Keynote Speakers

Keynote speakers and moderators include some of the region’s most influential decision makers.

Rear Admiral Nunan assumed duty as the Ninth Coast Guard District Commander in August 2017. She is the senior Coast Guard Commander for the Great Lakes and Saint Lawrence Seaway, an area that encompasses eight states, a 1,500 mile international border, and a workforce of over 6,000 Coast Guard active duty, reserve, civilian, and auxiliary men and women.

A Bridgeport, Connecticut native, Rear Admiral Nunan graduated from the Coast Guard Academy in 1987. Her early sea duty was in the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico, and Western Pacific before she became the last commanding officer of the WWII era USCGC IRONWOOD in Kodiak, Alaska, and subsequently the first commanding officer of its state of the art replacement, the 225-foot SPAR, which was built in Marinette, Wisconsin. Ashore, she has held senior positions in two different Cabinet offices: Military Advisor to the Secretary of Homeland Security and Military Assistant to the Secretary of Transportation. In recent years she has been Chief of Staff at the Coast Guard Force Readiness Command, Sector Commander in Honolulu, Hawaii, and Deputy Sector Commander in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Her professional studies range from a Master’s Degree in Business Administration from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute to a Master Merchant Mariner license and fellowship at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a non-partisan think tank in Washington, DC. She has attended a number of courses on national and international security at Harvard University and the Naval Post Graduate Center. Rear Admiral Nunan’s personal awards include the Secretary of Transportation Gold Medal for Outstanding Achievement, DOT Outstanding Public Service Award, two Legion of Merits, three CG Meritorious Service Medals, and selection as the CG’s First Female Elite Athlete of the Year.

Dr. John Hartig is currently a Visiting Scholar at University of Windsor’s Great Lakes Institute for Environmental Research and the Great Lakes Science-Policy Advisor for the International Association for Great Lakes Research. For the past 14 years he served as Refuge Manager for the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge. John has received a number of awards for his work, including the 2017 Community Peacemaker Award from Wayne State University’s Center for Peace and Conflict Studies, the 2016 Edward G. Voss Conservation Science Award from Michigan Nature Association, the 2015 Conservationist of the Year Award from the John Muir Association, and the 2013 Conservation Advocate of the Year Award from the Michigan League of Conservation Voters. He has authored or co-authored over 100 publications on the environment, including five books: Waterfront Porch; Bringing Conservation to Cities; Burning Rivers; Honoring Our Detroit River, Caring for Our Home; and Under RAPs: Toward Grassroots Ecological Democracy in the Great Lakes Basin. John’s book titled Bringing Conservation to Cities won a Gold Medal from the Nonfiction Authors Association in the "Sustainable Living" category and a bronze medal from the Living Now Book Awards in the "Green Living" category.

Dr. Patrick A. McLaughlin is the Director of Policy Analytics and a Senior Research Fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. His research focuses primarily on regulations and the regulatory process.

Dr. McLaughlin created and leads the RegData and QuantGov projects, deploying machine-learning and other tools of data science to quantify governance indicators found in federal and state regulations and other policy documents. The resulting database is freely available at

Dr. McLaughlin has authored more than a dozen peer-reviewed studies in diverse areas, including regulatory economics, administrative law, industrial organization, and international trade. His book, The Impact of Federal Regulation on the Fifty States (with Oliver Sherouse), is available for download here.

Dr. McLaughlin has given expert testimonies before Congress and state legislatures on topics ranging from the economic implications of regulatory accumulation to the potential impacts of regulatory reform. His research and op-eds have been featured in a wide range of media outlets including The Economist, C-SPAN, WSJ, Politico, and The Hill.

Prior to joining Mercatus, Dr. McLaughlin served as a Senior Economist at the Federal Railroad Administration in the United States Department of Transportation and as a Visiting Scholar at the Regulatory Studies Center at George Washington University. He holds a Ph.D. in economics from Clemson University.

Dr. Barbara Hendrie is the Director of UN Environment North America. She has over two decades experience as a senior international diplomat/negotiator and development/humanitarian professional, working for both the United Kingdom and United States governments. She was a senior official in the United Kingdom's Department for International Development (DFID) from 1999 to 2015, and a senior political appointee of President Obama based in the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in 2015-2016. Barbara, a native of New York, has a Ph.D. and Masters in social anthropology from University College, London, UK, and a B.A. in English from Bowdoin College in Maine, USA. She is a dual US-UK citizen.

Steven A. Altman is Senior Research Scholar and Executive Director of the Center for the Globalization of Education and Management at the New York University Stern School of Business. Mr. Altman’s research focuses on international flows of goods and services, capital, information, and people. He measures how these flows change over time, examines how they are shaped by cross-country differences and distances, and discerns implications for business and public policy.

Mr. Altman co-authors the biennial DHL Global Connectedness Index, which tracks globalization worldwide, by region, and at the level of individual countries. His research on globalization has been featured in The Economist, The Washington Post, Harvard Business Review, Strategy & Business, Global Finance, and many other publications.

Mr. Altman brings to his research extensive experience consulting with companies on international and emerging market strategies across a variety of industries and geographic regions. He has also managed the development of several teaching and decision-making tools.

Mr. Altman holds an MBA with distinction from the Harvard Business School, an MPA from Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government, and a B.S. in Economics summa cum laude from the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania.

George Thomas is a thought leader and adviser to public and private sector organizations in the Americas, Europe, Africa and Asia. With more than twenty years of experience, George has held a variety of sales, strategy and consulting roles. A dynamic leader and team builder, George has helped clients develop successful strategies and execute transformational projects in business operations, capital improvement, enterprise processes and applications, organizational change management and strategic planning.

George currently serves as Global Director, Smart Infrastructure, for Hatch Ltd. In this role, he leads Hatch's efforts in helping clients maximize value across all Infrastructure and Urban Solution domains. George also founded New Urban Informatics, a boutique business advisory firm, providing expertise to some of the most innovative companies and governments focused on Public Sector Analytics and Smart Cities. He is based in Washington DC.

George previously served as Global Director of Strategy & Markets for IBM’s Government Industry vertical. In this role, he was responsible for the strategy and execution of new innovations and solutions to assist governments globally in delivering improved services to their citizens. From 2013 to 2014 he was the Director of Smarter Cities for IBM Greater China, based in Beijing, PRC; and from 2010 to 2012, he was the Global Director for Smarter Cities Sales Strategy & Execution. Prior roles have included US Sales Director responsible for IBM’s services portfolio in State & Local Government, Education & Public Healthcare segment and Partner responsible for IBM’s US SAP State, Local and Education Practice. George has successfully delivered several complex, mission-critical transformation consulting engagements in the public sector which include innovative and breakthrough projects in technology, process and people transformation. Prior to joining IBM in 2000, George held senior positions with the management, business consulting and engineering practices of PSINet; Metamor; and Mott MacDonald respectively. In these roles, he was involved in global multi-million dollar engagements covering complex implementations in finance, human resources, supply chain, reengineering, process improvement, and core engineering projects.

George is a recognized industry expert at the intersection of technology and business in areas such as cognitive computing, deep analytics, smarter cities, Blockchain, the API economy, internet of things, and cloud computing. George is a founding member of the Smarter Cities Council, a member of the US NIST Executive Committee for Global City Teams Challenge, a prior resident expert at the IBM Center for Cognitive Government, a Senior Advisor to the Virginia Center of Innovative Technology, leads the Transportation Segment for Governor’s Virginia Smart Communities initiative, and is a mentor, board member and coach to several start-ups and innovative companies. George is a proven thought leader and a regular speaker at conferences and events including at the C40 Mayor’s Conferences, TEDx, Chambers of Commerce, Harvard Club, American Institute of Architects, the World Bank and the United Nations. George holds a Master’s Degree in Engineering and Management from the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, Georgia, USA.

State of the Great Lakes Economy Session

Douglas Porter has over 25 years of experience analyzing global economies and financial markets. As Chief Economist at BMO Financial Group, he oversees the macroeconomic and financial market forecasts and co-authors the firm’s weekly flagship publication, Focus. Mr. Porter manages the team that won the prestigious Lawrence Klein award for forecast accuracy of the U.S. economy, and was named by Bloomberg as top Canadian forecaster.

As a respected commentator on economic and financial trends, he is regularly quoted in the national press and often interviewed on radio and television.

Before joining BMO, Mr. Porter held the positions of Economist and Country Risk Analyst with other Canadian financial institutions, and also worked at the Bank of Canada.

Mr. Porter has been a member of C.D. Howe’s Monetary Policy Council since 2008 and also serves on the Investment Management Committees of the Bank of Montreal’s Pension Fund Society and Western’s Endowment Fund.

Mr. Porter has been a Chartered Financial Analyst since 1995 and earned a masters degree in Economics from the University of Western Ontario.


Jean-François Hould began his term as Québec Government Delegate in Chicago on September 5, 2017. Prior to his appointment, Mr. Hould has held the position of Chief of Staff to the Minister of International Relations and La Francophonie since April 2014.

Jean-François Hould graduated from the Université of Montréal and studied at Université Laval and Hautes Études commerciales. He has accumulated a roadmap of public service for Québec dating back to the early 2000s.

He served as a member of various Québec ministers’ offices from 2003 to 2011, in particular as Deputy Chief of Staff and Political Advisor to the Minister of Culture. In 2011, he joined the public service, first as a Socio-Economic Planning Officer at the Ministry of Culture, and then as Cultural Director at the Québec Government Office in New York.

Daniel-Robert Gooch is president of the Canadian Airports Council, where he oversees operations at the Canadian division of Airports Council International-North America. He was promoted to the position after serving five years as director of communications and policy.

Daniel has more than 16 years experience in marketing, public relations, and publishing, particularly in the aviation and technology sectors. Prior to joining the CAC, he was publisher and editor of Commercial Aviation Today, a Montréal-based daily electronic news publication for airline industry executives around the world. After founding the publication in 2003, Daniel built its readership to 8,700 airline industry leaders on nearly every continent. He also was involved in marketing, media relations and event planning for the publication’s parent company.

Previously, Daniel was vice president of strategic planning for Atlanta-based Gelignite Communications. In this position, he managed the firm’s public relations and interactive marketing efforts for its U.S. and Canadian clients in the financial, healthcare and business-to-business technology sectors. He also has held a series of successively senior positions in marketing and media relations for firms in Atlanta, Coral Gables, Fla. and Montréal. Daniel is an honours graduate in political science and history from Concordia University in Montréal.


Beth Potter took over the reins as President & CEO of the Tourism Industry Association of Ontario (TIAO) in January 2011. Beth leads the advocacy efforts for the tourism industry – promoting the importance of tourism as an economic driver and job creator for Ontario – by working with business owners, tourism organizations and governments. Collectively, TIAO represents the 186,000 businesses and 389,000 employees that are dedicated to promoting and operating the Province’s tourism infrastructure.

With more than 25 years of experience in the not-for-profit and tourism sectors, Beth has worked with a variety of boards, committees and volunteers across the tourism industry and from all walks of life. She currently serves on the boards for the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, and the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, and is a member of the Advisory Council for the Ted Rogers School of Hospitality & Tourism Management at Ryerson University.

Chris Steele is Vice President, Advisory of Conway Inc. His 28 years of experience in location consulting, site selection, and economic development have resulted in a unique perspective on how the concept of place impacts business and community success around the globe.

Past clients include The Boeing Company, BlueCross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, Serologicals, Lenovo, Morgan Stanley, Club Med, Becton Dickinson, the US Transportation Research Board (of the National Science Foundation), Olympus, Atlas Copco and Biogen IDEC make location decisions across Europe, North America, and Asia.

Chris also frequently advises governments and public sector agencies on business attraction and economic development efforts. In this capacity, Chris has led the State of Maine’s efforts to fully evaluate the effectiveness of its business development incentive programs and develop more effective measures. He has also helped governments such as the province of British Columbia and their partners to better understand their regions’ natural strengths and to build more effective strategies for attracting inward investment. Likewise, he has helped the States of Michigan and Florida develop strategies for leveraging freight movement into permanent direct investment.

Mr. Steele holds a Master’s Degree in Regional Planning from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, with specific concentrations in land use planning and real estate development. He previously led Investment Consulting Associates in the US for 10 years, and held positions as president, real estate consulting with TranSystems and director of location advisory services with ADP Mintax. He also spent 11 years in Ernst & Young’s real estate advisory service practice. Chris has also taught real estate development and economic development at UMass Dartmouth and UMass Boston.

For Tony Vernaci, the opportunity to establish the Aerospace Industry Association of Michigan (AIAM) is a culmination of more than 30 years of experience and passion for aerospace.

Tony joined the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) in 2014, as Vice President for Global Business Development. He recognized the potential synergies of the automotive and aerospace industries and soon the team discovered there were nearly 600 companies and organizations in Michigan conducting aerospace business. In 2015, Price Waterhouse Cooper (PwC) concluded their annual aerospace manufacturing attractiveness study and ranked Michigan as #2 in the nation. This generated a great deal of excitement from the Governor’s office and economic development organizations throughout the state, setting off a chain of events over the next 2 years raising global awareness for Michigan’s aerospace industry.

It is because of these great accomplishments, a vision for the future aerospace opportunities and a conversation with Governor Snyder, Tony decided to launch AIAM to advance Michigan’s place in the industry.

Prior to joining the MEDC Tony held executive positions at Global Advantages, Doncasters, and Textron. He held positions as Senior Vice President of International, Director of Global Integrated Supply Chain, Director of Six Sigma, General Manager of Manufacturing, and Regional Director of Distribution. Before joining Textron, Tony spent 10 years in the automotive industry at both an OEM and a Tier-one supplier.

Guillaume Lacroix became Consul General of France in Chicago on August 29th, 2017.

He holds diplomas from Institut d'études politiques de Paris and Université Panthéon-Assas. He speaks Swahili, a language he studied at Institut national des langues et civilisations orientales in Paris and in Zanzibar, Tanzania.

He started his diplomatic career in 1997. He was assigned to the Department of African and Indian Ocean Affairs in Paris, then to the French Embassy in Dar es Salaam in Tanzania and to the French Embassy in Washington.

He was also posted in two other diplomatic institutions: at the U.S. State Department as part of the Transatlantic Diplomatic Fellow program and at the European External Action Service in Brussels.

From 2013 until 2017, he served in the cabinets of French Foreign Affairs Ministers Laurent Fabius and Jean-Marc Ayrault as Counsellor for African Affairs.

Guillaume Lacroix was born in 1971 in Auxerre (Burgundy). He is married and has two children.

Michael Robinet was promoted to Executive Director of IHS Markit Automotive Advisory Services in December 2018 – driving industry thought leadership in the field of light vehicle automotive market dynamics and supplier strategy. From December 2011 to November 2018, Michael was the Managing Director leading the North American Automotive Advisory Team. Until late 2011, he served as the Director of Global Vehicle Production Forecasts for IHS Automotive from 1996.

In his role as Executive Director in the global automotive advisory practice, Michael builds upon his experience as a leader and innovator in automotive research. He works with decisionmakers at suppliers and OEMs in the fields of supplier strategy, global production forecasting, tracking future product programs (FPPs), analyzing sourcing and production strategies to serve OEM, supplier and government entities throughout the global industry.

Michael has over three decades of experience in automotive forecasting, strategic analysis and manufacturing finance. Prior to joining CSM Worldwide/IHS Markit, he worked at several research companies and was schooled in finance at a Tier 1 supplier. He regularly consults with industry executives and presents at global OEM and supplier conferences/ symposiums - being widely quoted by worldwide media on a variety of critical industry topics.

Michael holds an undergraduate degree in economics and an MBA – both from the University of Windsor, Canada. He is a member of the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE), Automotive Press Association (APA), Detroit Economic Club (DEC) and the Society of Automotive Analysts (SAA). He is a founding director of the Canada-US Business Association (CUSBA) and a board member of the Original Equipment Supplier Association (OESA). Michael also pens a monthly column called ‘Supplier Eye’ for SAE’s Automotive Engineering Magazine.

Peter Plumeau is President and CEO of EDR Group. With almost 30 years’ experience in the public, private and non-profit sectors, he is a national expert in multimodal transportation policy and planning, regional economic development, and organizational development and strategic management. Peter leads execution of EDR Group's business strategy as well as the firm's overall business development and client relations.

Mr. Plumeau’s experience includes helping planners integrate multi-modal mobility needs, including goods movement and non-motorized modes, into complete streets plans and advising policy-makers on the relationship of transportation efficiency to community economic vitality. He has led development of multimodal transportation studies, plans, and strategies for MPOs, state DOTS, municipalities, and authorities across the US, Canada, Europe, and China. Mr. Plumeau has also authored or co-authored numerous research reports and guidebooks on transportation planning, policy analysis, and goods movement for the Transportation Research Board (TRB), the US Department of Transportation, the Canadian Trucking Association, the American Planning Association, and Transport Canada. In addition, he is a sought-after speaker on transportation planning topics and has presented to audiences around the world on metropolitan planning, urban freight movement and sustainability, and megaregion impacts on transportation investment needs.

Prior to joining EDR Group, Peter’s career included positions as Senior Director with RSG, Inc., Executive Director of the Chittenden County MPO (now merged with Chittenden County RPC), state legislative staff, and staff to the U.S. Congress. He holds a Master of Public Administration (MPA) degree from the University at Albany and a BA from the University of Vermont. He is a member of several TRB standing committees, the APA Transportation Planning Division, and the Urban Land Institute.

Ryan is the Executive Director of the Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs (OFSC), a volunteer led not-for profit association that provides the voice for organized snowmobiling in the Province of Ontario. The mission of the OFSC is to provide leadership to member organizations in our commitment to enable exceptional snowmobile trails and rider experiences throughout the province.

Before the OFSC, Ryan was the Vice President, Government Relations & Public Policy with the Canadian Franchise Association (CFA), the recognized authority on franchising in Canada. Ryan was responsible for increasing the influence of the CFA and advocating for favourable public policy to support franchising in the marketplace through government relations, strategic public policy partnerships and advocacy at the federal and provincial levels. Prior to CFA, Ryan was the Senior Director, Public Affairs at GS1 Canada, the world’s leading supply chain standards organization. Prior to joining GS1 Canada, Ryan was the Director, Government Relations & Policy at the Real Property Association of Canada (REALpac), where he helped lead the commercial real estate sector through proactive and reactive advocacy campaigns. Ryan was also an Associate at the political consulting firm Greener and Hook, LLC where he worked on both the political and corporate side of the company.

Before Greener and Hook, Ryan was a research assistant at The Center for Terrorism and Intelligence Studies (CETIS) where his deliverables helped formulate the Global Terrorism Database (GTD), now the largest open source intelligence database in the world. In the fall of 2007, Ryan accepted a key staff position within United States Senator Fred Thompson’s Presidential Campaign.

Academically, Ryan has earned a Bachelor of Arts (B.A) in political science from New England College, a Master of Public Policy (M.P.P.) from The American University School of Public Affairs, a Master of Law (LL.M) at York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School, and an Executive Master of Business Administration (E.M.B.A) at the University of Fredericton’s Sandermoen School of Business.