Entrepreneur Stephen Hightower Keynote Speaker for Cape Fear Region Minority Enterprise Development Week Conference

Monday, September 12, 2016

The University of North Carolina Wilmington’s Office of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion and the Office of Facilities will host the second annual Cape Fear Region Minority Enterprise Development Week Conference in October.

This year’s event will include a pre-conference networking reception on Wednesday, Oct. 12 from 6-7:30 p.m. at the UNCW Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. The deadline to register for the reception is Oct. 3. The MED Week conference begins at 8 a.m., Thursday, Oct. 13 at the Burney Center on the UNCW campus. This year’s theme is “Evolving Your Business: Make It Happen, Make It Matter.”

Entrepreneur and philanthropist Stephen Hightower, president and CEO of Hightowers Petroleum Company, is the keynote speaker. An entrepreneur since 1979, starting more than 10 businesses, he currently operates five companies. Hightower grew his Ohio-based wholesale fuel supply company into an energy solutions enterprise. The company’s customers include Duke Energy, General Motors Corporation, Fed Ex, UPS, the State of Ohio, General Mills, Ford Motor Company and many others. Hightowers Petroleum Company has a joint venture in Nigeria and an office in South Africa.

Hightower serves on the Department of Interior National Park Foundation Board of Directors and Department of Energy National Petroleum Council, appointed to both positions by President Barack Obama. He was the recipient of the 2014 National MED Week Award and 2013 Black Enterprise Magazine’s Industrial/Service Company of the Year. Hightower was also involved with Power Africa, an initiative by President Obama to increase the number of people with access to electricity in sub-Saharan Africa. 

“The opportunity to provide information and resources to community businesses is an extension of the university’s mission,” said Cheryl Sutton, UNCW Office of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion Partnership Liaison and Office of Facilities HUB coordinator. “We are excited to host the second annual Cape Fear MED Week Conference and to have a global pioneer as our keynote speaker.”

Cape Fear MED Week recognizes the outstanding achievements of minority entrepreneurs and honors individuals and organizations that support minority business development. The conference provides opportunities for networking and discussion of critical issues affecting business and economic growth.  

Cape Fear MED WEEK is among the events being held nationwide as a part of the national observance of MED Week, created by presidential proclamation in 1983.

For more information about Cape Fear MED Week, visit or contact Cheryl Sutton at

-- Venita Jenkins