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September 27, 2023

Wytheville Meeting Center

Making Resources Work for You 

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The first Business Success Symposium was indeed a success! The Symposium was an opportunity to connect with local and regional resources that can assist your business as well as learn about topics such as: Employment Law; Upskilling Your Workforce; Leadership; Continuous Improvement; Diversity, Equity and Inclusion; and more. SHRM Professional Development Credits were available to attendees. 


8:30   -  Doors Open

Breakfast, Registration, Networking 


9:30   -  Welcome


10:00 -  Breakout Session A


Bringing Meaning to Work

A discussion of what makes work meaningful for employees and how this affects your employee retention. 

Presenter: Stephanie Surrett, Center of Manufacturing Excellence/Somic America, Inc.


Effective Communication in the Workplace

How and when to use different communication modes and styles for the most effective communication with your team, company, clients, and customers whether in person or in a remote environment.

Presenter: Lois James, OpX Solutions, LLC


Planning for Smart Manufacturing (Automation)

Description: Building a roadmap from operational excellence to automation.

Presenter: Jeff Shook, GENEDGE

11:0-  Breakout Session B

Upskilling Your Current Workforce

Hear from both traditional and non-traditional training providers about the workforce programs that they offer as well as how they can assist you with a customized training.

Presenters: Stephanie Surrett, Center for Manufacturing Excellence; Shannon Mutter, Mount Rogers Regional Adult Education; Dr. Jeanne Symanoski, NRCC; Robert Phillips, VHCC; Roland Hall, WCC

Offer a Second Chance, Improve Your Bottom Line 

Presenter: John Bebber, Appalachian Council for Innovation; Virginia Employment Commission

Using Lean to Improve Accountability and Ownership

Discover how to better hold employees accountable and develop a culture of ownership through greater use of standards and the principles of Lean continuous improvement.

Presenter: Mike Leigh, OpX Solutions, LLC

12:00 -  Lunch


Panel Discussion - Utilizing Resources: In Their Own Words

Representatives from businesses across the region share their experiences with available business resources.

Panelists: Kelly DeBusk, Appalachian Plastics; Josh Chandler, Speyside Bourbon Cooperage; Cindy Robertson, Volvo Trucks North America


1:30   -  Breakout Session C

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in the Workplace and Why it is Important

Description: In this interactive workshop, participants will learn DEI strategies, how to utilize
them and the importance of DEI in Business.

Presenters: Dr. Shannon Shastry, Radford University


Where are the Workers?

Description: An overview of current labor market situation including a comparison to pre-COVID data and a look at labor force participation rates. Will also include discussion on major barriers to labor force participation and what is being done locally to address those barriers.

Presenters: Sarah Lyon-Hill and Ashley Posthumus, Virginia Tech Center for Economic and Community Engagement


Effective Communication in the Workplace

How and when to use different communication modes and styles for the most effective communication with your team, company, clients, and customers whether in person or in a remote environment.

Presenter: Lois James, OpX Solutions, LLC

2:30   -  Breakout Session D

2023 Employment Law Update

Presenter: Jim Cowan, CowanPerry PC

It’s Your Supply Chain: Know it, Know the Risks, Own it

In this interactive session, participants can expect background information on supply chains, supply chain risks, mitigation strategies, and total cost of ownership.

Presenter: Cheryl Carrico, GENEDGE

3:30   -  Wrap-up



Below you'll find biographies of the event presenters and links to resources discussed throughout the day. 

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John Bebber
Executive Director
Appalachian Council for Innovation

John is a Southwest Virginia native, husband to Crissy, father to Layla, Preston, Caedyn and Connor, and a veteran of the U.S. Navy, where he served honorably for 10 years. After returning home to SWVA, John obtained a B.A. in Security and Intelligence Studies from King University, and an M.A. in Political Science (International Relations) from Appalachian State University. John served as District Director for Congressman H. Morgan Griffith from 2019 until 2021, and is currently the Executive Director for the Appalachian Council for Innovation.

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Dr. Cheryl Carrico, P.E.
Engagement Manager

Cheryl Carrico is a part-time faculty Research Scientist for Virginia Tech and owner of Cheryl Carrico Consulting, LLC. Her current research focus relates to STEM career pathways (K-12 through early career) and conceptual understanding of core engineering principles. She is currently a Member-at-Large for the Pre-college Division of ASEE. Dr. Carrico’s consulting company specializes in research evaluations and industry consulting. Dr. Carrico received her B.S. in chemical engineering from Virginia Tech, Masters of Engineering from North Carolina State University, MBA from King University, and PhD in Engineering Education from Virginia Tech. Dr. Carrico is a certified project management professional (PMP) and licensed professional engineer (P.E.).


Jim Cowan, 
Chairman, Attorney
CowanPerry PC

Jim is the Chairman of CowanPerry PC. His practice focuses on representing management in the full spectrum of labor & employment related issues confronted by employers in today’s workplace, handling complex business litigation matters and representing property owners and developers on land use issues and commercial real estate projects. He represents a wide range of employers, business owners and developers in the region, ranging from high-tech start-ups to large manufacturers, and from local property owners to national developers. He has twenty-five years of trial experience representing employers in non-compete litigation, myriad types of business and partnership disputes, and the waterfront of employment-related litigation, including employee benefits and ERISA claims. Over the course of his career, he has represented companies in federal and state courts across Virginia in commercial litigation and in the defense of wrongful discharge claims, including disability, age, family medical leave, sexual harassment, race, and gender under the Americans with Disabilities Act; the Age Discrimination in Employment Act; the Family Medical Leave Act and Fair Labor Standards Act; Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and 42 U.S.C. §1981; and before the Virginia Supreme Court on appellate matters. Jim also represents employers before the NLRB, the EEOC and the Virginia Employment Commission. Additionally, he specializes in the preparation of affirmative action plans and responding to OFCCP and other Department of Labor audits. Jim serves as outside general counsel to a number of prominent companies and non-profits in the region, and as the general counsel to Onward, the New River Valley’s economic development alliance. He is passionate about land conservation in Southwest Virginia, and is an active member of the Board of Directors of the New River Land Trust. Jim is also a sought-after speaker and corporate trainer locally and for national programs, and is an active member of the Virginia State Bar Labor & Employment Section. Finally, Jim has been recognized for over a decade and listed in “The Best Lawyers in America” [since 2006 to present]; as a Virginia “Super Lawyer” [Rising Star 2007-2009; and since 2010 to present]; and also repeatedly named to Virginia Business Magazine’s “Legal Elite” for Labor/Employment


Roland Hall
Dean of Workforce Development and Occupational Programs
Wytheville Community College

Roland Hall is the Dean of Workforce and Occupational Programs at Wytheville Community College overseeing both credit and non-credit programs such as Administrative Support Technology, Welding, Machine Technology, Criminal Justice, Construction Technology, Heavy Equipment Operator, Off Road Diesel, and Commercial Driver Licenses programs. Roland is no stranger to education, he worked 18½ years in High School Education before joining Wytheville Community College in 2019. Dedicated to teaching excellence and student success, Wytheville Community College is an educational and community leader, providing lifelong career and personal growth, cultural enrichment, and economic advancement. Mr. Hall supports WCC’s mission by working with businesses and industries to provide programs and trainings for students to meet the needs of the workforce and community.

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Lois James
Director of Leadership Development
OpX Solutions, LLC

Lois has 33+ years’ business and management experience in the financial, customer service, senior healthcare, and leadership development industries. She started her career in the secondary mortgage market with Freddie Mac in McLean, VA where she held leadership positions with Freddie Mac to develop, train, and coach new employees to follow mandated guidelines. After living in Washington D.C. and Chicago, IL after college, Lois moved back to the Roanoke area in 2004 and spent 14 years in the senior healthcare industry holding various leadership and management positions. Working her most recent position as Regional Director with Generation Solutions, the company won several local and statewide awards and had a zero-deficiency rating with the required state inspection. Because of her strong passion and desire to help others achieve both professional and personal success, Lois joined OpX Solutions in 2018 and is a Certified LMI Facilitator. Giving back to her community is important to Lois. She has been an active member of the Roanoke Senior Networking Group since 2004 and has served as Vice President since 2006. She is also active with the Roanoke Kiwanis Club where she serves as Membership Chair as well as participating in several other committees. Lois sits on the board with The Market Building Foundation in downtown Roanoke and on the board with the Botetourt County Chamber of Commerce. She is active with the Roanoke Regional Chamber of Commerce where she currently serves as an ambassador. Lois has been a Deacon and a volunteer with various programs at Covenant Presbyterian Church. Originally from the Alleghany highlands in Clifton Forge, VA, Lois graduated from Virginia Tech, where she earned her Bachelor of Science in Marketing Management with a minor in Sociology.

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Mike Leigh
President and Owner
OpX Solutions, LLC

Mike Leigh is the President of OpX Solutions, LLC and a Managing Partner with Leadership Management Institute. Mike has 25 years of leadership and management experience, within both government and corporate environments. He began his career as an officer in the US Navy in the late ‘80s, specializing in nuclear propulsion and surface warfare. During a 20-year career spanning both active duty and the reserves, he received several awards and earned numerous qualifications, including certifications as a Navy Nuclear Engineer and a Navy Instructor. Mike retired from the Navy as a Commander in 2008. Following active duty, Mike spent 13 years with General Electric and held various leadership and senior management positions at several different manufacturing sites. During his last five years with GE, Mike was an internal lean consultant and helped over 25 GE factories/suppliers and hundreds of work teams become more productive, reduce costs, and improve their bottom line. Mike learned his skills from Shingijutsu Consultants, considered by many to be the best in the world. Mike left the corporate world and started OpX Solutions because of his desire to more closely help others achieve success, both in their personal and professional lives, and to be more involved in the Roanoke area. Mike stays active volunteering with several charitable and civic organizations including the Kiwanis Club of Roanoke, Roanoke Regional Chamber of Commerce, Military Officers Association of America, and St John’s Episcopal Church. He also enjoys running and triathlons and is an avid Green Bay Packers fan. Mike holds a Bachelor’s degree from the Milwaukee School of Engineering and a Master’s degree in Human Resources. LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT EXPERTISE •25 years of operational leadership experience as a US Navy Officer (retired Commander) and manufacturing manager. •National account certified facilitator with Leadership Management International (LMI). •LMI World Growth Leader in 2018 awarded to top LMI business in the world for year over year growth. •LMI Americas Facilitator of the Year in 2016. •Virginia Small Business Veteran of the Year in 2014 from Virginia Small Business Development Centers. LEAN PROCESS EXPERTISE •Lean practitioner since 2007. •Internal Lean consultant with GE for 5 years. Provided Lean strategy, training and support for 15 different GE factories. •45 weeks of training by mentors from Shingijutsu, considered by many as the best Lean consultants in the world. •Facilitated over 300 kaizen improvement teams. •Instructor with Virginia Tech Lean Academy. •Co-authored book – Practicing Lean.

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Sarah Lyon-Hill

Associate Director for Research Development

Virginia Tech Center for Economic and Community Engagement

Sarah Lyon-Hill is Associate Director for Research Development at the Virginia Tech Center for Economic and Community Engagement. She specializes in cultivating viable solutions for community and economic challenges by integrating community and industry input, university resources, and data-driven analysis. She works across disciplines to engage key stakeholders, collecting and interpreting both quantitative and qualitative data to provide multiple perspectives and garner the greatest impact. Sarah’s areas of research include strategic planning, organizational development, socio-economic impact analyses including fiscal and ROI analyses, market and feasibility studies, and community cultural development. Sarah has significant expertise in understanding community impact, and much of her research investigates how to most effectively gauge and articulate the social and economic impacts of different organizations, initiatives, and technologies. Her favorite approach to community problem solving is finding creative ways to merge different research methodologies to best address the needs of each partner. Over the past decade, Sarah has worked both nationally and internationally in the fields of community and economic development. She joined the Center for Economic & Community Engagement as a graduate student in 2011 and became an economic development specialist in 2014. During these years, she has proved herself an invaluable asset to the team through her tenacity, dedication to research, and caring engagement with those she serves. Beyond her work in Virginia, Sarah also served in Northwest Africa as a Peace Corps worker, leading many community groups and facilitating vision and strategy meetings. Her work led to collaborative projects such as a community kindergarten, a region-wide birth certificate writing campaign, and a goat microfinance lending program across five women’s groups. Sarah has her Ph.D. in Planning, Governance, and Globalization, where she examined the changing national dynamics and roles of arts-based community organizations in community and economic development. She holds a master’s degree from Virginia Tech in Urban and Regional Planning from Virginia Tech, as well as bachelor’s degrees in French and International Relations from Beloit College.


Shannon Mutter

Program Manager

Mount Rogers Regional Adult Education Program

Shannon is currently the program manager for Mount Rogers Regional Adult Education Program. The Mount Rogers region covers the counties of Bland, Carroll, Grayson, Smyth, Washington, & Wythe and the cities of Bristol and Galax. In addition to her 14 years’ experience in adult education, Shannon has worked as an elementary school counselor for 3 years and taught middle school for 12 years. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Education and a Master’s Degree in School Counseling. Shannon currently serves on the New River/Mount Rogers Workforce Development Board and as the Vice President on the local prison ministry board and has been involved in prison ministry for the past 12 years. She is a member of the Virginia Association for Adult and Continuing Education (VAACE) and Coalition on Basic Adult Education (COABE). Shannon resides in Bristol, VA with her husband, dog and 3 cats. She has two daughters, who both are married and live in Bristol, TN.

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Robert Phillips

Dean of the Workforce Training Division

Virginia Highlands Community College

Robert Phillips serves as the Dean of the Workforce Training Division at Virginia Highlands Community College. For the past 12 years he has served business and industry with their customized training needs, and continues to identify new non-credit training opportunities for the VHCC service region. Before landing at VHCC, he was employed by Smyth County Schools as their Workforce Development Coordinator for 5 years. Prior to transitioning to education, he was the Maintenance Manager for TRW at their Atkins Plant, where he worked for over 15 years. In addition to education and manufacturing, he has years of experience in the IT field, sales, and was honored to have served in the U.S. Air Force.

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Ashley Posthumus

Economic Development Specialist

Virginia Tech Center for Economic and Community Engagement

Ashley Posthumus recently received her master’s degree in urban and regional planning with a particular focus in economic development from Virginia Tech. Previously, she received a B.S. in human geography and environmental science from the University of McMaster in Ontario, Canada. Ashley served as a Graduate Assistant at CECE prior to her time as Research Associate. During her time as a GA, Ashley contributed to a number of projects, including CECE’s quarterly workforce reports, national research on unmanned aircraft, an economic gardening study in Botetourt County, and others. She has established herself as a valuable member of CECE’s dynamic team, lending her skills in quantitative and qualitative analysis as well as her thoughtful insight and keen attention to detail. With her free time, she enjoys hiking, road trips, exploring new restaurants with friends and spending time with her dog, Radar.

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Cindy Robertson

HR Business Partner

Volvo Trucks North America

Cindy Robertson is the HR Business Partner for Volvo Trucks North America at the Dublin, Virginia Location.

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Dr. Shannon Shastry

Director for the Center for Diversity and Inclusion

Radford University

Dr. Shastry serves as the Director for the Center for Diversity and Inclusion at Radford University. As a first-generation scholar, she received her Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from Methodist University, her Master of Science in Higher Education with a concentration in College Administration and Leadership from Kaplan University, and her Doctorate in Educational Leadership with a concentration in higher education from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. Her research focus includes women of color, leadership, and mentorship. Also, she holds certifications in Jeanne Clery Act Training, Managing Bias, Mental Health First Aid USA, and Mentoring, Coaching & Self-Mentoring. She has over a decade of experience in higher education serving in various roles. Her areas of expertise include, but are not limited to advocacy, diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging, strategic planning and crisis response.


Jeff Shook

Project Manager


Jeff Shook joined GENEDGE in 2017 as a Project Manager with primary responsibility serving clients and partners in the Shenandoah Valley. Today he is currently an Automation and Advanced Manufacturing Manager. Jeff has over 30 years of experience in a variety of industries. His experience includes lean and six sigma, design for manufacturing, and new equipment and production startup. His specialty is manufacturing process development, incorporating new manufacturing methods and lean processes into manufacturing. Jeff has been responsible for over $7 million dollars in capital equipment sourcing in his manufacturing roles. Often designing entire manufacturing lines as diverse as high-volume consumer electronics, to large chiller HVAC manufacturing facilities, incorporating the latest manufacturing technologies. His background and training as a practitioner and master trainer in kaizen methodologies led his team to a National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) 1st place award for Workforce Excellence in 1997. Jeff learned lean Toyota Production System firsthand in Kawagoe Japan working and training on Pioneer’s Lexus (Toyota) production lines. Jeff earned his BS in Electrical Engineering from the University of Dayton in Dayton, Ohio. He has certifications including Six Sigma Black Belt, DFM, OSHA 10-hour, Kaizen master trainer, and CSCP (certified supply chain professional). His office is located at Blue Ridge Community College’s Weyers Cave campus.

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Priscilla Skinner

Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) State Coordinator

Virginia Employment Commission (VEC)

Priscilla Skinner is the Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) State Coordinator, where she oversees a group of dedicated staff who work to verify WOTC target group eligibility applications from employers that hire difficult to employ job seekers. Prior to accepting the WOTC State Coordinator position, Ms. Skinner held the position of Workforce Services Representative within the Virginia Employment Commission, assisting job seekers with resume writing, job referrals, job application assistance and Virginia Workforce Connection (VWC) registration assistance. Ms. Skinner completed over 30 years in the private sector Health Insurance space in Medical Claims Processing, Medical Claims Training, and Medical Claims Operations Management.

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Stephanie Muncy Surret

Executive Director, Center for Manufacturing Excellence

Director of Workforce Development, Somic America, Inc.

Stephanie Muncy Surrett is a professional speaker, trainer and consultant. Ms. Surrett strives to advance the economy and workforce of southwest Virginia by working with businesses, communities, nonprofits, and educational institutions throughout the region and Commonwealth of Virginia. Her passion is to work with organizations that want to inspire and motivate their leaders and team members with principles that will help create a positive culture and mindset to achieve excellence. Ms. Surrett’s personal philosophy is, “Success isn’t determined by background, experience, or anything from your past. Success is all in your attitude and actions today.” Ms. Surrett has over 25 years of experience in strategic planning, program and project management, business management, employee development and training, and business consulting. She has worked with a variety of clients ranging from educational institutions, such as Southwest Virginia Community College, University of Virginia-Wise, Virginia Tech, and K-12 Public School Systems to small start-ups, such as Inorganic Ventures, to large global corporations such as Northrop Grumman, CGI, Scholle and Phoenix Packaging. In addition to working in the private sector, Ms. Surrett has gained experience in the non-profit sector by developing and implementing programs focused on workforce and community development Ms. Surrett holds an MBA from Jones International University. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in Business and Public Administration from University of Virginia’s College at Wise.


Jeanne Symanoskie

Coordinator, Montgomery County Workforce Training

New River Community 

Jeanne Symanoskie started teaching at New River Community College in 2012 then was offered the opportunity to branch out and work with the college's Workforce Development Office. Jeanne earned a doctorate in education from The University of Georgia, taught 6 years for NRCC and has 10 years of high school teaching experience, she also owned and operated a small business for three years. Currently Jeanne coordinates multiple FastForward programs and works with local businesses to customize training for their employees.


Presenting Sponsors
Gold Partner
Silver Partner
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Bronze Partner


We look forward to facilitating connections and showcasing opportunities for businesses in Southwest Virginia. Your support and Partnership will help assure that the Business Success Symposium is a successful event and has the positive impact that we intend. If you are interested in becoming a sponsor, please contact by September 15 to be included in printed materials.

Car Factory


  • Introduce the lunch panel

  • Logo on print and digital materials

  • Recognition throughout day

  • Sponsor ribbon onname badge of all organization attendees

  • And premier location for booth setup with Partner sign

Rubber Processing


  • Logo on print and digital materials

  • Recognition throughout day

  • Sponsor ribbon on name badge of all
    organization attendees

  • And premier location for booth setup with Partner sign

Welding specialist


  • Logo on print and digital materials

  • Recognition throughout day

  • Sponsor ribbon on name badge of all
    organization attendees

  • And Partner sign at your booth setup

Patient with Healthcare Nurse


  • Name listed on print and digital materials

  • And Partner sign at your booth setup

Cooking Eggs


Logo on signs adorning the breakfast station and special recognition during the event



Logo on signs adorning the snack stations and special recognition during the event

Car Factory


Get the latest information about regional activities, materials, and future events:

We'll keep you in the know!


Whether you're traveling from near or far, we have many options to accommodate your needs.

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For questions, contact:

Joint Industrial Development Authority of Wythe County


Event Address

Wytheville Meeting Center

333 Community Blvd
Wytheville, VA 24382

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