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Paul G. Aucoin
Executive Director, Port of South Louisiana

Paul G. Aucoin was born and raised on the Westbank of St. John the Baptist Parish in Wallace, Louisiana.  He attended Loyola University for undergraduate school and received his Juris Doctor (J.D.) from Loyola University Law School in May of 1970. Aucoin has practiced law since graduating from law school, acquiring his own private practice in May 1971. He maintains his private law firm to this day. Aucoin is the proud father of two girls, Shelley and Leah.

In July 2013, Paul was selected to serve as Executive Director of the Port of South Louisiana. He has long-standing affiliations with the American and Louisiana State Bar Associations. Furthermore, he has served as Director and Chairman of various organizations and boards including the 29th Judicial District Indigent Defender Board, the Board of Supervisors for the University of Louisiana System,  the South Central Planning Regional Loan Foundation, the River Parishes Community College, the River Parishes Tourist and Visitors Commission, the River Region Chamber of Commerce, the St. James Bank and Trust Company, the St. James Bank Corporation, and the St. James Parish Economic Development Board. He has close ties with other local groups like St. Joseph Co-Cathedral Pastoral Council, the River Region Arts and Humanities Council, and the New Orleans Chamber River Region Committee.

Paul was appointed to the Board of Directors of the World Trade Center of New Orleans and participates in the organization’s Government Affairs, International Business and Transportation committees.  Most recently he was appointed to the Louisiana Board of International Commerce and the Louisiana River Pilot Review and Oversight Board.

Paul was named as one of the “21 of Industry’s Most Influential Leaders of the Corridor” in 10/12 Industry Report in 2016.  He was honored to receive the World Trade Center 2017 Eugene Schreiber Award and the Plimsoll Mark Award at the World Trade Center International Jubilee.

Brandy Christian

Brandy D. Christian
President & CEO of the Port of New Orleans and CEO of New Orleans Public Belt Railroad Corp.

Brandy D. Christian is the President and CEO of the Port of New Orleans and the CEO of the New Orleans Public Belt Railroad Corp., a shortline connecting railroad and subsidiary of the Port. The two public agencies have combined revenues of $100 million, nearly 500 employees, and more than $200 million in capital projects. In her Port role, Christian oversees all cargo, cruise, and industrial real estate operations. As the CEO of the Public Belt, she sets strategic direction and oversees all rail holdings.

Christian serves on the Green Marine Board of Directors, Railroad-Shipper Transportation Advisory Council, Atlanta Federal Reserve Bank Trade and Transportation Advisory Council, Louisiana Board of International Commerce, the World Trade Center of New Orleans Board of Directors, the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau Board of Directors and as the Cruise Committee Chair for the American Association of Port Authorities.

Before joining Port NOLA, Christian served 14 years with the Port of San Diego as vice president of strategy and business development.


George E. Duffy
President & CEO, G.Duffy Maritime Services LLC

As president and CEO of G.Duffy Maritime Services LLC, George E. Duffy provides chartering, logistics and port captain services, as well as maritime consultant services.  An ocean shipping executive with 50+ years’ experience in all aspects of the maritime industry, Duffy has overseen many areas over the course of his career, including the development of business, operations, administration, chartering, stevedoring, vessel management and vessel operation, port captain, port operations, and marketing on a worldwide basis. 

Duffy has traveled extensively throughout the world and the inland and ocean ports of the United States, and was directly responsible for the development of terminal and stevedore operations in Iran, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and other Middle East Nations and Far East areas, as well as in the U.S. 

Duffy has experience in maritime law-related matters involving vessel Longshore Harbor Workers Compensation Act/Jones Act, and state compensation claims and awards and was responsible for the management and development of marine insurance programs.  He has been active in State Pilot issues in numerous states in which he had operations and is active with the U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Army Engineers and the U.S. Customs and Boarder Protection. 

In addition to his business, Duffy is active in numerous professional associations.  He served in the United States Air Force for four years before attending Loyola University New Orleans where he earned a Bachelor of Business Administration and an M.B.A.  Duffy was also a member of the Master’s Program at Harvard University School of Business/School of International Business.


Sean Duffy, Sr.

Sean M. Duffy, Sr.
Executive Director, Big River Coalition

Sean M. Duffy, Sr., serves as executive director of the Big River Coalition, “Advocating for a Mightier Mississippi River,” a position he has held since 2011.  The Big River Coalition (BRC) is committed to protecting maritime commerce across the Mississippi River and Tributaries (MRT).  The BRC focuses on maximizing efficient transportation on the deep-draft ship channel from Baton Rouge to the Gulf of Mexico.  As concerns grow regarding the future management of the Mississippi River system, efforts have been increased to help reduce and/or prevent adverse impacts related to flood protection, protecting water supplies, recreational boating, fishing, invasive species, coastal restoration, and minimizing the negative impacts of runoff and pollutants.  It is vitally critical to the nation’s economy that navigation remains unimpeded.  The best economic estimates available indicate that the MRT has an annual impact of over $735 billion on the economy of the United States.  It is imperative that as visions of the

future of the MRT are shaped, navigation representatives strive to ensure that systematic approaches protect maritime trade by maintaining fully authorized channel dimensions while also updating and maintaining our navigation infrastructure, specifically the locks and dams along the MRT.  The Big River Coalition’s missions are focused on securing increased funding from the Harbor Maintenance Tax and the Inland Users Fuel Tax, efforts to deepen the Lower Mississippi River to 50 feet and to increase the beneficial use of dredge material or “sediment recycling.”

The Big River Coalition is at the forefront of efforts to deepen the Mississippi River Ship Channel to 50 feet.  Mr. Duffy also serves as the Executive Vice President/Maritime Advocate for the BRC’s parent company, the New Orleans Steamship Association d.b.a. Louisiana Maritime Association.

Mr. Duffy is a member of various boards and commissions and was most recently honored as the Global Maritime Ministries’ 2018 Crystal Lighthouse Award as Maritime Person of the Year.

Meredith Grabill

The Honorable Meredith S. Grabill
U.S. Bankruptcy Judge, Eastern District of Louisiana and Adjunct Associate Professor of Law, Tulane University

The Honorable Meredith S. Grabill currently serves in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana.  Prior to taking the bench in September 2019, she practiced primarily in the areas of bankruptcy, commercial, and oil-and-gas litigation in New York and Louisiana.  In her practice, she served on bankruptcy teams representing publicly traded, closely held, and individual chapter 11 debtors; official unsecured creditors’ committees; and corporate creditors.  Outside of bankruptcy court, she has represented large and multinational corporations in antitrust proceedings, labor and contract disputes, and insurance and reinsurance disputes.    

Judge Grabill served as a judicial clerk to The Honorable Edith Brown Clement in the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, The Honorable Martin L.C. Feldman in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana, and The Honorable Martin Glenn in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York.  She earned her J.D. from Tulane Law School, where she served as Editor in Chief of the Tulane Law Review, and received a B.A. from The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington.

John Hairston

John Hairston
President and Chief Executive Officer of Hancock Whitney Corporation

John M. Hairston is President and Chief Executive Officer of Hancock Whitney Corporation, the $30 billion parent company of Hancock Whitney Bank. Hancock Whitney has earned recommendations as one of America’s strongest, safest financial institutions for 121 consecutive quarters from BauerFinancial, Inc., the nation’s leading independent bank rating and analysis firm. Gulfport, Mississippi, native John Hairston joined Hancock Whitney in 1994 following a career in financial services consulting with Anderson Consulting. Serving as CEO since 2006 and President since 2014, John Hairston was also Hancock Whitney’s Chief Operating Officer (2008-2014),

Hairston is a longtime advocate for the financial services industry, having served in industry leadership roles such as a member of the American Bankers Association Board of Directors and Audit Committee, member of the Financial Education and Advocacy Committee in Washington, D.C., past co-chair of the American Bankers Association Dodd-Frank Task Force, past chair of the Mississippi Bankers Legislative Committee, and chairman of the American Bankers Council.

He has also taught on the faculty of the Graduate School of Banking at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge and currently lectures at the Georgia School of Banking in Athens.

Hairston has played major roles in numerous business, economic, civic, and charitable organizations in Mississippi, across the Gulf South, and in Washington, D.C.

In 2004 and 2009, Governor Haley Barbour appointed him as Director of the Board of Mississippi Information Technology Services, which Hairston chaired in his second term. He received appointments in 2005 and 2010 to the Mississippi Gaming Commission, one of the three-member body regulating the state’s gaming industry. In 2012 Governor Phil Bryant appointed him chairman of that commission. Hairston also co-chairs the GoCoast 2020 Commission Tourism Committee.

Hairston is a past commissioner of the Mississippi Access to Justice Commission, appointed by Chief Justice Jim Smith; past commissioner of the Mississippi Gulf Coast Recovery and Revitalization Commission; and past co-chair of the Gulf Coast Business Council Premier Destination Initiative, which sponsored legislation to form the first Gulf Coast Regional Convention and Visitors Bureau. He is also immediate past chairman of the Gulf Coast Business Council

Hairston currently serves on the National WWII Museum Board of Trustees in New Orleans as board vice-chair and audit committee chair. Additionally, he is a member of the New Orleans Business Council.

One of The Sun-Herald’s Top 10 Business Leaders under 40, Top 10 Community Leaders, and Mississippi Business Journal’s Top 40 under 40 Business Leaders, Hairston also received the Mississippi Business Journal’s Top CEO Award, One Coast Ambassador of the Year award, and the Pat Santucci Spirit of the Coast award. He is a past chair of the United Way of South Mississippi campaign and past chair of the American Heart Association Heart Walk.

Hairston is a graduate of Gulfport High School and a magna cum laude graduate of Mississippi State University with a Bachelor of Science degree in chemical engineering. He is a member and past chair of the MSU’s College of Business Executive Advisory Board.

Quentin L. Messer, Jr., CEcD

Quentin L. Messer Jr., CEcD
President & CEO, New Orleans Business Alliance

As President & CEO, Quentin reports to a twenty-one person Board of Directors that includes the Mayor of the City of New Orleans, President of the New Orleans City Council and corporate business leaders and leads a team of 30+ professionals.

Quentin leads initiatives and programs related to making New Orleans the most attractive city of its size for financial and human capital investment.  These initiatives and programs are conducted across four workstreams: business attraction/retention, small business growth, talent and workforce development and strategic neighborhood development.  Under his leadership, the Business Alliance became one of fewer than 80 AEDOs recognized internationally by the International Economic Development Council (IEDC) and hired the state of Louisiana’s only dedicated BioInnovation and Life Science-focused economic development professional among other milestones.  

PRIOR WORK EXPERIENCE:  Immediately prior to joining NOLABA, Quentin was the gubernatorially-appointed Assistant Secretary for Louisiana Economic Development, (LED) the state department of economic development, https://www.opportunitylouisiana.com/, where he testified before committees of the Louisiana State Legislature.  

Prior to his work in economic development, in addition to his time at the Boston Consulting Group and O’Melveny LLP, Quentin served as a Turnaround President and Chief Operating Officer for one of the largest K-12 education management organizations in the U.S. and Broad Resident in Urban Education.

EDUCATION:  He is a graduate of Princeton University, where he was a Woodrow Wilson School major and completed graduate degrees at Columbia University in the City of New York, where he received his JD and MBA from Columbia Law School and Columbia Business School, respectively. 

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Jim Priestley
Group Vice President of North America Applications Sales, Oracle

Jim Priestley is a Group Vice President at Oracle leading North America SaaS portfolio sales and operations.  He is a trusted advisor on evolving technologies that help customers build modern, resilient, and connected business systems and operations.  Jim has demonstrated his capacity and ability to drive double-digit growth – both with startups and established companies – by ensuring his teams are executing against a clear sales strategy and getting to the decision makers.  Prior to his new role at Oracle, Jim led SAP’s North America Mid-Market West team where he exceeded quota and grew sales by 54%.  He also grew the major accounts portfolio at Box.com by 94% in one financial year, helping position the company for a successful IPO.  Most recently, Jim was the Chief Revenue Officer for Feedzai, a software company that fights fraud with AI.  During his two-year tenure, he is credited for going sales 50% year-on-year to almost $100 million.

Jim lives in Burlingame, CA with his wife.  His daughter is a Rising Junior at Tulane and his son recently graduated from the University of Michigan.  When Jim is not helping his team smash sales quotas, you’ll find him playing his guitar, cycling, or down at the beach surfing or kite surfing.

Dr. James A. Richardson

Dr. James A. Richardson
Alumni Professor of Economics and Public Administration, Louisiana State University

James A. Richardson is John Rhea Alumni Professor of Economics and Public Administration in the E. J. Ourso College of Business Administration at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  Dr. Richardson has served as Director of the Public Administration Institute, Chairman of the Department of Economics, Acting Dean of the College of Business Administration, and Associate Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs at Louisiana State University.

Dr. Richardson served from October 1987 through September 2019 as the private economist on the Louisiana Revenue Estimating Conference, the panel with the constitutional authority and responsibility to provide official revenue estimates for the state.  Dr. Richardson serves as a member of the Board of Directors of the Public Affairs Research Council and as a member of the   Council for A Better Louisiana.

Dr. Richardson was a co-founder of the Louisiana Economic Outlook starting in 1983 and continued contributing to the preparation of the economic outlook until 2015. The economic outlook focused on the labor market regions and the major industries of the state.

Dr. Richardson has recently served as a member of the Resilient Louisiana Commission, a task force assembled on behalf of the Governor of Louisiana to guide the state through the short-term recovery from COVID-19 and to build for a long-term resilient and prosperous economy.

 Dr. Richardson received his bachelors of art degree in economics from St. Mary’s University of San Antonio, Texas and his Master’s degree in economics and the doctorate in economics from The University of Michigan.  Dr. Richardson specializes in regional forecasting, state and local tax policy, economic development, and energy economics.

Michael Rubenstein

Michael D. Rubenstein
Shareholder, Liskow & Lewis

Michael Rubenstein is a shareholder in the Houston office of Liskow & Lewis.  His current practice is heavily focused on business litigation and restructuring matters, both in and out of court.  Over the years, he has also handled energy litigation, general bankruptcy litigation, and criminal investigations and trials.  Michael received his undergraduate degree, cum laude, from Tulane University’s A.B. Freeman School of Business and his law degree, summa cum laude, from Tulane’s Law School.  He is a past president of the Tulane Alumni Association.  Following law school, he clerked for Hon Edith Brown Clement, U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana. 

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Adam Weissenberg
Vice Chairman and Chief Global Officer Audit & Assurance, Asia Pacific Leader- US Global Office, Deloitte & Touche LLP

Adam Weissenberg serves as the Vice Chairman and Chief Global Officer for Audit & Assurance as well as the Asia Pacific Leader for Deloitte.  In addition, Adam was recently elected to serve on Deloitte's US Board of Directors.  As a Board member, Adam is responsible for governance and oversight for the U.S. firm.  In his global roles, Adam helps drive the US strategy around global issues while ensuring leadership alignment around the Firm’s most important accounts.

Adam has 28 years of experience across the firm in various Audit & Assurance and cross-business leadership roles.  During this time he has served as a Lead Client Service Partner, Advisory Partner, Industry Leader, and in a Business Leadership role.  Earlier in his career, he helped to establish and grow the Transportation, Hospitality, & Services (THS) sector, which is now one of the largest sectors globally.

Adam graduated Cornell University’s Hotel School with a B.S. in hotel administration, and upon graduation, spent five years in the hospitality industry working with hotel, restaurant and food service companies.  He then received his MBA from Columbia University before joining Deloitte as a CPA.  Outside of Deloitte, Adam serves on the Board of Directors for Cancer Hope, the Dean’s Advisory Board for the Cornell School of Hotel Administration, and as Audit Committee Chairman of UJA of New York.  Adam resides in New Jersey with his wife and has two grown daughters.

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Kyle Widmer, M.D.
Chief of Infectious Diseases, Southeast Louisiana Veterans Health Care System (SLVHCS)

Dr. Kyle Widmer is the Section Chief of Infectious Diseases at the Southeast Louisiana Veterans Health Care System (SLVHCS) in New Orleans.  She is also assistant professor of medicine at Tulane University’s School of Medicine.  As part of the SLVHCS Pandemic Clinical Awareness Workgroup, Dr. Widmer has been involved in the planning for and response to COVID for the healthcare system.  She is a principal investigator on clinical trials studying the effect of various treatment options on COVID-19 patients.  One of these studies, which is ongoing, is an adaptive COVID-19 treatment trial sponsored by the National Institutes of Health and led to a recent publication in The New England Journal of Medicine.  Dr. Widmer has a Doctor of Medicine from Tulane University School of Medicine and graduated cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts in Classical Latin from Louisiana State University’s Honors College.

Joel Wood

Joel Wood
Senior Vice President for Government Affairs, The Council of Insurance Agents and Broker

Joel Wood is the senior vice president for government affairs (and thus the chief lobbyist) at The Council of Insurance Agents and Brokers in Washington. The Council represents 200 firms that collectively sell more than 90 percent of all commercial property/casualty premiums, and more than 70 percent of employee benefit premiums nationally. He has been the top regulatory and government affairs officer at the association since 1993. He began his work in Washington working for a member of Congress from his home state of Tennessee in the 1980s.

Over the course of his career, Wood has been deeply engaged in many issues impacting the commercial insurance brokerage industry – from health insurance reform efforts, to terrorism reinsurance, to regulatory reforms both small and large, at both the federal and state level – and has received numerous accolades as one of the top lobbyists in the financial services industry. He also oversees the association’s political action committee, which is the largest in the insurance industry.

In 2000, he and his wife Dana formed the Foundation to Eradicate Duchenne following the diagnosis of their son James with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, the world’s most lethal childhood genetic disease. Their advocacy and charitable work has led to hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of scientific research into DMD, and a corresponding decade-long increase in life expectancy for those afflicted with the disorder.


*As of 7/24/2020. Speakers are listed in alphabetical order. Program is subject to change