This may be an electric presidential election season, but Dr. Robert Wright says politics will play no part in his second annual Bob Wright Symposium on Business Empowerment coming up Aug. 18 in Columbus.
“We’re trying to inspire people to attain their full potential and be able to get some ideas that will help them as they move along the highway of life,” Wright said this week of the full-day event that takes place 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Columbus Convention & Trade Center, 801 Front Ave. “Our focus is on people telling their stories as to how they’ve been able to overcome obstacles and to be successful in their own right. To that extent, that’s the message and that’s the inspiration that we want to get out there to our attendees.”
Tickets, which cost $175 apiece, remain for the symposium, which features nine speakers. The event, which drew about 300 people last year, is also billed as way to network and connect to other business people in the community, all while taking in casual “fireside chats” with those speakers. ABC News anchor and reporter Byron Pitts will moderate the event again this year.
“All of them are outstanding,” Wright said of the speakers coming to Columbus this year. “Mellody Hobson has been on TV quite a bit (as a financial analyst). She’s just an outstanding talent. There’s Jo Ann Jenkins, who’s CEO of AARP, so anybody that’s over 50 probably is a member. She’s outstanding. All of them may not be as high a profile, but they certainly bring a lot in their own right.”
A year ago, Aflac Chairman and CEO Dan Amos was the featured lunch speaker. Wright, a member of Aflac’s board of directors, said this year there will be no such speaker at lunch, with another fireside chat taking its place.
The event also will not be competing so closely with the Jim Blanchard Leadership Forum, which a year ago was held the Monday and Tuesday following the symposium the Thursday prior. The Blanchard event, now a decade old, instead is scheduled Sept. 12-13 this year. That event has been packed through the years with star power that includes political leaders, business titans, military generals and an array of dynamic authors and leadership experts.
Asked if he thinks the symposium might have the staying power that the Jim Blanchard Leadership Forum has enjoyed, Wright said he hopes it can, particularly if the lineup of speakers for his event remains strong.
“We have a lot of people in Columbus, particularly young professionals, that need to hear some of these stories, that need to be inspired, that they can achieve greater heights,” he said.
Wright, 79, is a retired optometrist, former Columbus City councilor, businessman and philanthropist. He founded a technology and logistics company called Dimensions International in 1985, then sold it to Honeywell for $230 million more than two decades later. He now heads FE Holdings Inc., an investment firm. The son of a bricklayer and nurse, he also was very involved in the American Civil Rights Movement.
Here are the speakers for the Aug. 18 symposium:
▪ Eddie Compass IV, president and CEO of Next Generation Marine
▪ Damien Dwin, co-founder and managing partner of Brightwood Capital Advisors
▪ Nathaniel Goldston, chairman of Gourmet Services Inc.
▪ Judge Glenda Hatchett, founding partner of The Hatchett Firm
▪ Sylvester Hester, president and CEO of Global Automotive Alliance
▪ Mellody Hobson, president of Ariel Investments and board chair of DreamWorks Animation
▪ Jo Ann Jenkins, CEO of AARP
▪ Michael McCoy, president of Z Systems
▪ Reginald Parker, president and CEO of 510nano Inc.