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Greenville hosts AENC conference

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People are given a tour of Community Crossroads Center during a service project as a part of the Association Executives of North Carolina's annual conference on July 21, 2018. (Molly Mathis/The Daily Reflector)

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Mackenzie Tewksbury
The Daily Reflector

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Executives from all over the state had a chance to experience some of Greenville's local flavor this weekend.

The 63rd annual Association Executives of North Carolina conference brought more than 200 business leaders to the Greenville Convention Center on Saturday afternoon.

The meeting provided executives with the opportunity to network, learn, share business ideas — and just as importantly — get a taste of the host city.

Jeanette Blackman, regional director of business development at the convention center, hopes the meeting will help turn Greenville into a destination town. 

“There's so many great things about the city; we want to show them some of our local flavor,” she said. “We're going to show everyone what we've got.”

The annual meeting has been held in cities all over the state, including Asheville, Charlotte, Raleigh and New Bern. Jovita Mask, director of operations and events for AENC, said the association’s first trip to Greenville has highlighted the city’s potential.

“It has been exciting. It's a great way to get people interested in things they might not do otherwise,” Mask said.

She said it also is an opportunity for those who have never been to Greenville to see what the city has to offer. 

“Our people, who have their own meetings, have the chance to see this area and hopefully bring their meetings down here later,” Mask said. “That's a big benefit of having this event in different places.”

Jennifer Rowell and Sonya Guthrie, owners of Up10 Solutions in Raleigh, made the a hour-and-a half-drive to the conference on Saturday afternoon. Their company, a resource group only a few months old, helps associations and nonprofits with business development and marketing. Guthrie said they came to the conference hoping to connect with local nonprofits and businesses in the region. 

The duo has been to AENC events before, but it's their first time attending the annual meeting.

“It's a great way to network locally in a more intimate setting. Also, we're one of the local resource groups in Raleigh and Greenville is really close,” Guthrie said.

Rowell, an East Carolina University alumni, said she has not been back to Greenville in about six years, but was excited to return to her alma mater.

“This is my old stomping ground,” Rowell said.

“I'm excited for her to show me the ropes,” Guthrie said.

On Saturday morning, executives were able to “Discover Greenville” by kayaking the Tar River with Knee Deep Adventures, golf at the Greenville Country Club, tour Simply Natural Creamery or try local barbecue and beer at the Pitt County Brew and ’Cue Trail.

“It's nice for a small town to get a little love,” Rowell said. “People love the local feel, so featuring the local places is really cool.”

 The conference also included a service project. Members were able to tour Community Crossroads, the local homeless shelter, and were asked to bring donations.

Mask said the service project is important because it's a good way to give back to the community, and Blackman chose Community Crossroads because its mission is close to her heart.

“What Community Crossroads stands for is that we are rebuilding lives,” Blackman said. “We're all a paycheck away from being there.”

The day finished at Still Life in downtown Greenville for a networking session, which again showed members a bit of Greenville's culture.

“This hospitality industry is amazing and we are so happy to showcase our city — our destination, really,” Blackman said. “It's taking us from being a meeting venue to a destination.” 

Mask said the Greenville-Pitt County Convention and Visitors Bureau did a wonderful job of making everyone feel welcome.

“Greenville really rolled out the red carpet for us,” Mask said. “Well, the purple carpet.”

Contact Mackenzie Tewksbury at mtewksbury@reflector.com or 252-329-9585.

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