Dailey announces Rural Leaders of America Conference

GAINESBORO – The inaugural Rural Leaders of America Conference will be held on Monday, Oct. 7 at The Bull and Thistle in downtown Gainesboro. The inaugural conference will be hosted by Gainesboro native and Grand Ole Opry Star Jamie Dailey, along with Loui Silvestri and Diana Mandli, Bull and Thistle co-owners. 

Dailey first conceived the Rural Leaders of America Conference after working with business owners and local residents, in conjunction with local elected and state officials, to explore new ideas and opportunities that could better help economic conditions and development for Jackson County. 

Dailey is an alumnus and former young leader of the American Swiss Foundation based out of New York, NY. The late United States Ambassador to Switzerland Faith Ryan Whittlesey took Dailey under her wing when he was 23 years old and asked him to serve as a young leader in the American Swiss Foundation, where Dailey traveled the world participating in leadership conferences that included international heads of state. 

Silvestri and Mandli are residents of Gainesboro. In 2013, they opened one of the top quality dining establishments in the Middle Tennessee region, The Bull and Thistle, which quickly became a staple business in the community and a favorite dining destination for many. 

The Rural Leaders of America Conference will host a number of entrepreneurs, both local and national, who will speak about their experiences in starting up small businesses that have grown into national and international prominence. 

Dailey called and asked one of his long-time friends, Scott Niswonger, to be the first annual Rural America Conference Keynote speaker. 

“I was deeply touched when Scott graciously accepted,” says Dailey. 

Scott Niswonger

Scott Niswonger is a graduate of Purdue University with a degree in aviation technology and was awarded a Doctorate of Technology in 2004. In addition, Niswonger earned a BSBA from Tusculum University in 1986 and later was honored with a Doctorate of Human Letters in 2006. He also holds a Doctorate of Humane Letters from East Tennessee State University and the University of Tennessee.

Niswonger co-founded a transportation company, Landair Services, with an initial investment of $2,000, and in 1990 formed Forward Air Corporation. Those companies today have annual sales of over $1 billion. It’s impressive to note that he founded the first two companies ever to be taken public in Greene County’s 233-year history. Niswonger currently serves as Chairman Emeritus of Landair Transport, Inc. and Forward Air Corporation. He is a member of the Executive Committee and Board of Directors of First Horizon National Corporation, the parent of First Tennessee Bank, a $40 billion financial services company. Niswonger is the chairman of East Tennessee State University’s board of trustees and a 30-year trustee of Tusculum University. At Purdue University he is a member of the President’s Executive Council, Deans Council for Purdue University Polytechnic Institute, board member for the Purdue Research Foundation and chairman of Purdue Aviation.

Other guest speakers will include State Sen. Paul Bailey, Dr. Susan Elkins, Jamie Dailey and County Mayor Randy Heady. There will be a question and answer session at the conclusion of the conference.

Dailey would like to encourage all of our local elected officials, commissioners, chamber of commerce members and residents to attend for an hour and a half for the very first Rural Leaders of America Conference. State Rep. John Mark Windle and State Commissioner of Economic Development Bob Rolfe will be in attendance.

Dailey says he thinks this conference will help inspire our young and upcoming leaders, along with our current and more experienced leaders.

“I believe the ideologies, the business experiences and challenges that our speakers have lived through and have navigated through with their lives and careers will help bring inspiration to us all and maybe help guide us into the future with more robust ideas and aspirations for our town and county,” says Dailey. 

There is no registration fee for the conference, which will be held on Monday, Oct. 7 at 6:30 p.m. at The Bull & Thistle Pub, 102 S. Main Street, Gainesboro, TN 38562.

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