Rebecca Ryan to Keynote Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce’s Annual Meeting

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Futurist and economist Rebecca Ryan will keynote the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce’s annual meeting on June 27th.

It is an event that highlights business accomplishments and honors key business and community leaders, including Chancellor David Belcher of Western Carolina University.

Ryan’s keynote, “Asheville’s Future: Door 1, Door 2 or Door 3?” will focus on the transformation Asheville, like many communities across North America, is undergoing. Our demographics are changing, attracting both millennials and boomers from across the country. Our population is growing, creating strain on government, education and non-profit sectors. Our economics are changing, and despite the lowest unemployment in North Carolina for three years running, not all residents are feeling the benefits of a strong economy. At the same time, the pace of technological change is transforming daily life as we know it, from business, education and healthcare to how we communicate with one another and build community.


As keynote speaker for the 2018 Annual Meeting, Ryan argues this is a moment of regeneration, a period that occurs every 80-100 years, and is full of opportunity — if you can approach it with an innovator’s mindset.

Ryan has been called “a human spark plug.” She is the author of several books, has been a guest on NBC and CBS and holds resident futurist and senior advisor posts at the Alliance for Innovation, the Governing Institute, and the Local Government Institute of Wisconsin (where she lives.). Ryan is no stranger to North Carolina. She led the strategic foresight process at the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Government, credited by the Dean as having a transformational and positive impact on the School’s future. More on Rebecca Ryan at

Honoring outstanding leaders

At the Annual Meeting, the Asheville Chamber honors business and community leaders with its annual leadership awards. David Belcher, Chancellor of Western Carolina University from July 2011 to Dec. 2017, will be honored with the Excellence in Public Service Award (presented by First Bank) for his contributions and commitment to the people of our region. Awards will also be given to Volunteer of the Year (presented by Roberts & Stevens), Small Business Leader of the Year (presented by HomeTrust Bank) and Family Business of the Year (presented by UNC Asheville Family Business Forum.)

“It is an honor to recognize David for his spirit of collaboration and desire to have the higher education institutions work together on behalf of the people in this area,” said Kit Cramer, president and CEO of the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce.

David O. Belcher assumed the role of chancellor of Western Carolina University on July 1, 2011. Under Dr. Belcher’s leadership, the university realized many of the initiatives of a strategic plan spearheaded by Belcher during his first year. Among the highlights, WCU has seen steady increases in enrollment, consolidated and expanded Buncombe County graduate and undergraduate programs at the Biltmore Park site, added more than 190 endowed scholarships and revised the university’s campus master plan to guide development and improvements. Active in civic life, Dr. Belcher served on the boards of directors of the North Carolina Arboretum and the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce. Belcher went on medical leave at the end of 2017. Alison Morrison-Shetlar, WCU provost, has been serving as acting chancellor since Jan. 1st and the university’s board of trustees endorsed a slate of three finalists on June 1st with a goal of having a new chancellor on board by mid-August. (

Annual Meeting Details

The Annual Meeting, presented by sponsors The Van Winkle Law Firm and Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority, will be held June 27 at the Omni Grove Park Inn. Doors open at 5 p.m., with dinner and presentation at 5:45 p.m. Tickets are $90 for Chamber members, $110 for non-members. A table for 8 guests can be reserved at $680. Tickets available at

(Written by Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce.)