Former Spanish President To Keynote Conference

February 17, 2008
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GRAND RAPIDS — DeVos Place in April will host the ninth annual Great Lakes Homeland Security Training Conference and Expo. The event will feature former prime minister of Spain Jose Maria Aznar and former University of Notre Dame football coach Lou Holtz.

Several West Michigan companies are expected to be among more than 100 exhibitors at the conference, which is sponsored by the Michigan State Police, Michigan Department of Community Health, Michigan Emergency Management Association and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Dean Blauser, vice president of Hazmat Solutions in Grand Haven, plans to staff a booth at the conference, as well as deliver a presentation on low-cost ways to produce table-top emergency response exercises.

Blauser said the April 22-24 conference is an excellent opportunity to network with others who work in the homeland security sector.

“We see a lot of people,” said Blauser, whose company makes and sells emergency management software for industry and health care. Hazmat Solutions employs six people and has a roster of 28 people who do training sessions on a contract basis.

“It’s just a good opportunity to network, to meet new emergency managers, people from other states. And it’s an opportunity for them to meet Hazmat Solutions.”

Last year’s conference, which also occurred at DeVos Place, drew 1,500 to 1,600 people, said Jackie Hampton, executive liaison to Michigan State Police Capt. Eddie L. Washington Jr., who is the deputy state director of emergency management and homeland security.

Attendees will have the opportunity for an after-hours tour at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum and to attend a West Michigan Whitecaps baseball game. Cost to attend the conference is $350.

Hampton said speakers and topics will include: representatives from Scotland Yard who will discuss the July 7, 2005, bombing of three London Underground trains and Tavistock Square, which killed 52 and injured 700; a discussion of border quarantine issues with Canadian representatives; animals in disasters; and school security, with Erroll G. Southers, a former FBI special agent who is deputy director of the California Office of Homeland Security.

As the Spanish prime minister from 1996 to 2004, Aznar was in office when terrorists attacked trains in the European country on March 11, 2004. The bombing killed 191 people. Just days later, Aznar’s party lost an election. Since then, he has been teaching at George Washington University and sits on several corporate boards.

According to the Washington Speakers Bureau Web site, Aznar’s presentation will cover the terrorist threat to democracies around the globe.

A legendary college football coach, Holtz is now well-known as a motivational speaker and author on the topic of leadership. He spent 11 years coaching at Notre Dame. Over his entire career, Holtz took six different teams to bowl games, won five bowl games with different teams and has four college teams ranked in the final Top 20 poll.

The schedule, registration and exhibitor information is available on the Web at

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