Christopher Chung joined the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina (EDPNC) as chief executive officer. As a public-private partnership, the EDPNC performs a number of economic development functions on behalf of the State of North Carolina, including new business recruitment, existing business support, international trade and export assistance, small business start-up counseling, and tourism, sports, and film promotion. Chris has a staff of more than 60 professionals and an annual operating budget of $19 million and is focused on advancing the economic interests of North Carolina’s 100 counties and 10 million residents.

Prior to joining EDPNC, in 2007 Chris served the Missouri Partnership as the public-private, non-profit corporation’s first chief executive officer. In addition to leading the organization through its initial start-up phase, Chris directed the Partnership’s efforts to market Missouri for new business investment and recruit new corporate operations. During his tenure, the Missouri Partnership helped to recruit major facility investments by IBM, CertainTeed, Yanfeng Automotive Systems, Blue Buffalo Pet Foods, KWS Saat AG, and Aviation Technical Services. Chris also previously served as Manager of the State of Ohio’s Office of Business Development, managing an $80 million annual incentives budget and leading Ohio’s front-line sales force dedicated to attracting new business investment and job creation to the state. Prior to that, Chris held various positions in corporate site selection and special projects management, assisting companies considering Ohio for new facilities.

Chris was dubbed a “rising star” last year by Development Counsellors International, which named him among the industry’s “Top 40 Under 40.” In addition, Chris serves as a board of director for the International Economic Development Council and the North Carolina Economic Developers Association.

Chris holds a degree in economics and Japanese from The Ohio State University, where he also completed significant post-graduate course work towards a Master of Arts in public policy and Management from the OSU John Glenn School of Public Affairs.

Jim is currently the President and CEO of the Desoto County Economic Development Council where he focuses on their mission to facilitate, promote and provide effective, unified leadership for economic development and improved quality of life in DeSoto County.

Jim worked as a planning and landscape design consultant in Clarksdale, Mississippi, before becoming planning director and eventually executive director of North Delta Planning and Development District.

He became executive director of the DeSoto County Economic Development Council in 1988 and served in that capacity until 1994, when he accepted a new position as president of the Jackson, Tennessee Chamber of Commerce. In 1996 Flanagan returned to the DeSoto Council as president and CEO.

Jim has won numerous awards, including being selected as The Community Foundation of Northwest Mississippi’s Community Star man of the year award in 2011 for going above and beyond to bring opportunity to his community. In addition, he is responsible for the creation and management of DeSoto Leadership 2000 and the restructuring and administration of DeSoto County Foundation for Excellence in Education, which provides grants to teachers. He was also able to achieve the adoption of the DeSoto County Greenways Plan through the DeSoto County Board of Supervisors.

Jim earned his bachelor’s degree from Mississippi State University and master’s degree in urban and regional planning from University of Mississippi.

Johnna Reeder is President & Chief Executive Officer of the Regional Economic Development Initiative (REDI) Cincinnati. Johnna was named to her current position in April 2014, previously she was the Vice President of community relations and economic development for Duke Energy. Prior to joining Duke Energy, Johnna led community relations, government affairs and foundation giving for Citi Corporation in Kentucky, Indiana and Ohio.

Johnna is active in community and service organizations, currently serving on the Board of Directors for the Cincinnati Museum Center, Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame, Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber of Commerce, Greater Cincinnati Foreign Trade Zone, Northern Kentucky Tri-County Economic Development Corporation, the United Way of Greater Cincinnati, University of Cincinnati Research Institute and is a member of the Cincinnati Women’s Executive Forum. Johnna has also received numerous recognitions such as a Woman Worthy of Note by the Kentucky Lane Report, a Top 20 Woman to Watch by the Cincinnati Enquirer, an Outstanding Woman of Northern Kentucky and a Cincinnati Business Courier 40 Under 40.

Johnna graduated from Thomas More College with a Master’s in Business Administration and a Bachelor of Arts in communications with a minor in English from the University of Memphis and is also a graduate of Oklahoma University’s Economic Development Institute.

Brien Thorstenberg is the Senior Vice President of Economic Development at the Tulsa Regional Chamber of Commerce.  Brien leads the effort for an 11 county region comprised of 29 regional partners in Northeast Oklahoma and works in close collaboration with the Workforce and Education Department of the Tulsa Regional Chamber to meet the workforce needs of the region’s targeted industries.

Prior to joining Tulsa Chamber, Brien was the Vice President of Economic Development where he was responsible for the successful management of all primary job creation and capital investment projects. Brien was the project lead on the successful recruitment of the Macy’s Order Fulfillment Center to Tulsa County. This project (the largest in the Tulsa Region since 2004) with a $170 million capital investment employed 1500 people in a $1.3 million state of the art fulfillment center.

Brien is involved in a number of statewide, regional and local economic development organizations: Oklahoma Governors Economic Development Marketing Team, Oklahoma Economic Development Council, Oklahoma Department of Commerce Foreign Direct Investment Team, Tulsa Futures Regional Partnership and Southeast Oklahoma Regional Economic Development.

Brien received his Bachelor of Science degree in management and economics from Oklahoma State University and his Masters of Business Administration in management from Southeastern Oklahoma State University.

Greg Canfield has served as secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce since July 2011, making the former businessman and state lawmaker from Vestavia Hills the state’s top-ranking economic developer. Greg also serves as chairman of the Alabama Economic Development Alliance, an organization set up to implement Accelerate Alabama, the state’s strategic growth plan adopted in 2012 that targets 11 key sectors for expansion opportunities. Since Greg has taken the helm, economic development activities in Alabama has resulted in capital investment exceeding $13 billion and nearly 56,000 announced new jobs.

Greg began his career in sales with Purolator Corporation, a Fortune 500 company. At Purolator, he served both as Regional Administration Manager and Southeastern Regional Sales Manager. Greg later served as a National Account Manager for Transus Freight Systems, overseeing territory from Alabama to New Jersey.

Greg was elected to the Alabama House of Representatives in 2006, serving for nearly five years. In January 2011, he became chairman of the House’s Commerce & Small Business Committee. Alabama Governor Robert Bentley appointed Canfield as director of the Alabama Development Office (now Commerce) on July 18, 2011.

Greg graduated from Huffman High School in Birmingham and attended the University of Alabama and UAB, where he earned a finance degree.

Jeff Edwards is the President and Chief Executive Officer of Economic Development Corporation of Utah (EDCUTAH) and has held this position for the past 10 years. Prior to joining EDCUTAH, Jeff was the Vice President of Client Services at the Economic Development Corporation of Utah.

Jeff was awarded CEO of the Year for a Non-Profit Company by the Utah Business Magazine. Jeff received his Bachelor of Arts degree in chemistry from the University of Utah, where he also earned a Utah Secondary Teaching Certificate in Science.


Joe Max Higgins, Jr. is currently the Chief Executive Officer at the Golden Triangle Development Link. Joe is responsible for consolidated efforts of The Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development for Columbus-Lowndes County and directs the Economic Development Efforts for Oktibbeha and Clay Counties in Mississippi. Joe’s main responsibilities include organization of public/private partnerships that strategically position the community to take advantage of growth opportunities, financial management of an annual budget of 2.3 million dollars and the management of a staff of ten. During Joe’s tenure in Lowndes County, his efforts have resulted in the commitment and or creation of over 5,600 direct manufacturing jobs and over $4.4 billion in capital investment.

Prior to assuming this role, Joe was the Owner of the Higgins Group, where he operated a consulting company specializing in environmental, planning, community and economic development services. He also served as the Director of Economic Development and Chief Executive Officer of the Paragould Greene County Chamber of Commerce.

Joe was awarded the 40 Under 40 Arkansas Business, the National Rural Economic Developer Association Leadership Award (Economic Developer of the Year) and is very involved with professional organizations in his field.

He received a Bachelor of Arts degree in geography/urban and regional planning from Arkansas State University. Joe also attended the Community Development Institute at the University of Central Arkansas and the Institute for Organizational Management at the University of Notre Dame.

Jill McCarthy is the Senior Executive for Corporate Attraction for the Kansas City Area Development Council (KCADC), a role she was just promoted to. Jill has 24 years of experience in economic development – specializing in regional business recruitment efforts for KCADC across multiple disciplines. Jill has worked comprehensively in assisting customer/shared service centers, advanced manufacturing, distribution/ecommerce, data centers and other operational projects. Jill specializes in assisting companies and consultants considering a KC metro location (urban, suburban or rural) through extensive briefings, demographics, site visits and facilitation of incentives. A few of Jill’s successes include: Dex Media, OptumRx, TriWest Healthcare Alliance, Magna, Martinrea Intl, Littler, 1&1 Internet and U.S. Bank.

Prior to assuming this new role, Jill was the Vice President for Business Development for the Kansas City Area Development Council, a job she held for almost 18 years. Jill was also the Director of Economic Development at Shawnee Economic Development Council.

Jill is the commissioner of the Johnson County Airport Commission, a member of the ULI Kansas City Advisory Board, a member of U.S. Senator Moran’s Kansas Service Academy Selection Board and Co-Chair of the communications committee for Crew KC.

Jill received a Bachelor of Science degree in management and human resources from MidAmerica Nazarene University and a Business Management degree from Indiana State University.

Tim has been the Executive Director of the Grant County Economic Growth Council since 1984. As the Growth Council’s initial director, Tim has been responsible for developing the organization’s mission and overseeing its development. During his tenure, the Growth Council has participated in attracting 22 diverse new manufacturers such as furniture, plastic lids manufacturers, and an ethanol plant as well as participated in over 2.5 billon dollars worth of modernization and expansion projects in the last 12 years.

Prior to joining the Growth Council, Tim was Director of Planning and Development of Harvey, Illinois; Assistant Director in the City of South Bend, Indiana; Redevelopment Commission and a Planner with the Area Plan Commission of St. Joseph County, Indiana, and the City of Elkhart. Tim is a Past President of the Indiana Economic Development Association, Northeast Midwest Leadership Council and a past member of the Indiana Small Business Development Center advisory board. Currently Tim is a member of the board of directors of the Junior Achievement of Grant County, Community Corrections of Grant County and Indiana Statewide Certified Development Corporation.

The projects Tim has worked on have garnered national recognition by the National League of Cities, National Association of Counties, Site Selection Magazine and Mid America Economic Development Council. In 2008, Tim received an Honorary Secretary of Commerce award from the Indiana Economic Development Corporation. Governor Mitch Daniels bestow a Distinguished Hoosier Award in 2009.

He has been a speaker at the Center for Automotive Research’s prestigious Management Briefing Seminar, as well as for the National Council for Urban Economic Advance Training Seminars, National Association of Counties, Indiana Association of Cities and Towns, Indiana Association of Counties, and other regional organizations.

Tim is a graduate of Indiana University.

Randy Thelen, the Greater Omaha Chamber’s senior vice president of economic development, is responsible for developing and implementing Chamber initiatives to support the growth of new business in Greater Omaha – and help existing businesses thrive and expand. He also leads the day-to-day operations of the Greater Omaha Economic Development Partnership, the Chamber’s one-stop center for economic development that covers six counties in the eastern Nebraska-southwest Iowa region.

Previously, Randy served as president of Lakeshore Advantage, a private, non-profit economic development organization dedicated to economic growth on western Michigan’s Lakeshore. While there, he earned the Medalist Award, which is Michigan’s highest economic development honor. The longtime economic developer is also an entrepreneur who, along with two partners, owns a company that designs and produces accessories for the truck cap industry—hinges, latches, handles and a patented power locking system.

Randy received a Master of Arts in applied economics from New York’s Binghamton University in 1996. He and wife Christa have four children – Ryan, Lauren, Kiersten and Trevin.