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World Trade Center Nashville gets fresh impetus from CenTradeX founder
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CenTradeX's Thompson
Earlier this year, Robert Thompson secured the franchise for World Trade Center Nashville. Now, he's stepping out of the daily operations of his international trade technology and services company, in order to devote more time to his expanding international interests.
CenTradeX Founder Thompson told VNC yesterday that Chuck Wigand, formerly vice president for information technologies, is now president of CenTradeX, with Thompson keeping founder-CEO duties.

Thompson also announced he has named trade-center veteran Mark Condon (at left) to serve as both executive director of the fledgling WTCN and head of CenTradeX's new consulting-services division, based in Franklin.

Thompson said promoting Wigand (below right) and adding to his management team will accelerate development of World Trade Center Nashville, while allowing more aggressive marketing of CenTradeX services.

In separate interviews yesterday, both Thompson and Condon stressed that – in addition to having a strong real-estate presence – success for WTCN will require services for both exporters and importers; services for ex-U.S. companies looking to establish operations here; and, strong public-service and education programs.

Dean Peterson, director of the U.S. Commerce department's Nashville Export Assistance Center, told VNC yesterday that while creating and running trade centers is extremely difficult, particularly in smaller cities like Nashville, he believes that if WTCN, CenTradeX and their allies can create a "unifying experience" for their stakeholders, they will add real value.

Peterson indicated that he believes the key to WTCN's success lies in CenTradeX's data and analytical and consulting services, which he described as "unquestionably the premier international source of trade data at the transactions level in the world."

He added that Thompson and Condon's close relationships within the World Trade Centers Association's leadership and member trade enters could also give WTCN a better-than-average chance of success. CenTradeX has provided services to WTCA members, for some time.

Condon told VNC yesterday that he and Thompson have been in touch with about a dozen Nashville-area real-estate developers, thus far, and have inspected a half-dozen possible sites that might bear the World Trade Center Nashville name. He said some of the projects studied thus far include sites that are under development, as well as projects just coming off the drawing-boards.

Condon said he and Thompson have also been visiting executives with local government, chambers of commerce, universities and other agencies and institutions. He said he's confident WTCN will have a campus presence at one or more local universities, early-on.

Condon said he and Thompson recognize that many Americans don't realize that communities like Nashville can have franchised world trade centers, often thinking that the World Trade Center famously associated with New York City is unique. In fact, there are 316 world trade centers worldwide, including 45 in the United States.

As reported earlier by VNC, Thompson, whose career before CenTradeX included California-based motion-picture studio ownership, teaching and other pursuits, paid $200,000 for the WTCN franchise rights. Originally, his personal goal was to leverage the WTCA network to advance what he and other observers believe is globally competitive CenTradeX technology.

Now, Thompson said he's "excited" to be shifting from product development, where he's focused the past eight years, toward "developing the whole big-picture global entity and finding partners" to help fulfill his plans for his personal portfolio of commercial and nonprofit ventures.

Thompson, 54, said that in addition to his roles with CenTradeX and WTCN, he will devote much of his energy to converting CenTradeX's philanthropy-minded sister entity – which has done business for several years as International Trade Foundation – into a 501c(3) charitable nonprofit. The ITF will continue to disburse CenTradeX donations, while seeking grants and donations to further its trade-education and international-development mission. Operating separately, WTCN, itself, will seek status as a 501c(6) trade association, according to Thompson.

Condon, 46, is a member of the board of directors of the New York City-based World Trade Centers Association, from which Thompson has licensed the WTCN franchise. Condon served nine years as executive director of South Carolina World Trade Center at Charleston. Since 2006, Condon has consulted to management of existing and proposed trade centers through his Charleston-based firm, Sea Island Traders LLC. Earlier, he served 14 years as a vice president in his family's chain of department stores.

Condon told VNC yesterday he has named Lisa Callihan (at left) director of education programs for WTCN. Callihan is owner of World Trade Services & Training LC, a distance-learning service business with an international orientation, based in Charleston.

Wigand, a 36-year-old Brentwood resident, owned KREDO Teknologies prior to joining CenTradeX. Earlier, he worked in a variety of information-technology services, project management and software-development roles for HCA, Alliance Software, Deloitte & Touche Consulting Group, Robert Half International Consulting, United Way and others.

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Tags: CenTradeX, Chuck Wigand, commercial real estate, Dean Peterson, economic development, education, export, import, international trade, Lisa Callihan, Mark Condon, Nashville Export Assistance Center, Robert Thompson, South Carolina World Trade Center, World Trade Center Nashville

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