Charles Starks, left, Music City Center President/CEO and Forum Keynote Speaker Robert Sherrill See more photos on page B14. Photo submitted

NASHVILLE, TN — The Music City Center hosted the annual Small and Diverse Business Forum on Friday, Feb. 15 and had over 250 in attendance. 

The interactive forum connected small and diverse-owned businesses to major employers including the Metro Nashville Airport Authority, Music City Center, Nashville Sounds, Nashville Predators, Tennessee Titans and Omni Hotel. 

Mayor David Briley provided an opening message, emphasizing the city’s commitment to minority partners, stating it’s the right thing and the smart thing to do. 

“No matter your background, you have a fair shot of prosperity in the community,” stated Briley. 

The keynote speaker was Robert Sherrill, who was once an attendee of the forum. He is now owner of four companies and a best-selling author. He shared about his personal journey, including his recent pardon by outgoing Governor Bill Haslam, and what the hardships have taught him. The resounding theme was persistence and perseverance no matter the circumstances.

“Experience is what you get when you don’t get what you want,” shared Sherrill. 

Sherrill is President/CEO of Imperial Cleaning Systems, Vanguard Transportation and Empero Logistics as well as cofounder of The Lab, the first Black owned coworking space. 

The MCC takes pride in its Diversity Business Enterprise Program and hosting events such as the forum. In the last five years, the MCC has spent 16.7 million with DBE businesses. 

“We value all of our DBE partners as we strive to promote equity, diversity and inclusion within MCC and in our community,” said Charles Starks, President/CEO of Music City Center. “It is encouraging to see the increase in attendance in this year’s forum as we recognize the importance of DBE participation.”

The event was started by MCC and is in partnership First Tennessee and the Nashville Chamber. 

The Music City Center, Nashville’s convention center features a 353,143 square foot exhibit hall, a 57,500 square foot Grand Ballroom, and an 18,000 square foot Davidson Ballroom. The building also includes an art collection featuring local and regional artists and a covered three-level parking garage with 1,800 spaces.