Henry McMaster

South Carolina Governor

Henry Dargan McMaster of Columbia became the 117th Governor of South Carolina on January 24, 2017. McMaster previously served two years as lieutenant governor, eight years as attorney general and four years as United States attorney.  McMaster was the first U.S. attorney appointed by President Ronald Reagan, and was unanimously confirmed by the United States Senate.
McMaster has served on the South Carolina Ports Authority Board of Directors, the South Carolina Commission on Higher Education, the Palmetto Health Foundation Board and the South Carolina Policy Council (as chairman).  He is admitted to practice in all courts, state and federal, in South Carolina, as well as the U.S. Court of Claims (1974), the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit (1975) and the Supreme Court of the United States (1978).
The governor will give a keynote speech on Wednesday, Oct. 30th at the annual Salute to Manufacturing Awards Luncheon. 

Bobby Hitt

Secretary of Commerce, SC Dept. of Commerce

A native of Charleston, SC, Bobby Hitt was appointed the state’s Secretary of Commerce in January 2011. Prior to leading the state’s economic development agency, Hitt served as an executive at the BMW plant in Spartanbug County, SC. He was a long-time journalist, working for 17 years at The State and the Columbia Record. He served as managing editor of the Columbia Record from 1980 to 1987 and served in the same role for The State from 1988 to 1991.
In 1991, Hitt left journalism to join Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough, LLP as the director of planning and development. In that role, he assisted in the effort to recruit BMW to South Carolina. On June 22, 1992, BMW announced South Carolina would be the site of its first North American manufacturing plant. Subsequently, the German automaker hired Hitt to manage public affairs for the plant. He served as manager of corporate affairs for BMW until 2010.
Hitt will give a keynote at the Economic Forecast Session Tuesday, Oct. 29th at 1:30 p.m.

Nick Bowman

VP Engineering, Technology & Quality, GKN Aerospace

Nick Bowman is VP engineering, technology & quality for GKN Aerostructures North America. In his current position Bowman is responsible for functional excellence in engineering, technology, quality and health & safety.
Following some time with the UK Ministry of Defense, Nick joined GKN in the UK in 1999 as a member of the GKN International Leadership Development Program. International assignments in both the automotive & aerospace sides of the company included time in Germany, the US and UK. During his career with GKN Bowman has held positions in operations as a manager of manufacturing process, program management as program director and has had a wide range of engineering responsibilities culminating in his current role. Bowman has been associated with development and production on some leading edge aircraft programs such as F/A-18, F-22, F-35, X-47B, CH-53K and 787.
Bowman will give a keynote at the Aerospace Luncheon on Tuesday, Oct. 29th at Noon.

Dan Ellzey

Exec. Director of Workforce Innovation, SC Dept. of Employment & Workforce

Dan Ellzey was appointed executive director of the SC Dept. of Employment and Workforce (DEW) by Gov. Henry McMaster in May 2019. He is responsible for the direction and management of the state’s employment agency whose mission is to provide quality, customer-driven workforce services that promote financial stability and economic growth for individuals, businesses and communities.
Ellzey is a nationally-recognized employment and labor attorney, with experience centered around economic and workforce development. He is focused on helping employers become an active participant in identifying, educating, retaining and predicting their workforce needs.
Prior to his appointment with the agency, Ellzey was a partner with Fisher Phillips where he advised companies across the country on labor relations, including union campaigns and elections.
Ellzey’s keynote speech will be at the Apprenticeship Breakfast Wednesday, Oct. 30th at 8 a.m.

Mike Fox

General Mgr. and Site Director, Lockheed Martin

Mike Fox is responsible for the nearly 500-person operation, which provides nose-to-tail aircraft sustainment, modification and production. The facility comprises 276 acres with 16 hangars, support shops and warehouse space, and is now the new home of the F-16 Viper production line.
Fox joined Lockheed Martin in 2003 after serving 22 years in the U.S. Air Force, specializing in aircraft maintenance and flight operations. He has held a variety of technical and leadership roles within the company, including director for the Aeronautics Culture of Accountability program, where he was responsible for leading the cultural transformation for approximately 25,000 employees across the enterprise. He also served as production operations director for the company’s U-2 Dragon Lady depot maintenance program based in Palmdale, California, the quality and mission success director for the C-5 Galaxy program and the C-130J Hercules assembly and flight operations director.
Fox will deliver the military jet economic forecast on Tuesday, Oct. 29th at 2:30 p.m.

Tim Hardee

President, SC Technical College System

Tim Hardee is president of the SC Technical College System. Prior to joining the system office, he served as president of Central Carolina Technical College.
Hardee has more than 30 years of experience in education throughout South Carolina.  Prior to entering higher education administration, he served as a teacher, coach, counselor and principal on the K-12 level. He graduated with a B.S. in Psychology from Coastal Carolina University, an M. Ed. in Counselor Education and an Ed.D. in Educational Administration from the University of South Carolina.
Hardee serves on the State Workforce Development Board, The Coordinating Council for Workforce Development and the SC Council on Competitiveness and the Leadership South Carolina Board of Trustees.  He is a graduate of Leadership South Carolina and the South Carolina Economic Developers Institute. He was presented the Coastal Carolina University Outstanding Alumni award and the Sumter Chamber of Commerce Outstanding Achievement Award.
Hardee will give a keynote on the challenges of hiring the workforce of the future. The keynote will take place after the conference opens on Tuesday morning, Oct. 29th.


Brandon Mason

Automotive Director, US Mobility Leader, PwC

Brandon Mason serves as an active industry participant and spokesperson, continuously monitoring global automotive development and technology-driven trends related to the current and future state of mobility, the concept of moving people and goods freely.
In addition to sharing perspectives regarding mobility’s potential disruption across multiple industries, Brandon provides analysis regarding each of its contributing forces. These include the connected car, autonomous driving, ride/car sharing, digital and data management, infrastructure and other related areas.
Prior to this role, Brandon served as chief of staff and chief strategist for PwC’s U.S. and Global automotive practice, where he had oversight of the sector’s day-to-day business and strategic priorities. He also has extensive analyst experience, having previously led PwC’s Autofacts team.
Brandon will give the automotive economic forecast on Tuesday, Oct. 29th at 1:45 p.m.

Jim Newsome

President and CEO, SC Ports Authority

Jim Newsome is the president and CEO of the South Carolina Ports Authority in Charleston, SC. He assumed that role in 2009 and is only the fifth leader in the history of the port. With nine years in his position, he is also currently the longest serving leader of a major container port in the U.S. Prior to his current position, Newsome had an extensive career in the ocean container shipping industry. He president at Hapag-Lloyd AG and EVP of the Americas at Nedlloyd Lines and president at Strachan Shipping Company.
He was the first American to assume the top roles in the United States for both Hapag-Lloyd and Nedlloyd Lines. Newsome received a BS in Transportation and Logistics in 1976 and a MBA in Transportation and Logistics in 1977 from the University of Tennessee.  He was the top graduate in the College of Business Administration for Winter Quarter, 1976.   He was named the Outstanding Alumnus in Transportation and Logistics in 1992.
Newsome will give a keynote on the current impact of tariffs on the manufacturing industry. The keynote will take place after the conference opens on Tuesday morning, Oct. 29th.

David Pritchard

Associate Professor, Aerospace Researcher, SUNY Empire State College

David Pritchard has more than 20 years of aerospace experience in aircraft assembly automation as former director of operations of Gemcor, and has been involved with seven aircraft launches, managed international offsets programs, completed foreign financing transactions and has expertise in aerospace marketing and product introduction into the regions of Europe, Russia, China and Asia.
Pritchard’s research in the commercial aircraft industry focuses on the global supply network and has been published in The Economist, Financial Times, Newsweek and Business Week, along with aviation trade journals, such as Flight Global and Aviation Week. He has presented his research in China, Russia, India, Canada and the US.
Pritchard will give a keynote on Aerospace 4.0 and its implications on the industry. The keynote will take place after the conference opens on Tuesday morning, Oct. 29th.

Bob Quinn

Executive Director, SCRA

As executive director of SCRA, Quinn leads an organization that fuels South Carolina’s innovation economy by accelerating technology-enabled growth in research, academia, entrepreneurship, and industry.
Prior to joining SCRA, Quinn worked in various executive roles for 26 years with Battelle Memorial Institute and affiliated companies. Bob most recently was the managing director of Battelle’s subsidiary, 360ip, an international investment, fund management, and commercialization company headquartered in Singapore. Previous assignments include vice president of technology commercialization and vice president of environmental science and technology at Battelle as well as director of technology commercialization at Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
Quinn will give a keynote on nascent technologies, including IoT, robotics, A/R, V/R and 3D printing. The keynote will be Tuesday morning, Oct. 29th.

Michael Lapson

Senior Valuations Analyst, Ascend by Cirium

Michael Lapson is an accredited senior appraiser with the International Society for Transport Aircraft Trading (ISTAT). As a senior valuations analyst with Ascend by Cirium, he has focused on appraisal of commercial airliner aircraft and their spare engines since he joined the team in 2010.
Prior to joining Ascend by Cirium, Michael was a consultant in the shipping port industry. He holds a Master of Science in Civil Engineering from University of New Mexico, and a Bachelor of Science in Operations Research & Industrial Engineering from Cornell University.
Mike will give the flight fleet economic forecast on Tuesday, Oct. 29th at 3 p.m.

Kevin Roberts

Global Automotive & Transportation Senior Analyst, Ernst & Young

As EY Global Automotive & Transportation Senior Analyst, Kevin Roberts oversees thought leadership creation across the mobility spectrum, with a focus on passenger vehicles, auto finance and commercial transformation. He is a frequent presenter at industry associations and conferences on economic trends and industry outlook.
Prior to joining EY in 2017, Kevin spent nearly a decade in professional services, focused on the automotive industry in the Americas. He holds a MA in Economics from Walsh College and a BS in Mathematics and Economics from Hillsdale College.
Kevin will give the economic forecast for the Tire Industry on Tuesday, Oct. 29th at 2:15 p.m.

Steve Townes

CEO and Founder, Ranger Aerospace and ACL Airshop

Steve Townes is a well-known entrepreneur in the aerospace services arena. He is president, CEO and a director of Ranger Aerospace (and its affiliates), the company that he founded in early 1997. Townes has acquired, built and sold an array of companies during his long career, investing in both LBO and growth equity transactions. Ranger Aerospace typically looks for niche consolidations as part of the build-out strategy with a platform company.
Townes has held several successive CEO positions in Ranger’s ventures since founding, notably of Keystone Helicopter, ASIG, Ranger International Services Group, and most recently Ranger AeroSystems LLC and Ranger Airshop Holdings, Inc. Townes is an engineering graduate of West Point, where he earned the Eisenhower Award upon graduation. He has been a board member for all of Ranger’s portfolio operations, including overseas, as well as a board director in some unaffiliated companies.
Townes will give a keynote at the Aerospace Luncheon on Tuesday, Oct. 29th at Noon.

Suzanne Dickerson

Director, Logistics Industry Initiatives, SC Council on Competitiveness

Suzanne Dickerson joined the Council after serving for eight years as the Director for International Business Development at Clemson University’s International Center for Automotive Research (CU-ICAR). Suzanne’s experience includes 20 years in the automotive industry and 12 years at BMW working in the fields of corporate sustainability, innovation management and long-term strategic and structural planning. She began her career with BMW in Munich Germany at corporate headquarters upon completion of the Bosch Foundation Fellowship Program. Suzanne speaks fluent German and is also a Fellow of the BMW Foundation Young Leaders Forum. Suzanne serves as Vice President of the multi-state Southern Automotive Women’s Forum and is a Board Member of the South Carolina Automotive Council.
Dickerson will moderate the event, Exceptional Executives: Women Who are Leading the Way, Wednesday, Oct. 30th at 10 a.m.

Amy Firestone

Vice President of Apprenticeship, SC Technical College System

Amy Firestone leads a multi-disciplinary team of consultants in expanding youth and adult apprenticeships across the state. She recently participated in the Fullbright grant to advise the Columbia Chamber of Commerce on developing apprenticeships.
Before joining the Apprenticeship Carolina team, Firestone served as the Dean of Continuing Education and Professional Development at Miami Dade College, the largest community college in the nation. As Dean, she lead eight campuses in adult education, workforce education, corporate training and recreation and leisure activities.
Firestone was also the senior advisor on education in the office of apprenticeship for the US Dept. of Labor. She led USDOL’s Registered Apprenticeship College Consortium, consisting of more than 400 colleges nationwide.
Firestone will moderate a discussion at the Apprenticeship Breakfast on Wednesday, Oct. 30th at 8 a.m.

Keith Summey

Mayor, City of N. Charleston

Keith Summey is the Mayor of the City of North Charleston. He was elected the 3rd Mayor of North Charleston in October, 1994 and is currently serving his fifth term in office. Becoming the retail sales leader in the state, improving municipal services and defining a vision for the city have hallmarked his tenure. Upgrading the quality of life of the citizens of North Charleston continues to be the mayor’s top goal.
Summey was born in Cottageville, SC. He graduated from Chicora High School and the Baptist College at Charleston, now Charleston Southern University.
Summey will help kick off the conference by welcoming attendees Tuesday, Oct. 29th at 8 a.m.


Robin Blackburn

Technical Wage Recruiter for Industrial Maintenance, Michelin North America
PANELIST: Apprenticeships in Manufacturing

Robin Blackburn has worked for Michelin North America for 14 years. As the technical wage recruiter, she’s also responsible for the Technical Scholar Program’s recruiting efforts for all of North America.
Michelin North America operates 19 plants in 16 locations and employs 22,000 people. It manufactures and sells tires for airplanes, automobiles, farm equipment, heavy duty trucks, motorcycles, and bicycles. Michelin manufactures tires in six states: Alabama, Indiana, Ohio, Oklahoma, North Carolina and South Carolina. The North American corporate office is located in Greenville, SC.
Blackburn will serve as a panelist at the event: Apprenticeships in Advanced Manufacturing: Training a Competitive Workforce . The event will be held Wednesday, Oct. 30th at 8 a.m.

Sky Foster

Manager, Corporate Communications, BMW Manufacturing Co.

Sky Foster has more than 25 years of experience at BMW Plant Spartanburg. She began her career at the South Carolina plant in 1993 as part of the start-up team that recruited new employees.
Foster spent the first two decades of her BMW career working in human resources, with jobs in strategic planning, talent acquisition, training and recruitment. She also once served as the interim VP of human resources. Foster has also collaborated with colleagues around the world, conducting training classes across BMW’s global network at facilities in Africa, Austria, Canada, England, Germany, Italy and Mexico. In her current role, Foster is the plant spokesperson.
Foster will be a panelist at the Exec. Women in Business event Wednesday, Oct. 30th at 10 a.m.

Martin Greenlee

Director, Organizational Development, Zeus Industrial Products, Inc.
PANELIST: Apprenticeships in Manufacturing

Martin Greenlee is the director of organizational development for Zeus Industrial Products, Inc. He is responsible for talent development, organizational structural changes, and leadership coaching. Martin holds a BA from Xavier University and an MBA from Jack Welch Management Institute. In addition to his education, Martin has over 30 years of operational manufacturing experience in various industries including automotive, aerospace, power sports, and consumer products.
At Zeus, Martin has taken on the challenge of implementing an Organizational Development Department. He and his group serve Zeus worldwide. Their mission is to build skills trade apprenticeships to support Zeus’ growth and need for future machinists and maintenance personnel.
Greenlee will serve as a panelist at the event: Apprenticeships in Advanced Manufacturing: Training a Competitive Workforce . The event will be held Wednesday, Oct. 30th at 8 a.m.

Daryl Johnson

Maintenance Training Coordinator, BP Cooper River Site
PANELIST: Apprenticeships in Manufacturing

Daryl Johnson is responsible for training and development, competency assurance, GI bill benefits and apprenticeships, as well as scholarship & cooperative work programs with local technical colleges. He manages four registered apprenticeships with 49 completed apprentices to date and another 12 active apprentices.
Johnson has 18 years with BP Americas and 22 years total in manufacturing
Johnson will serve as a panelist at the event: Apprenticeships in Advanced Manufacturing: Training a Competitive Workforce . The event will be held Wednesday, Oct. 30th at 8 a.m.

Barbara Melvin

Chief Operating Officer, SC Ports Authority

Barbara Melvin oversees terminal operations, carrier sales, information technology and support services, crane and equipment maintenance, engineering, environmental, External Affairs, Port Police and cruise operations.  She also serves as the lead staff person on the Charleston Harbor Post 45 Project and the Jasper Ocean Terminal Project.
Prior to this role, Melvin was senior vice president, operations and terminals and before that, senior vice president, external affairs. In this position, she was responsible for all aspects of communication with the public, including public relations, government relations, community giving, education and environmental programs. She has also served as vice president, government relations, responsible for lobbying local, state and federal public officials on the Authority’s behalf.
Foster will be a panelist at the Exec. Women in Business event Wednesday, Oct. 30th at 10 a.m.

Melissa Simpson

Director, US Indirect Procurement and Supplier Diversity, Bausch Health Co.

Melissa Simpson has spent 18 years in a variety of global sourcing and procurement roles. She started as a buyer for Fuel Cell Technology with General Motors. She was then hired as a buyer for indirect goods and services by Bausch Health.
Simpson is now responsible for the company’s US Indirect Strategic Sourcing and Supplier Diversity initiatives. She supervises a diverse team that manages more than $1B in categories such as commercial, HR, professional services, clinical ops, capital and facilities, while ensuring opportunities for small and minority owned businesses. Before that, she was the procurement manager for the Bausch & Lomb Greenville, SC Solutions Facility, which has produced more than four billion bottles of lens care solution since opening in 1982.
Simpson will be a panelist at the Exec. Women in Business event Wednesday, Oct. 30th at 10 a.m.

Denise Thigpen

Owner, Wholesale Boutique

Denise Thigpen is the founder of Wholesale Boutique, a South Carolina-based supplier of stylish bags, jewelry, accessories, apparel, and home goods. The company owns and distributes their own brands — Viv&Lou, Ellora, and Grateful — and works globally with companies to provide services such as design-to-completion private label opportunities, bulk embroidery and order fulfillment.
Focused on empowering entrepreneurs and women, Wholesale Boutique currently supplies more than 5,000 small businesses with their exclusive brands and works globally with companies by providing a variety of products and services. Wholesale Boutique currently employs 75 people and 47 are women. Thigpen was recently named Female Businessperson of the Year for South Carolina and Wholesale Boutique was recognized by Inc. 5000 as one of the fastest-growing private companies in America.
Thigpen will be a panelist at the Exec. Women in Business event Wednesday, Oct. 30th at 10 a.m.