Mayor Richard J. Berry, City of Albuquerque

For the past seven years, Richard J. Berry has served as the Mayor of Albuquerque – the 32nd largest city in America and the largest city in New Mexico.  Prior to serving as Mayor, Berry was elected twice as a State Representative to the New Mexico State Legislature and owned a successful Albuquerque construction company for decades that conducted business throughout the Southwest United States. On his watch, Albuquerque was ranked second Best Run City in the nation with a population of over 500,000. Mayor Berry has reduced the size of city government and held budget growth to below inflation each year – all while maintaining a high level of service to taxpayers and city residents. Also under the Mayor’s leadership, Albuquerque was recently named as the 6th most technologically advanced city in America.  As part of an unprecedented $300 million investment in downtown Albuquerque since 2009, Mayor Berry launched Innovate ABQ in partnership with the University of New Mexico to make Albuquerque home to more economic innovation and start-up companies. Mayor Berry was recently recognized as one of the Most Inspirational People in America by the Washington Post, largely due to the success of a program called “There’s a Better Way,” which takes a new approach to addressing panhandling by providing the homeless with opportunities to work for the City and connect them to resources and help.

Deborah Burns, CEO and Director, investUS LLC

Deborah Burns works to expand capital sources for New Mexico, grow the economy and facilitate matchmaking between New Mexico businesses and potential joint venture partners, trading companies, investment fund managers, and EB-5 investors. Her financial career spans more than 30 years and includes roles as an institutional investment officer in New York City, finance officer at a New Mexico start-up company that became the largest publicly-traded company in the state, and Chief Lending Officer for a community bank. In these roles, she honed her ability to determine key factors for business sustainability, profitability, and growth in a wide variety of industries. During her investment career, she analyzed more than 3,000 businesses and invested more than $3 billion. During the 1990s, Ms. Burns developed expertise in structured finance and emerging market finance including project finance, asset-backed securitization, and infrastructure construction lending. Ms. Burns returned to New Mexico, her birthplace, as a senior member of the initial team that developed an innovative lending platform. Ms. Burns was responsible for issuing over $40 billion in publicly registered securities. She earned a BA in economics from Princeton University and an Executive MBA in finance from New York University’s Stern School of Business.


Song Cao, President, ICEA

Dr. Song Cao is a co-founder and current president of ICEA (International Chinese Entrepreneur Association) which is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization for providing worldwide Chinese entrepreneurs with a platform of improving company management and performance and networking with business opportunities in order to succeed in business and have a balanced life. Dr. Cao, with his PhD in geology from the University of South Carolina, is a well-known expert in worldwide oil and gas exploration and production business. In addition to his professional activities in oil and gas sector, Dr. Cao is also actively engaged in community services and charity organizations.

Mark Lautman, Cecd, Founding Director, Community Economics Lab

Mark Lautman is a founding director of the Community Economics Lab, a private not-for-profit think tank that innovates new approaches to economic development to work in a labor and capital constrained economy. His consulting business, Lautman Economic Architecture, LLC, works with community leaders to transform community economies and elevate the professional practice of economic and workforce development. Mr. Lautman has three decades of experience as a professional economic developer and has designed and managed four economic development programs having procured more than 80 corporate locations, accounting for more than 15,000 new jobs, 6 million square feet of industrial space and $11 billion dollars in new investment. Most recently, he was Vice President of Economic Development at Mesa del Sol where his business unit was responsible for recruiting Albuquerque Studios, Schott Solar, Fidelity Investments and several others. Mark’s recent consulting projects include Spaceport America, Live Work New Mexico, Artesia Chamber of Commerce, San Juan County, Cibola County, Rio Rancho Economic Development Corporation, WorkKeys Based Labor Market Model, New Mexico EB5 Regional Center, OKC Land Inventory Analysis, and Ft. Bayard masterplan. Mr. Lautman is the author of a new book When the Boomers Bail: A Community Economics Survival Guide. He graduated from the University of New Mexico in economics, architecture, and geography, and is a former Peace Corps volunteer.


Sandra S. Liu, PhD, professor, Purdue University and director, Center for Global Urban Sustainability

Dr. Sandra S. Liu joined Purdue University as a faculty member in 2001 and is currently a professor in the Department of Consumer Science and director of Center for Global Urban Sustainability. After attaining her Ph.D. in Higher Education Policy from the University of London, Sandra continued her training of planning and managing EMBA programs at the Kellogg Graduate School of Management, Northwestern University. She also has an MBA from Pepperdine University, MS in both Preventive Medicine and Pharmacology from the Ohio State University, and a Bachelor’s Degree in Pharmacy from Taipei Medical College (Taiwan). Prior to becoming an academic in 1990, Dr. Liu has extensive experience in the pharmaceutical industry in the capacities of research and development, clinical research, and sales and marketing. The geographical areas under her auspices included the national US market and a number of Asian territories, including Korea, China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, and Indonesia. Dr. Liu has been an author of many books, including two that were written with Philip Kotler, the master of marketing, and their Chinese version was published in China. Dr. Liu has also been active in conducting consultancy and executive training programs in Asia, Europe, and the US, such as 3M (Hong Kong), China Hospital Association and Bayer Healthcare (China), Wishard Health Services (US), and Ascension Health (US). Her current research focuses on business modeling and the strategic marketing issues for startups and transforming organizations

Steve McKee, President, McKee Wallwork + Company

Steve McKee is the president of McKee Wallwork + Company (MWC), Advertising Age’s 2015 Southwest U.S. Small Agency of the Year. He is the author of When Growth Stalls: How it Happens, Why You’re Stuck and What To Do About It, an award-winning business book now published in four languages, and Power Branding: Leveraging the Success of the World’s Best Brands, just published in China. MWC specializes in revitalizing organizations that are stalled, stuck or stale. The firm made the Inc. 500 list of the fastest-growing private companies in the U.S. its first year of eligibility, and it has twice won the prestigious Effie Award for marketing effectiveness from the American Marketing Association. In addition to being named 2015 Southwest U.S. Small Agency of the Year, MWC also won Advertising Age’s 2015 B2B Campaign of the Year award. A marketing strategist for nearly thirty years, Steve has held executive positions at notable international agencies including NW Ayer, Della Femina, and a division of McCann-Erickson Worldwide. He was a popular columnist for more than a decade and currently writes a column for SmartBrief on Leadership. He has been published or quoted in The New York Times, USA Today,, and Investor’s Business Daily, among others, and has appeared on CNBC, ESPN2, CNNfn, Bloomberg television and radio, and network TV affiliates across America.


Gary Oppedahl, Director, Economic Development Department

Gary Oppedahl may hold the title of Albuquerque’s Economic Development Director, but he is first and foremost a serial entrepreneur. He comes from the private sector where he has spent much of his career fostering tech start-ups including EMCORE and most recently TriLumina, both of which are built from research conducted at Sandia National Labs. Mr. Oppedahl has been involved with business start-up activity in Silicon Valley and is a former Intel employee whose duties included new site start-ups. Those who know him personally understand that he is also an entrepreneur and visionary by nature, not just by profession. He is driven by the desire to improve and invent, to push beyond conventional expectations, and to constantly ask “what if?” He has made great strides in working with existing tech-transfer leaders and innovators in Albuquerque and around the world with the goal of building a thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem in Albuquerque and to identify opportunities for growth and job creation; more specifically – the commercialization of research from our National Labs and our Universities.

Richard S. Larson, MD, PhD, executive vice chancellor and vice chancellor for research, University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center

Richard Larson is a nationally prominent physician-scientist with a record of scholarly, administrative, and entrepreneurial accomplishments. He has more than 100 peer-reviewed publications and numerous patents to his credit. Dr. Larson collaborated with UNM and Sandia National Laboratories researchers to develop hand-held biosensors for point-of-care diagnosis and other applications. The biosensor was selected by R&D Magazine for the 2010 Top 100 Technology Award. He leads GrowBio, an initiative to enhance knowledge-based jobs, and Healthy Neighborhoods Albuquerque, which enhances Main Street jobs. He chairs the board of directors of TriCore Reference Laboratories, which he helped to found and where he has been involved in operations and governance for more than 15 years. In 2001, Dr. Larson co-founded Cancer Services of New Mexico, a non-profit organization that each year serves more than 2,000 New Mexicans suffering from cancer, free of charge. Dr. Larson received his MD and PhD from Harvard University. He completed a residency in anatomic pathology at Washington University and a fellowship in clinical pathology and hematopathology at Vanderbilt University.

Ron Miziker, Creative Consultant, Producer, Author and Founder of Miziker Entertainment Group

Ron Miziker is a renowned leader in the leisure industry as creator and producer of a wide variety of spectacular show attractions and unique themed entertainment venues. As a vice president of the Walt Disney Company, he was instrumental in the design of attractions for Walt Disney World, Epcot Center, Tokyo Disneyland and other Disney developments over a 17-year period. He extended his creative developments worldwide with other leading entertainment companies, including Universal Studios, Radio City Music Hall, Lotte Korea, Nakheel Dubai, Port Adventura Spain, Cinemaworld Japan, Tren De La Costa Argentina, and projects for the Sultan of Oman. He served as creative director for a 40,000 square meter entertainment center in Spain that won the International Council of Shopping Centers award for the “Best New Mall in Europe.” For China he was a consultant to the Beijing Olympic Committee, recently he developed a major permanent show attraction for the new Melco-Crown “Studio City Casino” in Macau, and is currently contracted to Chimelong Group in Guangzhou and Zhuhai on several of their projects. In 2015 Ron was honored with the industry’s highest award, the Themed Entertainment Association’s “Buzz Price Award for a Lifetime of Distinguished Achievements.”


John A. Sanchez, Lieutenant Governor

John Sanchez has served as Lt. Governor of New Mexico since January 2011. Prior to being elected Lt. Governor, he served as a Councilman for the Village of Los Ranchos, New Mexico, and as a New Mexico State Representative. In 2002, he was the Republican nominee for Governor of New Mexico, and, in 2004, he served as the Southwest Regional Chairman for the Committee to Re-Elect President George W. Bush. In 2005, Lt. Governor Sanchez was recognized as one of the top 40 Most Influential Hispanics in the United States, and, this year, he was named the 15th Most Influential Hispanic Republican in the nation. Constitutionally, Lt. Governor Sanchez serves as the Acting-Governor when the Governor is absent from the state, and as the Presiding Officer and President of the New Mexico State Senate. He also serves as the State’s Ombudsman and sits on several boards and commissions including the New Mexico State Board of Finance; the New Mexico Military Base Planning Commission; the New Mexico Border Authority; the New Mexico Mortgage Finance Authority Board of Directors; the Spaceport Authority Board of Directors; the New Mexico Community Development Council; and the New Mexico Children’s Cabinet. Lt. Governor Sanchez has been an active member of the National Lt. Governors Association for more than six years and currently serves on the Association’s Executive Committee as Treasurer. During his terms as Lt. Governor, Sanchez has been a strong advocate for job creation, economic development, and private sector job growth in New Mexico. To advance these efforts, he now serves on the Innovate ABQ Board of Directors, and, this year, he assumed the chairmanship of the National Aerospace States Association. Prior to his seeking political office, Lt. Governor Sanchez built one of New Mexico’s most respected and successful small businesses in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The firm has operated continuously for over 34 years and was twice honored locally as “Small Business of the Year.”

Robert N. Singer, Secretary and General Counsel, investUS

Mr. Singer is an attorney licensed in the state of New Mexico and is president of New Mexico Law Group, P.C., based in Albuquerque, New Mexico. His areas of practice include national and international business, finance and economic development, technology transfer, and entertainment law. Mr. Singer also represents major banks, credit unions, and other financial institutions in various commercial, transactional and regulatory matters.  Mr. Singer has significant experience in international trade and commerce and has worked on major economic development projects throughout the United States, Mexico and greater Latin America, Europe, and Asia. He founded and served as president of International Arts and Technologies, Ltd., which represented domestic and offshore companies seeking international business and investment partners in a variety of industries. Also in that time, Mr. Singer served on the US District Export Council; was a Presidential Appointee to the US Department of Commerce Small Business Advisory Council, and chaired a major White House conference on international trade issues. Mr. Singer has been involved in numerous multimillion dollar projects around the country including for the Choctaw tribe in Mississippi, the Viejas tribe in California, the Navajo Nation, the Laguna Pueblo and the Zuni Pueblo in New Mexico. These ventures include theme parks and attractions, casinos and resort hotels, renewable energy installations and banking endeavors. Mr. Singer was also among the founders of the World Law Institute with honorary chairmen that included former President Jimmy Carter and former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev. The mission of WLI is to train lawyers from former Soviet countries in the rule of law. Mr. Singer has served as a trustee of the University of Albuquerque and on the board of the Catholic University of America School of Law in Washington, D.C., where he received his law degree. In law school, he was employed by the Senior New Mexico Senator in the United States Senate in Washington, DC.

Donna Smith, Film Producer

Donna Smith began her career as production coordinator on Raging Bull and quickly rose through the ranks, serving as production manager, line producer, and producer on notable projects that included The Terminator.

Smith was tapped by Universal Pictures to serve as President of Physical Production and Post Production; becoming the first woman to serve in that role for a major Hollywood studio.

During Smith’s seven-year tenure at Universal, more than 120 titles were released under her leadership including; Academy Award winner Schindler’s List, Jurassic Park, Babe, Scent Of A Woman, Casino, Backdraft, Back To The Future, Apollo 13 and many more.

Following her executive role at Universal, Donna entered the world of completion bonds, having established a sterling reputation as a “highly bondable” producer. Donna served as CEO/President for the Entertainment Coalition, a management entity formed to coordinate full-service completion bond and insurance services for the entertainment industry worldwide.

Under Donna’s leadership, the company handled such titles as Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, The Nutty Professor, Batman & Robin, La Confidential, Armageddon, Lethal Weapon and The Matrix.

Donna Smith more recently served as chief executive officer and president of Cinema Completions International. Based in Los Angeles with offices in London and Sydney, CCI underwrote completion bonds for movies. Smith green-lit new business and spearheaded strategic planning, managerial insight; guided by an extensive network of relationships with Hollywood studio executives, producers, filmmakers and creative talent.

Donna has the honor of being appointed a United States Film Ambassador to China and serves as a Women in Film trustee.

Jian Zhu, Chairman & CEO,  America China Civic Exchange

Jian Zhu, a native of China, has lived in Albuquerque, New Mexico for 30 years. With his unique background and more than 15 years of experiences in US-China related cross-cultural services and civic organization development, Mr. Zhu has co-founded and served as board of director and/or executive in dozens of project initiatives, organizations, and institutions including the Albuquerque Sister Cities Economic friendship city program, the American China Civic Exchange and the International Chinese Entrepreneur Association, of which he co-founded. His services and contribution to the peaceful relationship of both countries have ranged from education, arts, business, health and medical services, as well as US-China public affairs. He received a BA from Wuhan University in China and served on their teaching faculty for three years. He then came to the US to further his education, completing a master’s degree and doctoral course studies at UNM’s College of Education, majoring in socio-educational thought with a concentration of cross-
cultural anthropology and communication. Mr. Zhu taught at Albuquerque Public Schools for 7 years, and in UNM’s Department of Foreign Language and Literature for 10 years where he was recognized by the student body as a top teacher.

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