Meet Our Speakers
Gary is the Firm’s National Automotive Industry Leader, as well as the Global Lead Partner for Delphi Corporation and Ford MotorCompany. Gary has 25+ years of business experience, including over 15 years in the automotive industry.
Professional and Industry Experience
• Gary has advised numerous domestic and multinational companies in areas of strategy, mergers, acquisitions, divestitures and jointventures. His specific focus includes helping clients identify and evaluate new investment and growth strategies from technologystart-upcompanies to large scale multibillion dollar investments.
• For the past five years he has focused on the intersection of technology and the automotive industry with groundbreaking research on Self-Driving Cars, connectivity and mobility demand services.
• He has also worked on some of the most complex and strategic transactions in the industry. In particular, Gary has worked as an advisor toFord Motor Company on its three most recent divestitures: Aston Martin, Jaguar and Land Rover, and its Volvo divestiture. Mr.Silberg hasalso advised Chrysler Corporation as part of its transaction with Fiat. He also has extensive knowledge and experience working with tier 1automotive suppliers including their aftermarket businesses.
• He has assisted several start-up automotive companies in developing their long-term strategies and business plans.
• Gary is fluent in French and speaks basic level Chinese (Mandarin).
Thought leadership in the Automotive industry
• Gary is the chair of the annual Executive Automotive Share Forum Series, conducted in parallel with the North American International AutoShow in Detroit and Los Angeles.
• He has written extensively about the industry. A selection of Gary’s recent publications include:
• I see. I think. I drive. (I learn).
• The ClockspeedDilemma –what it means for automotive innovation
• Me, My Car, My Life … in the ultraconnectedage
• Self-Driving Cars: Are We Ready?
• Self Driving Cars: The Next Revolution
• Gary also often provides media commentary on global trends in the automotive industry, including many guest appearances on CNBCSquawk Box, Bloomberg TV –Other news media interviews include The Wall Street Journal, The Economist, Reuters, Fortune, Forbes,Bloomberg, Wired, The Silicon Valley Business Journal, CNN Money, Industry Week, Outlook Business of India, China Auto and YomiuriShimbun of Japan.
BorgWarner, Fiat/Chrysler, Delphi, Denso, Emerson, Ford Motor Company, IAC, Illinois Tool Works Inc., Lear, Meritor, NVDIA, Motorola, ThyssenKrupp, Toyota, TRW, and Visteon.
Since becoming governor, in just under two years, Governor McMaster has announced more than 30,000 new jobs and over $8.2 billion in capital investment. The state’s unemployment rate is the lowest in recorded history and more people are working in South Carolina than ever before.
McMaster was the first U.S. attorney appointed by President Ronald Reagan, and was unanimously confirmed by the United States Senate. His “Operation Jackpot” investigation into international drug smuggling produced over 100 convictions.
As attorney general, McMaster made prosecution of criminal domestic violence a priority and harnessed the resources of law enforcement and prosecutors to crack down on child Internet predators. He extended the state grand jury’s jurisdiction to environmental and gang crimes and broadened its authority to include securities crimes following the collapse of Carolina Investors and Home Gold, convicting those responsible.
In 2003, McMaster issued a landmark opinion to protect our marsh islands from encroachment and later won the Life Sciences Act case in the South Carolina Supreme Court, which enhanced the state’s economic potential through its universities for research, development and investment in the knowledge-based economy. The governor was central to the fight against “Obamacare,” organizing and leading the states in their challenge against the law’s unconstitutional federal encroachment.
As lieutenant governor, McMaster served as president of the South Carolina State Senate and headed the Lieutenant Governor’s Office on Aging, which aids older adults with social, economic and health needs. In that capacity, he added senior services to the 2-1-1 system, connecting callers with support groups and services in their areas. He also established a “Senior Day” at the State House and strengthened the network of “senior ride” projects. AARP named McMaster a “Capitol Caregiver” for his policies to help seniors live independently at home.
In 2012, McMaster and former attorney general Travis Medlock led a bipartisan commission to reform ethics laws and restore the public’s trust in state government.
McMaster was chairman of the South Carolina Republican Party from 1993-2002, winning reelection three times. As state GOP chairman, he led the party to Republican majorities in South Carolina’s House and Senate.
Governor 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). Governor McMaster is a recipient of the Order of the Palmetto, the highest civilian honor in the state, and was named “Public Servant of the Year” by the Sierra Club and “National Law Enforcement Officer of the Year” by The Humane Society of the United States.
McMaster received his AB degree in history in 1969 from the University of South Carolina and his JD degree in 1973 from the University of South Carolina School of Law, where he served on the South Carolina Law Review. He served in the U.S. Army Reserves in the JAG Corps from 1969 to 1975.
Governor McMaster is married to Peggy McMaster, and they have two children, Henry D. McMaster, Jr. and Mary Rogers McMaster. They are members of First Presbyterian Church of Columbia.
Since 2011, S.C. Commerce has recruited approximately $30 billion in capital investment and more than 105,000 new jobs. Now a premier brand state, multiple world-class companies have made significant investments in South Carolina during Secretary Hitt’s tenure, including BMW, Boeing, Bridgestone, Continental, Giti Tire, LPL Financial Holdings, Mercedes-Benz Vans, Michelin, Samsung, Toray, Volvo Cars and more. As one of the nation’s leaders in foreign direct investment, S.C. Commerce markets South Carolina’s positive business environment to the global economy.
Consequently, the Palmetto State has achieved an export sales record in each year of Secretary Hitt’s tenure, topping $31 billion in total export sales for the first time in 2016. Additionally, South Carolina has consistently ranked first in the nation in the export sales of both completed passenger motor vehicles and tires. To build on this success and to complement the efforts of each of the state’s four international offices, a new International Strategy and Trade division was established at S.C. Commerce in 2015.
Seeking continued growth of South Carolina’s target industry clusters, S.C. Commerce established partnerships with several organizations under Secretary Hitt’s leadership. The agency now collaborates with the S.C. Council on Competitiveness to advance the state’s aerospace and logistics industries, as well as the S.C. Automotive Council and the S.C. Biotechnology Industry Organization to advance the automotive and life science industries, respectively.
S.C. Commerce also prioritizes efforts to support the state’s small and existing companies. Understanding the importance of bringing business to business, the agency has spearheaded the coordination of many B2B events, including subcontractor outreach sessions for major construction projects and supplier matchmaker sessions for some of the state’s biggest industries. S.C. Commerce also operates a product and service locator database known as SourceSC, allowing South Carolina companies to connect with in-state suppliers and vendors.
As Team South Carolina seeks to build on momentum generated since 2011, continued collaboration remains a critical piece of Secretary Hitt’s strategy. The recent creation of a Council for Innovation Initiatives and a Coordinating Council for Workforce Development will help advance efforts in both areas, while eliciting the expertise of leaders from a variety of public and private organizations.
Before his time as Secretary of Commerce, Hitt served as manager of Corporate Affairs at the BMW Manufacturing Company in Spartanburg County after 17 years as managing editor of The State and Columbia Record newspapers.
With more than 30 years in the automotive industry, Mike brings unrivaled OEM and mobility startup expertise to Arrival. Mike began his career as a structural analyst for General Motors, rising to serve as Executive Director of Global Advanced Vehicle Development, and VP of Engineering in Europe. In his role as VP of Global Strategy for General Motors, Mike worked to transition the company from a traditional OEM to a manufacturer of electric and autonomous vehicles.
Mike specializes in adapting innovative technologies for use in production-ready products and has been a pivotal force in bringing vehicles to market worldwide.
Von Nessen engages in industry-level and regional economic forecasting for organizations at the state, national and international level. He has served as lead researcher on projects with clients as diverse as Sonoco, BlueCross BlueShield, Michelin, Boeing and the Savannah River National Lab, among others. He has also been the recipient of many grants from both local and national sources, including the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Department of Defense.
Von Nessen is also responsible for the preparation and presentation of the University of South Carolina's annual statewide economic forecast. He serves on the advisory committee of the South Carolina Board of Economic Advisors and is regularly invited to brief the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond on economic conditions in South Carolina. He frequently appears on programs at national conventions, including the International Builders Show, the 21st Century Building Expo and the North American Regional Science Council and its subsidiaries.
In addition, Von Nessen specializes in housing economics and residential real estate and provides economic and marketing research and consulting services to builders, developers and other businesses in the housing industry on a regular basis. His recent academic research has focused on the application of hedonic house price modeling to the housing industry. He is a member of the National Association of Home Builders and is actively involved with the local branches of the Home Builders Association and the Association of REALTORS throughout South Carolina.
Von Nessen is a frequent speaker for business and government leaders throughout the southeast, providing information and consultation about business, housing markets and local economies. He also makes frequent media appearances to discuss various local economic topics of interest.
Plant – a position he has held since January 2021.
He joined Volvo Cars in 1995, and most recently served as the general manager for the Daqing plant in China since 2018. He has held various management positions in manufacturing and manufacturing engineering.
David received his Master of Science degree in Applied Mechanics from Chalmers University of Technology, Gothenburg, Sweden.
Within Magna, Apostolos has held numerous senior leadership positions during his 25 years with the company. He was President of Magna Exteriors and Interiors Asia Pacific, Global President of Interiors and Vice President – Manufacturing for Magna Intier. Apostolos was also General Manager of Co-Ex-Tec Industries and Polycon Industries, manufacturing divisions of Magna. He joined Magna in 1993 as Engineering Manager for Co-Ex-Tec Industries.
Outside of Magna, Apostolos served as President of Ricardo, Inc. – the North and South American subsidiary of Ricardo plc, a technical, environmental and strategic consultancy to the transportation and defense industry. He began his career with General Motors, where he held various senior engineering and manufacturing positions, including Technical Manager at Delphi Thermal Operations.
Apostolos earned his Bachelor of Engineering Science (BESc) in Electrical Engineering from the University of Western Ontario in 1985. In addition, he has completed leadership programs at Harvard, the Sloan School of Business at MIT and York University and is an active member of the Executive Advisory Council of the AWA Foundation.
Before joining Autos Drive America, Safavian was Executive Vice President for Government Affairs at the Retail Industry Leaders Association. Prior to holding that position, she spent the majority of her career on Capitol Hill, serving as Staff Director
and General Counsel on the House Ways & Means Committee, and holding senior positions on other key House Committees, including Energy & Commerce and Oversight & Government Reform.
Among her various accolades, Safavian was named one of the “Top Trade Association Lobbyists” by The Hill for three consecutive years from 2017-2019. She has been named by the National Law Journal as one of the “Top 10 Lawyers on Capitol Hill” and
one of the “Fabulous 50” top congressional staff members by Roll Call. Safavian has a J.D. from Michigan State University College of Law and holds a B.A. from Saint Louis University.
Pete recently served as the Vice President of Global Trade and Managed Services for Crane World Wide. He lead the development, marketing and innovation of Customs, Regulatory and Global Trade Products, Secured Transportation Offerings, Management Consulting, Integrated Managed Services and Software Solutions.
Prior to joining Crane, Pete was Practice Leader and Principal of Ryan Tax LLC's Customs and Global Trade Practice. While there, he managed the recovery and avoidance of global duties and VAT for importers all over the world.
Pete is a Customs House Broker, Foreign Relations Expert and Trade Academic. He is one of the world’s leading experts on International Trade Policy and Supply Chain Security.
Mr. Mento also served as the Principal Consultant of Expeditors Tradewin where he spent 7 years managing and leading the organization.
Pete received his ALM in Government (Trade Theory Focus) from Harvard University and did his undergraduate work at Maine Maritime Academy where he served five consecutive terms as a member of the advisory board.
Mr. Mento is a Trade Academic who has written many articles and work papers on Trade Theory and Trade Practices. His PhD studies at the University of Durham in the United Kingdom in Trade Law.
Pete is a highly sought after speaker all over the world. A former professional standup comedian, he has conducted sold out lectures to tens of thousands of people in every imaginable venue – from University lecture halls to night clubs. His style of mixing economics, history and humor is always a welcome change for his clients and students. He is the most unlikely trade nerd you will ever meet.
Mr. Langley has over 20 years of automotive experience relating to forecasting, competitive intelligence, leasing and residual valuation and industry analysis. Mr. Langley has a Bachelor of Business Administration in finance from Hofstra University.
Earlier this year, Dr. Firestone was chosen for and participated in the prestigious Fulbright grant to advise the Chamber of Commerce in Colombia on developing its apprenticeships.
Before joining the Apprenticeship Carolina team, Dr. 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 led eight campuses in adult education, workforce education, corporate training, and recreation and leisure initiatives.
Prior to Miami Dade College, Dr. Firestone made headlines as the Senior Advisor on Education in the Office of Apprenticeship for the United States Department of Labor. She led USDOL’s Registered Apprenticeship College Consortium (RACC), consisting of more than 400 colleges nationwide, and led the nation’s youth apprenticeship policy development. Dr. Firestone's pilot program of STEM youth apprenticeships has become so successful it is currently implemented in
Dr. Firestone earned a Bachelor’s degree in Hispanic Studies from the College of William & Mary. She earned a Master’s degree in Latin American studies and a Doctoral degree in Spanish Sociolinguistics from University of Illinois. She also published a book on urban youth in Peru, entitled Combinamos el Quechua ‘We Combine Quechua’: Language and Identity among Urban Youth in Peru. Her book is available in the collections of ivy-league universities; such as Princeton and Stanford, and is available for purchase in Latin America and Europe.