Van Andel Global Trade Center hosts 22nd annual Automotive Suppliers Symposium


Courtesy / ArtiFlex Manufacturing

Jacob DeWeerd

The Van Andel Global Trade Center (VAGTC) hosted the 22nd Annual West Michigan Automotive Suppliers Symposium on Thursday, March 11. For the first time, the event was conducted virtually, with industry professionals from companies like Lucid Motors, Rivian, and IHS MarkIt speaking over Zoom. 

The symposium is held every year to share industry forecasts, cover current issues and give attendees networking opportunities.

This year, most of the discussion was focused on emerging trends in the automotive industry. Electric vehicles (EVs) were the hot topic, with presentations from up-and-coming EV manufacturers Lucid and Rivian being the main highlights of the symposium.

Mike Smuts, Lucid’s Vice President of Finance, was the first speaker of the symposium. His presentation, titled “Accelerating Adoption with a New Benchmark EV” covered Lucid’s experiences developing and approaching production with their first vehicle, the Lucid Air.

Smuts saw the event as a chance to share Lucid’s story at an important time, as the company is expected to start producing the Air in the coming months. Lucid aims to have deliveries start this year.

“I would say that being able to participate in the event was a great opportunity to describe our company and strategies as well as provide some insight into where Lucid presently stands on its exciting journey to advance sustainable transportation,” said Smuts.

Rivian, another EV manufacturer on the cusp of producing its first vehicles, also participated in the symposium. Rivian’s University Partner Sabreen Mere gave the presentation “The EVolution of Talent” that covered Rivian’s talent acquisition strategies, mission as a burgeoning EV maker and goals for the future.

Mere highlighted that many EV startups are relying on talent from experts that have been in the automotive industry for decades, rather than hiring new, younger workers that could bring more to a company.

“Some of these startups have been functioning off of industry experts who have already gone into retirement,” Mere said. “Hiring them back into the company as contractors is not sustainable. I see job descriptions that ask for five, 10, 15 years of experience. What’s the point when you have so much talent that’s available to you at the early-career level?”

But EV manufacturers were not the only companies present at the symposium. Automotive suppliers from West Michigan like Pridgeon & Clay also attended the event.

The symposium allows suppliers to hear industry trends and strategies from manufacturers they may be working with. Kevin Clay, President and CEO of Pridgeon & Clay, was thrilled to be invited to the symposium and to learn about how other suppliers and manufacturers are innovating in the auto industry.

“I consider it a great honor for P&C to be thought of as a key supplier from the West Michigan area,” Clay said. “I am excited about the new and innovative projects that we are working on, and I am always happy to share my excitement with the West Michigan manufacturing community.”

The last presentation of the symposium was given by Grand Valley State University alum Mike Wall, Executive Director of Automotive Analysis for IHS MarkIt. IHS MarkIt provides information, insight, and strategy to companies all over the world. Wall’s presentation “Staying Ahead of the Curve in a Rapidly Changing Landscape” was focused on the future of the automotive industry.

Wall sees the symposium as an event that cannot be missed by members of the automotive industry. 

“(The symposium is) a critical event that both supports auto suppliers and also fosters an excellent exchange of ideas while offering a great opportunity to network with a diverse group of industry stakeholders,” said Wall.

More information about the VAGTC and a schedule of upcoming events can be found online at