[nfbmi-talk] more on blast conference

joe harcz Comcast joeharcz at comcast.net
Sat Dec 6 13:44:46 UTC 2014

And who was there from Michigan? Was there even one blind operator? Not from my sources, the only two attendees at the Blast Conference from Michigan were reportedly Ed Rodgers and Mike Pemple.


And what do they know about blind empowerment, or the BEP?


They only know how to steal these locations and priorities from blind vendors using taxpayers resources and dedicated VR dollars even in the House Building and State Capitol.


And not even one blind employee in the mix who is paid either.


Oh yes and they used VR dollars that could have been far better spent on rehabbing blind people here to attend this conference too. Wonder how the golf courses in the area were?




Education & Inspiration Lead To 2014 BLAST Conference Success


Ben White

On Dec 2, 2014




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Austin, Texas was pleased to host the 13th consecutive BLAST (Business Leadership and Superior Training) conference for blind entrepreneurs and merchant

vendors at the Renaissance Hotel this past November.  Representatives from all 50 states enjoyed the BLAST conference, which was presented by the National

Association of Blind Merchants and the Business Enterprises of Texas.


Abundance of opportunities


A great deal of energy and enthusiasm accompanied the attendees’ arrivals. I noticed that spirits ran high on Tuesday, which kicked off with a morning of

staff and State Attorney General training. The afternoon offered a wide variety of symposium topics including lessons in leadership, a healthy choices

seminar and a very helpful smartphone tutorial. There were classes to maximize Low Vision Logic effectiveness, as well as discussions about technology

and micro markets. The evening celebrated 75 years of Randolph-Sheppard and more than 125 years of Coca-Cola refreshments with an outstanding Texas BBQ

dinner. Music and dancing were provided by some of Austin’s many live performers and networking opportunities were abundant.


Wednesday’s annual Leadership Breakfast featured excellent speakers and a leadership address from Mark. A. Riccobono, president of the National Federation

of the Blind. The morning’s Upward Mobility Training Session focused on productivity, the future of entrepreneurship for the blind and the future of unattended

retail. As technology changes, health concerns and an evolving retail environment challenge all small business owners in the vending industry, BLAST met

the issues head-on with practical solutions and infectious confidence.


The afternoon trade show allowed attendees to taste and touch the latest and greatest products, equipment, and technology of the automated retail industry.

 The trade show was sponsored by the National Association of Blind Merchants and it showcased experts who could answer specific questions about accessible

technology for the blind, legal issues and partnering for contracts in addition to a host of vending-related products and services. There were 83 exhibitors.

Entrepreneurs and staff alike got an opportunity to witness genuine Texas hospitality in Autin’s famous “6th Street” entertainment district after the trade

show closed for the evening.


Education empowers attendees


Thursday was another day of intense listening and learning with business leaders and industry experts energizing the crowd. Michael Hingson, president of

the Michael Hingson Group spoke to business owners about creating their own destinies. Hingson, a dog-guide user and author of the book Thunder Dog, led

a number of people down from the 70th floor of the World Trade Center on 9/11. His life story and business leadership were compelling. Kevin Adams, president

of Skill Connections, instructed the group as to why “Success is not for Whiners”. Additionally, I discussed creating a future in the vending industry

today. “Taking Inventory and Restocking the shelves of Randolph-Sheppard” was presented by Deanna Jones and Jesse Hartle, who were both from the United

States Department of Education. Special speakers included Steve Farber, president of Extreme Leadership, Inc, John Murn, director of the RSA Buying Group,

and Colleen Wunderlich, director of the Forsythe Center for Entrepeneurship at the Hadley School for the Blind. Thursday’s speeches were highlighted, however,

by an incredible story of civil rights advocacy and entrepreneurship shared by Dr. Marc Maurer, immediate past president of the National Federation of

the Blind.


The conference culminated with an awards banquet featuring 2008 American Idol finalist Scott MacIntyre. MacIntyre was inspiring, as he spoke and sang about

the hope and triumph he has experienced, and the encouragement he receives from the National Federation of the Blind. He said he confronts his blindness

through his support of family, his faith, his long white cane and the notion that, through raised expectations, you can live the life you want. BLAST conference

attendees left feeling very positive about the future of our industry. Small business owners across America are anxious to overcome challenges, produce

profitability and enjoy the satisfactions and rewards of hard work.





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