Economic Development, Government, and Manufacturing

Auto supplier symposium keys on global presence

Governor will attend Grand Rapids event.

February 28, 2014
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Gov. Rick Snyder will provide closing remarks Thursday at the 15th annual Automotive Suppliers Symposium in Grand Rapids, but attendees should gather plenty of new information before that happens.

The symposium, hosted by Grand Valley State University’s Van Andel Global Trade Center, is scheduled for 8 a.m.-noon in Loosemore Auditorium on Grand Valley’s downtown campus. It brings together suppliers from all parts of the automotive global supply chain to learn about current industry happenings and best practices and to hear the latest industry forecast.

The theme for this year’s conference is “What’s Your Global Positioning Strategy?” Participants will learn what companies have done to manage rapid growth over recent years, and how they are preparing for the future.

Keynote speakers include Nigel Francis, senior automotive advisor to the state of Michigan and senior vice president at the Automotive Industry Office, Michigan Economic Development Corp., and Jay Baron, president and CEO at the Center for Automotive Research.

Mike Wall, director of automotive analysis at IHS Automotive, will present the event’s economic forecast.

Daron Gifford, partner in charge of the management consulting strategy practice at Plante Moran, will moderate a panel discussion that includes panelists Steven Proctor, group vice president for global sales and business development at American Axel Manufacturing, Peter Hungerford, vice president of technology and business development at ADAC Automotive, and Kevin Clay, global sales director at Pridgeon & Clay.

Francis has been in his position for about a year now and his presentation will give suppliers a better introduction to him as he focuses on opportunities across the state.

“I think he is a little unknown yet in our region, so hopefully this will be an opportunity for him to get in front of the group here and talk about the automotive industry and his perspective from the MEDC on what they see across our state in terms of the benefits and opportunities for suppliers, and probably what opportunities they are going to be pushing to help suppliers,” said Rich Antonini, managing partner of Plante Moran’s Grand Rapids office. “I’d be very optimistic that he will have a lot of great perspective for suppliers and how the MEDC is going to help the supplier base in this region.”

Antonini said Baron will focus on “vehicle light weighting” and the fuel efficiency standards that are on the horizon.

“I think we will hear a lot from Jay on where we are at today, what we can expect over the next decade, and, frankly, the impact that that is going to have on suppliers and how suppliers are going to need to continue to assess and evaluate that as they think about themselves positioning with their customers over the next five to 10 years.”

Antonini said while the panel discussion is not a new topic for suppliers, he is hopeful panelists will share their unique perspectives on how having a global footprint has increased opportunities regionally.

“I think what people will find in the panel discussion is, by being a global supplier and having a global footprint, it does enhance your opportunities here in our region,” he said. “I think suppliers have seen the benefit of having an opportunity to work with their customers across the globe, which typically gives them more of an opportunity to quote and be on the production parts cycle here in Michigan, frankly.

“The goal isn’t to get yourself global and take the production away from Michigan; it’s to get yourself in a global footprint so you enhance your opportunities here.”

To register for the symposium visit or call (616) 331-6811.

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