2022 Speakers

Danny Chavez
Chief Business Recruitment Officer
Charlotte Regional Business Alliance

Danny Chavez joined the Charlotte Regional Business Alliance (CLTA) in November 2021 as the Chief Business Recruitment Officer. He serves as the executive lead for the business development team at CLTA. He formerly represented the Dallas-Fort Worth (McKinney) and San Antonio regions in executive roles. 

As an economic development executive, Danny has worked domestically and internationally with corporate executives, site selectors, capital partners and real estate developers to close projects and investments of all sizes. He has served in multiple capacities where he has focused on commercial and mixed-use developments and working with startups, mostly in the cybersecurity and SaaS sectors. Danny’s innovative approach to economic development and related business interests have created new means to close corporate investments and identifying growth opportunities. He is the creator and chief architect of a first-of-a-kind, web-based incentive fund called the Innovation Fund. In 2021, he was named a Finalist for D CEO Magazine’s Innovation Advocate of the Year award for his work on the Innovation Fund. Danny was also featured in D CEO Magazine’s 2022 edition of The Dallas 500, the publication’s premier feature of the most powerful executives in North Texas.

Danny has managed teams and individually worked on and closed many economic development projects ranging from Fortune 500 and headquarter operations to startup relocations. The teams he has managed have yielded over $1.2B in capital investment and created over 7,200 jobs. His individual efforts have yielded over $845M in capital investment and created over 5,700 jobs for the regions he’s represented. He has spent much of his career focusing on innovating incentives and fundraising for startups. Teams he has managed have garnered more than $56M in funds for their projects. Danny was the Co-Founder of a mobile software company, Epux, and is the Founder of a management consulting firm, Iconimi. He continues to serve in consultancy or advisory roles for several startups.

Danny holds a bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Angelo State University. In 2017, he was selected to the Forbes Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) and, in 2021, he was named by Consultant Connect as one of North America’s Top 50 Economic Developers.

His approach to leadership is authenticity above all else.

The Honorable Vi Alexander Lyles
City of Charlotte

On Dec. 2, 2019, Vi Lyles was sworn in as the 60th Mayor of Charlotte, North Carolina. As a Democratic leader, she is known for her strong commitment toward creating jobs, expanding affordable housing options and supporting safe, livable neighborhoods.      

Mayor Lyles received a bachelor’s degree in political science from Queens University and a master’s degree in public administration from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Under her leadership, the City of Charlotte continues to grow as a center for commerce, culture and diversity.

Carrie Cole
Vice President of Sales

Carrie joined Gazelle.ai in 2018 shortly after its launch. In her time there, she has helped lead the sales process in the economic development space and, in 2021, she was promoted as Vice President of Sales to scale Gazelle.ai in the B2B market. 

As Vice President of Sales of Gazelle.ai, Carrie has contributed towards the growth of Gazelle.ai to a Financial Times’ Fastest Growing Company in North America and a Deloitte Technology Fast 50 Company-to-Watch in 2022.  

Gazelle.ai is the first business intelligence platform that deploys artificial intelligence to prognosticate corporate expansion. Gazelle.ai’s custom-built machine-learning algorithms, coupled with human curated intelligence, provide insights to firm-level expansion around the world. This unique platform includes profiles for over 9 million corporate establishments, features over 900 industry profiles and 20,000 proprietary industry heat maps. The solution is now used by over 750 subscribers in over 20 countries making it the fastest growing AI powered business intelligence platform.

Carrie has been a featured speaker at numerous economic gatherings. Over the past year, Carrie has presented at: Select USA, the International Economic Development Council, and Council for Community and Economic Research. 

Dr. Kandi W. Deitemeyer
Central Piedmont Community College

Dr. Kandi Deitemeyer and her family came to Charlotte in 2017, when she began leading Central Piedmont Community College as its fourth president. Dr. Deitemeyer came to Central Piedmont with an extensive and diverse background in community college administration. Her career has spanned 31 years in higher education, serving in community college systems in North Carolina, Kentucky and Florida.

Dr. Deitemeyer’s leadership style is best described as engaging, collaborative, and energetic. She has an unmatched passion for the student experience and has strategically focused Central Piedmont on ensuring student success is at the heart of all that it undertakes.

As a community college graduate, she also knows the journey of many of Central Piedmont’s students and believes that the impact of Central Piedmont on an individual’s life and our community can be transformational.

Through her career, she has experienced first-hand the challenges women face as they work to have a lasting impact on their organizations and advance into leadership positions. She understands well the importance of women leaders having mentors and serving as mentors.

Kandi Deitemeyer brings her high-impact energy and engagement to many local, statewide, and national efforts. Locally, she serves on the Charlotte Executive Leadership Council, Leading on Opportunity Council, and the Novant Health Greater Charlotte Market Board of Trustees.  She is an active member of the North Carolina Association of Community College Presidents. As a commitment to future community college leadership, she serves as an advisory board member for the Belk Center for Community College Leadership and Research at North Carolina State University. Nationally, she has served as an executive board member of the American Association of Community Colleges.

Dr. Deitemeyer and her husband, Gary, and their daughter, Zoe, are proud to make their home in Charlotte.

Christopher Chung
Chief Executive Officer
Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina

In 2015, Christopher Chung joined the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina (EDPNC) as Chief Executive Officer and brings more than 23 years of state-level economic development experience to the role.

As a public-private partnership, the EDPNC is responsible for a number of economic development functions on behalf of the State of North Carolina, including new business recruitment, existing business support, international trade and export assistance, small business start-up counseling, and tourism, sports, and film promotion. With a staff of 70 professionals and an annual operating budget of more than $25 million, the EDPNC is focused on improving the economic well-being and quality of life for North Carolina’s more than 10 million residents.

Since 2015, the EDPNC has helped North Carolina win more than 1,000 corporate expansion projects, resulting in nearly 151,000 announced new jobs and $43 billion in announced new investment across the state.

Chris previously held various executive and management responsibilities at the Missouri Partnership (2007-2014) and the Ohio Department of Development, now known as JobsOhio (1997-2007).

Chris attended The Ohio State University (OSU), graduating Phi Beta Kappa with a double-major in Japanese and economics. He also completed significant coursework towards a Master’s in Public Policy and Management.

Chris resides in Raleigh, North Carolina, with his wife, Emily, and daughter, Elizabeth.

Colin Kiser
Director of Business Development

Colin Kiser is the Director of Business Development for Spotit, a Belgian network and security specialist with global HQ in Ghent, Belgium and North American HQ in Raleigh, NC. He comes from the corporate site selection and economic development recruiting world, working with decision makers to sift through the manifold business factors driving a new investment or expansion. 

After six (6) years at the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina, he now focuses on bringing solutions to companies’ network and security needs. Colin resides in Raleigh, NC, with his family, and is constantly daydreaming of the mountains.

Henk De Jonghe
Strategic Consultant
Automation COE Lead

Henk is an experienced polyvalent and driven IT digital leader who loves to achieve success by showing real leadership in challenging environments and blow energy into projects and people. Thinking outside the box, a “make it happen culture,” and focus on solutions rather than problems.

This mindset helped him a lot in supporting organizations that are in front of significant business changes and have to (re)create their processes and system implementations.

Keep the balance between business demands and IT capabilities, invest in meaningful interactions with the customers and manage the portfolio in a pragmatic manner. Henk sees change as an opportunity and there is always a way forward.

Henk has over 25 years of experience in biotech and pharma. He has transformed early startup organizations into full pharmaceutical companies and helped companies with business transformations across the value chain, re-designing of teams and general change management.

Pieterjan Donck
Group IT Infrastructure Manager
BekaertDeslee Holding

Sarah Hutchins
Partner, Cybersecurity and Data Privacy Team
Parker Poe Adams & Bernstein LLP

Sarah Hutchins leads the firm’s Cybersecurity and Data Privacy team and is certified as a legal specialist in Privacy and Information Security Law by the
North Carolina State Bar.

Sarah helps clients navigate business litigation, government investigations, and data privacy and cybersecurity matters. She has significant experience representing clients in business disputes, including over noncompetition and non-solicitation agreements, trade secret misappropriation, and unfair and deceptive trade practices. Her deep understanding of the digital aspects of business litigation allows her to assist clients in quickly identifying a digital trail and isolating key material.

Sarah’s experience with business litigation and government investigations strengthens her cybersecurity and data privacy practice. She is recognized by the IAPP as a Certified Information Privacy Professional/United States (CIPP/US), which is the gold standard for privacy professionals in America. Sarah counsels multi-national corporations on compliance with federal and state data privacy and security regulations, advises on the cross-border transfer of personal data, and coordinates data breach responses with governmental and quasi-governmental entities. Sarah’s extensive litigation experience includes federal and state civil lawsuits related to data privacy, security, and information technology.

Sarah also has extensive experience in large-scale government investigations featuring the U.S. Department of Justice, the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Federal Trade Commission, and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, among other regulators. A seasoned litigator, she is admitted to practice before state and federal courts in North Carolina and Virginia, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, and the District of Columbia Court of Appeals.

Sarah is ranked by her peers in Chambers USA; Best Lawyers in America; and Benchmark Litigation. Over the last few years, she has received multiple accolades and awards in recognition of her commitment to her profession as well as her community. Sarah received her BA from Vanderbilt University and JD from William & Mary. She is licensed to practice law in North Carolina, Washington D.C. and Virginia.

Steven Vynckier
Founding Partner

With 20+ years of experience in the IT sector, Steven Vynckier, co-founder of Spotit, brings experience and insight to his clients and their networking and security needs to create a comprehensive vision to protect and add core business value to any firm. Based in Ghent, Belgium, you’ll find him running and cycling on the weekend with his wife and 2 kids.

Katarina Fjording
Head of Volvo Car University and Sustainability Americas
Volvo Car USA LLC

Katarina is a senior executive and an automotive veteran with over 30 years of global experience from Europe, Asia and America. A mechanical engineer, Katarina has held several senior positions with Volvo Cars including Vice President Manufacturing Asia while stationed in China. In her most recent assignment, as Vice President Purchasing & Manufacturing Americas, she led the establishing of Volvo Car’s first industrial footprint in America including overseeing the build of the production facility in South Carolina. 

Katarina served on the board of Sunfleet Car Sharing, on the Swedish Chamber of Commerce in China and as an Executive Board Member of the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce. Katarina is the Chair of the Red Cross SC Lowcountry Board and she currently serves on Clemson University President’s Advisory Board, College of Charleston School of Business Board of Governors, Cradle to Career Board, Gibbes museum Board and she is a former Honorary Commander and now a Palmetto Leader at the Joint Military Base Charleston. 

Katarina is an Honorary Doctor of Science with Claflin University, a Manufacturing Institute STEP Ahead Award Honoree and a Founder’s Award Honoree with the Trident Literacy Association. Katarina loves the outdoors and mainly enjoys it through sail racing and hunting and she has visited Antarctica and the Arctic.

Harry M. Lightsey III
Secretary of Commerce
South Carolina Department of Commerce

Harry M. Lightsey III was appointed by Governor Henry McMaster to serve as Secretary of Commerce in June 2021. A fixture in South Carolina’s business community for decades, Lightsey served in top executive leadership roles for major corporations in South Carolina and across the nation. Notably, he served as the president of BellSouth Telecommunications for South Carolina prior to the company’s merger with AT&T, afterward becoming president for AT&T’s Southeast region.

Following his 26 years in the telecommunications industry, Lightsey joined the General Motors Corporation where he directed the legacy automaker’s federal government affairs operation, as well as the emerging technologies, OnStar and infotainment divisions. Lightsey most recently served as a principal with Hawksbill Advisors – a subsidiary of Hawksbill Group. He has also served as a member of the board of directors of the Federal Reserve Bank in Richmond, Virginia.

Mr. Lightsey is a 1978 graduate of Princeton University, and a 1981 graduate of the University of South Carolina School of Law. 

Lightsey, a native of Columbia, S.C., is married with two adult children.

Richard Kugelmann, CEC®, CCA®, AAC®
Dean of Skilled Trades and Public Services
Central Piedmont Community College

Richard graduated from Methodist in 1982 with a degree in Business and from Central Piedmont Community College in 1996 with a degree in Culinary Technology. Richard is a native of Germany and came to America when he was five (5) years old.  

After several years in banking and finance, Richard entered the foodservice industry and spent 10 years working for hotels and restaurants as both a chef and a general manager.  He was a proprietor with Outback Steakhouse. He owned several restaurants in Fayetteville, NC, before entering culinary education at Fayetteville Technical Community College, where he served as a faculty member and Department Chair for the Culinary Program. In 2017, Richard went to Central Piedmont Community College as the Division Director for the Hospitality Education Programs featuring Culinary Arts, Baking & Pastry Arts, and Hospitality Management.  

Richard is the past president of the North Carolina Chapter of the American Culinary Federation, was the Competition Committee Co-Chair, and served on the Certification Committee for the Chefs of Charlotte chapter. Richard has his Certified Executive Chef CEC®, Certified Culinary Administrator CCA®, and is a candidate for the Certified Culinary Educator CCE® certifications with the American Culinary Federation. He was inducted into the American Academy of Chefs AAC® in 2019.

Jeff Kellar
Chief Executive Officer

Jeff has spent the last 15 years as President/CEO in private equity packaging companies driving step change improvements in EBITDA with a focus on strategic growth levers, operational improvement and organizational process change management. His experience is both domestic and international.

Prior to Jeff’s work experience in private equity, he was with notable public and private corporations, Miller Brewing, Tetra Pak and Alcoa, building his foundation of experience that would enable him to successfully lead in private equity. 

Today, Jeff is CEO at VPET USA LLC, a portfolio company of Graham Partners. VPET is a national supplier of rigid plastic packaging for the food, beverage, and nutritional markets. He joined VPET in 2019. Jeff also serves on the board of Altor Solutions, a portfolio Company of Compass Equity and on the board of Soteria, a portfolio company of Ardian Partners. All the board roles are in packaging companies that reflect his experience in flexible and protective packaging. He also serves as an investor and advisor for Spring Ventures, Spring Island, SC.

Prior to VPET, Jeff was CEO at Alpha Packaging rigid plastics, a portfolio company of Irving Place Capital; Pregis Hexacomb protective packaging, a portfolio company of AEA Investors; and, Alcoa’s Flexible packaging business that was later sold to the Rank Group.

Jeff earned a BS in Food Science from the Pennsylvania State University and an MBA from the University of North Carolina.

Hal Teegarden
Chief Operating Officer
HS Growers LLC

Hal Teegarden has extensive experiences in agribusiness, which range from running a small family farm to directing agriculture operations for multinational agribusiness in a large corporate setting as well as in a startup setting. 

He has worked globally, managing research activities, developing, and implementing production programs, developing supply chains, building teams, and sharing best practices. His journey in the Stevia Industry began in 2010 following a 20 plus year career in the tobacco industry, and today, he finds himself in the role of Chief Operating Officer for HS Growers LLC.

Hal received his undergraduate degree in Agriculture from the University of Kentucky. He attended Xavier University studying behavioral sciences and further developed his leadership skills in The Executive Program (TEP) at the University of Virginia, Darden School of Business.

Karsten Uhlmann
Chief Executive Officer
BCA Brewing Corporation of the Americas (Gilde USA) 

Karsten Uhlmann has been CEO of BCA Brewing Corporation of the Americas (Gilde USA) since 2019. The prominent German beermaker recently opened Gilde 1546 in Charlotte’s popular Lower South End neighborhood. Uhlmann assembled a team of accomplished brewmasters and chefs to open the 350-seat brewpub that is his company’s first brewery outside of Germany.

Gilde began brewing beer in 1546 and is also using Charlotte as its headquarters for its new U.S. operations. Uhlmann is leading the company’s strategy to consider creating similar craft breweries in other Southeast cities as well as to build a facility capable of producing about 500,000 barrels of beer a year for national distribution. Gilde 1546 in Charlotte, by comparison, has an annual capacity of 5,000 barrels.

Uhlmann has been a Managing Partner with Gilde’s parent company, TCB Beteiligungsgesellschaft mbH – or TCB Beverages – since 2002. He’s a married father of three daughters who studied chemical engineering at Humboldt University and the Technical University of Berlin.

Katherine Ross
Partner, Energy & Environment Practice Group
Parker Poe Adams & Bernstein LLP

Katherine Ross leads Parker Poe’s Energy & Environment Practice Group. She provides legal counsel on the acquisition, sale, financing, and permitting of renewable energy facilities across the Southeast, coordinating transaction documents and due diligence for portfolios ranging in size from five megawatts to hundreds of megawatts. 

Her clients include developers of renewable energy facilities, investors in those developments, and entities providing loans and credit vehicles to them. She also represents commercial and industrial businesses seeking renewable energy resources. Katherine routinely advises energy clients on power purchase agreements, interconnection agreements, and agreements for the sale of renewable energy certificates. 

She also represents clients seeking utility commission and other development-related permits at the local, state, and federal levels. She helps clients navigate regulatory changes and advises on regulatory compliance matters. Katherine works with clients to navigate complex issues and evaluate the most cost-efficient path forward, including through negotiations with local and state agencies when necessary. Katherine and her team have significant experience addressing issues unique to renewable energy developments in the southeast.

Katherine serves as Vice Chair of the Southeastern Wind Coalition, is active with the North Carolina Bar Association Energy Environment & Natural Resources Law Section Council, serves on the Board of Directors for StepUp Ministry (Raleigh) and StepUp North Carolina, and is on Parker Poe’s Pro Bono Committee and Social Justice and Racial Equity Taskforce.

Andrew Tate
Director, North Carolina Economic Development
Duke Energy

Andrew Tate serves as director of North Carolina Economic Development. Prior
to joining the Duke Energy Economic Development team, he served as vice president of real estate for the North Carolina Railroad Company, driving utilization, revenue and partnership with over 9,300 acres of railroad and non-operating real estate assets. 

Andrew has over 15 years of experience in the economic development realm in North Carolina, including real estate and industrial site development, public policy and leveraging resources to drive partnership, job creation and revenue. 

He served as president & CEO of the Henderson County Partnership for Economic Development in Hendersonville from 2007-2017. Andrew served on the North Carolina Economic Development Association Board of Directors as Legislative Committee co-chair for three years and a term as president, in addition to appointed service on the Greater Asheville Regional Airport Authority and the Blue Ridge Community College Board of Trustees.

He is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Leadership North Carolina Class XIV. He is a recipient of the 2016 Site Selectors Guild Excellence in Economic Development Award, and Development Counsellors International 40 Under 40 Class of 2017.

Andrew grew up in Fuquay-Varina, N.C. He and wife, Brooke, are raising three boys (Everett, Winston and Fielding) in Raleigh.

James E. (Jim) Glassman
Managing Director, JPMorgan Chase & Co.
Head Economist, Chase Commercial Banking

As managing director with JPMorgan Chase and head economist for Chase Commercial Banking, James Glassman provides market insights to help clients better understand the changing economy and its impact on their business. Mr. Glassman also works closely with the firm’s Corporate Sector, including the Chief Investment Office and Investor Relations, as well as the Investment Bank and Government Relations groups, providing financial analysis and research.

A publisher of independent research on the principal forces shaping the economy and financial markets, Mr. Glassman is regularly cited in the financial media, where he is also a frequent commentator on economic policy issues. Additionally, he is a long-standing participant in the widely followed Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia Survey of Professional Forecasters and the National Association of Business Economists’ panel of macro-economic forecasters.

From 1979 through 1988, Mr. Glassman served as a senior economist in the Research & Statistics and Monetary Affairs departments at the Federal Reserve Board in Washington, D.C. His responsibilities ranged from analysis and forecasting of inflation and labor market developments, to analysis of the Federal Reserve’s operating strategies and interest rate markets, to the development of monetary and reserves projections. He joined Morgan Guaranty in 1988 and then Chemical Bank in 1993, which, through a combination of mergers, became JPMorgan Chase & Co. Mr. Glassman earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana and a master’s degree in Economics from the University of Illinois, Chicago. He was awarded a Ph.D. in Economics from Northwestern University.

David Verner
Executive Vice President, Industrial
Gresham Smith

David Verner is a registered architect and executive vice president of Gresham Smith’s Industrial market. He has more than three decades of experience working with national and international clients on major investments in diverse markets including advanced manufacturing, automotive, energy storage and FDA-regulated facilities. Most recently, he has provided executive oversight for multiple lithium-ion battery plants, including Ultium Cells, a joint venture with General Motors and LG Energy Solution that’s developing batteries to power GM’s electric vehicle fleet. The first $2.3 billion, 2.8 million square-foot plant in Lordstown, Ohio, is expected to open later this year, while a second in Spring Hill, Tennessee, will open in 2023.

Verner has spoken and written extensively about his expertise in battery plant design, lean design and construction, site selection and other topics. He has been published in outlets such as Battery Technology, Industry Week, Area Development and New Equipment Digest.

Steve Christian
Senior Director, Americas Sales
STAR Electric Vehicles Corporation

Steve Christian is a professional sales and marketing executive with over 25 years of successful business development at large, successful companies including MCI Telecommunication, Sprint Corporation, and Meredith Corporation.  He also founded two successful Internet companies, InterLan Technologies, an early adapter of fault-tolerant Web hosting (cloud networking), and the awarding-winning website HowStuffWorks.com which was later acquired by The Discovery Channel.

Since joining the STAR EV Team in 2011, Steve has assisted STAR in launching and marketing numerous electric vehicle models, significantly growing the dealer base, and increasing overall vehicle sales. He manages a professional sales force that services over 350 authorized electric vehicle dealers in North and South America.  Steve is an instrumental member of STAR’s senior management team where he actively advises and consults on business strategy, product development, driving vehicle sales, and increasing revenue. 

Morgan Crapps
Principal, Site Selection Consultant
Parker Poe Consulting, LLC

Morgan Crapps is a Principal with Parker Poe Consulting. Parker Poe Consulting is a boutique location advisory firm that works with corporate clients to find optimal locations for their entry, expansion, or relocation in North America. Parker Poe Consulting is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Parker Poe Adams & Bernstein, a full-service business law firm with 230+ attorneys. Morgan frequently advises companies on manufacturing, distribution, office, and development projects and has significant experience working with global businesses to facilitate foreign direct investment (FDI) in the United States. She also negotiates and structures incentive agreements with state and local governments.

Morgan previously worked for a mid-sized law firm as an attorney in the economic development and international arenas, where her practice focused on tax and incentives. Prior to that, Morgan worked for a U.S. State’s Department of Commerce, both as a Project Manager in Global Business Development and as Senior Manager of International Strategy and Trade. In these roles, she was responsible for recruiting companies from around the world and streamlining their investment projects to create jobs and bring investment to the state. She also helped to manage the State’s international offices in Europe, Japan, China and India.

Morgan obtained her undergraduate degree from Clemson University and her law degree from the University of South Carolina School of Law. She is also a graduate of the Economic Development Institute at the University of Oklahoma. She is a native of Morgantown, West Virginia, and now resides in Columbia, South Carolina, with her husband, daughter and two dogs.

Ravindra (Ravi) Nagarkar
Chief Executive Officer
Bharat Forge Aluminum USA 

Ravindra “Ravi” Nagarkar is an experienced professional with 28 years of experience in the Automotive, Forging & Heat Treatment industries. He has a Bachelors’ Degree in Metallurgy from the Government College of Engineering of Pune, India & a M.S in Manufacturing Systems Engineering from the University of Warwick, UK.

Ravi began his journey with Kalyani Technoforge in 2011 and now stands as the company’s Managing Director. He is responsible for several manufacturing companies in the Kalyani group such as Kalyani Transmission Technologies Pvt. Ltd and INMET. He additionally serves as CEO for the group’s most recent green field manufacturing facility located in Sanford, NC, Bharat Forge Aluminum USA. This endeavor is Bharat Forge’s Center for Light Weighting Technologies and E-mobility businesses, including aluminum die cast components and aluminum forging components for chassis. Bharat Forge originally invested in green manufacturing in Germany and Ravi has been at the helm of establishing the American site, the Kalyani group’s most diverse location yet. 

Ravi is a highly motivated pioneer for improvement with a proven track record of leading organizations to achieve substantial growth in revenue, profitability, and advanced technology, allowing for an enhanced product portfolio. While bringing smart technology and TPM practices into the workplace are important, Ravi also considers four morale pillars to set the framework for success: hard work, team building, people development, and system development.

Leighton Yates
Senior Manager, Government Affairs
VinFast US

With more than 10 years of policy and government affairs experience, Leighton Yates serves as the Senior Manager of Government Affairs at VinFast. The company is a rapidly growing global manufacturer of premium affordable electric SUVs and Leighton is the lead representative on 50-state political, legislative, and regulatory affairs, as well as many federal and local matters.  VinFast has also recently announced plans to build its first U.S. manufacturing facility in Chatham County, NC, where the $4 billion site will begin production by the end of 2024.  This project is the largest economic development project in North Carolina history. Most recently, Leighton helped secure the largest corporate incentive awarded by the state.

Oliver Hecking, CPA
Rödl & Partner USA

Oliver Hecking is a Partner at Langford de Kock LLP, Charlotte, North Carolina, and Rödl Langford de Kock LLP Greenville, South Carolina (both “Rödl & Partner USA”), where he specializes in international taxation and auditing for European, primarily German, speaking companies in the U.S. Oliver assists foreign companies with their first U.S. market entry and is also a frequent speaker on various international tax and accounting topics.

Oliver has more than 25 years public accounting experience in the U.S. Before joining the Carolina Practice of Rödl & Partner USA in 2009, Oliver worked in several offices around the world, including Atlanta, Georgia; Nuremberg, Germany; and Moscow, Russia.

Areas of Expertise

» Attest services (audits, reviews and agreed-upon procedures) in accordance with US-GAAP, IFRS and German GAAP

» US-GAAP/IFRS/German GAAP conversions

» International taxation and planning

» Corporate and individual taxation planning

» Specialized in consulting with European companies that conduct business in the U.S.

» Assistance with market entry which includes site selection

» Frequent speaker on accounting, tax and general business aspects of establishing subsidiaries in the U.S. market

Sam C. Moses
Partner and Co-Chair, Manufacturing & Distribution Industry Team
Parker Poe Adams and Bernstein LLP

Sam Moses is a corporate and economic development attorney who represents U.S. and international companies, including manufacturers, distributors, industrial developers and renewable energy businesses. He advises on a variety of transactions and coordinates business expansion and incentives projects for companies throughout the United States.

Prior to joining Parker Poe, he served as managing director of the State of South Carolina’s European Office in Germany, advising European investors on U.S. site location projects. He also managed South Carolina’s export development program for Europe, Africa, and the Middle East, advising U.S. companies on international trade and market entry strategies. In 2002, he was selected to serve as a Robert Bosch Foundation Fellow in Frankfurt, Germany, during which he worked for Credit Suisse First Boston and Gleiss Lutz, a leading German law firm.

Since 2010, Sam has been involved in business expansion and incentives projects resulting in more than $10 billion in capital investment, as well as the creation of more than 10,000 jobs in various industries, including food processing, automotive, powertrain, metalworking, advanced materials, electronics, renewable energy, chemicals, agribusiness and aerospace.

Sam has received multiple accolades from the legal and business communities over the years for his advising in the area of international business and economic development.  Most recently he was ranked in The Best Lawyers in America,® whose rankings are among the highest standard in the legal industry. He is one of the Co-founders of the Global Carolina Connections conference. Sam stays active in multiple professional organizations including the German American Chamber of Commerce, the South Carolina Economic Developers Association and the South Carolina I-77 Alliance. Sam is fluent in German.