Growing up in the small town of Camden in Wilcox County and working on her father’s farm taught Kay Ivey to value hard work and living within one’s means. Her parents instilled values of faith, family and community.
After graduating from Auburn University in 1967, Kay worked as a high school teacher and a bank officer. She served as Reading Clerk of the Alabama House of Representatives under Speaker Joseph C. McCorquodale and Assistant Director of the Alabama Development Office, where she worked to spur job creation and economic development across the State.
In 2002, Kay became the first Republican-elected State Treasurer since Reconstruction and was re-elected in 2006. As Treasurer, Kay was committed to making the office more open, transparent and efficient.
Kay was elected Lieutenant Governor in 2010, becoming the first Republican woman to hold the office in Alabama’s history. She again made history on November 4, 2014, by becoming the first Republican Lieutenant Governor re-elected to the office. The Lieutenant Governor’s primary Constitutional duty is to preside over legislative proceedings of the upper house as President of the Senate.
One of Kay’s first actions in office was to lead the Commission on Improving State Government. The Commission was tasked with exploring ways to reduce government spending and find efficiencies in State government. Many of the Commission’s recommendations were implemented, laying the groundwork for Alabama to successfully complete The Road to Saving $1 Billion in December 2013.
In addition, Kay has taken on several initiatives to grow jobs, address child hunger, and increase STEM education. As Chair of the Military Stability Commission, she is leading the first statewide coordinated effort to secure and strengthen Alabama’s military assets ahead of any potential base or force realignments. She also serves as national chair of the Aerospace States Association.
On April 10, 2017, Kay was sworn in as the 54th Governor of the State of Alabama in the Old Senate Chamber in the Alabama State Capitol by Acting Chief Justice Lyn Stuart.
Kay has been honored to receive numerous awards for her service to the State of Alabama, including the 2015 ALFA Service to Agriculture Award, Newmax’s 50 Most Influential Female Republicans in the country and, most recently, American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) 2016 Public Service Award.
Kay believes if you campaign as a Conservative for office, then you should govern as a Conservative in office. Kay Ivey will continue to bring conservative leadership with effective results to make this generation more productive and the next generation more prosperous.
She is a member of the First Baptist Church of Montgomery, the Montgomery Rotary Club, and the Board of Directors of the Montgomery YMCA. Kay is also the first Girls State alumnus to be elected to an Alabama Constitutional Office.
President and CEO, National Association of Manufacturers
General Session Speaker
Jay Timmons is president and CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) and chairman of the board of The Manufacturing Institute. The NAM is the largest manufacturing association in the United States representing small and large manufacturers in every industrial sector. He became NAM president in January 2011.
Jay is a leading advocate for the nearly 12 million men and women who make things in America, educating the public and policymakers on issues that affect this critical sector of the U.S. economy. He promotes a broad-based agenda to strengthen U.S. competitiveness and bring about a manufacturing renaissance.
He is driven by the principles instilled in him by his roots in the manufacturing town of Chillicothe, Ohio, where his grandfather worked at a Mead plant for nearly four decades and where he witnessed manufacturing’s ability to raise the quality of life for families and communities. Jay’s knowledge and expertise is valued and respected by influential policymakers on both sides of the aisle in Congress and the administration. He knows how to navigate the complexities of the policymaking process in the nation’s capital and brings with him an exceptional understanding of manufacturing issues.
Prior to his appointment as NAM president, Jay was executive vice president beginning in 2008. In 2005, he joined the NAM as senior vice president of policy and government relations. His previous experience includes serving as chief of staff to Congressman, Gov. and Sen. George Allen (R-VA) from 1991 to 2002 and a term as executive director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee during the 2004 election cycle. When he first came to Washington in the 1980s, he served as press secretary to Congressman Jim Martin (R-NC) and later Alex McMillan (R-NC).
A passionate advocate for the adoption of companion animals, Jay served for seven years as the chairman of the Washington Humane Society Board of Directors and led the successful effort to merge the WHS and the Washington Animal Rescue League to create the Humane Rescue Alliance. He is also a member of the board of the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform.
Jay attended The Ohio State University and resides in McLean, Virginia, with his husband, Rick, and their three children.
Industry Editor, Automotive News
OEM Panel Moderator
Lindsay Chappell is the Industry Editor for Automotive News, the auto industry’s largest trade publication, which has published continuously since 1925. He directs the newspaper’s coverage of the global supplier industry, the industry of Asia and trends in technology and manufacturing, Chappell has been a business reporter and editor for more than 30 years, covering national, international, regional and local business activity.
Covering the auto industry since the 1980s, Chappell has chronicled the rise of auto manufacturers and suppliers from Japan, Korea, Europe and North America. He has also followed the global changes and challenges of the Detroit 3 automakers and their traditional American supply chains and retailers. He has closely tracked auto industry investment in the fast-growing economic corridors of the South and Midwest.
In addition to the weekly Automotive News, he is a regular contributor to Autonews.com, and has written for Investor’s Daily, Automotive News Europe, GQ, AutoWeek, Advertising Age and various local magazines around the country.
Lindsay and his wife Susan live in Nashville, where they recently became grandparents.
Chief Administrative Officer, Kia Motors Manufacturing Georgia
Stuart Countess is responsible for leading the Human Resources and Administration Division, including Team Relations, Public Relations, Safety, Security, Environmental, General Affairs, Legal and Sales.
He previously served as the Vice President of Quality, overseeing vehicle quality as well as supplier quality, process quality, customer satisfaction, warranty and ISO certifications. Originally, Countess joined KMMG in 2008 to manage the Assembly Shop.
Prior to KMMG, Countess spent 13 years with Mercedes-Benz in Vance, Alabama, where he served in numerous leadership positions, including supplier quality manager, quality manager and assembly manager.
Previously, he worked as a senior supplier quality engineer with an automotive Tier 1 supplier. Prior to that, he served as quality engineering administrator for a division of Hughes Aircraft in LaGrange, Georgia.
He holds a B.S. from the University of Alabama in Electrical Engineering and an M.B.A. from LaGrange College.
President and Chief Executive Officer, Mercedes-Benz U.S. International
Jason D. Hoff has served as the President and Chief Executive Officer of Mercedes-Benz U.S. International (MBUSI) since 2013. He leads MBUSI’s 3,600+ Team Members in the production of the GLE, GLS and GLE Coupe luxury sport utility vehicles, as well as the C-Class for the North American market. MBUSI is currently in the midst of a $1.3 billion expansion to build the next-generation SUVs, which are sold in more than 135 countries.
Mr. Hoff has 20+ years of experience with Daimler AG, MBUSI’s parent company – most recently, he was responsible for procurement in Stuttgart for Mercedes-Benz interior components and the E-/C-Class sedan. Prior to his assignment in Germany, he served in various management roles with MBUSI, including Vice President of Purchasing and Logistics & Vice President of Assembly Operations.
Mr. Hoff initially joined Daimler AG in 1993 through the Daimler International Management Associates program. One of his first assignments was as Controller for the initial $350 million Mercedes-Benz Project investment. Following that project, he moved rapidly through the ranks as Senior Manager in MBUSI’s Finance/Corporate Controlling Department, followed by Senior Manager of Supplier Quality Engineering and Senior Manager of Assembly Operations, Plant 2. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Linfield College in Oregon.
Vice President, Production Operations, Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama, LLC
Chris Susock is a 28-year veteran in the automotive manufacturing industry and is currently the Vice President of Production at Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama (HMMA), Hyundai’s only U.S. plant.
Mr. Susock serves as plant operations manager responsible for all manufacturing, engineering and maintenance at the 400,000-vehicle capacity assembly plant. He also oversees two on-site engine plants capable of producing 700,000+ engines per year to support both HMMA and KIA Motor Manufacturing Georgia.
Mr. Susock joined HMMA in 2004 to lead the facilitation, organizational and manufacturing process development for the plant's start-up in early 2005. From 2004 until March 2015, he served as Director of Quality. In this role, he was instrumental in the successful development and implementation of HMMA’s automotive manufacturing Business Quality Operating System at Hyundai’s first U.S. Greenfield Manufacturing operation. Mr. Susock also had a role in developing business processes, operation policies and procedures to ensure proper business alignment between HMMA, Hyundai Motor America, and Hyundai Motor Company’s global corporate headquarters located in Seoul, South Korea.
Prior to joining HMMA, Mr. Susock had a 15-year career with Ford Motor Company, where he held various manufacturing leadership roles. He has extensive experience in automotive manufacturing, quality and production management. His combination of strong communication and leadership skills has consistently delivered outstanding results in a multicultural business.
Mr. Susock is considered a leader in strategic planning and execution, quality operating systems, Six Sigma deployment, Lean Manufacturing and organizational development. He has worked with other manufacturing leaders in South Korea, China and Europe in support of the development of advanced strategical business planning methods.
Mr. Susock served for several years on the River Region United Way Foundation Board of Directors. He has also participated as a member of the Academic Curriculum Development Advisory Board for the College of Business at Auburn University at Montgomery.
President, Honda Manufacturing of Alabama, LLC
Jeff Tomko is President of Honda Manufacturing of Alabama, LLC (HMA), where he oversees all manufacturing and business operations for the $2.2 billion light truck and engine plant.
Tomko joined Honda in 1987 as a member of the Honda of America Mfg. Inc. Purchasing Development Group.
In 2005, Tomko became assistant vice president of the Procurement Group and was named to the Honda of America board of directors. In 2007, he became vice president and plant manager of Honda Transmission of America Mfg., Inc. in Russells Point, Ohio. In 2011, Tomko was named vice president and plant manager of the Marysville Auto Plant, Honda’s first auto plant in North America.
He joined HMA as Senior Vice President in 2013 and was named President in 2014.
He has been a board member of the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama since 2014.
Born in Lorain, Ohio, he is a graduate of Bowling Green State University. He and his wife, Laura, have two sons attending Auburn University.
Located in Lincoln, Alabama, HMA is the exclusive manufacturer of the Honda Odyssey, Pilot, Ridgeline and Acura MDX, as well as the V-6 engines that power these vehicles.
President of Toyota Motor Manufacturing Alabama, Inc.
David Fernandes is President of Toyota Motor Manufacturing Alabama, Inc. (Toyota Alabama), in Huntsville, Alabama. He is responsible for all manufacturing and support functions.
Toyota Alabama, which opened in May 2003, builds V-8, V-6 and 4-cylinder engines for the Tundra, Tacoma, Sequoia, Highlander, Camry and RAV4 vehicles. The plant employs more than 1,400 team members and has expanded four times (since beginning production), with a total investment of $864 million and an annual capacity of about 710,000.
Before becoming President, Mr. Fernandes was Vice President for Toyota Alabama. He began his 19-year career with Toyota in 1998 at the West Virginia plant as a group leader, working his way up to Assistant General Manager with responsibility for the North American transmission business. In 2008 Fernandes was assigned to the Toyota Motor North American Production Engineering group and became a General Manager at Toyota Kentucky in 2012.
Prior to his career with Toyota, Fernandes was general manager at Rolls-Royce Aircraft Engine Corporation.
David graduated from Purdue University in Indiana with a B.S.B. in Business Administration and a B.S.B. in Human Resource Management. His currently serves on the Huntsville/Madison County Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, Business Council of Alabama (BCA) Board of Directors, BCA Manufacturing Advocacy Council and Committee of 100.
President and CEO, Auto Alliance
General Session Speaker
Mitch Bainwol is President and CEO of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, the leading trade association representing automakers selling new vehicles in the United States. The Auto Alliance represents 12 iconic automakers — from the U.S., Europe and Japan — on a range of safety, environmental and technology issues before Congress, the Executive Branch and state legislatures.
Bainwol is a strong advocate for market-driven government policies to advance an innovation agenda. “We’re on the precipice of a golden era in mobility. Our roads are going to be far safer than ever, and the environmental benefits are enormous,” according to Bainwol. “In today’s world, safer cars are green cars. The faster we can usher in the future, the better.”
Since coming to the Auto Alliance in September 2011, Bainwol has given consumers a larger voice in auto policy through development of the Alliance Auto Index, a national public opinion survey reaching nearly 60,000 people annually to provide insights into consumer attitudes about auto-related issues.
Bainwol is recognized for his leadership during transitions, building coalitions and fostering bipartisan political engagement. While chairman and CEO of the Recording Industry Association of America (2003-2011), Bainwol helped the music industry adjust to the new digital world by curbing piracy and protecting intellectual property rights. Bainwol is now leading the auto industry’s efforts to develop public policy initiatives to accelerate automation and connectivity. “In the music space, innovation was a threat, because technology enabled theft. In the auto industry, I’m in a world with massive technology companies who build vehicles. Technology is not a threat to our business model; it’s the enabler of the future,” said Bainwol.
Bainwol is widely recognized for his campaign capabilities and knowledge of government processes. He spent 25 years in federal policymaking and politics, including serving as chief of staff to two U.S. Senators and two political committees. The Washington Post called Mr. Bainwol a “Top D.C. Lobbyist and Man in Demand.” Capitol Hill’s Roll Call newspaper included him as one of the 50 most influential “politicos” in Washington. Campaigns and Elections magazine named him a “Mover and Shaker.”
Bainwol began his career as a budget analyst in President Ronald Reagan’s Office of Management and Budget. He earned an undergraduate degree from Georgetown University and an M.B.A. from Rice University.
Mr. Bainwol was born in Munich where his father was stationed. He grew up in Germany, the Canal Zone, Maryland and Thailand before graduating from Frankfurt American High School. He and his wife, Susan, have three children. He has been active in a variety of charities and nonprofits, including Leadership Music, National Fatherhood Initiative, the Bryce Harlow Foundation and Heart’s Delight.
Vice President, Powertrain Operations and Battery Plant, Nissan North America, Inc.
General Session Speaker
Brian Sullivan is Vice President, Powertrain Operations and Battery Plant, Nissan North America, Inc., a position to which he was appointed in April 2017. In this role, Sullivan reports to John Martin, Senior Vice President, Manufacturing, Supply Chain Management and Purchasing, North America, and is responsible for overseeing powertrain and battery plant operations in the U.S.
Previously at Nissan, Sullivan was Director, Plant Manager, Nissan North America Battery Plant. Since joining Nissan in 1995, Sullivan has held a number of roles of increasing importance throughout Nissan’s Manufacturing operations.
Sullivan holds a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Tennessee and completed the Accelerated Leadership Development Program at Vanderbilt University – Owen Graduate School of Management. He is a past board member of United Way of Rutherford and Cannon counties and a current board member of Boys & Girls Club of Rutherford County. He is based in Decherd, Tennessee.
Deputy Secretary of Commerce for Workforce Programs
General Session Speaker
Ed Castile was appointed Deputy Secretary of Commerce for Workforce Programs July 1, 2015. Mr. Castile continues to serve as Director of Alabama Industrial Development Training, a position he has held since August 16, 1993. He is a former Director of the State of Tennessee Industrial Training Service.
Mr. Castile currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama Foundation; the Economic Development Association of Alabama Board of Directors; the UAB Biotechnology Advisory Board; the Governor’s Economic Alliance; the Montgomery Public Schools CTE Advisory Council; the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta’s Labor, Education and Health Advisory Council; Chairman of the Governor’s Black Belt Commission Workforce Development Committee; and Chairman of the Alabama Productivity Center Advisory Board. He is a two-time past president of the National Association of Industry Specific Training Directors.
Mr. Castile earned a Master’s of Vocational Technical Education degree and a Bachelor of Science in Industrial Studies Education degree from the Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.
Vice President, North American Purchasing, Honda North America, Inc.
General Session Speaker
Tom Lake is Vice President of Purchasing at Honda North America, Inc., responsible for optimization of the supply chain that supports Honda’s automobile operations. In this role, Lake leads both the direct and indirect procurement groups that serve the entire North American region. He is also responsible for the technical team that drives supplier quality and delivery performance improvement as well as total operational efficiency.
Lake joined Honda in 1987 during the initial development of its domestic supplier network. During his career, he helped expand Honda’s purchasing network to more than 700 OEM suppliers in North America, from which Honda now purchases over $26 billion in parts and materials annually.
As the leader of North American Purchasing, Lake has aggressively promoted quality excellence, total cost optimization, and supplier diversity. He currently serves as a member of the board of directors for the National Minority Supplier Development Council.
In an effort to continue driving further advancement in the Purchasing and Supply Chain fields, Lake is an active member of the CAPS Research Executive Advisory Board.
A native of Cleveland, Lake earned his bachelor’s degree from Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, Ohio, and he continues to support business education in cooperation with several local colleges.
Managing Partner, Burr & Forman
General Session Speaker
William “Lee” Thuston is Burr & Forman’s Managing Partner. Lee practices in the Corporate/Tax practice group, where he focuses on economic development, business and succession planning, trusts and estates, tax law, and international law. Lee is a driving force behind Alabama’s economic development and has played a large role in some of the state’s major manufacturing deals.
Lee has a wide variety of involvement in the manufacturing industry, which includes serving as Alabama Counsel during the site selection and negotiation processes for Mercedes‐Benz U.S. International, Inc.; Mi‐Tech Steel, Inc.; and IPSCO Steel when these companies chose to locate their facilities to Alabama. His experience in the automotive industry also includes assisting Honda Manufacturing of Alabama with the implementation of its incentives package with the State for the development of its plant in Lincoln, AL, as well as assisted Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama, LLC with the implementation of its incentive package with the State for the development of its plant in Montgomery, AL. He represented Honda in the establishment of its transmission manufacturing facility in Tallapoosa, GA in 2004. Lee also negotiated the incentives packages with the State for the 2009 expansion of the Mercedes‐Benz plant. Additionally, Lee represented Kia Motors Corporation with the site selection and implementation of its incentive package for the development of its plant in West Point, GA, as well as the ThyssenKrupp steel mills located in Mobile County, AL, and the Jack Daniel Cooperage Project located in Lawrence County, AL.
Lee was instrumental in boosting the State’s profile in the aerospace industry by working with public and private entities to create a desirable environment – legally, tax‐wise, economic and socially – to attract Airbus to build a manufacturing facility in Mobile, AL.
In addition to working directly with state government and the departments of commerce, local government, and developers to ensure the state is ready for its next round of economic development, Lee is actively involved with organizations like the Birmingham Business Alliance – the organization that created Blueprint Birmingham, a business development plan for the city.
Lee is a member of the American Bar Association, Alabama State Bar, Tennessee Bar Association, Birmingham Bar Association and on the Board of Directors for the Alabama Automotive Manufacturers Association, the Alabama Wildlife Federation, and the Comprehensive Cancer Care Center at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
Lee has been listed to the Best Lawyers in America in the General Corporate and Economic Development categories since 1999, including being featured on the 2015 list as "Lawyer of the Year" in Economic Development. He has also been named a "Leader in their Field" by Chambers USA and included in Alabama Super Lawyers in Business/Corporate law consistently since 2008.
In 2014, the Birmingham Business Journal named Lee one of the "Most Influential Executives" for his role in some of Alabama's largest economic development success stories.
President and CEO, Business Council of Alabama
General Session Speaker
After serving as president and CEO of the American Trucking Associations in Washington D.C., William (Billy) Canary became the president and chief executive officer of the Business Council of Alabama (BCA) in March 2003.
The BCA is the voice of business and industry in Alabama, representing more than 750,000 working Alabamians through its member companies that come from all segments of Alabama’s economy. BCA is Alabama’s affiliate organization to the United States Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers.
A former elected official in Long Island, New York, Canary has an extensive background in public policy and the intergovernmental arena. In 1989, President George H. W. Bush appointed Canary to serve in the White House as special assistant to the president for intergovernmental affairs. Following his time at the White House, Canary was named chief of staff for the Republican National Committee.
The BCA has experienced tremendous growth throughout a decade of Canary’s leadership. In 2004, the Partnership between BCA and the Chamber of Commerce Association of Alabama was created, uniting BCA and the 124-plus local chambers of commerce across Alabama to create a business advocacy network that represents more than 1,000,000 working Alabamians. BCA’s Manufacturing Advocacy Council was launched in 2011, strengthening BCA’s partnership with the National Association of Manufacturers and giving Alabama manufacturers an even stronger voice. Most recently, BCA has been a driving force to create the Business and Education Alliance in Alabama, uniting these two communities for the common purpose of enhancing the education opportunities for Alabama’s school children and future workforce.
Canary serves on the board of directors of the Alabama Aerospace Industry Association, Alabama Automobile Manufacturers Association, the Chamber of Commerce Association of Alabama and the Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama. He is a member of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Committee of 100 and serves on the Executive Committee of the National Association of Manufacturers State Associations Group. Canary also serves on the Alabama School Readiness Alliance’s Pre-K Task Force and the Advisory Board of ReadyNation, a project of America’s Promise Alliance.
Canary is a graduate of the State University College of New York at Oneonta and holds a Juris Doctor from the Jacob D. Fuchsberg Law Center at Touro College at Huntington, NY. He lives in Montgomery with his wife Leura and their children, Will and Margaret.
Editor, Southern Automotive Alliance
General Session Speaker
Nick Patterson serves as the editor of Southern Automotive Alliance magazine. A veteran communicator and lifelong Birmingham-area resident, Patterson's work has appeared online and in numerous newspapers and national magazines. Patterson became editor at Southern Automotive Alliance magazine earlier this year.
A writer for more than 30 years, he has worked as a reporter and columnist at the Birmingham Post-Herald, an editor at Southern Living, editor of the weekly newspaper Weld, digital content coordinator for the Birmingham Times, public relations representative for UAB and the Birmingham Museum of Art, a part-time college instructor, and a freelance journalist, consultant, book author and blogger.
Apprenticeship Alabama Manager, AIDT
General Session Speaker
Frank Chestnut has more than 25 years of experience in production, sales, training and management. Frank earned his Master’s Degree in Human Resource Management from Troy University. He has worked in the areas of: Service Industry-Account Management, Paper Industry-Mill Training & Development, and Workforce Development-Developer & Manager. Frank has been employed at AIDT for the last 12 years, where he is the Apprenticeship Alabama Manager. Frank currently serves on the Alabama Automotive Manufacturers Association Board, Selma-Dallas Industrial Development Board, and Selma City School Board of Education.
Julie A. Fream
President and CEO, Original Equipment Suppliers Association
Diamond Celebration Speaker
Julie A. Fream was named president and CEO of the Original Equipment Suppliers Association in September 2013.
Fream has served in a number of positions in her 30+ years in the automotive industry, including positions in engineering, manufacturing and sales at General Motors Corp.; program management and marketing at Ford Motor Co.; strategic planning, sales and marketing, and business development at TRW, Inc.; and corporate strategy, global communications and sales and marketing at Visteon, where she became a corporate officer in 2004.
In 2015, Fream was recognized as one of the “100 Leading Women in the Auto Industry” by Automotive News. Additionally, she is a member of the North American Fiat Chrysler Automotive Supplier Council and the Ford Supplier Council, representing the interests of the automotive supplier community.
Fream holds a Bachelor of Science in chemical engineering from Michigan Technological University and an MBA from the Harvard Business School. She also serves as a director on the board of Beaumont Health, and is the chair of the Board of Trustees for Michigan Technological University.
Vice President of Manufacturing, Honda Manufacturing of Alabama
Barber Bash Speaker
Mike Oatridge is Vice President of Manufacturing for Honda Manufacturing of Alabama, LLC (HMA). Oatridge began working on the HMA project team in August 2000 and moved to Alabama to support the start-up of the new facility in March 2001.
Located in Lincoln, Alabama, Honda’s $2.2 billion vehicle and engine operation in Alabama employs more than 4,500 associates. The company produces the Odyssey minivan, the Pilot sport utility vehicle, the Ridgeline pickup truck, the Acura MDX luxury sport utility vehicle and the V-6 engines that power them.
As the Vice President of HMA, Oatridge provides daily leadership for HMA’s overall operations, including vehicle and engine production and parts procurement from more than 300 suppliers.
Oatridge started his career with Honda in 1989 at Honda of Canada Manufacturing in Alliston, Ontario, Canada. He was involved for many years in New Model development and served as the project lead for several New Model vehicle projects.
Oatridge was later instrumental in the start-up of Honda’s second manufacturing plant at Honda of Canada Manufacturing (HCM). During preparations for the expansion and construction of a second assembly plant at HCM, Oatridge spent 14 months in Japan studying existing systems and researching equipment in preparation for the launch of the first-generation Odyssey minivan.
After construction was completed in Canada on the second assembly plant, Oatridge served as the plant’s Weld Department Manager. In this role, he facilitated the modifications to equipment and facilities required to meet growing market demand as a second vehicle model was added to the existing assembly line.
Born in Oakville, Ontario, Oatridge is a 1988 graduate of Ryerson University with a degree in Mechanical Engineering. He now lives in Birmingham.
President & CEO, Surgere
Surgere is the industry leader in automotive packaging and transportation supply chain visibility and control.
Providing optimization through innovative technology, industry-leading software, advanced data analytics, and financial solutions, Surgere is able to present a powerful solution to its clients. As an example of Surgere’s unique capabilities, we are singularly able to deliver 99% sRFID data acquisition rates in automotive manufacturing environments.
A seasoned business strategist, Wappler guides Surgere and its clients through the global challenges surrounding the changing supply chain business model. Wappler has held senior management positions in software, service engineering, innovation and strategy. Active in multiple supply chain communities, Wappler has been published as a supply chain authority, and has presented to standards committees around the world. Also a compelling speaker, he has delivered numerous industry and general business presentations to a variety of large global audiences.
Wappler’s latest endeavor is taking the automotive manufacturing industry on a connected and data-driven journey, leveraging operational technologies, sensors, RFID and robotics, to learn from and leverage mobile asset data modeling during movement through manufacturing environments, the supply chain, and even globally. He’s steering Surgere to create new data relationships through advanced analytics and a shared business intelligence ecosystem. According to Wappler, “We believe we must provide advanced visibility and control over mobile assets, or our clients will continue to lose millions of dollars every year, won’t succeed at optimizing their supply chains, and will only be able to dream about the benefits of i4.0.”
Wappler holds a combined sciences Bachelor degree from Illinois State University / University of Illinois, and an MBA from Northwestern University.
Surgere's role in the evolving i4.0 supply chain reality is to provide their clients with advanced asset visibility, data analytics, and control through each segment of the Automotive Supply Chain: Packaging, Transportation, Yard, Finished Vehicles, Plant and Cross-Global. Their clients include Adient, Cooper Standard, Electrolux, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Lear Corporation, MAHLE, Nissan North America, The Timken Company, Wallenius Wilhelmsen Logistics, Whirlpool Corporation, Yanfeng Automotive Interiors, Yazaki, among many other well-known brands.
Global Supply Chain Leader, Automotive Sector and Principal, Advisory Services, Ernst & Young
Sven is the Global Supply Chain Leader for the Automotive Sector and a Principal in the Advisory Services at Ernst & Young (EY). He draws on more than 20 years of experience across North and South America, Europe, Asia, Australia and Africa to drive performance improvement with global automotive OEMs, large Tier 1s as well as manufacturing clients. He focuses on developing strategies, defining operating models, re-engineering processes and implementing sustainable solutions.
He is also an avid scuba diver and participates in track events on various closed circuit racetracks across the northeast U.S.
Senior Manager, Finished Vehicle Logistics Strategy and Quality, Nissan North America
Guillaume Quentin joined the Nissan U.S. team in 2014 on various projects before taking responsibility over transportation engineering and operations of in-bound parts to the three Nissan plants. In January 2016, Quentin was appointed Senior Manager for Finished Vehicle Logistics Strategy and Quality for Nissan in North America. He is responsible for design, optimization, innovations and quality for vehicle delivery within the U.S.A. and Canada.
Previously based in Paris (France), he was Chief of Staff for the Renault-Nissan Alliance CEO Office EVP, which followed increasing responsibility throughout Renault’s service parts logistics. Quentin holds an “Ingénieur Civil des Mines” Master degree in Science and Engineering.
Regional Director of Operations, Tenneco Clean Air North America
Innovation Test Track Judge
Kim Williams has 23 years of experience in global manufacturing and operations for the automotive industry, with strategic leadership roles at General Motors, Calsonic Kansei and Tenneco. She was the first female plant manager for global Japanese manufacturing company Calsonic Kansei, advancing to be the first female VP of manufacturing during her tenure as well. Automotive News named Kim as a Leading 100 Women in the Auto Industry in 2015, which recognizes women who are leaders in the automotive field, make major decisions and have significant influence at their companies. She utilizes metric management methodology to lead multiple plants across the USA and Canada to achieve safety, quality, delivery, cost and new model launch targets while maintaining compliance to environment regulations, producing exhaust systems for major OEMs Toyota, Chrysler, GM and Nissan.
Kim is passionate about promoting diversity in the automotive industry and has served as past president and currently on the Board of Directors of the Southern Automotive Women’s Forum, a nonprofit organization committed to promoting the educational, personal and professional advancement of women in the automotive industry. She is also an Engineering Advisory Board member for Tennessee Tech University providing professional guidance on current and future curriculum and investments to further enhance student educational opportunities. Kim has also taught for Tennessee Tech as an adjunct professor on manufacturing-related course content such as Six Sigma. She resides in Middle Tennessee with Marty, her husband of 23 years, and 11-year-old son while her daughters, Macy and Molly, are currently a senior and junior, respectively, at Tennessee Tech University.
Engine Plant Manager, Honda Manufacturing of Alabama, LLC
Innovation Test Track Judge
Bob Johnson is the Plant Manager of the Engine Plant at Honda Manufacturing of Alabama in Lincoln, where he is responsible for all engine production operations, including the Die Cast, Machining and Engine Assembly departments, along with business planning and any future new model engine requirements.
A 28-year Honda associate, Johnson joined Honda’s Alabama operations in 1999 as engine assembly project lead for the Alabama Project. Prior to moving to Alabama, Johnson started his Honda career at Anna Engine Plant in Anna, Ohio.
Johnson served in a variety of engineering and leadership roles at the Anna Engine Plant and spent more than two years in Honda’s Waco engine assembly plant, which is located close to Tokyo, Japan.
Johnson has held several leadership roles at HMA, including Frame Assembly Department Manager and Department Manager for Line 1 and Line 2 Engine Assembly.
A native of Pottstown, Penn., Johnson is a 1989 graduate of the University of Pittsburgh with a degree in mechanical engineering.
Located in Lincoln, Alabama, Honda’s $2.2 billion vehicle and engine operation in Alabama employs more than 4,500 associates. The company produces the Odyssey minivan, Pilot sport utility vehicle, Ridgeline pickup truck, the Acura MDX luxury SUV and the V-6 engines that power all four products.
Inga von Seelen
Vice President, Product Group NAFTA Hub USA, Mercedes-Benz U.S. International, Inc.
Innovation Test Track Judge
Inga von Seelen is the Vice President of the Product Group NAFTA Hub USA for Mercedes-Benz U.S. International, Inc. (MBUSI), which is the production location for the GLE, GL and the GLE Coupe sport utility vehicles as well as the C-Class for the U.S. and Canadian market. MBUSI in 2017 celebrates 20 Years of Production in Alabama.
Inga von Seelen joined the MBUSI Team in February 2016 and manages a team responsible for part localization, research and development, purchasing, material engineering as well as supplier quality and capacity management.
She started her career with Continental AG in Hanover, where she worked in several departments, including Central Brand Management, Investor Relations and Marketing and Sales in South Africa. She joined Daimler AG in 2008, where she was product manager for tires. She has held various purchasing positions with increasing responsibility within the Daimler AG before bringing her talents to MBUSI.
In 2014, she was promoted to department leader for the vehicle line management purchasing and supplier quality of the GLK, C-Class, E-Class, and S-Class before she started building up the NAFTA HUB at MBUSI in Vance as Vice President.
Associate Director for External Relations, Haley Barbour Center for Manufacturing Excellence, The University of Mississippi
Breakout Session Moderator
Ryan serves as the Associate Director for External Relations for the Haley Barbour Center for Manufacturing Excellence (CME) at the University of Mississippi. Ryan’s primary responsibilities surround interfacing with members of industry, government, and other manufacturing related entities. He oversees the recruiting of undergraduate students for the CME academic program and leads the CME in its K-12 manufacturing education outreach. He serves as the Secretary for the Mississippi Automotive Manufacturing Association, serves as a member of the Manufacturing Foresight Education and Workforce Working Group partnering with other universities and colleges, and represents the CME on the Education Council for the Manufacturing Institute in Washington DC. He serves as the Chairman of the Board of Directors for the Oxford/Lafayette County Chamber of Commerce and is an adjunct faculty member of the School of Business Administration where he teaches business law. Ryan received his bachelor’s degree in International Studies from The University of Mississippi and the Croft Institute for International Studies as well as his law degree from the University of Mississippi.
PE, CCM, Construction Management Leader, Hargrove Engineers + Constructors
Breakout Session Speaker
Jason Crain, PE, CCM, is a professional Chemical Engineer, Certified Construction Manager, project manager and part owner of Hargrove Engineers + Constructors. He leads teams of up to fifty to complete capital projects for Hargrove’s industrial clients. He routinely oversees projects ranging up to $100M total installed cost (TIC) that may last up to three years from front-end estimating and early conceptual design through construction and start-up. He has a reputation among our clients as well as fellow teammates for executing projects on-time and on-budget with a high level of attention paid toward quality, safety and innovation. Jason led an implementation team for Hargrove in 2011 that created Hargrove’s Front End Planning toolkit. For this effort, he was nationally recognized by the Construction Industry Institute (CII) receiving their Outstanding Implementer Award. His championing of cross-division training for Hargrove’s best practices implementation of project execution and work processes earned Hargrove the 2013 Professional Development Award from CII. Also in 2013, Jason was recognized as a graduate of CII’s Executive Leadership Program. He is currently serving as Chair of CII’s Strategic Planning Committee having been a member of their Implementation Strategy Committee until 2016, still serving as one of Hargrove’s Implementation Champions.
Ph.D, Executive Director, Center for Advanced Vehicle Technologies, The University of Alabama
Breakout Session Speaker
Dr. Bharat Balasubramanian retired in 2012 as Vice President of Group Research and Advanced Engineering responsible for Product Innovations and Process Technologies after nearly 40 years as a research and development engineer for the Mercedes-Benz brand in Stuttgart, Germany. He has been at the forefront of most of the major advances that have occurred in automotive technology over the past 20 years. Together with his research team at Daimler, he was the initiator and champion of self-driving cars, connected vehicle V2X technologies, battery electric vehicles and CFRP light weighting. After his retirement, Dr. B joined the University of Alabama, College of Engineering as a professor in mechanical engineering and electrical & computer engineering as also executive director of the cross-discipline Center for Advanced Vehicle Technologies (CAVT). Dr. B’s mission is to prepare UA students for their careers in the automotive industry in Alabama and the Southeast, and the University of Alabama and industry for future automotive challenges.
Mr. Comella is the Account Executive for the Automotive industry and is also the Controller at Supply Chain Services International (SCSI), a provider of logistics, quality and technical services in the manufacturing sector. Mr. Comella supports the commercial relationship with OEMs such as Mercedes-Benz, Ford and Hyundai as well as several Tier One and Tier Two suppliers looking to minimize the impact of quality spills.
Until July 2015, he led the Human Resource Team. In this position, Mr. Comella supported all aspects of SCSI human resources initiatives, including employee recruitment and retention, compensation plans and benefits administration, training and development programs, Affirmative Action Plan and Equal Employment Opportunity programs, performance evaluations, and workplace health and safety programs.
In addition, Mr. Comella has responsibility over financial decisions at SCSI and manages the accounting, purchasing and travel functions.
Prior to SCSI he was an HR Business Partner at Advanced Technology Services, Inc. In that role he worked with a team of HR Generalists to serve over 1800 employees in the manufacturing sector. In the civil engineering sector, Mr. Comella joined Hanson Professional Services in 2006 as director of human resources and as a vice president and principal.
Mr. Comella has more than 30 years of experience in human resource management, leadership development, marketing, sales management and training. He has served as the assistant director of The Leadership Development Center at Bradley University and marketing director for Bradley’s Foster College of Business Administration. In this role, Mr. Comella conducted executive coaching and counseling, leadership workshops, strategic facilitation, team-building activities and leadership assessments for managers, executives, professionals and teams from corporations nationwide.
During his career, Mr. Comella also worked in retail management for RadioShack, a national consumer electronics retailer. As sales manager and district sales manager for RadioShack in Illinois and Michigan, he directed employee orientation, management training, special-event marketing, personnel promotions and mentoring programs. Additionally, Comella was the general manager for Computer City in Chicago, a national computer retail superstore that was owned by Tandy Corp.
Comella holds a bachelor’s degree in management from DePaul University and an M.B.A. from Bradley University. Comella earned his certification as a Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR) in January 2007. Comella earned his SHRM – SCP certification in January 2015.
John is manager of global waste reduction at General Motors. In this role, he leads the company’s landfill-free initiative, which has resulted in an industry leading 152 GM operations around the world that reuse, recycle, and convert to energy all waste from daily operations. John is an expert in waste reduction and recycling, and is dubbed GM's MacGyver for devising unconventional uses for everyday waste. He frequently mentors other companies pursuing zero-waste goals.
John’s responsibilities also include directing GM’s design-for-the-environment program, circular economy and sustainable materials management concepts. These duties also include implementing sustainable processes and technologies that reduce environmental impact and costs. He collaborates with suppliers, product and manufacturing engineers, and numerous external stakeholder groups.
Under John’s leadership, GM recycled or reused 84 percent of its manufacturing waste generated globally through various resource conservation efforts in 2013. Between 2000 and 2010, the company reduced non-recycled manufacturing waste by 73 percent and met its landfill free goal to obtain of 150 landfill free operations, four years in advance.
John frequently speaks at various sustainability-focused events and has been recognized by the Society of Automotive Engineers with four Environmental Excellence in Transportation awards for material development and reuse and recycling projects. In 2015, John received the Presidential Lifetime Service Award from the Office of the President of the United States for sustainability services to youth.
John serves as the materials efficiency work group chairman for the Suppliers Partnership for the Environment, a forum GM helped found where suppliers share environmental best practices and sustainability initiatives. He is the executive advisory committee chairman for the U.S. Business Council for Sustainable Development.
John has worked for GM for more than 37 years. He earned a Master of Science degree in hazardous waste management from Wayne State University in Detroit in 1995 and a Bachelor of Science degree in conservation from Northern Michigan University in 1978. He is a Certified Hazardous Materials Manager.
Lisa DeCarolis has been a Risk Control Consultant at CNA since 2011. She serves as the Financial Institutions Segment Risk Control Coordinator for the Southern Zone. In addition, Lisa is one of three designated representatives in the Southern Zone who works with customers to help understand, identify, and mitigate cyber exposures within their organizations. Lisa holds the Certified Information Privacy Technologist (CIPT) designation. The CIPT curriculum validates knowledge of privacy-related issues and practices in the context of the design and implementation of information and communication technologies. Lisa holds a bachelors degree in Risk Management & Insurance from the University of Georgia and a Masters in Business Administration from the University of Mississippi.
Director, Process Engineering, Canton Vehicle Assembly Plant, Nissan North America, Inc.
Breakout Session Panelist
Erik Fields is Director of Process Engineering, Canton Vehicle Assembly Plant, Nissan North America, Inc., a position to which he was appointed in November 2014. In his role, Fields is responsible for developing and executing engineering strategies that support the plant’s achievement of safety, quality, cost and delivery targets.
Fields joined Nissan North America in 2007 as a product quality engineer and held a number of engineering roles at the Canton Vehicle Assembly Plant. Most recently Fields served as manufacturing program manager for the launch of several vehicles, including the NV passenger van, Altima and Titan XD at the Canton Vehicle Assembly Plant.
Prior to joining Nissan, Fields worked for five years in both supplier development and new model development at Honda of America in South Carolina and Ohio.
Fields holds a master’s degree in Business Administration from the University of Mississippi and a bachelor’s degree in Industrial Engineering from Ohio University. He is based at the Canton Vehicle Assembly Plant in Canton, Mississippi.
Vice President and General Manager, EFI Automotive
Breakout Session Panelist
Pascal Auburtin is the Vice President and General Manager of EFI Automotive’s North American headquarters, also known as Electricfil Corporation, located in Elkmont, Alabama. The company is a subsidiary of EFI Automotive in Lyon, France. Auburtin is responsible for the company’s North American operations and continued development in NAFTA and South America.
EFI Automotive’s operations in North America comprise R&D, manufacturing and engineering activities in Alabama, a recently opened  production facility in Guadalajara in Mexico, and a sales and engineering support office near Detroit, Michigan.
Prior to Electricfil Corporation, Pascal held various international-related positions at Plasto, including VP and later President of Plasto, Inc. in Michigan, where he lived from 1995 to 2001. In 1998, he also started Plasto’s operations in Brazil and created its subsidiary in São Paulo.
Pascal holds a business degree from the Ecole Supérieure de Commerce de Reims (DESCAF) and an M.B.A. from the University of Ottawa. He is 54 years old and has been married for 29 years to his wife, Michèle. Together, they have three children: Priscillia, Maxime and Constance.
Pascal has been with EFI Automotive for more than 12 years, initially joining the company as project manager for North America. After the purchase of the company’s new facility in northern Alabama near Huntsville, he moved there with his family in 2004.
Created in 1936, EFI Automotive is today the European leader for ignition systems and specializes in engine management, transmission, and climate-control sensors. Electricfil employs 1,600 people worldwide and had sales of €225 million in 2015. The company is headquartered in Beynost, near Lyon, France.
Executive Director, Tennessee Automotive Manufacturing Association
Breakout Session Panelist
Ashley Frye has been the Executive Director of TAMA since May 2016. He began his 34-year career in automotive manufacturing with Nissan in 1981, working in a variety of roles for the company’s Smyrna, Tenn., facility. He rose to the rank of Engineering Manager and served in that role for eight years before joining Hyundai in 2003.
Prior to Frye’s retirement last year, his final six years were spent as the Vice President of Production at the Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama plant in Montgomery, Ala. In this position, he led operations for the vehicle production division comprised of nearly 3000 employees.
Before entering the automotive sector, Frye served five years in the U.S. Army, followed by eight years in the Tennessee Army National Guard with his last assignment as Commander of the 777th Maintenance Company.
Senior Consultant, Seraph Corporation
Breakout Session Panelist
Richard L. Payne is a Senior Consultant for Seraph Corporation – North America. He is responsible for strategy, market development, sales, and crisis management and leadership training.
Payne began his career with Johnson Controls – Engineered Plastics Division, Tuscaloosa, AL in 1991, where he held various positions of increasing responsibility from Industrial Engineer to Engineering Manager. After Johnson Controls, Payne joined Mannesmann VDO (later purchased by Siemens) in Winchester, VA as the Focus Factory Manager for Molding Operations. After 2 years, he joined Bose Corporation in Columbia, SC, where he served as the Business Unit Manager for Molding Operations and then later as Operations Manager for Home Entertainment Systems. In 2003, Payne returned to Alabama and to Siemens VDO, where he initially served as Focus Factory Manager for the Instrument Clusters Division and then later took on responsibility as Operations Director and then finally Plant Manager. Later in 2012, Payne joined Faurecia Automotive as Plant Manager for its operation in Cottondale, AL. In 2014 Payne took over as Operations Director for NA – Southeast and later Commercial Business Unit Director for Daimler/MBUSI North America.
Payne, a native of Tuscaloosa, AL, earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Industrial Engineering from the University of Alabama in 1991. Payne currently resides in Madison, AL with his wife Luanne. Together, they have five daughters: Lauren, Emily, Abbey, Caroline and Ellie.
Head of Business Development, Data Interchange
Breakout Session Panelist
David Eyes is Head of Business Development for Data Interchange Inc., a leading provider of electronic data interchange (EDI) and eBusiness integration solutions. Data Interchange enables organizations to collaborate with their trading partners globally by managing mission-critical information, communications and data transformation within and beyond the enterprise.
David Eyes has been active in the area of automatic integration of supply chain logistical processes, using EDI/B2B best practices, since 1990. David has more than 25 years of supply chain management experience gained across Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs), Tier 1 and JIS (Just in Sequence) suppliers. Working closely with the AIAG OEMs and suppliers, he is one of the authors of Materials Management Operations Guidelines/Logistics Evaluation (MMOG/LE) v4. David is an active member of multiple Southern states Automotive associations, and sits on the advisory boards for the Alabama and Georgia automotive associations (AAMA, GAMA). David is also the current chair of the GAMA supply chain committee.
Having recently relocated to Georgia, USA from the UK, David’s primary focus has been in the promotion and development of the Data Interchange Inc. business, supporting automotive supply chain management teams to develop world-class business units utilizing digital communication and integration services provided by Data Interchange. His work has supported suppliers across all supply chain tiers in implementing global best practices throughout the supply chain by leveraging the investments made in IT systems and supporting education and process improvements, without the need for excessive investments. David is a huge supporter and active advocate of promoting the importance of encouraging the next generation of workers into the supply chain industry and regularly speaks at and visits schools and colleges across the USA to highlight the career opportunities in this field. David is working with the Georgia Automotive Manufacturers Association to create a world-class student scholarship and mentoring program, including annual internships with a view to full-time employment across all areas of the supply chain workforce.
Corporate Communications Manager, Volvo Car U.S. Operations
Breakout Session Panelist
Stephanie joined Volvo Cars in August 2016 as the corporate communications manager, where she is the communications lead for Volvo Cars’ first U.S. manufacturing plant near Ridgeville, S.C. She is responsible for building strong relationships between Volvo and its neighbors, managing internal communications and local media relations.
Prior to joining Volvo in August 2016, Stephanie was the corporate communications manager at Benefitfocus, a cloud-based, benefits software solutions provider. From 2011 to 2016, Stephanie served as director, communications and brand at Ingevity, a global specialty chemicals manufacturing company. Prior to Ingevity, Stephanie held various management roles in communications at International Paper, a leading global producer of fiber-based packaging, pulp and paper products. Stephanie also served as public relations director at General Nutrition Corporation, and was a reporter in Washington, D.C., covering military and defense, as well as travel and tourism for various trade publications.
Stephanie received her Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. She is a resident of Charleston County.
President of Quistem, LLC
Breakout Session Panelist
Cathy Fisher is founder and President of Quistem, LLC. With more than 30 years of respected expertise in the quality field, Cathy helps manufacturers throughout the automotive supply chain “find hidden money” in their operations, eliminate customer complaints permanently and develop a proactive quality culture to achieve rapid business growth.
She started her “Quality” career with General Motors in the 1980s, working for the AC Spark Plug division in Flint, Michigan, where she led product development efforts to support GM-sponsored NASCAR teams. In 1990, Cathy joined ITT-Teves in Asheville, NC to help with their launch of anti-lock brake technology in the US automotive market, including assisting with two plant start-ups. In 1993, Cathy became a member of BMW’s plant start-up team in Greer, SC, where she led the establishment of BMW’s North American supply-base in support of the 318, 325 and Z-3 Roadster vehicle launches.
Today, Cathy shares her automotive and plant start-up expertise with organizations who are expanding their business into the automotive sector, to become premier suppliers. Her proven approach to developing a proactive quality culture has been described by her automotive clients as “a license to print money” in their manufacturing operations.
Director of Business Development and Government Affairs, FORCAM
Breakout Session Panelist
John Mack is the Director of Business Development and Government Affairs for FORCAM, Inc., a German software company dedicated to the Digital Transformation of Manufacturing, headquartered in Cincinnati, OH. Prior to FORCAM, he spent more than 30 years in the financial services industry as a partner of Bear Stearns and Company in New York and was responsible for their international sales and capital markets efforts in Europe. He was also the president of Bersec International and was a senior financial advisor at Merrill Lynch, Lincoln and Orange Financial. He speaks several foreign languages.
Mack is dedicated to helping global manufacturing to develop Smart Factories using the Industrial Internet of Things.
Vice President of Operations, voestalpine AG
Breakout Session Panelist
Scott Shorrock is dedicated to building the very best organizational teams by developing each individual's strengths through goal-setting, accountability and training. He feels that high-performance teams are built from strong, individual professionals, each of whom are encouraged to focus on the overall team's performance as the best method to ensure their own success.
Currently, he is Vice President of Operations for the automotive campus of voestalpine AG in Bartow County, Georgia. He was tasked since early 2013 as part of a three-man, international team, commissioned to start up a greenfield plant, which now serves European OEMs throughout the Southeast. His direct responsibilities include: operational strategic planning and maintaining of operational budgets; implementation and maintenance of the SAP-based ERP system; development of the logistics and warehousing system; hiring and training of all plant, logistics and warehouse personnel; creating and managing all ISO/VDA/TS and EP procedures; all campus operations, personnel, safety and EHS.
Director of Powertrain Manufacturing, Nissan North America
Breakout Session Panelist
Rick Youngblood joined Nissan in 1983 as a production technician and was promoted to the management team in 1989. He served as Director of Base Trim & Chassis Plant, Body Assembly Plant and Stamping Plant at the Smyrna facility. Currently, he is the Director of Powertrain Manufacturing at Nissan North America, Decherd, TN.
Rick earned an Associate’s Degree in Structural Steel Design at the University of Tennessee, Chattanooga and his Bachelor’s Degree in Management and Human Relations at Trevecca Nazarene University, Nashville.
Rick has been a member of the Tennessee Automotive Manufacturers Association board since 2005. He served as the organization’s president in 2008 and is currently serving again as president.
An avid baseball fan, Rick was a catcher at the University of TN, Chattanooga and has coached Little League Baseball for 24 years.
Frank W. Ervin III
Vice President and Director of the Advanced Manufacturing Project, Michigan Minority Supplier Development Council
Breakout Session Panelist
Frank W. Ervin III has more than 35 years of experience in government relations and additionally he has worked in building global business structures in the U.S. and other regions such as Mexico, Japan, South America, Europe and Asia involving a variety of customers. His experience includes government relations and business development with the major automobile manufacturers worldwide and Tier 1, 2 and 3 automotive suppliers worldwide.
Recently, Mr. Ervin spent eight years as Senior Director, Government Affairs, at Magna
International, Inc., where in that period, of time he and his team generated more than
$600,000,000 in federal, state and local grants and incentives for the company.
Additionally, Mr. Ervin was responsible for managing all federal, state and local legislative and regulatory affairs and activities for Magna International in the United States.
Mr. Ervin worked with all business units of Magna International on matters involving and needing legislative- and regulatory-relations assistance. He was also responsible for building and maintaining positive company relations with members of Congress, state and local legislators, and officials and their staffs to help create a positive leadership image and business climate for Magna International Inc.
Mr. Ervin holds a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and a master’s degree in International Business. He is also a Vietnam veteran as part of his service with the U.S. Navy.
Mr. Ervin serves on various boards of directors such as Oakland County (MI) Workforce Development and Southeastern Michigan United Way. Mr. Ervin also serves as the Chairman of the Advocacy Committee at MICHauto, a part of the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce.