuals and interests in Colombia,” Gillis said. “Continuing to expand our global outreach is imperative to our region's success and growth. The annual Memphis in May celebration is an excellent opportunity to extend a welcoming hand to different cultures and offers an opportunity for economic development."

Government officials Berlin Boyd, Chairman of Memphis City Council, and Willie F. Brooks Jr., Shelby County Board of Commissioners, are both participating in the outreach to Colombia. Other members of the delegation include Leigh Ann Shockey, President of Drexel Chemical; Ron Coleman, President & CEO of Competition Cams, Inc.; Kristen Wright, Vice President of AutoZone Corporation; Wei Chen, Founder & CEO of Sunshine Enterprises, Inc.; James Baker, Owner & President of BakCo LLC; Deborah Craddock, Principal of Southern Asset Management, Inc.; Al Lyons, President & CEO of RHB Innovations, LLC; Stacy McCall, President & CEO of Servicemaster by Stratos; Charles Dickey, CFO at Landmark Bank; Bob Craddock, Partner of Wyatt, Tarrant & Combs, LLP; Susan Arney, Board Member of Metropolitan Bank; and Edith Kelly-Green, Owner of KGR Group. The delegation will be joined by their families, friends and other local cultural enthusiasts.

In addition to hosting a reception at Ambassador Whitaker’s residence, the Memphis delegation will conduct a business briefing in Bogotá in conjunction with ANDI – the National Business Association of Colombia. Greater Memphis Chamber executive vice presidents, Mark Herbison and Ernest Strickland will conduct the briefing which is designed to further awareness of Memphis’ economic capabilities and expand economic ties with businesses in Colombia.

“Memphis in May, through cooperation of City and County Government and the Greater Memphis Chamber of Commerce, serves as a catalyst to develop international trade and educational opportunities for the Mid-South,” Holt said. “Our job is to open doors and to establish relationships using a unique festival that promotes Memphis to the world.” 

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