Former secretary of commerce to speak at annual conference

contact: Cindy Wagner
| WMU News
Photo of Carlos Gutierrez.


KALAMAZOO—Continuing a tradition of bringing top industry leaders to Kalamazoo, the 2014 Western Michigan University Food Marketing Conference will feature former Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez as well as other industry executives, including Meijer President J.K. Symancyk. The conference annually attracts more than 500 industry leaders to the Kalamazoo area from across the United States.

The two-day conference begins Monday, March 31, at the Radisson Hotel in Kalamazoo and will feature presentations and sessions related to this year's theme, "Winning in Today's Multi-Channel Environment." Registration is ongoing at

Gutierrez, who is also former CEO and chairman of the board of Kellogg Co., will share his perspectives in "Government, Business and the Economy," at 8 a.m. Tuesday, April 1.

Carlos Gutierrez

As the 35th secretary of the U.S. Department of Commerce, Secretary Gutierrez was responsible for heading a cabinet agency with almost 40,000 employees and a $6.5 billion budget focused on promoting American business at home and abroad. During his tenure, Gutierrez worked with foreign government and business leaders to advance economic relationships, enhance trade and promote U.S. exports. He played a key role in the passage of landmark free trade agreements aimed at stripping away trade barriers, expanding export opportunities and boosting global investment.

Industry leaders share insights

In addition to Gutierrez, numerous consumer package goods industry leaders will share insights into the industry. The conference kicks off Monday, March 31, with three sessions: 

  • Dan O'Connor, president and CEO of RetailNet Group, will discuss the future of the industry in his presentation "2020 Global Retail Context.”
  • A conference favorite, the "Executive Forum" moderated by Thom Blischok, chief retail strategist for Booz & Company, features executives from Kroger, Wal-Mart, Kellogg, IGA International and MyWeb Grocer, and will address industry concerns on the economy, changing retail landscape, the consumer and technology. 
  • Following dinner on Monday, Juliet Funt, founder and owner of WhiteSpace at Work, brings her fun and entertaining style to "Bringing Great Companies … More Creativity … More Productivity ... More Engagement."

On Tuesday morning, following Guiterrez’s opening presentation, Kevin E. Kelley, co-founder and principal of Shook Kelley Design in Los Angeles, will present "The Dynamic Evolution of Retail, Culture and Place." 

John S. Phillips, senior vice president, Customer Supply Chain and Global GTM, PepsiCo, will close out the morning with a fast-moving and high-energy presentation on the "Convergence of the Digital and Physical Worlds."

Ten Breakout sessions on Tuesday round out the conference and include a special presentation by WMU's head football coach, P.J. Fleck, who will discuss "Lessons from the Gridiron: Motivation, Leadership and Teamwork for Your Business."

J.K. Symancyk, president of Meijer, will be the closing speaker following a luncheon on Tuesday and will discuss the importance of "Connecting with the Customer."

About the conference

Now in its 49th year, the WMU Food Marketing Conference brings leading industry speakers from around the country to Kalamazoo to share the latest developments in the industry. The conference is a non-profit event that supports scholarships and programs for unique educational experiences for WMU food marketing students.

For more information about the event, visit the conference website or call the conference hotline, (269) 387-2132.

To arrange media coverage, contact Stacey Markin at (269) 387-6936.