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Local has become a key channel – not only for local small businesses, but for regional businesses, national franchises, and national brands. The inclusion of national players and revenue to local channels has added a new cast of major characters and new dollars to our ‘little’ $134 Billion local ecosystem.

We saw it in December at ILM West, when UHaul’s Elnora Cunningham told us to study the website to learn that UHaul is about “more than just trucks and trailers.” We see it in YP’s mobile campaign with Blockbuster Entertainment. We see it again with Dunkin Donuts’ use of social media to ‘lobby’ for an expansion to California markets.

National’s local plays are so important we are building a Superforum around them at our spring BIA/Kelsey event, “Leading in Local: The National Implications.” It is going to be the big differentiator for this event, where we will be featuring many industry leaders in a new light, including a number of players we haven’t had on our stage before. The event takes place March 18-20 at The Westin in Back Bay, an area that defines Boston charm and has some of our favorite restaurants.

Day 2’s kickoff keynoter is Gannett Digital Marketing Services CEO Vikram Sharma. Sharma has radically transformed Gannett’s next generation play with an ambitious refocus on social media, mobile, deals and loyalty – it is perhaps the local story of the year.

We’re also going heavily into new generation of local transactions services and loyalty with Cartera CEO Tom Beecher and First Data SVP of Advanced Solutions and Innovation Dom Morea.

What else? Home Advisor‘s Chris Terrill will make one of his first public appearance as he remakes the former ServiceMagic into an SMB hub that feeds off all the trends in new media. He’ll be joined by Tim Condon, who runs new ventures for The Washington Post Co., including Service Alley.

We have also recruited two of the brightest marketing minds we’ve come across HubSpot CEO Brian Halligan, who moonlights as a senior lecturer at MIT (who is also the author of “Marketing Lessons for The Grateful Dead”) and David Kidder, the Clickability founder who has just come out with a new book, “The StartUp Playbook.” Kidder, who is one of our highest ranked speakers ever, kicks off a major conference focus on local’s Future Stars.

And we’re also excited to host some of the most progressive leaders in transforming local media properties, including Hearst Newspapers EVP Lincoln Millstein, The Portland Press Herald’s President and CEO Lisa Desisto (just moved over from The Boston Globe) and Gatehouse Media’s Peter Newton. If anybody knows how to transform these players, it is this group.

Check out the initial agenda here, and check back often for program developments. We’ll have almost 50 industry leaders by the time we are done: all in our unique atmosphere of fun and maximum networking. (And here is the registration page.)

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