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Entrepreneurs Will Hold Economic Empowerment Panel Discussion Feb. 17 at the U of M University News
For release: February 9, 2010

For press information, contact Tom Mendina, 901-678-4310

In conjunction with Black History Month 2010, the University of Memphis will host an economic empowerment panel discussion featuring some of Memphis’ premiere entrepreneurs. “Black Economic Empowerment in Memphis and the American Dream” will be held Wednesday, Feb. 17, at noon in the Ned McWherter Library, Room 225. The public is invited to the free event.

Panel members will include Art Gilliam, president and CEO of Gilliam Communications Inc.; Carolyn Hardy, president and CEO of Hardy Bottling Company, a division of Chism Hardy Enterprises LLC; Pat and Gina Neely, owners of Neely’s Bar-B-Que and hosts of the Food Network’s Down Home with the Neelys; Marvell Mitchell, managing partner of Mitchell Technology Group LLC; and Christian Davis, president and CEO of Amir Companies.

Gilliam holds many firsts: he became owner of WLOK, the first black-owned radio station in Memphis, and was the first black reporter for The Commercial Appeal. He also was a news anchor and reporter for WMC-TV. Gilliam has been inducted into the Society of Entrepreneurs and serves on the advisory board of the U of M’s College of Communication and Fine Arts.

Hardy (BBA ’74, MBA ’87)  is president of one of the largest minority-woman-owned companies in Tennessee. She was named 2007 Entrepreneur of the Year by the U of M’s Fogelman College of Business & Economics.

In addition to operating their legendary Memphis barbecue restaurants, the Neelys reach five million viewers each week with their Food Network show. They authored the best-selling Down Home with the Neelys Southern Family Cookbook.

Mitchell (BBA ’77) was appointed an initial member of the Tennessee Educational Lottery board of directors; he is vice chairman of the board and currently chairs its minority procurement committee. Mitchell is a past president of the Black Business Association of Memphis.

Davis received the Gary L. Rowe Young Entrepreneur Award last fall from the Memphis Business Development Center and has won Benny Awards from the Black Business Association in new entrepreneurship categories. He currently serves as project manager for the New Town Center at Soulsville. Amir Companies includes real estate, commercial cleaning and entertainment businesses.

The moderator will be Roby Williams, president and CEO of the Black Business Association.

The event is sponsored by the University of Memphis Libraries and the U of M’s Office of Minority Affairs, with support from the Black Business Association and Friends of the University Libraries.

For more information, contact Tom Mendina at 901-678-4310 or

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