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A.G. Gaston Conference’s 20 Years of Entrepreneurial Spirit

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For over two decades, the A.G. Gaston Conference has distinguished itself as a pivotal force in the realm of entrepreneurship and business development. (FILE)
By Jasmine Phillips
Special to The Birmingham Times

For the last 20 years, the A.G. Gaston Conference has empowered African Americans to excel in entrepreneurship and business ownership. The conference has served as a platform where accomplished leaders and business owners share their experiences and foster an environment of celebration and empowerment. The A.G. Gaston Conference has been a beacon of inspiration and guidance for the African American business community not just in Birmingham, but across the country. The conference stands as a living tribute to the late A.G. Gaston’s vision, empowering small businesses and fostering a sense of unity and purpose among its attendees.

The 20th annual A.G. Gaston Conference will be taking place Tuesday, February 13 – Wednesday, February 14, 2024, at the Birmingham Jefferson Convention Complex (BJCC) located in Downtown Birmingham. The two-day event is a connector for business owners, aspiring entrepreneurs, corporate leaders, and community advocates. This year hundreds are expected to attend the conference.

THE LEGACY OF THE DR. A.G. GASTON

The A.G. Gaston conference was inspired by the life and legacy of Arthur George (A.G) Gaston, a successful businessman in Alabama during the Jim Crow Era. He amassed a fortune worth more than $40 million from a business empire spanning communications, real estate, and insurance. Given the title “Entrepreneur of the Century” by Black Enterprise Magazine, the late A.G. Gaston was the mastermind behind the A.G. Gaston Motel, Citizen Federal Savings & Loan, Booker T. Washington Insurance Co., Booker T. Washington Broadcasting which were all headquartered in Birmingham, AL.

THE IMPACT OF THE AG GASTON CONFERENCE

For over two decades, the A.G. Gaston Conference has distinguished itself as a pivotal force in the realm of entrepreneurship and business development. This gathering has been instrumental in facilitating dynamic interactions between small business owners and key figures in the corporate and investment sectors. The conference has consistently offered an engaging platform where hundreds of small business owners have had the opportunity to engage directly with industry leaders and investors, fostering a network that is both expansive and influential.

The value of the A.G. Gaston Conference extends beyond networking opportunities. It has emerged as a vital source of knowledge and resources for entrepreneurs at various stages of their journey. From seasoned business owners to those at the beginning stages of their entrepreneurial aspirations, there is something for everyone to learn during the conference.

The A.G. Gaston Conference has not only served as a hub for information and connections but has also played a critical role in inspiring and nurturing a culture of entrepreneurship. It has effectively bridged the gap between small businesses and larger corporate entities, creating an ecosystem where ideas and resources are exchanged, fostering mutual growth and innovation.

“Celebrating an iconic Black business mogul in Birmingham, AL during Black History Month has always just felt right,” says Bob Dickerson, co-host of the A.G. Gaston Conference. “Gaston’s impact is still being felt here, as some of the speakers and panelists will detail in the upcoming summit.”

WHAT TO EXPECT AT THE 2024 A.G. GASTON CONFERENCE

The A.G. Gaston Conference is more than just an event; it has served as a catalyst for growth and connectivity among small businesses for over 20 years. Through workshops and networking sessions, the conference has provided unparalleled opportunities for small businesses to learn, connect, and evolve. Topics that have been covered during the conference range from business development, access to capital, community building, marketing & branding, and much more.

For the first time, we will host a Small Business Expo that will feature about a dozen vendors, business owners, and community organizations from across Birmingham. The expo will feature dozens of small business owners, retail vendors, non-profit organizations, and much more. The conference will conclude with The Connect, a day party experience that will offer a more relaxed atmosphere for networking, celebrating achievements, and building lasting relationships in the business community.

A snapshot of the conference schedule can be found below:

Tuesday, February 13, 2024

9:00 AM – 6:00 PM | Registration Open

10:00 AM – 7:00 PM | Small Business Expo

11:00 -11:45 AM | Youth Presentations

12:00 – 1:15 PM | AG Gaston Legacy Luncheon – Mel Gravely

1:30 – 2:30 PM | Keynote Address – Nicholas Perkins

2:30 – 3:00 PM | Break

3:00 – 3:45 PM | Keynote speaker

3:45 – 5:00 PM | Reflections on AG Gaston

5:00 – 7:00 PM | AG Gaston Legacy Reception and Awards Program

Wednesday, February 14, 2024

8:30 AM – 5:00 PM | Registration Open

9:00 AM – 5:00 PM | Small Business Expo

9:00 – 10:00 AM | Continental Breakfast

9:15 – 10:00 AM | BBRC Business Opportunity Forum

10:00 – 11:00 AM | Green Power Presentation

11:00 – 11:50 AM | Keynote Address – Natalie Maderia Cofield

12:00 – 1:30 PM | The Green Power Luncheon – Dr. George Fraser

2:00 – 5:00 PM | Closing Reception and Day Party

To see the full schedule of events, check out www.aggastonconference.biz.

SPEAKER LINE-UP

The A.G. Gaston Conference has been an asset and platform for entrepreneurship in the African American and Birmingham community, providing essential expertise from past speakers such as John Hope Bryant, founder of Operation Hope, Marc Morial, president and CEO of the National Urban League, Dr. Julianne Malveaux, president emerita of Bennett College, and many others who each have given their testimonials on the trials, challenges, and triumphs as community and business leaders.

Dr. George Fraser, founder and chairman of FraserNet Inc. was one of the first speakers to participate in the first A.G. Gaston Conference in 2005. He will serve as one of the featured speakers at this year’s conference. Dr. Fraser founded FraserNet Inc. 25 years ago with the vision to lead a global networking movement that brings together diverse human resources to increase opportunities for people of African descent. Dr. Fraser rose to leadership positions with Procter & Gamble, the United Way, and Ford Motor Company. Dr. Fraser is also the publisher of the award-winning SuccessGuide Worldwide: The NetworkingGuide to Black Resources. He is the founder of the annual PowerNetworking Conference, where thousands of Black professionals, business owners, and community leaders gather to learn the art and science of networking, entrepreneurship, and wealth creation.

“It is an honor to be selected once again as a speaker for the A.G. Gaston Conference, one of Black America’s finest conferences, named after the legendary entrepreneur, civil rights activist, and visionary leader A.G. Gaston,” says Dr. George Frayser, founder and chairman of FraserNet Inc. “To be associated with such entrepreneurial and civic royalty is one of my finest honors and great challenges as a speaker to deliver a powerful, informative, and uplifting message.”

Other featured speakers will include Natalie Madeira Cofield, award-winning entrepreneur, philanthropist, political appointee, and economic activist; Mel Gravely, CEO of The Gravely Group; Micheal Green, vice president of New Economies, Bitwise Industries; Melody Anderson, Senior Vice President of PNC Bank; Charlotte Shaw, executive director and CEO of Birmingham Jefferson County Transit Authority; Nicholas Perkins, Owner of Fuddruckers; AL Williams, president of the Southern Region Minority Supplier Development Council; Danielle Hines, owner of CREED63 and many more.

“Twenty years is a good run,” says Dickerson. “I can think of events and organizations that have come and gone over that time. Other summits, dinners, awards programs, and the like but we’re still here and as our commemorative logo suggests we’re “Twenty Years and Counting. I certainly hope the community will join us on February 13-14 at the Birmingham Jefferson Civic Center for the A.G. Gaston Conference.”

HOW TO REGISTER FOR THE 20TH A.G. GASTON CONFERENCE

Tickets for the 20th annual A.G. Gaston Conference are available for purchase. To register to attend the 20th annual A.G. Gaston Conference in Birmingham, AL, please visit www.aggastonconference.biz.