Your Partner in Growing Your Community

2020 Annual Meeting Speakers

Onsite and Virtual Conference Speakers (Listed as they Appear on the Agenda, Followed by Bonus Session Speakers)

Ferrari Jill ResizedHousing as Economic Development
Jill Ferrari, Managing Partner, Renovare Development
Jill Ferrari has 25 years of experience in catalyzing urban redevelopment. Her background includes private real estate acquisition and development, legal practice, consulting, and community development. In her current position, she leads the completion of transformational mixed-use real estate development projects located in Opportunity Zones in urban neighborhoods and rural main streets. As the Chief Executive Officer of Shelborne Development, she secured financing for various real estate development projects focused on neighborhood revitalization and affordable housing. As the Chief Executive Officer of Michigan Community Resources, she led the multimillion-dollar nonprofit to support community economic development in low-income areas throughout Michigan. Through her leadership, the organization launched Neighborhood Exchange, an innovative electronic platform that supports community economic development at all levels in the community. As Director of Community Development for Wayne County, Michigan, she funded hundreds of multifamily and supportive housing units for victims of domestic violence, homeless veterans, and youth aging out of foster care. Her management of community development funds helped leverage over $200 Million in private investment. Jill’s approach resulted in comprehensive programming designed to address multiple issues faced by each community. She launched a deconstruction initiative with SER Metro-Detroit and Warm Training Center in 2010 that targeted participants in the US Department of Labor’s Pathways Out of Poverty program. This initiative paired workers with deconstruction projects that were primarily within walking distance of their homes, to minimize barriers caused by lack of transportation. In 2012, she partnered with the Wayne County Jails and Detroit Recovery Project to create a comprehensive re-housing and re-entry program for returning citizens. As an attorney and private real estate developer, she has managed complex Brownfield Redevelopment projects in multiple states. In 2007, she managed the assemblage of an 84-acre Brownfield Redevelopment site in Las Vegas, including all entitlements and financing. This project involved the expansion of the gaming district on Las Vegas Boulevard and securing the largest redevelopment incentive package (including Sales Tax Anticipated Revenue (STAR) bonds) in the City’s history. She managed the packaging of incentives on the former Northville Psychiatric Hospital site and was successful in securing over $12Million in Tax Increment Financing for the Island Lakes at Taylor project. Jill was named a 2017 “Woman of Influence” by the Wayne State University Council on the Status of Women. She is also the 2016 winner of the Melvin Simon Award from the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) Foundation. She is the current Co-Chair of the Urban Land Institute Michigan District Council, and the founder of ULI Michigan’s Women’s Leadership Initiative, designed to promote leadership for women in the real estate industry. She is a former member of the Board of Directors of Commercial Real Estate Women (CREW) Detroit (2001 and 2013) and a judge for the annual CREW Real Estate Impact Awards. She is the former Chairman of the Board of CreateDetroit, Inc., Advisory Council member for The Heidelberg Project, and has participated in coordinating successful events in Detroit such as The National Summit, the Creative Cities Summit, and the annual BravoBravo! fundraiser for the Detroit Opera House.

Housing as Economic Development
Sarah Lucas, Executive Director, Housing North
Sarah Lucas has been a practicing planner in Northwest Michigan for twenty years, working at both the county and regional levels. As the Community Development Director at Networks Northwest, Sarah led regional and statewide housing policy research, education/outreach, and partnership initiatives. In her role at Housing North, she works across sectors to support developers and communities that are taking action on housing needs and solutions – by driving policy change, new development, and innovative partnerships in collaboration with our staff and executive director. Sarah serves on local and statewide boards including the Michigan Association of Planners Board of Directors, Fair Housing Center of West Michigan, and the Traverse City Housing Commission. She’s certified by the American Institute of Certified Planners, with a degree in Urban and Regional Planning from Eastern Michigan University.

Call Warren ResizedWhen Your Community Drives Strong Community Development
Warren M. Call, President and CEO, Traverse Connect
Warren Call is the President & CEO of Traverse Connect, a regional economic development organization focused on advancing the economic vitality of the Grand Traverse Region through the growth of family-sustaining careers. His role is to lead strategy for the organization, support area businesses, market the region globally and collaborate with local, state, and national organizations on critical issues related to economic development. Prior to joining Traverse Connect, Warren served as the Regional Manager for the Huntington Private Bank, with oversight for Investment & Private Banking across Northern Michigan. He has also led several nonprofit and public policy initiatives dedicated to economic expansion and talent development. A Northern Michigan native, he moved back to the area after living in Rome, New York City, and Salt Lake City. Warren holds an M.B.A. in International Finance from St. John’s University and a B.A. in History from Michigan State University. He is married to his wife Marina Call and they have two children; Sofia (16) and Winston (11).

Cowell Casey ResizedWhen Your Community Drives Strong Community Development
Casey Cowell, Principal, Boomerang Catapult LLC
Casey Cowell was born and raised in Detroit, Michigan. He graduated from the University of Chicago receiving an A.B. degree in Economics. In 1976, at the age of 23, he co-founded U.S. Robotics, Inc. He served as Chairman and CEO throughout the company’s history culminating in its merger into 3COM Corporation in 1997, the second-largest merger ever in High Tech at that time. Initially a $200 post-college start-up, U.S. Robotics, Inc. became the world’s largest manufacturer of modems and related products that connected computers to the global telephone network. USR was the leading player in every major form factor globally. Its technologies and products included desktop modems, internal PC cards, OEM products for PC manufacturers, and massive rack-mount systems connecting online providers including America Online, Prodigy, and IBM Global Networks. In addition to a broad array of other products and technologies, USR also brought to market the Palm Pilot, the first highly successful handheld organizer. Cowell has received numerous industry honors including being named one of the 25 Top Managers in the world by Business Week in 1995 and Executive of the Year in 1996 by Crain’s Chicago Business. Today Cowell is an active investor, advisor, and board member in a broad range of companies with an emphasis on start-ups and early-stage companies in the areas of technology, the internet, social media, and healthcare. Cowell has long-standing family ties to the Traverse City area. In 1991 his family moved from the Chicago area to Elk Rapids (near Traverse City) to raise their pre-school age children in a smaller- community environment. He is a long-time supporter of the Interlochen Center for the Arts. He serves on the Board of Trustees of Traverse City-based Munson Healthcare Network, Interlochen Center for the Arts, Groundwork Center for Resilient Communities and is active in many civic and philanthropic organizations and activities.

When Your Community Drives Strong Community Development
Katie Horvath, CEO, Naveego
Katie is responsible for the overall direction and strategy for Naveego®. Prior to Naveego®, Katie managed patent litigation for Microsoft, after practicing law in Silicon Valley, representing start-ups to blue-chip companies. Katie opened four healthcare start-ups and has been recognized on Capitol Hill for her innovative business models, and combines her industrial engineering skills (IOE University of Michigan), law (JD University of Notre Dame) and software background to lead Naveego®.

Meza Fernando ResizedWhen Your Community Drives Strong Community Development
Fernando Meza, CEO, Oneupweb





Topouzian Ara ResizedYour Role in a Healthy Venture Capital Ecosystem
Ara Topouzian, Executive Director, Michigan Venture Capital Association
Ara Topouzian serves as Executive Director of the Michigan Venture Capital Association. In his leadership role at MVCA, Topouzian advocates for Michigan’s entrepreneurial and venture investor community with legislative and government officials and promotes Michigan venture investment opportunities to regional and national markets. He also supports membership growth, guides program development, and sets the strategic direction for the organization. A strategic leader experienced in both private and public industry sectors, Ara is accomplished in the field of economic development for municipalities. He has a successful track record in attracting international corporations as well as retaining small and large businesses to the area. He is a visionary who excels in the creation and implementation of organizational structure and processes. Ara is a relationship builder who astutely cultivates and utilizes relationships to create win-win situations for all involved parties. His proven abilities in marketing, leadership, and operations have made him a creative thinker and problem solver who consistently delivers business growth and development for entities represented. He is also skilled in association management and membership development. To that end, he has presented, moderated and facilitated small and large groups, including service organizations, colleges, libraries, associations and more. For more than six years, Topouzian was the City of Novi Economic Development Director, responsible for marketing to- and communicating with 2,000-plus large and small businesses by providing them with important local, regional, state, and federal resources. During his tenure in Novi, Topouzian was responsible for business attraction projects valued in excess of $100 million in investment, as well as directing the city’s current economic development goals and objectives in both attraction and retention efforts. For six years, Topouzian was the President and CEO of the Troy Chamber of Commerce, responsible for overseeing one of Oakland County's strongest Chambers with more than 650 members, as well as expanding the Chamber’s role as a champion for small and large businesses. He led the Troy Chamber into financial prosperity as well as increased membership and retention as well as elevate the quality of programs and events for its membership.

Fortino Adrian ResizedYour Role in a Healthy Venture Capital Ecosystem
Adrian Fortino, Managing Partner, Mercury Fund
Adrian leads Mercury’s Midwest office in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and focuses on investments in enterprise SaaS, industrial IoT, and tech-enabled service companies. Prior to joining Mercury, Adrian was the Managing Director of Detroit Innovate, a seed-stage investment fund targeting seed investments in enabling technologies in healthcare, transportation, and industrial applications. During this time, Adrian was also the Managing Director of the First Step Fund, a micro-investment, industry agnostic fund focused on seed-stage companies in Southeast Michigan. Prior to Detroit Innovate and the First Step Fund, Adrian co-founded three software companies: Sidecar (acq. by GM), ShepherdIS, and FlockTAG. Prior to founding startup companies, Adrian was the Manager of Powertrain Development with Ricardo, a global engineering consultancy focusing on the automotive, cleantech, military, and industrial sectors. Adrian received his BSE in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Michigan and an MBA with High Distinction from the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan. Outside of Mercury, Adrian teaches venture capital classes at the University of Michigan College of Engineering. He also serves on the board of Michigan Venture Capital Association and the advisory boards of First Capital Fund and the Ann Arbor Entrepreneurs Fund.

Sutherland Bob Resized2020 Vision for Talent
Bob Sutherland, President, Cherry Republic
Bob Sutherland is the founder and President of Cherry Republic, a multichannel retailer of Michigan cherries, our ruby red morsels of joy. He is a former Leelanau County Commissioner, new urbanist property developer, and Petoskey stone roadside stand owner. He is a former chairman of the board of Groundworks and current board member of the Michigan League of Conservation Voters. Each year, he gives $300,000 to environmental groups working on climate action, renewables, and the protection of Michigan’s water and air.

Stotts Kevin ResizedBusiness Collaborative Efforts to Meeting Talent Needs
Kevin Stotts, President, Talent 2025
Kevin Stotts is President of Talent 2025, a CEO-led effort in western Michigan to improve the quality of the region’s talent development, attraction, and retention efforts. As President, he works with business, education, workforce, and economic development leaders, as well as policymakers, to ensure West Michigan is a top-20 region for talent. Prior to joining Talent 2025, Kevin has led several non-profit organizations related to education, workforce, and community development and serves on several statewide, regional, and local boards and commissions related to education and workforce.

Beckhorn Stephanie ResizedPartnering With Statewide Entities to Meet Workforce Needs
Stephanie Beckhorn, Director, Office of Employment and Training, Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity
For the past two decades, Stephanie Beckhorn has played an important and growing role in Michigan’s workforce and economic development. Beckhorn has been lending her talents to Michigan’s workforce development efforts since 2001 when she joined the Bureau of Workforce Transformation. In 2013, she went on to serve as Director of Workforce Policy and Strategic Planning for the Michigan Workforce Development Agency and in 2019, at the beginning of Governor Whitmer’s term, she served as the acting department director. Today, as the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity’s Director of the Office of Employment and Training, Beckhorn provides leadership and guidance for the Bureau of Services for Blind Persons, Michigan Rehabilitation Services, and Workforce Development. She approaches projects in an inclusive manner and seeks solutions that are effective and replicable. Whatever challenges Michigan has faced, Beckhorn’s collaborative, data-driven approach has enabled Employment and Training to adjust swiftly to evolving economic demands. Under her direction, Employment and Training administers key workforce programs and systems that equip both employers and workers with resources critical for their success, including vocational rehabilitation to support individuals with disabilities with gaining or retaining employment. Beckhorn works directly with federal, state, and local level partners to provide the connections, expertise, and innovative solutions to drive continued business growth, build vibrant communities, and attract and retain key talent to fill Michigan’s vast pipeline of opportunities. This work is accomplished through federal and state programs focused on job preparedness, career-based education, worker training, and employer assistance. Beckhorn is a Certified Business Solutions Professional (CBSP) and earned a Bachelor of Science degree from Michigan State University.

Dunsford Luann PicPartnering With Statewide Entities to Meet Workforce Needs
Luann Dunsford, Chief Executive Director, Michigan Works! Association
Luann Dunsford wants to live in a world where every person has a meaningful and fulfilling career and where we’re all moving forward with a shared purpose to grow a vibrant, dynamic economy. And for those of us who share that vision, here’s the best news: Luann’s not just a dreamer. She’s a doer. As CEO of Michigan Works! Association, Luann supports her members and partners all over the state delivering high-impact events and training, making valuable connections, and providing top-notch leadership resources. She is a networking dynamo whose relationships, skills, and leadership insight—coupled with high energy and determination—make her a valuable leader and partner. When she’s not in command of Association management, you can find her at her alma mater’s volleyball games (Go Green, Go White!), volunteering in her community and running.

Gibbs Robert ResizedCreating Human Scale Places
Robert Gibbs, FASLA, AICP, President, Gibbs Planning Group
Robert Gibbs is a professional planner and landscape architect. He teaches at Harvard,  is the founder of Gibbs Planning Group, an advisor to the Mayor’s Institute for Design and the host of the Michigan Planning Today cable show. Gibbs has been named as one of the 100 most influential urbanists of the century by Planetizen, honored by The Clinton Presidential Library and credited with developing one of the Great Ideas of the New Urbanism.  He is a Fellow of the American Society of Landscape Architects and a charter member of the US and Europe CNU. Gibbs has consulted on over 1000 plans in all 50 states and around the world including Auckland, Charleston, Disney, Detroit, Ireland, Melbourne, Mexico, New Zealand, Palm Beach, Palm Desert, Portland, Poland, Sydney, and five universities.  Locally, Gibbs has consulted for the cities of Birmingham, Kalamazoo, Grand Rapids, Grosse Pointe, Holland, Marquette, Traverse City, Troy, and Warren.  He has authored: Principles of Urban Retail contributed to dozens of books and has been featured in The Atlantic, Boston Globe, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Washington Post. Gibbs earned degrees from the University of Michigan and Oakland University and was recently awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Arts from Oakland University for his life’s contributions to cities.

Khorey Christiper ResizedCreating Human Scale Places
Christopher Khorey, AICP, Senior Principal Planner and West Michigan Manager, MCKENNA
Christopher Khorey, AICP has been helping communities improve economic vitality and promote quality of life for over 10 years, first at McKenna’s Northville headquarters, and, since 2018, managing the firm’s West Michigan operation from its Grand Rapids office. Chris has worked throughout the state – from New Buffalo to Presque Isle and Monroe to Petoskey, as well as up to the UP – to assist communities with a wide range of planning and zoning issues, including downtown redevelopment, coastal sustainability, Complete Streets, and suburban retrofit.

Studley Kathryn ResizedPrivate Company Strategies for Meeting Workforce Needs
Kathryn Studley, HR Business Partner, Glanbia





Partington AnnThe Influence of Diversity and Inclusion in Economic Development
Anne Partington, Director of Entrepreneurial Services and SPARK Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Lead, Ann Arbor SPARK
Anne Partington comes to SPARK with more than 20 years at two Detroit automakers leading teams across purchasing, program management, and product development engineering. Most recently, Anne ran a Global Purchasing team responsible for over $3.5B in annual purchase value while leading organizational teams to improve employee engagement and development as well as student recruiting. She loves building inclusive and innovative ecosystems, leading with positive business philosophy, learning new things, and finding creative solutions to complex problems. Anne has many interests outside of work including travel, mentoring, Toastmasters, and spending time with family including her rescue dog. Anne holds a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Michigan Ann Arbor and a master’s degree in management of technology from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

GilchristThe Influence of Diversity and Inclusion in Economic Development
Lieutenant Governor Garlin Gilchrist
Lt. Governor Garlin Gilchrist has dedicated his career to fixing problems for hardworking families. From spearheading campaigns for equality and justice to harnessing technology to solve everyday problems for Detroiters, his focus has consistently remained on serving the public by getting things done. Bringing Michigan’s state government fully into the 21st century is a top priority for Lt. Governor Gilchrist. He brings a lifetime of experience to the task, receiving his first computer at age five and setting up a computer lab in the community recreation center using computers that he built himself at age 16. Lt. Governor Gilchrist studied computer engineering and computer science at the University of Michigan, graduating with honors, and later had a successful career as a software engineer at Microsoft, helping to build SharePoint into the fastest growing product in the company’s history. During his time in Seattle, Gilchrist served as Social Media Manager for the 2008 Obama campaign in Washington, where he helped launch a national text message program to recruit volunteers. He later served as the first Director of New Media at the Center for Community Change in Washington, D.C., and spent three years as National Campaign Director at, where he spearheaded equity and justice campaigns, including fighting to expand Medicaid in states with Republican governors, like Michigan. This eventually led to his serving as the first-ever Director of Innovation & Emerging Technology for the city of Detroit, where he used public data and technology to address every day concerns the community was facing – including an app to report issues such as broken fire hydrants, potholes, and broken street lights. This mindset of harnessing technology to solve problems will play a critical role in finding solutions to improve the lives of people across the state. A native of Detroit, Lt. Governor Gilchrist’s parents are proud lifelong Detroiters. His mother worked at General Motors for 32 years and his father worked in defense contract management for the Department of Defense. His family was active in the community, including serving in leadership roles within their various neighborhood associations, as well as the church. Lt. Governor Gilchrist began speaking at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Detroit at age four and later honed his skills under Dr. Frederick G. Sampson at Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church. Lt. Governor Garlin Gilchrist and his wife, Ellen, currently reside in Detroit where they are raising their twins, Emily and Garlin III, and newborn daughter, Ruby.

Johnson KevinThe Influence of Diversity and Inclusion in Economic Development
Kevin Johnson, President and CEO, Detroit Economic Growth Corporation
Kevin D. Johnson is the President and Chief Executive Officer for the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation (DEGC), the city’s leading economic development driver. He has served as president and CEO since June 2018. Under Johnson’s leadership, the organization aims to create 10,000 jobs, open 140 small businesses, and secure $3.4 billion of capital investment for the city by 2020. Johnson spearheads DEGC’s economic development initiatives, including business attraction and retention, foreign direct investment with international partners, support for Detroit entrepreneurs through the DEGC’s small business teams, and land development to unlock economic growth citywide. A veteran of economic development, Johnson has served in both public and private economic-development positions throughout the U.S., including roles in Arizona, Florida, North Carolina and Georgia, before coming to Detroit. In his most previous role at Invest Atlanta, Johnson led the economic development program for the city, helping to create 31,000 jobs and generating $3.7 billion in new capital investment. He also played a key role in bringing 17 new corporate headquarters to the city, including Porsche Cars North America, Groupe PSA, and NCR. Johnson began his career nearly 30 years ago as the assistant county manager and Director of Economic Development for Casswell County Municipal Government. Throughout his career, he has held positions including, president of Athens Area Chamber of Commerce, vice president of business development for the Greater Phoenix Economic Council and vice president of business development for Research Triangle Foundation in North Carolina. Johnson received his Bachelor of Science in Political Science and Pre-Law from South Carolina State University. He received his Certified Economic Developer designation from the International Economic Development Council and has received numerous professional and community awards. He also serves as a member of the International Economic Development Council.

McClyde TifiniThe Influence of Diversity and Inclusion in Economic Development
Tifini McClyde, Associate Vice President Human Resources, Interlochen Center for the Arts
Tifini McClyde recently joined Interlochen as the Associate Vice President of Human Resources in March of this year. In her role, Tifini will further develop ICA into a destination employer as we strive to retain and recruit the best and brightest employees. In the coming years leading up to 2028, key areas of focus will include: Attracting qualified and diverse individuals by creating recruiting strategies that promote Interlochen as a destination employer and targets diverse demographic candidates; Developing our workforce and creating a succession plan that reinforce ICA’s commitment to have the best talent develop future artists; Retaining employees through a culture of employee engagement, wellness, and diversity and inclusion that leads to overall employee well-being, productivity and retention; and Driving innovation and excellence that leads to successful outcomes and moves the organization forward while leveraging HR technology and remaining a financial steward. Tifini attended Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology when the school first admitted females to the all male engineering college. This sparked her passion for diversity, equity and inclusion, as well as, established her foundation in process design and improvement. She later transitioned to the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University - Indianapolis where she received my Bachelor’s Degree in Human Resources and Business Management. Tifini also completed my Master’s Degree in Human Resources Development and Administration from the University of Indianapolis. Tifini came to Interlochen from Damar Services in Indianapolis, Indiana serving as the organization’s Chief Human Resources Officer. Damar Services is one of Indiana’s largest not for profit organizations and a nationally recognized leader for the comprehensive spectrum of services offered to support child and adults with developmental and behavioral disabilities. During the course of Tifini’s 13 years at Damar, she played a central role in transforming Human Resources and Quality Improvement departments into integrated business partners delivering best in class services. Tifini and her husband, Shawn, have three children - Malique, Dominic and Kylee. Each has a passion for the arts.

Stephens Khalfani ResizedThe Influence of Diversity and Inclusion in Economic Development
Khalfani Stephens, CEcD, EDFP, Economic Development Director, City of Flint
Khalfani Stephens is a seasoned government administration professional. He returned to his home state of MI after successfully redesigning and relaunching a new Economic Development organization in Metropolitan Atlanta. With over a decade of experience, Mr. Stephens has assisted many small and large companies in attaining the resources needed to grow. He has worked with multinational firms as well as start-ups. He is a fervent believer that economic development is community development and that the two should never be considered in isolation from one another. To that end he also assists communities with master planning and zoning processes to ensure that the government policies he is ultimately tasked with implementing, align with the needs and wants of the community. In addition to his work in economic development, Mr. Stephens is very dedicated to serving the community as a whole. He has served on numerous boards and commissions and is an active member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. Committed to lifelong learning, Mr. Stephens is an alumnus of both the University of Michigan (BA) and Wayne State University (MBA and a Post Master’s Certificate). He is also a Certified Economic Developer (CEcD) Economic Development Finance Professional (EDFP) and Michigan Master Citizen Planner.  In addition to English, he speaks fluent French and conversational Spanish.

Affolter Caine Britany ResizedEconomic Development During and After a Crisis
Britany Affolter-Caine, PhD, Executive Director, Michigan's University Research Corridor
Dr. Britany Affolter-Caine is the executive director of Michigan’s University Research Corridor (URC), an alliance of Michigan State University, the University of Michigan and Wayne State University. One of the nation's top university innovation clusters, the URC is focused on increasing economic prosperity and connecting Michigan to the world. Britany has been with the URC since 2012, in which time she has managed research on the organization’s critical contributions to key industries, talent and the state economy. She has also managed programs and events that foster greater research collaboration across the member universities and industry. Prior to the URC, Britany was the talent director for Ann Arbor SPARK, and a senior research associate for the Metropolitan Policy Program of the Brookings Institution on the Great Lakes Economic Initiative, which focused on the creation of a federal-state agenda to promote the Great Lakes Region. Britany was appointed to the Michigan Strategic Fund board by Governor Whitmer in September 2019. She earned her PhD in higher education policy from the University of Michigan in 2008, which focused on the study of inter-university collaboration. She also earned a M.Ed. in secondary education from Wright State University (1999), and a BA in political science from Wittenberg University (1996).

Birgit Klohs RCroppedEconomic Development During and After a Crisis
Birgit Klohs, President and Chief Executive Officer, The Right Place, Inc.
Birgit Klohs is President & CEO of The Right Place, Inc., a position she has held since 1987. The Right Place, Inc. is the regional economic development organization in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Under her 31 year leadership, The Right Place has created over 47,000 new and retained jobs and spurred over $4.7 billion in new investment. She is a leading economic development strategist, collaborating with local, State, and national organizations on critical issues related to economic development. A native of Germany, and leading authority in international business and economic development, Klohs also leads the Right Place’s international business development strategy. She conducts numerous foreign direct investment missions to Europe, Asia, and the Middle East each year, both independently and in collaboration with the State of Michigan and the Governor’s office. She is a frequent speaker on national and international economic development issues, having addressed audiences in France, England, Germany, Sweden, China, Australia, and Israel. She is involved in many local and state-wide boards because she is a strong believer that a community’s quality of life is as important as its quality of commerce. In 2014 she was appointed by Governor Snyder to serve on the International Crossing Authority. A joint authority between the State of Michigan and the Country of Canada for the construction of the North American International Trade Crossing (Gordie Howe Bridge). Klohs’ economic development career began as an industrial consultant with the Berrien County Economic Development Corporation of Berrien County, Michigan. She later served with the Michigan Department of Commerce and then Grand Valley State University, where she was Assistant Director of the Office of Economic Development. Prior to her position with GVSU, she was affiliated with Prince Corporation. She is a graduate of Western Michigan University, as well as a graduate of the Economic Development Institute; and completed the economic development finance program through the National Development Council. She also attended Harvard executive management programs.

McCauley Matt ResizedEconomic Development During and After a Crisis
Matt McCauley, Chief Executive Officer, Networks Northwest
Matt McCauley is the Chief Executive Officer of Networks Northwest in Traverse City. Networks Northwest is a leading business, talent, and community development agency serving Northwest Michigan. Matt is a proven connector and innovator, who believes economic development is defined by the concerted efforts of both organizations and communities choosing to create the conditions for business and talent expansion. He holds a Bachelors's degree in business administration and a Masters degree in public administration. Matt is seen as a thought leader on community development, including past Farm Bill testimony before the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture. He also has been previously recognized internationally as a German Marshall Fund Urban and Regional Policy Fellow. Currently, Matt represents the Midwest Region as a board member on the National Association of Development Organizations.

Stamas TonyEconomic Development During and After a Crisis
Tony Stamas, President and CEO, Midland Business Alliance





Bonus Session Speakers (Sessions Listed in Alpha Order)

Bartels Rachel Resized 1Event-Driven Attraction
Rachel Bartels, Executive Director, Hello West Michigan
Hello West Michigan is a talent attraction and retention organization promoting West Michigan as a great place to live and work. The organization, which helps member companies increase their rate of success in recruiting top talent, was the first organization of its kind in the country. As the Executive Director for Hello West Michigan, Rachel (Bartels) Gray leads the organization’s strategy, operations, and membership. She helps educate employers and prospective candidates about the region. Rachel started with Hello West Michigan as Program Manager in 2013, handling the marketing, communication, and internship program. Besides teaching the basics of digital marketing and integrated communications to interns, she enjoyed the process of preparing her interns for the transition from student to young professional. Outside the office, Rachel’s work with students includes guest lecturing for resume workshops and teaching dining etiquette. She is a member of the Association of Corporate Growth ACG Cup Planning Committee, a business case competition for students giving them real world pitch experience and connecting them with companies. As a community volunteer, Rachel serves as a co-chair for AQ Women’s Connection, a women’s focused networking group she helped co-found for alumnae and friends of her alma mater, Aquinas College. Prior to joining Hello West Michigan, Rachel handled the marketing for Aquinas College Career and Counseling Services and worked at Celebration! Cinema as a marketing intern. She was named one of Corp! Magazine’s Most Valuable Millennials in 2015, Grand Rapids Business Journal 40 Under 40 in 2018, and a finalist for the EPIC Emerging Leader of the Year in 2018.  

McBryde Jim ResizedEvent-Driven Attraction
James McBryde, President and CEO, Middle Michigan Development Corporation
As the President and CEO of the Middle Michigan Development Corporation (MMDC), Jim McBryde is responsible for developing the strategic vision and coordinating the economic development efforts in Isabella and Clare counties. Prior to joining the MMDC, McBryde served for twelve years as Vice President, Governmental Affairs for the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC). At MEDC, he worked on key state and federal initiatives and the successful passage of MEDC’s annual budget. Before joining the MEDC, McBryde also served as the Interim Chair for the Michigan Liquor Control Commission and as a Special Assistant for the Michigan Department of Community Health. McBryde also served for eight years in the Michigan House of Representatives, 99th District, having been first elected in 1990 and retiring at the end of 1998 due to term limits. He served on the House Appropriations Committee as Chair of the State Police and Military Affairs Subcommittee and the Vice Chair of the Higher Education Subcommittee. McBryde received his bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Central Michigan University. Jim and his wife Kim have been married since 1987. They live in Mount Pleasant and have four wonderful daughters.

Kilpatrick Ryan ResizedMaking Your Community Livable for All
Ryan Kilpatrick, Director, Housing Next
Ryan has a background in economic development, affordable housing, community design, and public finance. As the Executive Director of Housing Next, he has helped to define access to housing as a core economic development issue for West Michigan through data-oriented dialogue and partnership with employers, local municipalities, chambers of commerce, and developers. Prior to leading Housing Next, Ryan worked for the Michigan Economic Development Corporation where he was the lead project manager in West Michigan. In that role, Ryan helped to close more than $250,000,000 worth of private investment across the region and negotiated the use of State tools to support nearly 50 projects during his 4-year tenure at the MEDC. Ryan has 15 years of experience supporting local units of government with technical assistance and best practice implementation through planning, zoning, process improvement, and the use of financial tools to create economically vibrant communities. He has a Masters in Design from Kendall College of Art & Design and a B.A. in Community Development from GVSU.

Brauer Kurt ResizedMaking the Most of Opportunity Zones in Your Community
Kurt Brauer
, Partner, Warner Norcross + Judd
Kurt Brauer assists clients with environmental, economic development and real estate matters across a number of industries, including the agribusiness, automotive, industrial, resource-use, energy, mining, and real estate development sectors. His expertise includes representing clients in all manner of environmental issues, including regulatory compliance, site investigation, cleanup and closure, solid and hazardous waste, due diligence, permitting, wetland and critical habitat protection, permitting and mitigation, and adaptive reuse. He also has broad expertise in identifying, securing and monetizing federal, state and local economic development incentives to facilitate the use and adaptive reuse of properties, and has helped numerous clients secure brownfield redevelopment and business expansion incentive packages. Kurt is a “boots on the ground” attorney who represents farmers and food processors throughout the United States. As the chair of the firm's Agribusiness and Food Industry Group, he assembles interdisciplinary teams of experts to facilitate innovative projects and bring thought leadership to the agribusiness industry. In addition to serving clients in the agribusiness and automotive industries, he counsels municipalities, pharmaceutical manufacturers, developers, nonprofit environmental organizations, alternative energy producers and equipment manufacturers, transportation and logistics companies, retail centers, mining operations, and clients in the food production, high-tech manufacturing, and aerospace industries.

Heidel Gary ResizedMaking the Most of Opportunity Zones in Your Community
Gary Heidel, Acting Executive Director, Michigan State Housing Development Authority
Gary Heidel was appointed Acting Executive Director of the Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA) by the Authority Board in April 2019. Prior to the appointment, he served as MSHDA’s chief housing investment officer. Gary has held several leadership positions since he began his career at MSHDA in 1986 and presently leads the state’s implementation of the new federal Opportunity Zone tax benefit. He also coordinates Meta, a team of senior staff from MSHDA, MEDC, Transportation, Agriculture, Natural Resources, Environmental Quality, Treasury, Talent Investment and State Land Bank who work together on placemaking policy. In addition, he co-coordinates the Sense of Place Council with the executive director of the Michigan Municipal League. The Council is comprised of 40 state agencies and statewide trade organizations that work on place-based economic development. Gary serves on the Advisory Committee of the Michigan Political Leadership Program at MSU and the National Charrette Institute at MSU. He is a graduate of the University of Michigan. He also has completed several executive leadership programs, including the Michigan Political Leadership Program at MSU, Governors Center at Duke University, and the JFK School of Government at Harvard University.

Lentine BillMaking the Most of Opportunity Zones in Your Community
William C. Lentine, Partner, Warner Norcross + Judd LLP
Bill Lentine is a business attorney with substantial tax and trust and estate experience, who assists both individuals and businesses prepare for today and tomorrow while navigating technical tax issues along the way. Within his trust and estate practice, Bill provides clients with a sense of relief in seeing their intentions carried out. He also helps businesses secure their legacy through succession planning, exit strategy, management planning, and tax strategy to maximize potential gains and minimize tax expenses. Part of his unique practice, Bill provides representation for financial and lending institutions regarding 1099 and W2 information return penalties. Clients respect Bill for his honest and direct approach and note his resourcefulness when helping them plan for their future. An eye for detail, Bill is as fact-driven as possible when drafting agreements and plans so nothing is left to interpretation, ensuring the best outcomes for clients. Establishing connections and cultivating long-term relationships fuel Bill’s appetite for what he does every day – helping people and businesses make strategic decisions that will benefit them today while also benefiting their future.

Cleveland RobTalent Incentives; Not Business Incentives
Rob Cleveland, CEcD, President, Cornerstone Alliance
Rob Cleveland is the President of the Cornerstone Alliance. Located in Michigan's Great Southwest, the Cornerstone Alliance is Berrien County's premier economic development organization. He is a Certified Economic Development Professional (CEcD) by the International Economic Development Council (IEDC). At Cornerstone, Cleveland leads a team of a dozen individuals devoted to the enrichment of economic vitality, improved employment opportunities, expansion of the tax base, and the creation of wealth in Berrien County. In two years under Cleveland’s leadership, Cornerstone Alliance has helped Berrien County companies add nearly 200 new jobs while investing more than $65 million in Michigan’s Great Southwest. Cleveland led the development of a new, five-year strategic plan that was implemented in 2017 and included $100 million of new investment, creating 50 new small businesses, improving 20 new sites for development, and raising $11 million for economic development efforts in Berrien County. Previously, Cleveland was the Director of Economic Development and Community Affairs at Indiana Michigan Power (AEP), where he led the company's business attraction, retention and expansion activities. Cleveland was responsible for I&M's efforts to certify sites with Food Processing and Data Center designations - the only such certified sites in the State of Indiana. He was also a member of I&M's Corporate Communications team. Prior to joining I&M, Cleveland was the Executive Director of the Blackford County EDC. While in Blackford County, Cleveland assisted more than a dozen companies in new investment of more than $53 million - representing more than 10% of the entire net Assessed Value of Blackford County - and the creation of 175 new jobs. In 2011, Cleveland led all efforts to recruit Naturally Recycled Proteins (NRP) in locating in Montpelier. NRP had an initial investment of $14 million and 68 new jobs - the largest new-job announcement in Blackford County in 18 years. Prior to joining the BCEDC, Cleveland served as a Public Relations Specialist with Andretti Green Racing, where he worked with Indianapolis 500 winners Dan Wheldon and Dario Franchitti. Cleveland began his professional career as a Video Coordinator and Scout with the Indiana Pacers (NBA) and Indiana Fever (WNBA). He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sports Administration from Ball State University. Cleveland and his wife, Susan, reside in Berrien County (Mich.) with their three children.

Washington Von ResizedTalent Incentives; Not Business Incentives
Von Washington, Executive Director, Community Relations, Kalamazoo Promise
Von Washington Jr. certainly understands the value of an education. Growing up the son of a college professor and professional actress, Von has been exposed to his parents’ love for and expertise in written and verbal communications for as long as he can remember. As executive director of community relations for The Kalamazoo Promise, Von is tasked with being the spokesperson for The Kalamazoo Promise, which includes responsibilities to key community stakeholders, media relations, and promoting a system of communication and information around a common vision of becoming an education community. Prior to working with the Kalamazoo Promise, Von was an associate vice president at Southwest Michigan First and concentrated his efforts on business development by partnering with existing regional companies on their job creation efforts. On behalf of the organization, he was also responsible for developing collaborations between educational institutions and businesses in order to best prepare the region’s future workforce. Von arrived at Southwest Michigan First from the Kalamazoo Public Schools where he served as principal of Kalamazoo Central High School from August 2007 to July 2012. While there, he enjoyed a visit from President Barack Obama who selected that school in 2010 at which to deliver the first-ever presidential commencement speech at a high school for its winning entry in the Race to the Top Commencement Competition. Von holds a bachelor’s degree from Western State College of Colorado and a master’s of Educational Leadership from Western Michigan University.

Ewing Becky ResizedThe Role of Foundations and Service Organizations in Economic Development
Becky Ewing, Executive Director, Rotary Charities
Becky Ewing began her work at Rotary Charities of Traverse City in 2008 as the Program Officer, becoming Associate Director in 2013 and Executive Director on July 1, 2018. Ms. Ewing's responsibilities include managing the grants portfolio; working with the Board and committees of Rotary Charities and Rotary Camps & Services; and participating in various community initiatives. She is a fellow with the Grantmakers for Effective Organizations (GEO) Change Leaders in Philanthropy, a national program for senior philanthropic leaders involved in change efforts. Prior to joining Rotary Charities, she developed partnerships and programs for the Great Lakes Water Studies Institute at Northwestern Michigan College. In addition, she has worked with the Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce on smart growth issues. Before that time, Ms. Ewing co-owned an environmental consulting firm for 15 years. Becky has lived in Traverse City for 50 years, served on nonprofit boards, and worked as a community volunteer. Her degrees include a B.S. in Biology and a B.A. in Literature, both from Grand Valley State University. On Big Ten game day, she bleeds green – being the daughter, sister, and mother of MSU grads. She is an avid runner, reader, and connector. Having grown up in a family that camped, hiked, and explored; one of her favorite things is to be in nature, looking for morels, rocks, and birds.

El Alamin Leon ResizedUntapped Resources for Workforce Needs
Leon EL-Alamin, Founder and Executive Director, MADE Institute
Leon EL-Alamin is the Founder & Executive Director of M.A.D.E. Institute, a nonprofit organization he started in January 2015. That year he also became the City of Flint 1st Ward Zoning Board of Appeals Officer. He is a graduate of Flint Strive and Mott Workforce Green Construction. Leon currently works as a Genesee Health System Adult and Youth Mental Health First Aid Recovery Coach. This program was created to serve as an alternative to incarceration for jail or prison-bound and returning individuals. Leon also is the president of an LLC called Abdullah Building Performance Bloc, a property management company he started to help create jobs for returning citizens and at-risk youth who have been systematically structured out of society.

Lindman Nancy ResizedUntapped Resources for Workforce Needs
Nancy Lindman, Director of Public Policy and Partnerships, Michigan Association of United Ways
Nancy Lindman serves as Director of Public Policy and Partnerships for the Michigan Association of United Ways where she supports statewide impact work in conjunction with Michigan’s 53 local United Ways. She staffs the Association’s Public Policy Committee and the ALICE Project working to achieve economic security and a thriving community for all Michiganders. Nancy spearheaded launch phases of the Michigan Children’s Health Access Project, Michigan Benefits Access initiative, and Michigan 2-1-1. Before joining MAUW, she led community outreach efforts for Michigan State University’s Institute for Children, Youth, and Families. Nancy holds Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts degrees from Michigan State University.

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Michigan Economic
Developers Association
P.O. Box 15096
Lansing, MI 48901-5096
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