Palm Beach Strategic Forum aims to be mini-Davos, with high-powered leaders on roster
By DIAN VUJOVICH
SPECIAL TO THE DAILY NEWS
If you didn't make it to Davos in late January to slog through the snow and rub shoulders with dozens of the world's brightest and smartest leaders, economists, politicians and business people not to worry. Palm Beach is on its way to creating its own mini-Davos, sans the snow, of course.
On April 16 and 17, the International Economic Forum of the Americas will present its second Palm Beach Strategic Forum at the Palm Beach County Convention Center. The theme of the two-day event will be "Competing in a World of Emerged Economics."
Some history: First, the International Economic Forum of the Americas, with offices in Palm Beach Gardens, is not the same organization that created the Davos event in Switzerland. Credit there belongs to the World Economic Forum.
That said, as is the World Economic Forum, the International Economic Forum of the Americas also is a nonprofit organization with its roots in academia. The former was the idea of professor Klaus Schwab of the University of Geneva and the program began in 1971. The latter, the brainchild of Gil Remillard, chairman of the Palm Beach Strategic Forum. Prior to his professorship at ENAP Montreal, he was the justice minister in the Quebec government from 1985-94. In 1995, Remillard introduced the first of what turned into the United States-based group, the International Economic Forum of the Americas programs.
"The first one was a learning program and speakers at it included Jeffrey Sachs and Paul Volcker," said Nicholas Remillard, president and CEO of the Palm Beach Strategic Forum.
He said the program was initially intended to be a one-time event but was so successful that it grew quickly. Today the International Economic Forum of the Americas presents three economic forums each year: One in Montreal, another in Toronto and the third in Palm Beach County. (The local program is, and will remain, the only one held in the United States, he said.)
With an eye toward tomorrow and worldwide business opportunities, Nicholas Remillard told the Palm Beach Business Group's lunch meeting Thursday that more than 15 countries would be represented at the April forum, along with more than 70 speakers.
That means those attending the Palm Beach Strategic Forum will be able to learn, listen, ask questions of and hob-knob with dozens of recognized high-powered corporate CEOs, renowned economists and government ministers from around the globe.
There will be representatives, for instance, from Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Middle East. Some of the more than 70 speakers on the roster include John F. Barrett, chairman and CEO of Western & Southern Financial Group; Maro Bergara, governor, Central Bank of Uruguay; Charles Zachaire Bowao, minister at the presidency in charge of National Defense, Republic of Congo; and Shaukat Aziz, former primer minister of Pakistan.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott will be the luncheon's keynote speaker April 16.
As at Davos, the networking opportunities will be unique.
"It's about networking, who you are sitting beside and having access to the best information available," Remillard said.
Jeff Greene, a Palm Beach resident and real estate investor, has attended the last two Davos conferences. "For someone like me who is very involved in investments, philanthropies and politics, and is very concerned about the direction of our country and where our world is heading, it is a great opportunity to spend time with those who are intimate in policy shaping of our future," he said.
The goal behind the upcoming Palm Beach Strategic Forum event is to provide that same kind of information-gathering opportunity.
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