SAC2019 is proud to present an A-List roster of automotive leaders from across the United States and the world. Check back for updates on the can’t-miss speakers to be sure to catch at this year’s conference.

Leila Aridi Afas
Leila Aridi AfasDirector, International Public Policy Toyota Motor North America, Inc.
As the Director of International Public Policy, Leila collaborates with Toyota’s external affairs and corporate strategy teams to develop and advocate positions on global issues, as well as provide insight and guidance on geopolitical trends and market developments.
She most recently served as the head of export promotion at the U.S. Trade and Development Agency (USTDA). In that role, Leila promoted global sales of U.S. equipment and technology through market development, client advocacy and interagency coordination.
Previously, Leila served as USTDA’s country manager for the Middle East and North Africa, managing a multimillion-dollar portfolio of grant funds for infrastructure projects. She also served as a manager in Grant Thornton’s Global Public Sector practice, helping clients around the world improve efficiency, increase foreign direct investment and advance economic growth.
Leila began her career at the U.S. Trust Company in New York, where she executed trades and managed overdrafts for asset management accounts in excess of $3.1 billion. she has also advised the World Economic Forum during their Annual Meetings in Davos, Switzerland for three consecutive years.
Leila earned a master’s degree in international economics from Columbia University where she was awarded a Program Assistant Fellowship. She also earned a B.A. in Political Science and English from James Madison University.
Louise Brock
Louise BrockGeneral Counsel, Labor & Employment, Bridgestone Americas, Inc.
Since joining Bridgestone in 2014, Louise has served as General Counsel, Labor & Employment in the Company’s Law Department in Nashville. She manages a team of six attorneys and one paralegal who provide legal support in all areas of employment law, traditional labor, benefits, and L&E litigation.

Prior to working at Bridgestone, Louise spent five years at Procter & Gamble in Cincinnati as Senior Counsel in the Company’s Labor & Employment Law Group. Prior to joining P&G, Louise was a partner at Dinsmore & Shohl in Cincinnati, where she practiced Labor & Employment law. Louise also served as an adjunct professor for one semester at Northern Kentucky University Chase College of Law, where she taught Employment Discrimination.

Louise received her B.A. in 1993 from the University of Illinois and her J.D. in 1996 from the University of Michigan Law School. Louise is active with the Nashville YWCA and is a member of ACC (Association of Corporate Counsel) and the Nashville Bar Association.

Kevin Coons
Kevin CoonsDirector, Commodities Purchasing & Value Engineering, Volkswagen
Kevin Coons has had a fascination with transportation and mobility since early childhood. Born in Anchorage, Alaska, one of Kevin’s first memories was riding in the family’s 1972 Volkswagen T2 bus from Anchorage to Tampa, Florida. His first job was washing semi-trucks and trailers at age 11. While in high school in Knoxville, TN Kevin worked as a maintenance helper for a small commuter airline called Tennessee Airways. It was during this time that Kevin began taking flying lessons and committed to earning his pilot’s license.

Kevin attended and graduated from Georgia State University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Finance while working for Yamaha Motor Manufacturing Corporation of America and later founding PSL group which was engaged in talent acquisition of automotive engineering professionals. Kevin earned his commercial pilot license and certified flight instructor certificate. He has flown small single engine airplanes, corporate jets, and large transport category aircraft. While attending Embry Riddle Aeronautical University and earning a Masters of Science in Aviation Safety he founded CAVU Companies which developed insurance company-approved flight training program for corporate flight departments and repossessed aircraft.

Kevin held various interior purchasing positions with Toyota Motor Manufacturing from 2004 in 2009. Joining Volkswagen in 2009 as an Interior Senior Buyer Kevin lead the initial sourcing and start-up of all seating components, seat JIT assembly, steering wheels and airbag modules for the all new Passat. Shortly after the launch of the Passat, he was promoted to Assistant Manager of the Interior Commodity. With an increased strategic role within purchasing Kevin later became the Manager of Interiors and oversaw sourcing of the entire Interior system for the Atlas SUV and the recruiting of several key suppliers to the Chattanooga area. Reporting directly to the EVP of Purchasing, Kevin was named Senior Manager in 2015 where he spearheaded several key purchasing initiatives for the North America Region. In 2017, Kevin was promoted to Director of Commodities and Value Engineering and since that time he has been tasked with leading various material cost reduction activities for vehicles produced in Chattanooga, TN and Puebla, Mexico.

Stuart Countess
Stuart CountessChief Operating Officer, Kia Motors Manufacturing Georgia
Stuart Countess is the Chief Operating Officer (COO) for Kia Motors Manufacturing Georgia, Inc. (KMMG). In this position, Countess is responsible for leading the plant’s Production Division, overseeing the operations of the four manufacturing shops, as well as the Production Control and Maintenance Departments.

Most recently, Countess served as KMMG’s Chief Administrative Officer where he was responsible for leading the Human Resources/Administration Division including Team Relations, Public Relations, Safety and Security, Environmental, Corporate Services, Legal and Sales. Joining KMMG in 2008, he has also served as vice president overseeing KMMG’s Quality Division and as the senior manager for General Assembly.

Countess came to KMMG from Mercedes Benz US International in Vance, Ala. where, for more than 13 years, he served in numerous leadership positions within production and quality including being the supplier quality manager, quality manager and assembly manager. In those roles he was responsible for vehicle assembly, supplier quality, overall vehicle quality, process quality, customer satisfaction and warranty.

Before joining Mercedes, Countess was the senior supplier quality engineer for AUTECS, a tier 1 supplier for Nissan and Subaru. Countess led the development of a supplier quality program that included localization of parts within the U.S. And, prior to that, he served as quality engineering administrator for Hughes Georgia in LaGrange, a division of Hughes Aircraft. There he was responsible for quality related activities of the Maverick missile program.

He is a graduate of the University of Alabama with a Bachelor of Science (BS) in Electrical Engineering and received his Master of Business Administration (MBA) from LaGrange College.

Countess is proud to have raised 4 beautiful children, now all grown. He and his wife, Dana, reside in LaGrange, Georgia.

Ron Davis
Ron DavisPresident, AAMA
Ron Davis began his career in the automotive industry at the age of 17 as a high school co-op student with the Delco Remy Division of General Motors. After high school Davis graduated from Purdue University with a degree in mechanical engineering while continuing as a college co-op student with General Motors. During his career at General Motors Davis held many leadership positions.
In 1994 Davis became a part of Delco Remy America and was named Vice President and General Manager of the Power Metal Forge Division in Meridian, Mississippi. Davis returned to General Motors in 1997 to lead the lean manufacturing efforts for the Saginaw Steering Division of General Motors in Athens, Alabama.
In 2000 Davis joined Federal Mogul as Plant Manager of the heavy duty piston business in Orangeburg, S.C. Davis returned to Alabama and joined ZF Lemforder to manage the ZF Axle Assembly Plant in Tuscaloosa, Alabama from 2002 to 2012.
In 2012 Davis joined The University of Alabama as Executive Director of the Alabama Entrepreneurship Institute in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
Ron also holds various board of director positions for economic development and workforce development across the state of Alabama.
In 2014 Davis was hired by the AAMA Board of Directors to become AAMA President and Chairman of the board.
Jan de Beer
Jan de BeerMember, Frost Brown Todd LLC
Jan is a member at Frost Brown Todd LLC and practices in the firm’s corporate department. He concentrates his practice in the area of international regulation and trade with a particular focus on import and export matters, customs regulations, labeling requirements, and transaction licensing. Jan has significant experience in counseling clients as to their responsibilities under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (“FCPA”) and export licensing obligations under the Department of Commerce’s Export Administration Regulations (“EAR”) and the Department of State’s International Traffic In Arms Regulations (“ITAR”). In addition, he advises companies and individuals in matters relating to U.S. embargoes and sanctions, with experience in both the voluntary disclosure of violations and obtaining appropriate licenses for international transactions. He also assists companies importing goods into the United States with customs law issues, including classification and valuation of products; Customs duty protests; and country of origin and other labeling requirements.
Augustine (Gus) Faucher
Augustine (Gus) FaucherSenior Vice President / Chief Economist, The PNC Financial Services Group
Augustine (Gus) Faucher is senior vice president and chief economist of The PNC Financial Services Group, serving as the principal spokesperson on all economic issues for PNC.
Prior to joining PNC as senior macroeconomist in December 2011, Faucher worked for 10 years at Moody’s Analytics (formerly, where he was a director and senior economist. He was responsible for running the firm’s computer model of the U.S. economy, edited a monthly publication on the U.S. economic outlook, covered fiscal and monetary policy, and analyzed various regional economies. Previously, he worked for six years at the U.S. Treasury Department and taught at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He was named senior vice president in March 2015, deputy chief economist in February 2016, and to his current role in April 2017.
Faucher is frequently cited in international, national, and regional media outlets including The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times. He has appeared on ABC World News, CBS Evening News, NBC Nightly News and Nightly Business Report, and is regularly featured on CNBC, CNN and Fox Business. In addition, he appears regularly on CBS Radio, NPR and Marketplace.
He serves on the board of directors of The Economic Club of Pittsburgh – the local chapter of National Association of Business Economics (NABE). He is also co-chair of the Financial Roundtable of NABE.
Faucher earned a Ph.D. in economics from the University of Pennsylvania, with concentrations in labor economics and public economics. He also has a B. A. in economics from Cornell University.
Kelly Meiman Hock
Kelly Meiman HockManaging Partner, McLarty Associates
Kellie Meiman Hock, Managing Partner, is responsible for external matters for McLarty Associates. In addition, she has led the Brazil & Southern Cone and trade practices of McLarty Associates since 2000.
During this time, Ms. Meiman has helped major multinational companies in this dynamic region and beyond to take advantage of opportunities, as well as to troubleshoot obstacles to market access and investment. She has worked on various aspects of national industrial policies, ranging from local content requirements to data localization and trade remedies. Ms. Meiman has been deeply engaged in companies’ efforts to manage increased unilateral US trade actions, as well as renegotiation of the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the Korea-US Free Trade Agreement (KORUS).
Ms. Meiman previously worked at the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) as Director for Brazil and the Southern Cone, where she had primary responsibility for trade negotiations with Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay. Prior to her work at USTR, Ms. Meiman served as a foreign service officer with the US Department of State, where her posts included handling crisis management in the State Operations Center. An Economic Officer in the foreign service, Ms. Meiman previously had served in Porto Alegre, São Paulo, and Recife, Brazil, and in Bogotá, Colombia. She has lived and studied in Central America and Japan.
Ms. Meiman is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the Inter-American Dialogue. She sits on the board of the Brazil-US Business Council and of the New York-based Brazil-America Chamber of Commerce. She also is Chairwoman of the Chile-based development NGO América Solidaria US. Ms. Meiman often writes and speaks on policy matters related to trade, Brazil, and Latin America.
A native of Omaha, Nebraska, Ms. Meiman is a graduate of the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service. She fluently speaks Spanish and Portuguese and is active in policy and politics at the national level and in the Commonwealth of Virginia, where she resides with her husband Jim and their two sons.
Jeneen Horton
Jeneen HortonEnvironmental and Facilities Manger, Toyota Motor Manufacturing of Alabama & President, SAWF
As Manager at Toyota Motor Manufacturing Alabama’s (TMMAL) Environmental and Facilities Departments, Jeneen has led the company’s environmental management systems for several years. Her position requires widespread responsibilities including the development of annual environmental management plans, ensuring department collaboration on action plans, and the development and execution of TMMAL’s 2025 CO2 Reduction Road Map. Thanks to Jeneen, TMMAL has achieved numerous environmental awards and certifications resulting in its position as a clear leader among Toyota’s manufacturing operations.

By developing TMMAL’S Environmental Vision, Jeneen’s leadership spurred a number of landmark recognitions. In 2003, as part of the initial vision, Jeneen challenged the company to achieve “zero landfill” status. This vision was made reality, and TMMAL was the first of Toyota’s North American manufacturing plants to achieve the status. She additionally created the facility’s environmental daily audit system to ensure top-level environmental compliance. This was recognized as a best practice within Toyota and is now implemented throughout the country.

Recognized as one of TMMAL’s top mentors for college co-op students, Jeneen regularly works with students who are assigned to the department and gives them valuable work experience. She is a hands-on coach for students and members of her team alike. Her external activities with the City of Huntsville Green Initiatives also allow her to be a leader in the community and advocate for the manufacturing industry.

In the community, Jeneen participates in or led the Southern Automotive Women’s Forum (Vice President), a non-profit for young women pursuing Automotive careers and Girls Inc. (President Elect), a non-profit for underserved young women. She has been a board member of the local Association of Energy Engineers as well as Auburn University’s Mechanical Engineering Advisory Committee. Also, passionate about promoting STEM careers, Jeneen is a regular volunteer participant in the North Alabama Center for Educational Excellence STEM Camp.

Recently, Jeneen has been assigned to support the Toyota Motor Manufacturing Mississippi plant. In her new role, she is one of the Assembly and Maintenance Managers.

Jeneen enjoys promoting STEM and the Automotive industry when speaking around Huntsville and surrounding areas. She resides in Harvest with her son.

Consul-General Kobayashi
Consul-General KobayashiConsul-General of Japan in Nashville
Consul-General Kobayashi assumed his post as Consul-General of Japan in Nashville on May 20, 2018. Since joining the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) in 1983, he served in several overseas posts and has worked on a variety of issues in many different departments in Tokyo. Immediately prior to arriving in Nashville, Consul-General Kobayashi served for four years as a Coordinator in the Personnel Affairs Division, where he was responsible for personnel recruitment and transfer of a third of Japan’s approximately 6,000 diplomats.
Consul-General Kobayashi lived in the U.S. three times prior to assuming his post in Nashville, most recently while serving as First Secretary in the Science Section of the Embassy of Japan in Washington, DC from 2002 to 2005. His work in Washington focused on U.S.-Japan cooperation in science and technology, space, and nuclear energy. The Consul-General has extensive experience in these fields and trained in the Science Division at the Foreign Service Institute in his first year with MOFA. He served as a legal officer in the Treaty Division of MOFA from 1994 to 1999, serving during that time as a member of Japan’s negotiation teams for treaties that include the US-Japan Agreement for Cooperation in the Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy. He served as Principal Deputy Director of the Climate Change Division from 2008 to 2010 and as Senior Coordinator in the International Nuclear Cooperation Division of MOFA from 2010 to 2012. When the tsunami-related accident at TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station occurred in 2011, Consul-General Kobayashi worked to implement relevant international nuclear agreements and coordinate goodwill assistance from foreign countries.
Consul-General Kobayashi first lived in the U.S. in 1984, when he attended Indiana University to study the Mongolian language. Trained also in MOFA’s China and Mongolia Division, he served as a Mongolian desk officer at MOFA headquarters from 1991 to 1994, when that country was transitioning from socialism to a democratic system with a market economy. He served as Deputy Chief of Mission of the Embassy of Japan in Mongolia from 2005 to 2008. He was awarded the Friendship Medal of Mongolia by the President of Mongolia, as well as Commendations by the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Education and Culture, in 2008 in recognition of his work to enhance the Mongolia-Japan friendship.
Consul-General Kobayashi served as Director of the Maritime Security Policy Division from 2012 to 2013, working primarily on international cooperation to combat piracy. He was a Deputy Director of the Grant Aid Division of MOFA from 1999 to 2001, working on food aid and various forms of grant aid. He was a Vice-Consul at the Consulate-General of Japan in Chicago from 1989 to 1991.
Consul-General Kobayashi is originally from Kyoto, Japan. He is married with one adult son.
Emily Lauder
Emily LauderVice President of Administration, Toyota Mississippi
Emily K. Lauder was named vice president of administration at Toyota Mississippi in June 2018. The manufacturing facility, located in Blue Springs, produces the Corolla, Toyota’s highest volume selling vehicle in the world. In this role, Lauder is responsible for all areas of administration including human resources, general affairs, safety, accounting and finance, and production control.

Prior to joining Toyota Mississippi, Emily was the general manager for human resources strategic partnering-manufacturing at Toyota Motor North America in Plano, TX. During her 18-year tenure with Toyota, Emily has served in many capacities including assistant manager and specialist in the accounting and finance department at Toyota West Virginia, and manager of human resources, accounting and finance at Toyota Alabama.

Prior to joining Toyota, Emily held positions as a financial analyst with AEI Resources in Ashland, Kentucky, and multiple accounting and finance positions with Square D Company in Cincinnati, Ohio and Nashville, Tennessee.

Emily currently serves on the board of the Community Development Foundation in Tupelo, Mississippi. During her time at Toyota Alabama she served on the Huntsville/Madison Co. Chamber of Commerce Executive Committee and as the Chamber’s Vice Chair for the Workforce and Education Committee, and on the board of directors for Huntsville/Madison Schools Foundation. She is a past President of the Southern Automotive Women’s Forum (SAWF) and remains an active member of the SAWF Board.

Emily received a BBA in Finance from Ohio University (Athens, OH) and an MBA in Decision Sciences from Miami University (Oxford, Ohio). She and her family live in Tupelo, MS.

Lex Lemmers
Lex LemmersDirector of Program Management, PACCAR & President, MAMA
Lex Lemmers is Executive at PACCAR and, as Director of Program Management, is responsible for business development and Engine Program Management at PACCAR Engine Company, a division of PACCAR Inc. He joined the company in 1996 at PACCAR’s European division DAF Trucks in Eindhoven, the Netherlands. Mr. Lemmers progressed through increasingly responsible positions to become plant manager for the DAF Engine Plant in Eindhoven and in 2007 Plant manager responsible for build and startup of the PACCAR Engine Company in Columbus, MS.
Before joining PACCAR, Mr. Lemmers was the Quality Director for Fokker Aerospace in the Netherlands. Prior to this assignment, he served as the Manager Manufacturing Engineering for Fokker Aircraft.
Born in 1960 in Haarlem, the Netherlands, Mr. Lemmers was awarded a Bachelor of Science degree in Industrial Engineering at the University of Alkmaar (the Netherlands). He earned his master’s degree in Manufacturing Systems Engineering at the Warwick University (the United Kingdom).
Mr. Lemmers joined the Mississippi Automotive Manufacturers Association (MAMA) as Board member in 2013 and was elected President of this association in 2017. In his role of President of MAMA, he also serves on the board of the regional Southern Automotive Manufacturers Alliance (SAMA) since 2018 currently in the role of President. In addition, Mr. Lemmers joined the Mississippi Manufacturers Association as Board member in 2015.
Mr. Lemmers, his wife, and two of their 3 children reside in Columbus, Mississippi.
Mekesha Montgomery
Mekesha MontgomeryMember, Frost Brown Todd LLC
Mekesha is a member of Frost Brown Todd’s Labor and Employment Practice Group, and serves as Chair of the firm’s Manufacturing Industry Team. She represents management in the areas of employment discrimination and wrongful discharge, union negotiations and arbitration.

She has successfully represented companies defending against class and collective actions alleging employment discrimination and wage and hour violations, including class actions under the FMLA, collective actions under the FLSA and EEOC-initiated class actions. Mekesha regularly provides advice and counsel to management responding to union-initiated grievances and has represented management in numerous labor arbitrations. She also has significant experience dealing with issues arising from covenants not to compete and with ERISA and Employee Benefits Litigation.

Jeff Pratt
Jeff Pratt Supply Chain Lead, Managing Director, BDO
Jeff leads the BDO US Supply Chain Practice and is focused on working with clients to improve efficiency, make better use of working capital, and to improve internal and external customer service.
He has over 25 years of experience in the Supply Chain Management space, and brings sourcing, process, technology enablement, change, organizational, financial, and performance measurement experience to help clients maximize the success, user experience, and long-term business impact of supply chain transformation programs.
Jeff brings a strong focus in supply side optimization, including supplier selection and performance management, sub-tier supply source tracking and traceability, as well as holistic supplier risk management.
He has led both domestic and global transformations, annualized business impact targets as large as $1 Billion. He has also held “C-level” and global leadership roles with oversight of over 180 professionals, and $50M in budgetary responsibility.
Jeff works to drive executable solutions by drawing on industry knowledge, multidisciplinary backgrounds in process, technology enablement and strategy, and practical use of leading practices. Specifically, his focus is on delivering solutions through the following services: Supply Chain Optimization, Supply Risk and Performance Management, Change Management and User Adoption, Source to Pay Technology Enablement, System Selection and Assessment, Business Process Improvement, Working Capital Optimization.
Commissioner Bob Rolfe
Commissioner Bob RolfeCommissioner of Economic and Community Development, State of Tennessee
Bob Rolfe was sworn in on January 19, 2019 by Governor Bill Lee to serve as commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development. The department is responsible for recruiting business and industry to the state, supporting existing companies, expanding economic opportunities across rural Tennessee and boosting the state’s overall economic prosperity.
Rolfe has served as TNECD commissioner since March 2017. Under his leadership, TNECD has increased Tennessee’s global footprint. During Rolfe’s tenure, he has led Tennessee’s efforts in the recruitment and expansion of 100 international projects, which represent an investment of $5.3 billion and more than 16,000 job commitments in the state.
Rural Tennessee has become a top priority for TNECD in recent years. Since 2017, the department has provided more than $55 million in funding to rural communities throughout the state. In addition, companies have invested $3.8 billion and committed to create more than 19,000 new jobs in rural communities over the past two years.
Rolfe has more than three decades of experience in business and investment banking in Tennessee. Before joining TNECD, he held the position of CEO of Medical Reimbursements of America, Inc., a company that provides specialty reimbursement solutions to improve financial performance for hospitals and health systems nationwide. Prior to his time at MRA, Rolfe co-founded West End Holdings in 2011, a Nashville-based private equity partnership. He spent the first 18 years of his career as an investment banker at J.C. Bradford and Co.
Yannick Schilly
Yannick SchillyPresident & Chief Executive Officer, Altix Consulting
Yannick is a senior strategic advisor, senior consultant, industrial engineer and senior management executive with more than 25 years’ experience developing and executing complex global expansion strategies throughout Germany, China and the US.
Yannick’s unique expertise includes all aspects of global and international business, market entry, industrial best practices and excellence in advanced manufacturing, industrial engineering, logistics and multi-national supply chain management. During his successful career as Chief Operating Officer for a leading German based, international industrial technology company, Yannick established and managed regional production and logistic centers in China and North America.
A French native, who was immersed in the corporate and industrial arenas in Europe, Asia and the North-America, Yannick has built a vast business network spanning three continents and possesses a unique understanding of various business cultures. He speaks four languages and enjoys traveling with his family to discover new places, cultures and culinary experiences around the world.
Truly passionate about European-American affairs, Yannick currently serves as Chairman of the Board of Directors for the European – American Chamber of Commerce in Cincinnati.
Yannick holds a BS in Industrial Engineering and an MBA in General Management and Global Business from the University of Applied Sciences Hamburg, Germany.
Peggy Shukairy
Peggy ShukairyMember, Frost Brown Todd LLC
Peggy practices U.S. immigration and nationality law. She primarily represents clients in obtaining non-immigrant and immigrant employment-based visas for foreign national employees. She handles temporary non-immigrant visas including H-1B, TN, L, Blanket L, O-1, and E nonimmigrant visas. Peggy also frequently provides advice regarding usage of the B-1 business visitor visa and options for trainees and interns. Her extensive experience with employment-based green cards includes the following classifications: Multinational Manager or Executive, Extraordinary Ability, Outstanding Researcher or Professor, National Interest Waiver, Schedule A, Advanced Degree Professional, Exceptional Ability, Special Handling, Professional, and Skilled Worker. She has assisted employers with short-term and long-term outbound assignments to other countries. She has also advised and trained companies on I-9 compliance, SSA no-matches, and workforce enforcement issues.
Ryan Stanton
Ryan StantonSenior Consultant, Strategic Energy Initiatives with the Tennessee Department of Environment & Conservation
Ryan is a Senior Consultant – Strategic Energy Initiatives with the Tennessee Department of Environment & Conservation (TDEC) Office of Energy Programs (OEP).
In this role, Ryan focuses on strategy and implementation for the state’s energy management and electric transportation efforts. Ryan serves as the TDEC-designated board member for TennSMART, a statewide consortium to accelerate the development and deployment of new intelligent mobility innovations in Tennessee.
Prior to joining the state of Tennessee, Ryan spent a decade in the private sector working in the fields of software, smart cities, electric vehicle charging, energy efficiency, and microgrids. Having worked for a global energy management company and later co-founding a startup, he’s developed, sold, and implemented diverse projects ranging from energy savings projects for the federal government to machine learning software for parking companies. His background includes experience in smart cities, electric vehicle charging, microgrids, and advanced metering. Originally from the Pacific Northwest, Ryan earned his B.S. in general engineering with a minor in business administration from Gonzaga University.
Tim Szymcek
Tim SzymcekVice President of Global Consulting, JD Power
In his 26 years of manufacturing experience Mr. Szymcek (pronounced “sim-check”) led the growth of Toyota from 4 North American factories to 12 while creating record profits and customer satisfaction. As a leader and change agent at Toyota he was directly responsible for creating systems and developing new models which led to Toyota’s solid reputation as the global leader in quality, efficiency and profitability. His responsibilities at Toyota included Supply chain development, Quality Engineering, New Model Development and Toyota Production System Training, and Supplier Improvement Office Chairman.
After leaving Toyota he founded a successful engineering and consulting services company which quickly grew to nearly 150 employees. While running his consulting company he also worked as a contract executive for Adidas as Head of Global Quality Restructuring based in Hong Kong and as Head of Quality for an Electric Powertrain company called AltE Electric Powertrains in Troy, Michigan.
After the sale of his company he began working with New Balance Sports as the Global Head of Advanced Manufacturing where he had responsibility for global production modernization including IOT with responsibility for over 200,000 team members in factories around the world. As a direct result of his efforts New Balance was able to reduce $38,000,000 of direct costs annually while increasing production by 20% annually.
Tim is presently the Vice president of Global Consulting for JD Power.
Terry Thiele
Terry ThieleExecutive Advisor, Synfiny Advisors
Terry is an executive advisor in the SYNFINY ADVISORS strategy practice group. He marshals over forty years of experience helping businesses with strategic planning and issues advocacy, with particular emphasis on environmental matters.
From 2000 through 2017 Terry provided strategic planning support to The Lubrizol Corporation where he led Lubrizol’s growing involvement with environmental life cycle assessments.
Before joining Lubrizol, Terry performed national and foreign government relations and environmental policy functions over a ten-year period for the General Electric Company and AB Electrolux.
Over the past thirty years he has served on numerous industry associations including the American Chemistry Council, the European Chemical Industry Council, the American Petroleum Institute and the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers.
Prior to that he spent eleven years in government with service in the U.S. Treasury Department, the Central Intelligence Agency, the Defense Intelligence Agency and the Executive Office of the President.
Terry is an adjunct professor at Case Western Reserve University where he has taught a graduate level course in strategic planning. He also has taught courses on disruptive innovation, business research and eco-efficiency at Baldwin Wallace University’s School of Business.
He received his B.A. magna cum laude from Princeton University and his juris doctorate from the New York University School of Law. Terry also is a graduate of the National War College.
Terry served for 15 years in the U.S. Army Reserve, Judge Advocate General Corps, honorably discharged with the rank of captain.
He is licensed to practice law in the District of Columbia.
Amy Tinsley
Amy TinsleyExecutive Director, SC Automotive Council
Amy Tinsley is the Executive Director of the SC Automotive Council. In this role she connects South Carolina’s automotive industry and facilitates dialogue on industry relevant topics including trade, policy, supply chain, quality, workforce and economic development. She promotes the continued growth and strengthening of the automotive industry by partnering with state and local organizations in workforce and economic development efforts.

Prior to joining the SC Automotive Council, she spent almost a decade in the utility industry working with the South Carolina executive team of one of the nation’s largest utilities leading strategy and planning related to: state government affairs, community relations, regulatory issues, economic development, and finance.

She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from Presbyterian College. She also received a Masters of Public Administration and a Masters of Business Administration from the University of South Carolina.
She is active in the Junior League of Greenville. She is a member of the Presbyterian College Alumni Board. She lives in Greenville with her husband and son.

Yuri Unno
Yuri UnnoDirector for International Trade Policy, Government and Industry Affairs, Toyota Motor North America, Inc.
Unno is a part of the Government Affairs team in Washington, DC. Unno represents interests of Toyota on trade issues in front of the Executive Branch, Congress, and Embassies in Washington as well as in key diplomatic places such as Geneva, Brussels and Tokyo.

She was a lead negotiator for the company during the U.S. Mexico and Canada Agreement (USMCA) negotiations.

Prior to joining Toyota in 1999, Unno worked as the Asia Analyst at G7 Group, a political and economic research and advisory firm for the Wall Street investors.

Unno received a Master of Arts from the Elliott School for International Affairs at George Washington University and Bachelor of Arts in Economics, and Bachelor of Arts with honors in Political Science from Penn State Erie, the Behrend College.

Flavio Volpe
Flavio VolpePresident, Automotive Parts Manufacturers' Association (APMA)
Flavio Volpe is a champion of Canada’s globally relevant automotive sector and is dedicated to the growth of Canada’s automotive innovation, the development of new markets and the leveraging of its international leadership. Representing the interests of suppliers at home and abroad, he proudly leads the Automotive Parts Manufacturers’ Association (APMA) – Canada’s national association representing OEM producers of parts, equipment, tools, supplies and services for the worldwide automotive industry.

Working closely with officials in all three countries during the NAFTA renegotiations, he led the industry’s effort to secure an unprecedented increase in regional value content for automotive suppliers in the new USMCA.

Flavio speaks regularly on behalf of industry interests, opportunities and challenges in Canada and abroad and is a sought-after voice by leading global publications including The Economist, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, BBC, CNBC, Globe and Mail and Washington Post. Flavio was recognized as Industry Leader of the Year by Automotive News Canada in 2017 and again in 2018.

Previous to APMA he served as Managing Director, Canada of WIRSOL AG, the EU’s largest privately-held solar photovoltaic energy developer, and as Chief of Staff to the Ontario Minister of Economic Development and Trade.

Flavio holds a Master’s in Business Administration from the Schulich School of Business at York University and a Bachelor’s degree in International Relations from the University of Toronto.

Matthew Wagner
Matthew WagnerManaging Associate, Frost Brown Todd LLC
Matt guides his clients through employment law compliance issues, including hiring and firing, employment policies, wage & hour compliance, and I-9 employment authorization compliance. He has spent considerable time counseling clients with respect to legal questions unique to transgender employees, and other cutting-edge legal issues, and has experience with personnel issues unique to the healthcare field. An experienced litigator, Matt has defended family businesses, government agencies, and Fortune 500 companies in state and federal courts against discrimination, wage & hour, breach of contract and a variety of other employment-related claims and appeals.

As a managing associate in Frost Brown Todd’s International Services Group, Matt also counsels clients on legal problems that arise when companies—and their people—cross international borders. Matt handles all aspects of employment-based immigration, including obtaining work visas and green cards for his clients’ foreign-born talent, and helping entrepreneurs and companies opening U.S. offices obtain work visas for owners or key management personnel. Matt also advises clients on international personnel issues, including structuring employment, secondment and contractor relationships, personnel agreements, and income and corporate taxation issues that arise from moving or hiring personnel across international lines.

Rick Walker
Rick WalkerPartner, Clements Bernard Walker PLLC & President, GAMA
Rick started his career with Ford Motor Company as an engineer, was an Executive Vice President with a major Tier 1 automotive supplier for 14 years, and is now President and CEO of GAMA, the Georgia Automotive Manufacturers Association.

Rick is also currently a Partner at Clements Bernard Walker PLLC – a law firm specializing in Intellectual Property (patents, trademarks, copyrights, trade secrets, and related matters), Trade Association, and Business Law. He is a Registered Patent Attorney. He specialties include various automotive technologies such as autonomous and sensor systems, as well as medical devices, industrial products, and trade associations, among other related areas. In addition:
• He is the author of numerous published articles on innovation, quality and profitability;
• Was named one of the “Latest Generation of Atlanta CEOs and Power Brokers”, Atlanta Journal Constitution;
• Received the International Entrepreneur of the Year Award from the Society of International Business Fellows;
• Was named an NACD (National Association of Corporate Directors) Governance Fellow, the highest level of credentialing for corporate directors and corporate governance professionals;
• Is AV® Preeminent Peer Review Rated by Martindale-Hubbell legal directory (the highest ranking); and
• Has been rated as one of the top lawyers in Georgia for several recent years.

He holds both undergraduate and graduate engineering degrees from the University of Detroit, a law degree from the University of Detroit, and completed The Executive Program at the University of Michigan, School of Business Administration.

Harry White
Harry WhiteDirector, Body in White, Volvo Cars
Harry currently serves as the Shop Director, Body In White (BIW), at Volvo Cars’ first manufacturing plant in the US – a position he’s held since 2017.

With over 22 years in the automotive manufacturing industry, Harry comes to Volvo Cars from Volkswagen Group of America in Chattanooga, Tenn., where he held various managerial roles in Body in White during his five-years there. Prior to Volkswagen, Harry held management positions in Body in White, Engines and Brakes at Hyundai Motors in Alabama, Toyota Motor Manufacturing in Indiana and General Motors in Ohio.

A native of Sumter, SC, Harry served five years in the Army. He is a graduate of South Carolina State University, where he received a Bachelor’s degree in Marketing, with a minor in Industrial Engineering.

Locally, Harry serves on the Trident Technical College Foundation Trustee Board and is a board member of the Trident United Way. He is also a member of the National Society of Black Engineers. In Tennessee, Harry graduated in the 2016 Leadership Chattanooga class (Chattanooga Chamber of Commerce), served as a former board chair for Purpose Point Community Development, and was a board member for Volkswagen’s Diversity Advocacy committee.

Harry, his wife Renva Wadette White, and son Jalen, reside in Mt. Pleasant, SC.

Rick Youngblood
Rick YoungbloodPresident, Tennessee Automotive Manufacturers Association
Rick is serving his third term as President of TAMA. He joined the board of directors in 2005.

Rick spent 36 years working for Nissan in a variety of roles. He joined Nissan’s management team in 1989 and help multiple positions at both the Smyrna and Decherd plant. He retired from Nissan in May of 2019. His roles included Director of Body Assembly & Stamping and Director of base Trim and Chassis. His most recent role was Plant Manager/Director Plant 2 at the Decherd Powertrain operations.

Rick has a bachelor’s degree in Management and Human Relations from Trevecca Nazarene University. His is a certified maintenance reliability professional (CMRP).