Kent County Economic Summit Conference - Speakers and Panelists
View the 2015 speakers below:
Dr. Mark Brainard has spent 25 years in a series of executive level positions that have allowed him to lead successful efforts in higher education, business and government in Delaware. After earning an associate degree in Criminal Justice from Delaware Tech in 1981 and a bachelor’s degree in Behavioral Science from Wilmington University in 1983, his career in public service began in the Delaware General Assembly, where he served as chief of staff for the House of Representatives for seven years. Mark left the legislature in 1993 when he was appointed director of external affairs at the Delaware Department of Transportation. After graduation from Widener Law School in 1994, he was named assistant vice president for personnel and legal affairs at Delaware Technical Community College. Mark then served as executive vice president at the Delaware State Chamber of Commerce. He left the Chamber in 2002 to serve as Governor Ruth Ann Minner’s chief of staff, where he developed aggressive agendas which included passage of landmark legislation such as the Student Excellence Equals Degrees (SEED) scholarship, the Delaware Cancer Treatment program, and workers’ compensation reform. He returned to Delaware Tech as assistant campus director for the Stanton/Wilmington Campus in 2008 and was appointed vice president and campus director in 2011. In this role, Mark worked with the business community and state economic development leaders, including Governor Jack Markell, to respond to emerging workforce needs for existing and new businesses in Delaware. In July 2013, Delaware Tech’s Board of Trustees appointed Mark as executive vice president of the College and on August 4, 2014, Mark was appointed as the fifth president of Delaware Tech.
Jennifer Cohan was appointed to be only the third woman to lead the Delaware Department of Transportation after serving as the Director of the Delaware Division of Motor Vehicles since 2007. Her state public service career has spanned over 25 years. Jennifer has worked in the capacity of Financial/Program Manager at the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) managing the state's Clean Water Program. Jennifer has also worked with the Delaware State Legislature within the Office of the Controller General. She has also held leadership positions within the Delaware Department of Transportation in Planning, Finance, and Motor Carrier Safety. She is an adjunct professor at Wilmington University, teaching leadership and public policy in the Master’s program. Jennifer has served as a member of the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators (AAMVA) Board of Directors, and as Interim Board President and CEO. She is the president of the Greater Dover Boys and Girls Club Board of Directors. She currently serves as a member of the AASHTO Board of Directors, and serves on the I-95 Corridor Coalition's Executive Board, Diamond State Port Corporation Board of Directors, Northeast Corridor Commission, Northeast Association of State Transportation Officials, Transportation and Climate Initiative, and Transportation Research Board Executive Committee. Jennifer graduated summa cum laude from Wilmington University with a bachelor’s degree in Business Management and a master’s degree in Public Administration. She also attended the Fels Institute of Government at the University of Pennsylvania.
Justin Cressler is the Plant Manager for the Kraft Heinz Company in Dover. He has been employed with Kraft Heinz Company for 20 years and has served in many field operation roles in Illinois, Missouri, and Massachusetts prior to arriving to Delaware in the fall of 2011. He is on the board of directors for the Central Delaware Chamber of Commerce, Food Bank of Delaware, as well as the Delaware Manufacturing Association of the State Chamber. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Agricultural Science/Animal Science from Truman State University, and his MBA from Lindenwood University, both in Missouri.
Lisa Flowers is an American business strategist, traditional marketer, and social media evangelist. She is also an award-winning copywriter and marketer with a diverse background in marketing, communications, business development and public relations. She is Founder and CEO of Flowers Media Matters, a digital marketing and communications firm, specializing in connecting companies, cultures and countries. Their strategies help businesses find and use their voice to engage, influence and grow using social media.
Lisa speaks internationally to executives, entrepreneurs, and professionals on a variety of topics. She speaks and trains throughout the United States and abroad. Most recently she traveled to speak in Malaysia and Nigeria. Her first adventure to Nigeria, last year, started with a tweet! Earlier this year, Lisa was invited back to Nigeria to speak at Social Media Week, the largest social media event on the African continent. She presented a Master Class on social media to a standing-room only crowd as well as moderated a panel on Internet accessibility.
Lisa has been interviewed on a variety of topics by CNNMoney, BBC.com, BBC World Service, MTV, PMNews, Cool FM Nigeria, TV Continental, CNBC Africa, Africa Independent Television, The Source Magazine, Bankrate.com, NPR and other domestic and international media.
Lisa also teaches business and social media classes and workshops at a local college. And she is a Certified Social Media Strategist (SMS) and Instructor for the National Institute for Social Media (NISM). A firm believer that giving back is what it’s all about, Lisa advocates for human rights, particularly women and children’s issues, and equality. She advocates on behalf of Shot@Life, a U.N. Foundation program, as well as sits on the Board of Directors for several non-profits.
Lisa lives an online life and can be found there as @LisaLFlowers on most social media platforms.
Karen E. Horton, AICP, is a Principal Planner at the Delaware State Housing Authority. In this capacity, she works to promote inclusive and sustainable communities through both her growth management and fair housing roles. Karen works with program managers within DSHA to: implement policies articulated in the state growth management strategy into DSHA programs; and, remove impediments in DSHA programs as identified in the Delaware State Consortium’s Analysis of Impediments to Fair Housing Choice. Most recently, Karen has been active in the development of the Downtown Development District Grant program. These various roles allow Karen to provide assistance to local jurisdictions in their efforts to promote diverse and sustainable communities. Karen, as a member of the Delaware State Consortium, was a recipient of the 2013 Andrew J. Turner Fair Housing Award. Karen is a native of Dover and holds a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology from the University of Delaware and Master’s Degree in City and Regional Planning from Clemson University. She is a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners.
William G. Neaton has served as the Economic Development Director for the City of Dover and the Executive Director of the Downtown Dover Partnership since October 2008. He comes to these positions having been a successful small business owner since 1979. He also worked with Yaffe & Company as a consultant on Effective Board Governance for Healthcare Systems. His focus has been centered on establishing strong partnerships with key institutions in the community who support the economic development goals of both the City of Dover and the Downtown Dover Partnership. He received his B.A. from Western Maryland College in sociology and an M.A. in business management from Central Michigan University. Throughout Bill’s career he has been active in community service serving as Vice Chairman of the Delaware Health Facility Authority since 2003; Chairman of the Bayhealth Board of Directors from 1997-2000; Member of the Kent General Hospital Board of Directors from 1988-1997, serving as Chairman of the Board, 1995-1996. Bill served on the board of the Modern Maturity Center from 1992 through 2011 and was President from 2000-2005. In his spare time, he is a very highly regarded official for College football and both high school and college LaCrosse.
Dr. June Turansky, is the Vice President and Campus Director for the Delaware Technical and Community College, Terry Campus. June has over 32 years of experience as an employee of Delaware Tech. Her roles have ranged from her current position through past positions which include Assistant Vice President for Curriculum and Development, Dean of Instruction, Assistant Dean of Instruction, Chairperson for the Nursing Department and Nursing Instructor. June’s educational background began with obtaining her Associate’s Degree in Nursing from Delaware Tech. She then earned her bachelor’s degree in Nursing from Marymount University. June obtained both her Master’s degree and Doctoral degree in Educational leadership from the University of Delaware. June is committed to the community and serves on the Board of Directors for Bayhealth Medical Center and the Board for Central Delaware Chamber of Commerce. Previously, she held positions as the President and member of the Cape Henlopen School District Board, President of the State Board of Nursing and a member of the Delaware Health Care Commission’s Committee on Nursing Workforce Supply and chair of the educational subcommittee.
James G. Waddington is Director of Economic Development in Kent County. He is the first person to hold this position. As liaison to the central Delaware business community, the director is responsible for development and implementation of economic development strategies that encourage growth in business and industry, and that promote employment opportunities in Kent County. Jim had previously worked as Director of Economic Development for the Salem County Improvement Authority and the Salem County freeholder board, during which he was responsible for managing the county’s economic development activities, administering the county’s revolving economic development loan fund, and serving as the county’s representative on numerous state-sponsored economic development groups since 2003. Previously, he spent more than 20 years as President and CEO of Waddington Dairy, a family-owned dairy and food manufacturing and distribution business, and as Vice President of Marketing following a successful business merger. He currently is serving his 25th year on the Salem City Council and also serves as Vice President of Stand Up For Salem, the non-profit organization which oversees the Salem Main Street Program.
In May 2015, Bernice Whaley was nominated by Delaware Governor Jack Markell to serve as the Director of the Delaware Economic Development Office where she now serves as a Secretary in Governor Markell’s cabinet and is responsible for the business and economic strategies for the State of Delaware. Bernice had more than 25 years of retail supply chain experience and several years of business consulting experience before joining the Delaware Economic Development office in 2009. Serving as Deputy Director, she managed the day-to-day activities and functions of the agency.
Bernice began her career at Happy Harry’s Drugs Stores. In early 2000, Bernice was appointed Vice President of Distribution and Inventory Management for the organization. In 2006, Bernice skillfully directed the closing of two distribution centers, as a result of Walgreens acquisition of Happy Harry’s. Upon the sale of Happy Harry’s, Bernice joined Karabus Management where she worked on several consulting engagements for national retailers in the US and in Canada. In June 2008, Bernice joined Levin Stellini & Associates as a Principal providing business and marketing consulting to small businesses in the Mid-Atlantic region.
Bernice is a graduate of University of Delaware with a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration/Marketing Management. Having received her master’s degree in Organizational Leadership from Wilmington University, Bernice was bestowed the Master of Science Award for Academic & Business Excellence. She is also a member of Sigma Beta Delta International Honor Society. Bernice is currently a Doctoral candidate at Wilmington University.
Bernice has held board positions for the HHDH (Holding Company) and Chain Drug Consortium’s Logistics’ group. Having served as past Chair of the Board of Junior Achievement of Delaware, Bernice currently serves on the board’s leadership council. Bernice is an executive committee member and appointed board member of the Delaware Workforce Development Board. She holds board positions for Diamond State Port Corporation, Delaware Stadium Corporation and the Delaware Technology Park. Bernice was appointed to Delaware State University’s Blue Ribbon Commission which was charged with defining the University’s new vision under President Williams and serves as the Advisory Council of the Dean of the College of Mathematical, Natural Sciences and Technology. Bernice also serves on various advisory committees for the New Castle County Vocational Technical Schools and on the advisory committee for Delaware Tech’s Center for Industry Research & Workforce Alignment (CIRWA).
Joe Zilcosky is currently the Business Development Leader for Kent County at the Delaware Economic Development Office (DEDO), an Executive Office of Governor Markell. He is responsible for all business retention and expansion in Kent County. Joe works with local manufacturers to in-source jobs back to the U.S., export their products and streamline the governmental bureaucratic structures. Additionally, he helps businesses get loans and grants. He is part of the consortium that started the “Kent Is Open For Business” and the Kent County Economic Summit. Previously, Joe was the Emerging Technology Specialist at DEDO, aiding entrepreneurs in all aspects of starting a business from Business Plan writing to financing and networking. He built out a Service Provider Network that gets entrepreneurs and small businesses discounted or pro bono services from local companies. He sat on the board of the Private Investor Forum that helps select entrepreneurs for the Angel Venture Fair and was one of the founders of Consortium of Delaware Entrepreneurs (CODE). Prior to DEDO, Joe started two businesses, was the second employee at one start-up and worked at First USA Bank in Partnership Marketing. Joe has an economics degree from Columbia University.