Business conference brewing for April


WALLA WALLA — A new daylong business education conference set for April will be a tool for exposure — both for businesses and the community.

The Walla Walla Valley Chamber of Commerce has announced plans for the Walla Walla Business Summit. The April 12 conference at the Marcus Whitman Hotel & Conference Center will feature two heavy-hitting keynote speakers, breakout sessions and a wine reception and networking event, said Chamber President and Chief Executive Officer David Woolson.

Making its debut on a Friday before Feast Walla Walla, the timing is designed to entice participants to stay through the weekend.

Woolson said he hopes to attract 150 to 200 people from as far as Portland and Seattle to local residents. The cost is $95 for Chamber members; $120 for non-members.

The concept is two-fold, he said. “The first is to provide a fairly low cost business education opportunity for Chamber members and the rest of the community,” he said.

“I want to develop this into a major Northwest conference in ensuing years and hopefully starting this year.”

Topics will range from increasing customer service effectiveness and handling workplace disputes to marketing through social media.

Keynote speakers Louis Zacharilla and Greg Shaw will anchor the event. Zacharilla is co-founder of New York’s Intelligent Community Forum.

His presentation “Community as Canvas” will focus on how communities can make the most of broadband technology for progressive economic development strategies.

“Being out in the middle of nowhere isn’t what it used to be,” Woolson said.

Shaw, publisher and chief executive officer of Seattle’s Crosscut Public Media and co-founder of the Walla Walla Sweets baseball team, will present “Small Business Lessons From Big Time Challenges.” His career has spanned Microsoft to the Gates Foundation to news media. His insight on lessons and opportunities is designed to inform and inspire.

Other participants include Patrick McCormick of AM PM PR in Portland; Bill Evans, president of the Institute of Professional Training in Seattle; Carol Bowser, president of Conflict Management Strategies in Seattle; and Gary Spanner, manager of economic development for Pacific Northwest National Laboratories of Richland. Participants also include Chip Damato of Inland Cellular, Zachary Fraser, general manager of the Walla Walla Sweets and Art Hill, vice president of economic development for Blue Mountain Community College.

“The goal was to have a wide variety of relevant, important topics to help address challenges businesses face and that are important to the bottom line,” Woolson said.

The event opens with coffee at 8 a.m. The morning’s keynote speaker will kick off the Summit at 8:30. Two breakout sessions will be offered in the morning and will be followed by another keynote speaker at lunch. Another two breakout sessions will be offered in the afternoon. A panel discussion will address technology trends. The Summit will end with a wine reception for networking with speakers and other attendees. And that, perhaps, is where the most important part of all takes place.

“It’s exposure with the idea of building business relationships that are much longer than the conference,” Woolson said. “The end of the conference is the beginning of a much longer relationship.”

Tickets are available through the Chamber at 525-0850 or


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