NCBA and North Carolina Chamber Announce Economic Forecast Forum Speakers

RALEIGH, N.C. -- The 13th Annual Economic Forecast Forum, sponsored by Aqua and BlueCross and BlueShield of North Carolina (BCBSNC) and hosted by the North Carolina Bankers Association and North Carolina Chamber, will include multiple economic outlooks for 2015. Brad Wilson, president and CEO of BlueCross and BlueShield of North Carolina, and Christopher Franklin, president and Chief Operating Officer (COO), regulated operations with Aqua America, will serve as the Forum’s keynote speakers, and Mark Vitner, managing director, senior economist, Wells Fargo, will provide his economic outlook for 2015. Additionally, Governor Pat McCrory will offer welcome remarks to attendees. The event, attended by the state’s most influential business leaders, will be held at the Sheraton Imperial in RTP on Monday, Jan. 5.  The luncheon begins at noon and a special session on the economic impact of technology in North Carolina, sponsored by AT&T North Carolina, begins at 10:30 a.m.  Registration opens at 9:30 a.m.

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As President and CEO of BCBSNC, the state’s largest health insurer with 3.8 million customers, Wilson has a passion for health care, a strong commitment to community involvement and a great deal of expertise in business and public policy. Wilson is dedicated to improving the state’s health care system, making health care more affordable and helping BCBSNC adapt in a changing health care environment. He serves as chair of the National Institute for Health Care Management to address health care challenges at the national level, and serves as the director of the BlueCross and BlueShield Association, America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), BCS Financial Corporation and Prime Therapeutics, among others. His work continues in North Carolina, where he chairs the BCBSNC Foundation – an independent charitable organization that has invested nearly $90 million in community-based health and wellness efforts.

Franklin is president and COO of regulated operations and is responsible for Aqua America’s regulated operations, including customer operations, throughout the company’s entire service area, which includes approximately 3 million people in eight states. A 20-year veteran of the company, Franklin has held executive roles in public affairs, customer operations and most recently as regional president of the company’s southern and mid-western operations, where he managed eight states. Since joining Aqua in 1992 as director, corporate and public affairs, Franklin headed several successful projects including leading the effort to get favorable utility legislation (including DISC) passed in several states, attaining national print and broadcast media coverage of the company, changing the name and rebranding the company and its subsidiaries and expanding investor relations outreach to increase analyst coverage of Aqua.

As Managing Director and Senior Economist at Wells Fargo, Vitner is responsible for tracking U.S. and regional economic trends. Based in Charlotte, he also writes for the company’s Monthly Economic Outlook report, the Weekly Economic & Financial Commentary, and provides regular updates on the housing markets, commercial real estate, regional economies and inflation. His commentary has been featured in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, among many other publications. Vitner is a member of the National Association of Business Economists and co-founded its Charlotte chapter, The Charlotte Economics Club. He serves as a distinguished lecturer and practitioner at the University of Georgia, and chairs the Economic Advisory Council for the California Chamber of Commerce and serves as the chief economist for the North Carolina Certified Commercial Investment Member (CCIM).

Panelists for the special session, focusing on the economic impact of technology in North Carolina, include Scott Ralls, president of the N.C. Community College System; John Hardin, executive director, Office of Science, Technology & Innovation (OSTI) at the North Carolina Department of Commerce; and Steve Yager, vice president, Americas region technical services at Cisco Systems. The session will be opened by Venessa Harrison, president of AT&T North Carolina.

Aqua and BCBSNC will serve as the Forum’s premier sponsors and Business North Carolina and Time Warner Cable News will co-sponsor this year’s event. Gold sponsors include Bank of America, Cisco, Duke Energy, First Citizens Bank, K&L Gates and S&A Communications. AT&T will sponsor the special session on the impact of technology in North Carolina. Additionally, BB&T, ElectriCities of North Carolina, Fifth Third Bank, Medical Mutual Insurance Company of North Carolina, North Carolina’s Electric Cooperatives, Piedmont Natural Gas, Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice, PLLC and Yadkin Bank will serve as silver sponsors for the 2015 Economic Forecast Forum.

The Forum will fill quickly.  Registration information can be found at  For more information about the Economic Forecast Forum, contact Christy Santacana at the NCBA at or 1-800-662-7044.

About the North Carolina Bankers Association
The North Carolina Bankers Association brings together all categories of banking institutions that best represent the interests of our rapidly changing state. The state’s banks have provided support to their communities since 1872. For more information visit,

About the North Carolina Chamber
The North Carolina Chamber is a nonpartisan business advocacy organization that works in the legislative, regulatory and political arenas to proactively drive positive change to ensure that North Carolina is a leading place in the world to do business. Strengthening the state’s ability to attract, retain and grow jobs is the Chamber's highest priority. Central to that effort are four “Pillars of a Secure Future” for North Carolina which include Education and Talent Supply, Business Climate, Entrepreneurship and Innovation, and Infrastructure and Growth Leadership. For more information, visit