Mary Ellen Upton, Executive Director

· Executive Director, International Council of the Tampa Bay Region (current)

· Senior Vice President, Gulf of Mexico States Partnership (current)

· Executive Director, Gulf of Mexico States Accord General Secretariat(current)

Mary Ellen Upton, Executive Director of the International Council, brings substantial experience to the field of management consulting, event management, and international economic development. Ms. Upton is the founding Executive Director of the International Council of the Tampa Bay Region, Inc. and its predecessor organization. The International Council is the exclusive US Department of State programming organization for States “International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP). Prior to taking on the International Council role on a full-time basis in 2008, Ms. Upton’s company, International Events, Inc., provided professional services to public and private sector clients, including: foreign corporate orientation visits in the US; corporate on-site visits; in-bound trade and investment missions; and business-related conferences, seminars, meetings and events. Highlights of her career include:


· Founding Executive Director, International Council of the Tampa Bay Region, Inc. Since the organization’s founding in 2000 and its official designation as the State Department’s official program organization in the Tampa Bay region, Ms. Upton has:

  • Designed, managed and organized over 8,000 professional meetings.
  • Programmed in excess of 2,000 “next generation” global leaders.
  • Brought international visitors from more than 130 countries to the Tampa Bay Region.

In this capacity, she has worked closely with the US Department of State and its seven national program agencies to develop professional, community and cultural resources in the seven-county Tampa Bay area. Under her leadership and direction, the International Council has earned an outstanding reputation for programming excellence under the International Visitor Leadership Program, the United States’ pre-eminent public diplomacy program.

· World Bank Country Image-Building Symposium (Washington, DC.). Under a sole-source contact to the World Bank, Ms. Upton organized and managed a one-day symposium on country image-building at the Bank headquarters in Washington, DC. The symposium brought senior executives from international communications firms together to discuss, for the first time, best practices and common problems faced by national governments in creating, managing and defending their country image for the purposed of attracting foreign direct investment. The conference resulted in major program changes at the World Bank.

· First Executive Director, Gulf of Mexico States Accord General Secretariat. Since her appointment to this position in 2000, Ms. Upton has been responsible for planning and execution of over 60 formal meetings of the Accord Executive Committee, roundtable meetings of its seven Working Groups, and the Accord’s Annual Conferences. These meetings took place in Florida, Louisiana, Veracruz, Quintana Roo, Tabasco, Campeche, and Washington, D.C.; she organized the Accord’s annual conferences – a major event involving 11 state governors from Mexico and the US, as well as hundreds of participants – with state governments in Florida, Veracruz, Louisiana, Tabasco, and Quintana Roo. These meetings were frequently attended by Federal government officials from the US and Mexico.

· First Gulf Accord Strategic Planning Session: Ms. Upton planned and managed this conference in Orlando, Florida, which included delegations from all 11 Accord members states, and hosted by the Secretary of State of Florida.

· Gulf of Mexico States Partnership. A member of the Board of Directors of this Gulf-wide business association, Ms. Upton planned and executed Board meetings in Washington, D.C., Tampa, Florida, New Orleans, Louisiana, and Cancun, Quintana Roo, Mexico. She was also a member of the Board team that won a major Congressional grant to undertake the study.

· Gulf of Mexico Trade Corridor Study Stakeholder’s Meeting. Chaired by the Secretary of State of Louisiana, Ms. Upton recruited the Tampa Port Authority to host the meeting at its headquarters under her direction. This working session was attended by 60 senior state officials and private sector executives from the 11 states bordering the Gulf of Mexico, as well as the US Department of Transportation and the US Environmental Protection Agency.

· China-Tampa In-Bound Trade Mission. On behalf of the City of Tampa, Florida, Ms. Upton organized and managed a four-day mission for a delegation from Jiaxing City, China. The delegation was led by the Vice Mayor of Jiaxing Province and included senior Chinese Federal and provincial officials, and private sector leaders.


· US Department of Transportation sole-source contractor. For the US Maritime Administration, Ms. Upton’s woman-owned, small business contractor firm organized and managed a series of major conferences and workshops related to the promotion of short-sea shipping in the United States. These included the 2003 conference (Sarasota, Florida) with over 200 participants; the 2004 conference (New York City) with more than 250 attendees; in 2005, Ms. Upton assisted MARAD for its tri-national conference, held in Vancouver, British Columbia, in collaboration with the Canadian and Mexican governments, attended by over 500 government officials and shipping industry executives; in 2006, she organized the first “America’s Maritime Highways” symposium in New York, as well as the second event, held in St. Petersburg, Florida in 2008.

· US Department of State grantee. Ms. Upton was responsible for the application process that led to the designation of the International Council as the official State contractor for the Tampa Bay area, as well as its first government contract in 2003. The International Council has been a major grantee up to the present time.

· US Environmental Protection Agency sole-source contractor. For the first “binational symposium on hazardous algal blooms” between the US and Mexico, Ms. Upton organized the Mexican delegation to the event, as well as a meeting of the Executive Committee and Working Groups of the Gulf of Mexico States Accord in conjunction with EPA.


· First Statewide Visitor Council Strategic Planning Session. On behalf of the Secretary of State of Florida, the US Department of State International Visitor Leadership Program and the National Council for International Visitors, Ms. Upton organized the first collective planning session of the five “councils for international visitors” throughout the State of Florida. As a result of her leadership in this initiative, Ms. Upton was responsible for the first funding ever granted to all the Florida CIVs first funding by a state government in the United States.


· Tampa Bay Regional Trade Promotion. In 1998, Ms. Upton planned and managed a one day “Doing Business in South America and Mexico” seminar for the World Trade Center of Tampa Bay. Several speakers whose expertise in the South American and Mexican markets were brought in to address the attendees. More than 75 participants attended the seminar with over 150 one-on-one business meetings arranged.

· County-Level International Trade Missions. From January 2000-September 2001, Ms. Upton helped to develop and manage the Pinellas County (Florida) Economic Development “Mexico Initiative.” The program included developing business relationships between Mexican and Pinellas companies; “branding” the Pinellas County area among Mexican businesses and public officials; and promoting new trade and investment flows with Mexico. Based on one “outbound” trade mission and one “in-bound” mission which she organized and managed, the Initiative produced over $23 million in new business for Pinellas County firms.

· City-, County-level Trade Promotion, Image-Building: Ms. Upton advised and assisted Pinellas County Economic Development for its “Fiesta del Sol al Sol”, included two weeks of events throughout the county.

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Colin Powell,
Former US Secretary of State