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First Gift & Home CEO Summit focuses on economy

LAS VEGAS — Economics and business - macro, micro and everything in between - were the focal points of the first-ever Gift & Home CEO Summit, presented by International Market Centers and Eller Enterprises here last week.

Some 100 executives from the industry, primarily from the gift and decorative accents segments, heard both name-brand national political and economic experts as well as insider consultants and officials from within the trade over the course of the day and one-half conference.

Lead-off keynoter Robert Reich, former U.S. Secretary of Labor, gave a realistic if a little sobering appraisal of the state of the American economy, telling the audience we are "still in the gravitational pull of the Great Recession.

"We're on the right track but we're not going fast enough," he said, citing the 1.5% to 2% growth rate of the economy, which he said needs to be at least 3.5% to drive a full recovery.

He cautioned that the "showdowns" at the national level on the debt ceiling, the fiscal cliff and government spending would continue to jeopardize efforts to return the economy to full strength.

Jon Huntsman Jr., the former ambassador to China and Utah governor who ran for president last year, spent most of his keynote address discussing China, specifically the labor, currency and political issues that are affecting business conditions there. While optimistic about the recent change in the leadership in the country, he said labor shortages would continue to drive the cost of production upwards.

The third national speaker was ABC News correspondent Claire Shipman, whose book "Womenomics" was the theme for her presentation on how the changing role of women in the workplace was affecting corporate America. Her speech was especially poignant considering the overwhelmingly male makeup of the audience.

There were also several more industry-specific sessions, including a panel discussion on mergers and acquisitions chaired by Randy Eller of Eller Enterprises and featuring Lance Hart of Demdaco, John Toler of Evergreen Enterprises and George Kacic of Giftcraft.

Jim Grien, president of TM Capital, an investment bank that specializes in the gift and home trade, presented the perspective of the financial community on M&A activity.

The program also featured Christi Tasker, the social media expert; Paul Tashima, speaking on cash management and investment; and Sandow Media presentations on original research from its Home Accents Today and Gifts and Decorative Accessories publications.

Sandow speakers included Warren Shoulberg, editorial director of Home Textiles Today, and Connie Lineberry, vice president of marketing for the Sandow division the includes Home Accents Today, Home Textiles Today, Gifts and Decorative Accessories and Furniture/Today.

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