Forming Our Future

Forming Our Future


Ben Axelrod
Managing Director, Investment Banking, CliftonLarsonAllen LLP Ben Axelrod

Ben Axelrod, the group head of CLA’s investment banking practice, has 20 years of M&A advisory and related transaction execution experience. He joined CLA in 2014 to formally launch investment banking capabilities for CLA’s clients who are looking to transition ownership of their business. During his career, Ben has completed more than 60 investment banking assignments and is an expert at selling a business. His investment banking expertise covers a broad array of industries, including industrial, automotive components, food companies, business services, dealerships, and consumer products.

Prior to joining CLA, Ben worked at Lazard Middle Market LLC, RBC Capital Markets, and BHF Bank in Frankfurt, Germany. He received a Bachelor’s degree in Economics, augmented by a minor in international relations, from Stanford University.


Jason Chaffetz
Former U.S. Congressman (UT) & Chairman of Oversight & Gov. Reform Committee, United States House of Representative Jason Chaffetz

Former Congressman Jason Chaffetz is a Fox News Channel contributor and a former Fellow at the Institute of Politics at Harvard University.

Chaffetz was elected to Congress in 2008 and served until 2017. He was selected by his peers to be a Chairman of the powerful Oversight & Government Reform Committee, where he led investigations into the United States Secret Service, the Department of Education I.T. vulnerabilities, the Drug Enforcement Agency, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) data breach, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Benghazi terrorist attack, Fast & Furious and the IRS scandal.

Prior to Congress, he was Chief of Staff to the Governor of Utah. A former placekicker on the Brigham Young University Football Team, he earned his BA in Communications in 1989 and then joined the local business community for 16 years before entering the public sector.

Alba Contreras Rodriguez
President, FonS (Focus On Solution), LLC Alba Contreras Rodriguez

Alba Contreras Rodriguez is the president of FonS (Focus on Solution), LLC, which provides executive coaching and consulting for leaders and organizations to excel and enable digital transformation, focused on human readiness for technology adoption. She spent her career at Ford Motor Company, General Motors Corporation, and KPMG management consulting, where she gained international and global experience in operations, lean manufacturing, industrial engineering, vehicle launches, management consulting, information technology and e-commerce.

Alba holds a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and Computer & Information Sciences from the University of Florida and an MBA from University of Michigan Ross School of Business. She also earned a Technology, Operations and Value Chain Management Executive Certificate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Sloan School of Management.

Jay Douglass
COO, ARM Advanced Robotics For Manufacturing Jay Douglass

Jay is chief operating officer of Advanced Robotics for Manufacturing (ARM). Founded at Carnegie Mellon University in January 2017 and now operating as an independent nonprofit, ARM won an $80 million grant from the U.S. Department of Defense to become the leading catalyst of robotics innovation to accelerate growth in US-based manufacturing. ARM operates as part of the Manufacturing USA network, and is supported by an additional $150 million in commitments from 170 members and partners in industry, academia, technology, government and economic development groups.

Previously, Jay worked at the Software Engineering Institute at Carnegie Mellon University, where he focused on developing business opportunities for technology development and technology transfer with commercial organizations. He most recently managed the SEI’s business in Europe.

Jay received a BS in Business Administration from Miami University and an MBA from the University of Pittsburgh.

Daron Gifford
Partner, strategy and automotive industry consulting, Plante Moran, PLLC Daron Gifford

Daron Gifford is partner-in-charge of Plante Moran’s strategy and automotive industry consulting practices. With more than four decades of industry experience in automotive, manufacturing, energy and experience, Daron is known for his versatility and thoughtful, strategic insights as a trusted advisor to executives globally. His extensive experience includes technology, operations and strategic management consulting for a wide range of companies in manufacturing and services, encompassing strategy, market and operational assessments, due diligence, restructuring, and business planning for technologies in advanced vehicles, energy, and environmental applications.  He also has served as a senior adviser to the U.S. Department of Energy on the automotive industry and advanced technologies.
Daron has a Master of Business Administration from the Darden School at the University of Virginia, and a Bachelor of Industrial Administration from General Motors Institute (now Kettering University). 

John Guzik
Partner, The Franklin Partnership, LLP John Guzik

John Guzik is a founding partner of The Franklin Partnership, LLP, the bipartisan Washington, D.C.-based government relations firm that represents PMA’s interests before Congress and the Administration.

John has nearly 30 years of Capitol Hill and campaign experience. Prior to The Franklin Partnership, John served as the chief of staff for Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp; the deputy executive director of the National Republican Congressional Committee, where he was the liaison with the House Republican Leadership; and a top political strategist and fundraiser for the former House Policy Committee Chairman.

Mike Hart
Senior Product Manager, Strategy & IoT Delivery, Plex Systems Inc. Mike Hart

Mike Hart is director, product management, manufacturing and industrial IoT at Plex Systems. In this role, he designs and builds cloud solutions exclusively for the manufacturing industry. Mike also leads IoT (Internet of Things) product innovation, helping global manufacturers leverage the latest connected technologies to achieve more efficient, agile and automated operations. Mike has nearly 20 years of experience in the cloud software industry.

Bill Hickey
Chairman, Lapham-Hickey Steel Corp Bill Hickey

Bill Hickey is chairman of Lapham-Hickey Steel Corp., a steel service center founded in 1926. This family-owned and operated company has seven locations with approximately 600 employees. Lapham-Hickey is currently ranked as one of the top 50 service centers in the United States.


Bill has held several positions within Lapham-Hickey since his employment at the company began in 1975. He has been in his current position since 1980. 


Bill also has held chapter and national leadership positions in MSCI and currently is a member of the Chairman’s Emeritus Council.


Lisa Horn
Director of Consulting, CliftonLarsonAllen LLP Lisa Horn

With more than 20 years of transformation and leadership experience, Lisa Horn advises senior leaders on mission, vision, values, strategy and goals to effectively execute plans that drive personal and organizational success. Through training, coaching and problem solving, she enables people to adopt the mindsets, skills and behaviors needed to make change and drive business results. As a certified exit planning advisor, Lisa guides privately held and closely held businesses to develop strategies that address all aspects of a transition to optimize value now and in the future.

Previously, Lisa served as a continuous improvement consultant for a community health system and held supply chain and continuous improvement positions for a leading global manufacturer of health care and hygiene products.

Kirk Lippold
Commander (Ret.) , U.S. Navy Kirk Lippold

Commander Kirk Lippold, USN(Ret.) is an engaged leader, hands-on crisis management practitioner, and a go-to global security expert for major news networks.

CDR Lippold commanded the USS Cole when it was targeted by a deadly al Qaeda terrorist attack in 2000, 11 months before 9/11. His team training prior to the attack and unflappable leadership galvanized his crew to take action, resulting in saved lives and a saved ship.

Today, as a renowned speaker, CDR Lippold helps equip business leaders to manage challenges and ensure success in a complex world where financial, security and global threats are of critical concern across industry sectors.

A compelling storyteller, CDR Lippold draws upon his Five Pillars of Leadership to offer strategies he learned and applied to instill integrity into his team members and mitigate crises throughout his naval career. With takeaways for organizations on assessing their own successes and failures to prepare for what the future may hold, his lessons shared can make the difference when it matters most.

Omar Nashashibi
Partner, The Franklin Partnership, LLP Omar Nashashibi

Omar Nashashibi is a founding partner of The Franklin Partnership, LLP, the bipartisan Washington, D.C.-based government relations firm that represents PMA’s interests before Congress and the Administration.

Omar has nearly 20 years of experience working with policymakers, politicians and the media. Prior to The Franklin Partnership, Omar worked for the Office of Management and Budget. Earlier in his career, he served as a research assistant at the Institute for Public Accuracy, promoting policy to the media. In 1995, he began his career in Washington, D.C. covering congressional and agency hearings for a nationwide nonprofit publication

Paul Nathanson
Partner, Bracewell LLP Paul Nathanson

Paul Nathanson is a founding partner of the Policy Resolution Group at Bracewell, PMA’s strategic communications firm.

Paul has more than 20 years of experience in strategic communications, with a focus on reputation management, message development and implementation, public policy analysis, media relations and strategic counseling services. His expertise helps clients formulate their arguments in persuasive ways and ensures that their views are heard and understood by target audiences, including Members of Congress, policymakers, the news media and the public.

Erin Riffle
Workforce Development & METALFORM EDU Lead, Precision Metalforming Association Erin Riffle

Erin Riffle is the workforce development and METALFORM EDU lead at the Precision Metalforming Association. Previously, she worked with the PMA Educational Foundation as an development associate. Erin has a master's degree in nonprofit administration and has a passion for education and training.

Carey Smith
Founder of Unorthodox Ventures and Former Chief Big Ass of Big Ass Fans , Big Ass Fans Carey Smith

A career entrepreneur, Carey founded Big Ass Fans in 1999 and served as its CEO, or Chief Big Ass as he preferred, for 18 years. While other companies made and lost their fortunes, Carey’s contrarian business practices and relentless pursuit of new markets and high-quality products led to sustained, rapid growth. By 2017, Carey had grown the fan and light manufacturer to $250 million in annual revenue and nearly 1,000 employees. And he’d done it without any outside investors.

Ready for a new challenge, he sold Big Ass Fans in late 2017 for $500 million. The company’s stock appreciation rights program paid out $50 million to more than 100 loyal employees who shared Carey’s work ethic, with 15 becoming instant millionaires. Carey relocated to Austin and started Unorthodox Ventures, his twist on a business incubator that's seeking small companies with big potential.

Lizabeth Stuck
Head of Engagement and Workforce , UI LABS - DMDII Lizabeth Stuck

Lizabeth Stuck is the head of engagement and workforce Development at UI LABS. In this role, Lizabeth has oversight of the development and execution of the organization’s partner engagement and workforce development strategies, including management of partner relations and the development of partner and workforce initiatives.

Prior to joining UI LABS in April 2015, Lizabeth was the deputy director of the Office of Advisory Committees at the U.S. Department of Commerce. She also has held roles at the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. Office of Management and Budget, and the White House Office of Legislative Affairs. Lizabeth has a Master of Business and Entrepreneurship from DePaul University and a bachelor’s degree in Journalism from Indiana University.

Scott Walton
Chief Operating Officer, Harbour Results Inc. Scott Walton

Scott Walton is chief operating officer at Harbour Results, Inc. With more than 25 years of experience in strategic planning, operations management, lean manufacturing and supply chain management, he has assisted multi-national companies, government entities and business professionals worldwide. Scott’s areas of expertise include automotive, plastics, defense and distribution.

Prior to joining Harbour Results Inc., Scott was president at Automotive Market Segment for Nypro Inc., where he was responsible for development and deployment of automotive strategy on a worldwide scale. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from Temple University. His engineering degree is supplemented with extensive post-graduate courses and professional training as well as two expatriate assignments with British and Europe operational responsibilities.

Tom Wujec
Founder , The Wujec Group Tom Wujec

During his tenure as chief disruptor at Autodesk—the Oscar-winning industry leader in 3D-computer-animation technology, and one of the world’s largest software companies—Tom Wujec worked with a diverse range of clients, from the largest automotive and consumer product manufacturers to the visual effects and gaming companies. He’s celebrated for his talks on innovation: why it matters, why it is a vital engine of economic growth (especially today), and how to foster it within any organization—from plucky startups to billion-dollar legacy companies. Working closely with top companies, he’s counted on to create innovation practices at all stages, from strategic planning to design and implementation. Now—and with his latest book The Future of Making—he brings his vision of disruptive innovation to global audiences, demonstrating how the entire process of imagining, iterating, constructing, manufacturing, distributing, and selling products has changed.

He’s also been a leading advocate of making work visible within a company, of transforming ideas into images that enhance clarity and engagement, leading to intelligent and successful new products, services and processes. He has brought several award-winning products to market, and has published a number of influential books, including Return on Imagination, Five Star Mind and Pumping Ions. His book, Imagine Design Create, was released at TED 2011 to rave reviews.

Ty Young
BizOps, Chief Financial Officer, CliftonLarsonAllen LLP Ty Young

As a corporate finance and operational leader with more than 25 years of measurable success, Ty helps companies achieve their growth objectives. After starting his career with the Big Four, he entered into the private sector, utilizing his financial skill set to increase the bottom line of several companies. He owned a manufacturing facility in Monterrey, Mexico with distribution and a smaller manufacturing facility in the United States.


Serving as a Director of BizOps for CLA, Ty delivers outsourcing and consulting services to businesses and organizations of all sizes. His strength in streamlining financial and operational processes affords him the ability to be a valuable strategic partner across a multitude of industries.



Allison Grealis

Vice President of Association Services

(216) 901-8800
Email Allison

Sponsorship Information