Keynote Speaker
Innovative Economy

Christopher Thornberg founded Beacon Economics LLC in 2006. Under his leadership the firm has become one of the most respected research organizations in California serving public and private sector clients across the United States. In 2015, Dr. Thornberg also became Director of the UC Riverside School of Business Center for Economic Forecasting and Development and an Adjunct Professor at the School.

An expert in economic and revenue forecasting, regional economics, economic policy, and labor and real estate markets, Dr. Thornberg has consulted for private industry, cities, counties, and public agencies. He became nationally known for forecasting the subprime mortgage market crash that began in 2007, and was one of the few economists on record to predict the global economic recession that followed. In 2015, he was named to California State Treasurer John Chiang’s Council of Economic Advisors, the body that advises the Treasurer on emerging strengths and vulnerabilities within the state’s economy. Dr. Thornberg holds a Ph.D in Business Economics from The Anderson School at UCLA, and a B.S. degree in Business Administration from the State University of New York at Buffalo.






Director of Housing in Vail, Colorado

George Ruther is the Director of Housing in Vail, Colorado. With more than 24 years of mountain resort community experience, he is an expert in the creation and successful implementation of master plans and long-range planning initiatives focused on addressing resort community’s most challenging issues.

Education and Workforce



President of Sierra Nevada College

Dr Alan Walker is a visionary leader with over thirty years of progressively responsible teaching, administrative, and leadership experience in postsecondary education, including more than ten years as a college president; an excellent track record of achieving strategic goals and objectives that position organizations for success in an increasingly competitive, global, and dynamically changing environment; skilled at building high-achieving teams, developing and implementing effective strategic plans and resourcing them, and being constituency centered; maintains a passion for changing lives, growing organizations and the continuous pursuit of excellence.



Executive Director at Governor’s Office of Workforce Innovation

Manny Lamarre serves as the Executive Director of the Governor’s Office of Workforce Innovation (OWINN) and the Governor’s Designee on the Governor’s Workforce Development Board. OWINN has the mission of creating a skilled and aligned workforce by engaging with public and private entities to design career pathways, scale registered apprenticeships and work-based learning, manage the state’s longitudinal data system, promote and implement policies that strengthen the education and workforce system. At OWINN, Manny has authored several reports to inform workforce policy and strategy, provided leadership on workforce legislation signed into law, and oversaw the restructuring of the state apprenticeship system, which has seen the expansion of new apprenticeship programs in high-demand industries.   

Prior to his appointment, Manny served as a Public Policy Fellow in the Governor’s Office and has worked in several states as a teacher, policy advisor, and an administrator at a foundation. Manny holds a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science with honors from Wittenberg University, and a Master’s in Education Policy and Management from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, where he was the recipient of the Class Marshal Award for leadership and service to the Harvard community. He also holds a certificate in Educational Leadership and Management from Georgetown University, McCourt School of Public Policy. Manny holds a design patent and enjoys writing and competitive sports.  



Program Manager at Monterey Bay Economic Partnership

Hayley is a Santa Cruz native with over 8 years experience in education, career services, job development, and student counseling. Prior to joining Monterey Bay Economic Partnership in October 2017 in the Workforce Development Program Manager role, Hayley worked at UC Santa Cruz for over 5 years, serving students in various positions; most recently as an internship and job placement coordinator with the Economics Department. Her work experience also includes positions as a job development specialist with the UC Santa Cruz Career Center in 2012 and career development specialist with special education students at Santa Cruz City School District.

Hayley has a M.A. in Education Counseling with a focus in career services from San Jose State University, Bachelor of Arts in Sociology and Dramatic Art from UC Santa Barbara, and an Associate of Arts from Cabrillo College.


Executive Director at JOIN Inc.

Denise Castle is the Executive Director of JOIN Inc. Training Nevadans for Careers, a private, non-profit workforce development agency. With seven regional offices serving all 13 Northern Nevada counties, Denise is living her life’s ambition through JOIN Inc.’s mission to help break the cycle of generational poverty through education and promoting prosperity to Northern Nevadans. After a 15-year career as Vice President with a national telecommunications corporation, she worked with non-profit organizations in Douglas County and the Tahoe Basin, sparking her passion for workforce development, for which she spent five years building a program for Douglas County. In 2015, seeing the increasing need for workforce development in greater northern Nevada, Denise returned to non-profit work with JOIN Inc. She is currently involved in numerous workforce related efforts in Northern Nevada, including those sponsored by the Governor’s Office of Workforce Innovation, Regional Economic Development Authorities, Chambers of Commerce, School Districts, Nevadaworks, Western Nevada Development District and various other partners.  She continues to serve as a Board member of the Suicide Prevention Network of Douglas County.



Superintendent/President at Lake Tahoe Community College

Jeff DeFranco became Lake Tahoe Community College’s fifth superintendent/president in January 2017. Prior to that, he served as Vice President of Administrative Services for Lake Tahoe Community College (LTCC) for nearly five years. As an educator committed to supporting quality instructional programs and student success, he has worked in multiple educational settings including K-12, community college, and at four-year institutions. Before joining LTCC in 2012, Jeff worked for Springfield School District in Oregon for nine years as a senior level district administrator. His roles have included leadership and oversight of fiscal, facility, technology, bonds, grants, development, government affairs, and public relations functions for educational organizations.

In his time as Superintendent/President at LTCC Jeff has overseen a successful accreditation visit, reaffirming the accredited status of LTCC for a full seven years. He has coordinated the ground breaking and grand opening of the Lisa Maloff University Center on the LTCC campus, as well as secured four-year university partners to offer Bachelor and other advanced degrees on the south shore of Lake Tahoe. Under Jeff’s leadership, LTCC has implemented the first and only bi-state “College Promise” program allowing first-time, full-time Tahoe basin residents in California and Nevada to attend LTCC with no tuition costs.

Jeff is currently pursuing a Ph. D. in Global Leadership and Change from Pepperdine University’s nationally-ranked Organizational Leadership Program. Jeff earned his bachelor’s degree from California State University, Chico and his master’s degree in Educational Leadership, with an emphasis in Higher Education Administration, from the University of Oregon. He also received a professional certificate from Stanford University in Strategic Decision and Risk Management. Jeff is an enthusiastic lifelong learner and consistently strives to broaden his thinking, especially in the areas of leadership and change management.

Innovative Economy


Mike Kazmierski

President/CEO of Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada

Mike Kazmierski joined the Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada (EDAWN) on November 15, 2011 after a national search to find a new President/CEO.

Kazmierski leads a team of 14 economic development professionals committed to adding quality jobs to the region by recruiting new companies, supporting the success of existing companies, and assisting newly forming companies, to diversify the economy and have a positive impact on the quality of life in Greater Reno-Sparks.

In the past six years, EDAWN has assisted in the attraction of more than 175 new companies, resulting in the addition of more than 17,000 new jobs. This number is in addition to Tesla, which will be adding an additional 6,500 new jobs over the next several years.



Co-founder of Mountains Work & Candidate for South Lake Tahoe City Council

Devin Middlebrook was born and raised in South Lake Tahoe and is the sustainability program coordinator for the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency. Devin earned his bachelor’s degree from California State University, Chico and went on to receive his MBA from California State University, Sacramento. In his role at the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency Devin address the future challenges facing Lake Tahoe. Devin also serves as executive director of the Tahoe Regional Young Professionals, whose mission is to foster the next generation of community leaders. Finally, Devin is a founding member of Mountains Work. Growing up in Tahoe gave Devin an appreciation for the environment and getting outdoors and the passion to ensure future generations have the same experience.  



Founder and CEO at Eagle Protect

Steve Ardagh is the founder and CEO of Eagle Protect in New Zealand and the USA. After establishing Eagle Protect as an industry leader in New Zealand (2006), he relocated with his family to the US in January 2016 and launched Eagle Protect PBC, bringing Eagle’s values of providing products that are certified food safe, ethically sourced and environmentally better to a market wanting change. Steve is driven to keep consumers safe by reducing the risk of foodborne illness one high-quality disposable glove at a time.

Eagle Protect became a certified B Corp in 2012 and is New Zealand’s founding and first B Corp Certified business. In 2015, Steve received the “B the Change Award for building the B Corp movement” at the annual B Corp Conference. He continues to spread the B Corp word wherever possible, including at Eagle’s US base in South Lake Tahoe, California.

A born and bred New Zealander, Steve lives with his wife (and company co-founder), Lynda, and two children in stunning South Lake Tahoe, California.



Vice President – Marketing at Eagle Protect

Lynda is VP of Marketing for Eagle Protect US, and is responsible for the strategic marketing for Eagle Protect NZ and US. Eagle Protect marketing focus is reinforcing its unique position at the intersection of Food Safety, Sustainability, and Supply Chain Transparency.

Prior to Eagle Protect Lynda successfully founded, grew and sold her first physiotherapy business in NZ, her hands-on experience in the Medical Industry provides excellent customer insight.

Lynda grew up in Scotland before moving to New Zealand, and is now excited to call South Lake Tahoe home.



Michael Liquori

Founder/Chief Collaboration Officer at SYMBEOSIS

Entrepreneur, coach, scientist, consultant, teacher, deep-thinker, musician, speaker, author, leader, collaborator, father, husband….  Michael is a lot of things.  He lights up most when growing big ideas with engaged collaborators and when coaching some of his transformative leadership concepts.



Owner, McCullough Web Services and Co-founder, Tahoe Silicon Mountain

Rachel Arst McCullough owns McCullough Web Services, a Truckee-based web design, and development agency. She plays an active role in several community organizations including co-leading Tahoe Silicon Mountain to build Tahoe’s entrepreneurial ecosystem and facilitating Girlmade programs in Truckee to help women play big and create positive change. Rachel earned an M.S. in Environmental Engineering with a concentration on groundwater remediation. If she isn’t behind a computer, you will find her on her yoga mat, hiking, trail running, volunteering for various environmental and community causes, teaching adaptive ski lessons at Northstar, or inspiring others to enjoy the outdoors as part of her role as a brand ambassador for Tahoe Mountain Sports.



Co-Founder and CEO at LARKR

Shawn Kernes is a visionary trailblazer in the tech industry. With over 20 years of executive experience in building and leading startups, Shawn is always ahead of the curve while remaining grounded in understanding how to meet the fundamental needs of everyday people through innovative new products.

A highly-driven entrepreneur, Shawn has spent the last two decades building and managing teams using his exceptional expertise in technology, operations, business strategy, business development and customer service.

When Shawn learned that an estimated 30 million Americans aren’t getting the mental health care they need, the idea for LARKR was born. Shawn and his team at LARKR are committed to improving people’s lives by delivering accessible and affordable therapy, using licensed professionals and a trusted modern channel that is available wherever and whenever it’s needed.

Lunch Keynote



Board Member at Tahoe Food Hub

Jan Holan is an eternal student of ecology, business and organizational development.  He believes in employee ownership, extreme transparency and the power of business to generate positive change. Among other commitments, Jan is on the board of the Tahoe Food Hub, a non-profit building a sustainable regional food system.  He is the founder of Truckee River Ventures, an incubator of organizations with a shared mission of revitalizing our Truckee River watershed. Along with other community members, Jan is working to create the first cohousing community in Truckee.

Guarantee your place

from $75

Website Designed by Darke Marketing
Contact Us

We're not around right now. But you can send us an email and we'll get back to you, asap.

Not readable? Change text. captcha txt