Enrst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year, US Airways Flight 1549 and 2011 Gold Cup: a Triple Celebration in the Queen City

Earlier this month I was on my way to the Queen City (Charlotte, NC) to celebrate the accomplishments of our company’s founder and CEO, Madhu Beriwal, a finalist in the Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year Awards for the Carolinas region. Another 15 of my colleagues and IEM partners were also converging on North Carolina’s largest city to join in the festivities. It turned out the Ernst & Young award ceremony was not the only celebration in the Queen City. US Airways Flight 1549 was on its last journey from the dramatic landing in the Hudson River to its final destination on display at Charlotte’s Douglas International Airport.

Nearby, fans from Cuba and Mexico were flocking to the Bank of America Stadium to cheer on their respective teams battling for soccer’s coveted 2011 Gold Cup. And 23 distinguished entrepreneurs from around the Carolinas were attending the prestigious Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award Ceremony at the Westin Hotel. This group of outstanding entrepreneurs from the Carolinas region was selected by an independent judging panel made up of previous winners of the award, leading CEOs, private capital investors and other regional business leaders.

One of the winners was Ric Elias, who was honored for his successful direct marketing and sales company, Red Ventures. He and his family were seated at the table next to us. As it turns out, Elias was among the 155 people who boarded US Airways Flight 1549 on that fateful mid-January afternoon.

His speech at the award ceremony captured the emotion from the day time stood still aboard the US Airways plane and changed passengers lives forever. Many entrepreneurs shared equally passionate stories about how they continued against the odds to help their companies succeed at a time when many companies are just trying to keep their doors open.

We cheered our president Madhu Beriwal as she accepted her finalist award, marking another accomplishment in the long list of IEM awards since the day she started the company from a small office in Louisiana in 1985. She recognized that emergency managers needed tools to solve complex problems—tools that involve science and technology. Beriwal employed the right mix of science and technology with community planning and emergency preparedness to help New Orleans prepare for a category five hurricane. One year later, Hurricane Katrina changed the Gulf Coast forever. IEM is recognized as a national leader in preparedness for catastrophic disasters, and is redefining emergency preparedness in the US. Next month, IEM will celebrate the one-year anniversary of opening its new headquarters in the Research Triangle Park, North Carolina.

Later that evening we heard horns from our hotel as soccer fans continued celebrating in the streets.

It was an evening full of celebrations and commemorating successes. We were proud of our founder Madhu Beriwal who saw an opportunity over 25 years ago and overcame many obstacles to bring IEM to where it is today. We enjoyed hearing the stories from the people behind the companies that have made a difference in the Carolinas. It was truly a triple celebration in the Queen City.


Author: David Willauer, Manager, Transportation & Geospatial Technologies Division