Looking to the future

GVL / Courtesy - GVSU University Communications
Mike Wall of IHS Automotive presents during the 17th West Michigan Automotive Suppliers Symposium inside Grand Valleys Loosemore Auditorium on Thursday, March 10, 2016.

GVSU University Communications

GVL / Courtesy – GVSU University Communications Mike Wall of IHS Automotive presents during the 17th West Michigan Automotive Suppliers Symposium inside Grand Valley’s Loosemore Auditorium on Thursday, March 10, 2016.

Kyle Doyle

Big-name manufacturers roll out their newest technology and innovations every year during the multiple auto shows across the country. Whether they’re in Los Angeles, Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland, Philadelphia or New York, the biggest names in the automotive industry try to outdo each other and garner a bigger share of whatever market they are competing in (full-size truck/SUV, midsize sedan, sport coupe, etc.).

However, it’s not possible for these multibillion-dollar corporations to flaunt what they’ve got without the help of the suppliers that feed them the parts and technology they use. And the supplier themselves have to be innovative and keep up with trends if they want to get the biggest contracts.

Coming to Grand Valley State University, the suppliers based in West Michigan plan to show off just what they have and what the future has in store.

The 18th West Michigan Automotive Suppliers Symposium, hosted by the GVSU Van Andel Global Trade Center (VAGTC), will take place from 8 a.m. to noon. Thursday, March 9, in the DeVos Center Loosemore Auditorium. The purpose of the event is to display what the industry is offering through a series of keynote speakers and panel discussions.

“They’ve had a few months since the Detroit Auto Show to kind of digest some of the technology and the things that were covered,” said Sonja Johnson, executive director of the VAGTC. “This is where we get together as a supplier community and just talk about what’s going on in the industry.”

The event acts as a showcase in which suppliers from all over western Michigan can come and talk about what they have been up to and the ways in which they hope to improve and grow in the future.

This year’s keynote speakers are Bryan Nyeholt, vice president of global product, process strategy and execution at YanFeng Automotive Interiors, who will be speaking on how to grow emerging and healthy markets, and Mike Wall, director of automotive analysis at IHS Markit and a GVSU alumnus, who will be speaking on the outlook of the automotive industry.

“The biggest thing is we really want the audience to be looking further out,” Johnson said. “You gotta be looking three, five, ten years out because that’s how you stay ahead of the global curve.”

At this year’s event, there will also be a panel composed of four panelists, two of whom will be speaking on retaining talent in an organization and two who will be speaking on strategy for innovation. The panelists will be moderated and will field questions from the audience.

Along with listening to the keynote speakers and engaging with the panelists, attendees will be able to network and mingle with people in the industry. At the event, multiple companies will have booths set up in order for people to get information on new products and open up possible avenues for employment.

Along with people from the industry, GVSU students will be in attendance as well. Many of these students will be helping with the setup of the event and with running microphones back-and-forth during Q&A sessions and guiding people, Johnson said. One graduate student will also be moderating some of the events.

Students will also be able to talk to some people from the industry to open their own paths post-graduation.

The event will bring together some of the best the industry has to offer as they look to better themselves in this ever-growing and competitive market, which Johnson said is crucial.

“The industry is becoming an ever more automated and wireless (connection, so) how are they staying connected and staying above the curve?” Johnson said.