2017 Presenters

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Keynote Speaker: Ambassador Ron Kirk

As U.S. Trade Representative for the Obama administration from 2009-2013, Ron Kirk played an essential role in the nation’s economic recovery. He led negotiations to complete trade deals with South Korea, Colombia, and Panama and was on the frontlines of enforcing trade rules with China. Also a former two-term mayor of Dallas, Kirk is a widely recognized media source and speaker on trade and politics. He is currently in private legal practice and co-chairs his firm’s International Trade Group. (Full bio here.)

Jenna Aira-Ventrella headshot  Jenna Aira-Ventrella, BDO Consulting 

Jenna Aira-Ventrella is a Managing Director in BDO Consulting’s Forensic Technology Services practice. She is a Certified E-Discovery Specialist with over 15 years of experience and internally leads BDO’s Global E-Discovery build-out strategy and execution team. Externally, Jenna advises organizations and clients on e-discovery solutions that address case management and big data challenges. Leading large scale domestic and international projects, she works with clients to design and execute a range of e-discovery methodologies, conduct internal investigations, manage multi-district litigations, as well as draft and develop strategy for discovery protocols and “meet and confer” conferences. Jenna’s experience includes working with clients to implement preservation protocols, design appropriate acquisition methodologies and how to best leverage analytic solutions to maximize computer assisted review engagements. Additionally, she works with clients to identify and evaluate new technology solutions to meet their e-discovery and discovery management needs. Jenna holds a bachelor’s degree in Social Science from the University of California, Irvine.

Louise Blais, Consulate General of Canada  Louise Blais, Canadian Ambassador and Deputy Permanent Representative to the                           United Nations in New York

Louise Blais began her professional career as an Art Theft Analyst at Interpol. She then managed the Development Program at the National Archives of Canada from 1992-1996 before joining the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade in 1996. As a senior diplomat, she has served abroad as Counsellor at the Embassy in Washington and Tokyo and as Minister-Counsellor for Political Affairs at the Embassy in Paris during the presidency of Nicolas Sarkozy, helping coordinate Canada’s participation in the 2011 G8 in Deauville and the G20 in Cannes. During this period, she was also the Director of the Canadian Cultural Centre. 

In Ottawa, at the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development, she has held the positions of Director of the Public Diplomacy Division where she oversaw Canada’s International outreach and Executive Director of the Rotational Staff Division. Blais and her team were responsible for the deployment of over 2000 employees world-wide.

In August 2014, the Minister of Foreign Affairs appointed her Consul General of Canada in Atlanta, covering states with an aggregate bilateral trade of over $50 billion: North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi.

Blais holds a B.A. from McGill University. 

David DeGraaf, Faurecia Clean Mobility  David W. DeGraaf, Faurecia Clean Mobility

David W. DeGraaf assumed his role of President of Faurecia Clean Mobility (FCM) in November of 2014. As President of FCM North America, he is responsible for all operational aspects of the business, including customer strategy and policy, program management, manufacturing, purchasing, finance and human resources. David oversees 17 FCM manufacturing plants, one technical center and one customer center. He currently serves as a board member for the Indiana Automotive Council. Prior to joining FCM, he was Vice President and General Manager of JCI Power Solutions, Original Equipment (OE) Group – Americas Region. He has also served as a member on several different boards, including the Zeeland/Holland (West Coast) Chamber of Commerce and Board of Directors, and Congressman P. Hoekstra’s Academy Section Committee and Interview Board as well as a former Athlete Representative to the Board of Directors for the United States Handball Federation. David holds a Bachelor of Science in Human Factors Engineering from the United States Air Force Academy. A retired Air Force Major, David was a participant in the 1994 Goodwill Games, 1995 and 1996 Pan Am Games and the 1996 Olympics.

Javier Dias de Leon, Consul General of Mexico in Atlanta  Javier Díaz de León, Consul General of Mexico in Atlanta

Javier Díaz de León holds a Bachelor’s Degree in International Relations from the Universidad Iberoamericana in Mexico City. He also earned a Master of Arts in International Conflict Analysis from the University of Kent at Canterbury in England. Since 1991, he is a member of the Mexican Foreign Service, and holds the rank of Ambassador since April 28th, 2017. During his professional career he has served as: Deputy Consul General in San Diego; Deputy Consul General in New York, Head of the Office for Migration and Hispanic Affairs at the Mexican Embassy in the United States, and Executive Director of the Institute for Mexicans Abroad at the Mexican Ministry of Foreign Affairs. From June 2013 to May 2016 he served as Consul General of Mexico in Raleigh, NC.  On May 2016, he was appointed by President Enrique Peña Nieto as Consul General of Mexico in Atlanta, Georgia, where he is serving in this position since June 18, 2016.  

Tony Flanagan   Tony Flanagan, AlixPartners

Tony has over 25 years’ experience in the automotive industry focusing on finance and operations.  At AlixPartners, he has advised senior management teams in developing and implementing comprehensive financial, operational and turnaround strategies on dozens of projects spanning most of the automotive supplier segments.  His experience includes developing, evaluating and implementing business plans, developing cash flow projections, managing liquidity, analyzing part profitability and developing and implementing operational restructuring and cost reduction initiatives.  Tony’s experience also includes both sell and buy side advisory services, negotiating plans of reorganization and negotiating debt/equity restructurings.  A CPA, Tony is a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants.  He is also a member of the Association of Insolvency and Restructuring Advisors and the Turnaround Management Association (TMA).  The TMA recognized Tony for his work on Chassix, Inc., naming it the “Mega Company Turnaround of the Year” for 2015.  The M&A Advisor also recognized Tony for his work on Chassix, naming it the “Chapter 11 Reorganization of the Year” for 2015.  He holds an MBA from the University of Michigan and a BA in accounting from Michigan State University.

Pam Heminger, Honda of America Manufacturing  Pam Heminger, Honda of America Manufacturing

Pam Heminger, vice president of Honda of America Mfg. (HAM), is responsible for the management and direction of the company’s Administration, Purchasing and Business Divisions. Prior to this role, she oversaw the HAM Business Division, which includes the Facilities, Accounting, Information Systems, New Model Center and Production Control and Planning departments. Pam joined HAM as a Purchasing Buyer in 1996 and since then has held a variety of different positions, including Team Leader, Purchasing Manager of the Functional Engine Team and Electrical Team, Manager of the Purchasing Strategic Development Group, Department Manager of Cost Planning and Division Manager of the HAM Purchasing Operations Division. Before joining HAM, Pam worked for Lennox Industries as a commodities manager. She has served as a Governing Board Member for the Children’s Hunger Alliance from 2013-17 and is currently a Board Member of the Ohio Manufacturer’s Association and the HAM Foundation. In 2015, Pam was selected by Automotive News as one of “100 Leading Women in the North American Auto Industry.” She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Procurement and Materials Management from Bowling Green State University, as well as her MBA from Capital University. 

James Koziol headshot  James M. Koziol, BDO Consulting

James M. Koziol is a Director in BDO Consulting’s Forensic Technology Services practice, with a focus on providing clients with Data & Information Governance services. He has more than 25 years of experience planning and executing strategic implementations for information governance and information risk management programs.

Jim provides expertise and guidance on planning, designing, implementing and managing records management systems. He has facilitated executive level discussions on cloud migration strategy, change management, enterprise data classification and other corporate transformation programs with global clients. Specializing in messaging compliance, email archiving, electronic discovery, litigation support and data remediation, Jim effectively brings legal, IT and compliance organizations together. Focusing on the financial services and non-profit industries, Jim has worked with clients on requirements definition, vendor evaluations, tool selections and data migrations to accelerate Information Governance initiatives and has provided information security and data governance services across vertical markets.

John Mack, FORCAM  John Mack, FORCAM, Inc.

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 over 35 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.

Brendan Moynihan, headshot  Brendan Moynihan, Vanderbilt University

Brendan Moynihan is an adjunct professor at the Owen Graduate School of Management at Vanderbilt University where he teaches international finance. Previously, he was the Managing Director of Market and Media Research at Marketfield Asset Management, where he  helped shape the firm's macro views and allocations. Prior to that, he spent more than twenty-five years on Wall Street as a trader and risk manager.

Moynihan is the author of Financial Origami: How the Wall Street Model Broke (Bloomberg Press, 2011), the author of Next Time will Be Different: Why Economists Can't Predict Financial Panics and Crises (Infrared Press, 2013), and the co-author of What I Learned Losing A Million Dollars (Columbia University Press, 2013). His next book, The Geometry of Hazard: Uncertainty, Risk and Probability From Games of Chance to Game Theory, will be published by Columbia University Press in 2017.

Jeremy Pilmore-Bedford bio  Jeremy Pilmore-Bedford, British Consul General

Jeremy Pillmore-Bedford took up his appointment in Atlanta as Her Majesty’s Consul General in August 2013. In his role, Jeremy leads a team which does work throughout the Southeast to promote UK-US trade investment, support British nationals, conduct public diplomacy on key issues and build scientific cooperation. Additionally, he sits on the Marshall Scholarship selection committee. Prior to serving as Her Majesty’s Consul General, Jeremy was posted in London where he was the Head of the UK Foreign Office’s Caribbean, Central America and Mexico Department. He also worked in the Foreign Office’s policy planning staff as well as worked on supporting democratic reform in Ukraine after the 2004 Orange Revolution. Jeremy graduated from Brunel University in London with a degree in politics, history and economics. He also participated in a one-year exchange program with the State University of New York and worked as an intern for a US Congressman. Jeremy joined the UK’s diplomatic service in 1990 as a graduate entrant. He has since served overseas in Qatar, Singapore, Russia, and Malaysia.

Anna Schneider headshot  Anna Schneider, Volkswagen Group of America, Inc.

Anna-Maria Schneider is the Senior Vice President, Industry-Government Relations at Volkswagen Group of America. She is responsible for the development of the company’s legislative and public affairs priorities, and leads all advocacy efforts at the federal and state level. Active in leadership positions in several trade associations and chambers of commerce, she promotes and builds awareness among key audiences in Washington and in the states of the Volkswagen Group’s environmental stewardship, safety innovations and corporate philanthropy.

Schneider previously served as vice president of Industry and Government Affairs and the deputy to the Group Vice President at Toyota Motor North America, Inc., the holding company for Toyota’s North American sales, engineering and manufacturing operating units. There she was responsible for oversight of department operations, including personnel, office administration, budget, affiliate relations and development of public policy priorities. 

Before joining Toyota, Schneider was Executive Director for Government Relations of the U.S. Operations for Mitsubishi Motors North America, Inc. where she headed Mitsubishi’s government relations office for 13 years. 

Prior to joining Mitsubishi, Schneider served as Director for Intergovernmental Affairs for Global USA, Inc., an international trade consulting firm, where she worked closely with foreign governments and corporations, assisting them in understanding and responding to U.S. government policies. Earlier in her career, Schneider served as an account executive in the International Trade Practice Division of Hill and Knowlton Public Affairs Worldwide. 

Schneider graduated with honors from Bucknell University with a B.A. in international relations, and has a Master’s degree in international affairs from Columbia University. She also studied at the Institute for European Studies in Vienna, Austria. 

Deb Schroeder headshot  Deb Schroeder, Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing North America, Inc.

Deb Schroeder is General Manager in Purchasing Procurement Department 2 for TEMA.  She is responsible for procurement of all Interior, Exterior and Seating components utilized in North American vehicles.

Prior to her return to Purchasing, she was General Manager in Strategic planning, supporting regional strategy for Toyota North America related to Sales, Manufacturing and R&D

She also spent time at Toyota’s truck manufacturing plant in San Antonio, TX. There she was General Manager at TMMTX for Plastics, On-site Suppliers, & Internal and External Logistics.  Her groups were responsible for various areas in plant manufacturing, ranging from the plastics shop, and supporting the suppliers that are onsite, to coordination of outsourced parts transported from across North America all the way to line side.

Ms. Schroeder also has experience in Production Control /Logistics responsible for managing the Integrated Logistics Planning & Packaging section at TEMA for all the plants across North America.

Ms. Schroeder started her career at TMMK, the Kentucky manufacturing facility, in 1992.  Since that time, she has held various management positions within Purchasing.

Ms. Schroeder is a graduate of Indiana University.

John Shin headshot  John Shin, Bank of America Merrill Lynch

John Shin joined Bank of America Merrill Lynch as a senior G10 FX strategist, based in New York. He is responsible for the flagship monthly publication, World At A Glance. Previously, Shin was both a G10 FX strategist and a U.S. economist at Lehman Brothers. He was also a postdoctoral research fellow at the National Bureau of Economic Research in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and worked in the Macroeconomic and Quantitative Studies section of the Federal Reserve Board in Washington, D.C.

Shin holds a doctorate in economics from Harvard University, where he was a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow. He holds a B.A. in economics from the University of California at Berkeley, where he graduated with high honors.

Robert Varsanik, Chrysler  Robert J. Varsanik, Chrysler

Robert J. Varsanik has held the position of General Manager of Transmission, Casting and Component Operations at Chrysler since November of 2014 and has been with Chrysler with June of 1986, accumulating more than 30 years of manufacturing experience. Before becoming General Manager, Robert was the Head of Supplier Quantity with responsibility and oversight for 2,400 NAFTA Supplier locations. In this role, he was responsible for current supplier issues, advanced planning for new vehicle launches, and powertrain, in addition to global operations and systems integration. His professional background also includes positions as Director, Head of Supply Quality; Plant Manager of multiple plants; Director, Transmission Program Management; Senior Manufacturing and Engineering Manager; Launch Coordinator and Area Manufacturing, Maintenance and New Programs Launch Manager. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering Technology from Purdue University as well as an MBA from the University of Indianapolis.

Christopher Wilson headshot  Christopher Wilson, Woodrow Wilson Center

Christopher Wilson is Deputy Director of the Mexico Institute at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, where he leads the institute’s research and programming on regional economic integration and U.S.-Mexico border affairs. He is the author and editor of numerous reports, including Growing Together: Economic Ties between the United States and Mexico (Wilson Center, 2017) and the State of the Border Report. Wilson is regularly consulted by national and international media outlets regarding U.S.-Mexico relations, and has written opinion columns for the Wall Street Journal, Politico, CNN, and Reuters, among others. He previously worked as a contractor doing Mexico analysis for the U.S. military and as a researcher at American University’s Center for North American Studies. In Mexico, he worked at an international trade consultancy and with American students studying regional political and social issues. Wilson is a member of the Transportation Research Board Committee on International Trade and Transportation, one of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine technical committees designed to provide independent, objective analysis to inform public policy decisions. He completed his M.A. in International Affairs at American University, focusing on U.S. foreign policy and hemispheric relations.