Anna Bentson is the Assistant Director of Economic Development & Tourism for the City of Lynchburg. In her role, Anna leads tourism and economic development marketing, entrepreneurship and business development for the City of Lynchburg and its Economic Development Authority.
Anna has a strong background in nonprofit management and cause marketing with a passion for urban revitalization and creative placemaking, having served as the marketing director for Thomas Jefferson’s Poplar Forest and the director of the Downtown Lynchburg Association. In addition to supporting Lynchburg’s businesses to attract and retain jobs and capital investment, Anna has led place-based and entrepreneurial efforts for the City of Lynchburg including the development of Create Virginia, CO.STARTERS and Launched in Lynchburg.
She is a graduate of the South Carolina Honors College at the University of South Carolina and has earned a Certificate in Creatives Cities and Economic Development at NYU and a Masters in Nonprofit Leadership at the University of Lynchburg.
Caroline Beteta serves as president & CEO of the industry-led Visit California, a nonprofit organization created to market California as a premier travel destination and to increase the state’s share of tourism-related revenues. She simultaneously serves as the Director of Tourism in California’s Governor’s Office of Business & Economic Development (GO-Biz). Beteta is responsible for implementing Visit California’s $126 million global marketing program and serves as the lead spokesperson for California’s $132.4 billion travel industry. She has shepherded the growth of Visit California into a global marketing franchise delivering millions of visitors and billions of dollars of economic growth to the state every year.
Brent DeRaad has served for seven years as President & CEO of Visit Tucson.
DeRaad and the 40-member Visit Tucson staff are charged with marketing, promoting and selling metro Tucson and southern Arizona as a leisure and meetings destination. Visitors spent $2.3 billion in the region in 2017.
Major initiatives undertaken during his tenure at Visit Tucson include: a destination branding initiative; taking Tucson through Destination International’s DestinationNEXT process; creating and implementing an organizational strategic plan; and working with Resonance Consultancy to develop a tourism master plan for Tucson and southern Arizona, which will be completed in spring 2019.
DeRaad, who serves currently as chairman of the Arizona Lodging & Tourism Association, came to Tucson from the Scottsdale Convention & Visitors Bureau. He spent 10 years there, including the final six as the organization’s executive vice president.
Victor Hoskins became the Arlington Economic Development (AED) Director in 2015 and is most known for leading the team that successfully attracted Amazon HQ2 to Arlington County, VA, a deal that will bring 25,000 jobs and more than $2.5 billion investment. Under Mr. Hoskins’ leadership, the County has successfully implemented an Innovation Strategy that has moved it toward technology and private sector commercialization. Other recent successes include Nestlé, Applied Predictive Technologies, Deloitte, and Phone2Action. Previously, Mr. Hoskins worked in private real estate investment on Wall Street. Moreover, he served as Deputy Mayor of Economic Development for the District of Columbia, during which time he turned around the economy of the District with projects like The Wharf and City Center. During his career his work has resulted in almost 280,000 jobs, and he has lead the teams that negotiated more than 700 major business deals resulting in billions in private investment. He holds a Master’s degree in City Planning from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and a BA with Honors from Dartmouth College.
Kian Kamas serves as Chief of Economic Development for Mayor G.T. Bynum and the City of Tulsa. In this role she is responsible for directly managing a team of ten staff who focus on managing and developing tools and programs crucial to successful economic development, and supporting existing industry, new businesses, and developers seeking to invest in Tulsa. In addition to this, she is responsible for oversight of the Development Services Department and the Executive Directors of the Tulsa Parking Authority and Downtown Coordinating Council. Prior to joining the Mayor’s team in August 2017, Ms. Kamas served as Vice President of Economic Development for the Tulsa Regional Chamber where she led new business attraction efforts for the region. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science from the University of Oklahoma, a Master’s Degree in Comparative Public Policy from the University of Edinburgh, and completed the University of Oklahoma’s Economic Development Institute. Ms. Kamas is a founding member of the Tulsa Honor Academy Board of Directors and served as Chair for two terms; she also serves on the Tulsa City County Board of Health and recently completed two terms as Chair. She is a self-admitted Tulsa fanatic and prides herself in cooking up crazy ideas and convincing other members of the Mayor’s team to join her in their implementation.
John Lambeth, attorney and Civitas’ President & CEO, specializes in developing unique funding strategies for tourism and travel promotion. He has over twenty years of experience working with destination marketing organizations and state travel offices. Whether adopting enabling legislation, building support among businesses and electeds, or guiding the formation process, Mr. Lambeth is the expert in tourism district creation. He has assisted in over 300 improvement districts, including 177 tourism focused districts, and helped create the first property-based improvement districts in California.
The primary author of the Property and Business Improvement District Law of 1994, Mr. Lambeth also wrote legislation for several states and assisted with legislation in El Salvador and Brazil. He was instrumental in the drafting and adoption of California’s AB 483 to protect DMO funding for the travel industry.
Mr. Lambeth is a prominent speaker on tourism districts. Visit England, the City of Maringa, Brazil, ISHAE, DMAI, CalTravel, Destinations International, US Travel, and the Association of Town & City Management in Ballymena, Ireland are among the organizations for which he has given presentations, and he addressed the 10th Annual BID gathering in Edinburgh, Scotland.
Featured in Forbes for his efforts to transform marketing funding models, Mr. Lambeth also became the 2014 recipient of the Cal Travel Promotion and Advancement of Tourism Award. He and his firm have been recognized as national leaders in the development and implementation of revolutionary financing mechanisms for destination management.
Claus Lønborg has been managing director for Copenhagen Capacity since 2011. Copenhagen Capacity is the official inward investment agency for the “Greater Copenhagen” metropolitan region. They advise foreign companies and investors on establishing, expanding and retaining their activities in the region. Further to this consultancy role, Copenhagen Capacity is also active in developing the regional attractiveness for foreign investors through a number of projects and activities ranging from cluster development to talent attraction.
Prior to his job with Copenhagen Capacity, Claus spent 4½ years in Shanghai, setting up and leading an innovation center to advice Danish companies on research and high tech collaboration with Chinese companies, organisations and universities and to provide general establishment services for knowledge based Danish enterprises.
Most of Claus’ career is however from the private sector, where he had held international sales and marketing positions Rockwool, Arla Foods, Maersk and IBM. Through these jobs, Claus has built his international experience from activities and responsibility areas spanning across America, Europa and Asia.
Claus holds a masters degree in International marketing and has supplemented his education with training programs from IMD, INSEAD. He is married and has 4 children.
Doug is a born and raised Edmontonian who is currently the Director of Strategic Planning and Events for Edmonton Tourism. He leads the sport and cultural event attraction group and manages Tourism’s internal strategic planning to establish and promote Edmonton’s position nationally and internationally. He has previously been a partner with a B2B marketing firm and has worked with various sports organizations. On the side you’ll find him broadcasting university and international sport and still trying to be an athlete himself.
Matt Pivarnik is CEO of the Greater Topeka Partnership, a collaborative organization created in 2017 that includes GO Topeka Economic Development, Visit Topeka, Downtown Topeka Inc., the Greater Topeka Chamber, FORGE Young Professionals and other community development organizations.
Topeka, Kansas is experiencing a regional renaissance. Matt moved to Topeka from Tulsa, Oklahoma, where he served the Tulsa Regional Chamber, a partnership organization focused on placemaking, economic development and tourism.
Kristian’s role at the New Orleans Visitor & Convention Bureau enables him to focus on the strategic direction and messaging of the New Orleans tourism industry. He creates and oversees the implementation of public relations and communications strategies to brand New Orleans as the nation's premier business and leisure destination and is responsible for positioning the NOCVB as one of the top CVBs in the country. He supports the president and CEO as a spokesperson for the tourism industry on all levels, supervises the day-to-day operations and management of the communications staff and manage activities of outside CVB partners.
Prior to joining the NOCVB I 2015, Kristian was with the New Orleans-based Peter A. Mayer Advertising, Louisiana's largest full-service advertising, public relations and marketing agency, He and his team serviced approximately 20 accounts per month ranging all categories including Emerald Coast Convention and Visitors Bureau, GE Capital, Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Louisiana, Hancock/Whitney Bank, The National World War II Museum and the Louisiana Office of Tourism, among others.
He has held numerous leadership positions in the city and region, including serving on the Host Committee for Super Bowl XLVII, serving on the city's team of BP oil spill communications specialists, and working with key city and state officials on Louisiana's recovery efforts post-Hurricane Katrina and Rita. Sonnier began his career as a public relations manager at the Resort at Squaw Creek in California.
Tourism is a $6.47 billion industry for New Orleans, employing more than 80,000 people and attracting 9.28 million visitors annually.
Jason Thorne is a professional planner who leads the Planning and Economic Development Department at the City of Hamilton, Canada. He oversees a team of 800 staff working across multiple portfolios including planning, building, development engineering, transportation planning, parking, arts, culture and economic development. Best known historically as Canada’s industrial powerhouse, Jason and his team have helped to guide an urban renaissance in Hamilton that has gained national and international attention.
Born and raised in Hamilton, Jason has been working in planning and community development his entire career. As a Manager with the Ontario Growth Secretariat, Jason was one of the key architects of the Province of Ontario’s Places To Grow initiative. Recognized with national planning awards from both the Canadian Institute of Planners and the American Planning Association, the Places To Grow initiative transformed the regional planning framework for the Toronto-centred Greater Golden Horseshoe Region.
As Director of Policy and Planning for Metrolinx, Jason was one of the lead authors of the Big Move, the regional transportation plan for the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area.
Jason also worked as a planning consultant for communities across Canada and in Africa and Latin America as a Partner and Principal with the Toronto-based planning, architecture and design firm planningAlliance.
Jason has also worked for a wide range of non-governmental organizations including the Bay Area Restoration Council, Bruce Trail Association and Coalition on the Niagara Escarpment.
Jason is a passionate advocate of community-based planning, sustainable and inclusive development, and the creation of complete, vibrant cities. Most importantly, he is a proud Hamiltonian who is excited to be back working in his hometown.