Meet Our Speakers


Thom Tillis

United States Senator

Thom Tillis is a United States Senator who has been serving in office since 2015. Before becoming Senator, Tillis was a North Carolina State Congressman and served from 2007 until his Senate run in 2015, during that time Tillis was Speaker of the House from 2011 to 2014.

Before a career in politics, Tillis worked 29-years in the private sector and made a career in technology. He earned his degree at 36 and became a top-level executive at PricewaterhouseCoopers and IBM.

Born in Jacksonville, Florida, Thom was unable to afford college, so he took a job as a warehouse records clerk earning minimum wage. Thom now lives with his wife Susan in Huntersville, North Carolina, with two children.

Tim Moore

NC Speaker of the House

Moore was first elected to the North Carolina House of Representatives in 2002, after defeating the incumbent House Majority Whip, Democratic Representative Andy Dedmon. Moore has served in the state legislature since, and most recently in 2015 appointed Speaker of the House.

In 1995, Moore joined a law firm in the Cleveland County town of Shelby. He opened his own law practice in Kings Mountain in 2009, representing business and individual clients. In 2015, Moore was hired by the Cleveland County Commission as an attorney for the county, serving in this role simultaneously with his position as speaker of the state House. Moore co-owns 67 Motors, a Forsyth County metal recycling business.

Moore was born on October 2, 1970, in Kings Mountain, North Carolina, in the western part of the state. He attended Kings Mountain High School, and, as a teenager, Moore worked at the state General Assembly as a page, later interning for a state senator. Moore first attended Campbell College, where he joined the College Republicans. After two years he transferred to University of North Carolina, where he completed a B.A.

PANEL I: Job opportunities from the auto expansion


Austin Rouse

Director of Business Recruitment at Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina

Austin Rouse joined EDPNC in 2015 working as a research analyst, transitioning to working as a Business Recruitment Manager since 2018, and has been a senior member of the team focusing on automotive projects since 2021.

In his role, Austin serves as a leader in attracting businesses to North Carolina and managing statewide business recruitment projects focusing on the automotive sector. Throughout his time at EDPNC, Austin has worked directly with more than 50 economic development projects that have led to more than 16,000 announced jobs and more than $7 billion in capital investment, including working with companies such as VinFast, Pratt & Whitney, Eli Lilly, and Nucor.

Austin is a native of Kinston and is a double Tar Heel having earned his bachelor’s degree in Public Policy and Political Science and Master of Public Administration from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.


Arjun Nair

Manager - Vehicle Programs and Infrastructure Consulting - eMobility at Thomas Built Buses

Arjun Nair is the Manager of Vehicle Programs and Infrastructure Consulting at Freightliner Specialty Vehicles eMobility Group (FSV eMG). FSV eMG focuses on development, manufacturing, and support of electric school buses and step vans.

Arjun manages the product strategy and program management for electric school bus development, and also leads the infrastructure consulting function for the group. The consulting group supports customers to determine and implement their fleet electrification strategy including charging infrastructure needs.

Arjun is a Mechanical Engineer and holds a MBA in Strategy from Rotterdam School of Business.


Lee Lilley

Director of Economic and Pandemic Recovery for the Office of Governor Roy Cooper

Lee serves as the Director of Economic and Pandemic Recovery for Governor Roy Cooper of North Carolina. Lee helped lead the statewide pandemic recovery efforts, served as State Infrastructure Coordinator, and coordinated economic development initiatives for the Cooper Administration.

Lee spent nearly six years as senior vice president and deputy federal practice leader at McGuireWoods Consulting, LLC, based in Washington, D.C. and prior to joining McGuireWoods, Lee was the legislative director for Congressman G.K. Butterfield (D-NC), a member of U.S. House Democratic leadership and the Energy and Commerce Committee.

Lee studied at the University of North Carolina where he received his Bachelor’s degree in Cultural Studies.


Mike Harris

CTO at Atom Power

Mike Harris is the Chief Technology Officer for Atom Power, where he oversees research, product development and manages the IP portfolio.

Prior to joining Atom Power Mike was with the lighting division of Cree where he held various leadership roles over his ten year tenure including Sr. Director of Intelligent Lighting and Vice President of Engineering. Prior to Cree, Mike held technical leadership roles at Lockheed Martin, Cisco Systems, and LED Lighting Fixtures which was acquired by Cree.

Mike has 30 years of experience in diverse industries including telecommunications, electric vehicle charging, industrial power systems, lighting and IoT. Mike holds 22 patents in the area of lighting, controls, and power systems. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering from Clarkson University.

PANEL II: Fuel for thought


JC Sandberg

Chief Advocacy Officer at American Clean Power

JC Sandberg is the Chief Advocacy Officer at the American Clean Power Association (ACP). He leads ACP’s state and federal advocacy, legal, and transmission teams. JC led the clean energy industry’s advocacy around the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), as well as industry efforts to shape IRA implementing rules and regulations.

Prior to joining ACP, Sandberg led global government affairs and policy at GE Renewable Energy. Sandberg began his policy career in 2001 as Counsel to the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works where his portfolio included surface transportation, federal government response to the 9/11 attacks and a range of environmental issues. 

Mr. Sandberg is a member of the California and District of Columbia bar associations and currently serves on the Board of Visitors of the James E. Rogers College of Law at the University of Arizona. He received his law degree from the University of Arizona where he was awarded the Dean’s Public Service Award. He received his Bachelors in Accounting from Brigham Young University.


Michele Querry

Southeast Regional Director at Chambers for Innovation and Clean Energy

Michele Querry joined Chambers for Innovation and Clean Energy in 2023 after serving as Director of Economic Development for Carteret County, NC. As director of Economic Development, she led her board, county commissioners, and community stakeholders to understand, support, and realize the economic benefits of offshore wind development as well as other job and revenue creating opportunities for the county. While at Carteret County, Michele’s department was recognized as a North Carolina Clean Energy Champion for her efforts supporting the offshore wind industry.

Michele now serves as the Chamber for Innovation and Clean Energy’s Southeast Regional Director, working with chamber and economic development professionals throughout NC, SC, VA and TN on how to best navigate renewable energy development to help their communities prosper. As a colleague and peer, she shares best practices, data, and, other resources to help chambers and economic development organizations advocate at the local, state, and federal level for clean energy policy and development. 

A graduate of Texas A&M University, Michele also earned a Master of Arts in Public Administration from Webster University. She lives in Newport, NC, with her husband, Bobby, and their three dogs.


Joseph Rezutko

Director High Voltage Cable Solutions at Southwire Company

Joseph Rezutko is the Director of high voltage cable solutions at Southwire Company, one of the leading manufacturers of wire and cable used in the transmission and distribution of electricity, Southwire delivers power to millions of people around the world.

Joseph started his career off at Florida Power & Light Company and worked there for a total of seven years before moving to North Carolina and becoming a Design Engineer for ABB. In 2015, Joseph would start his career with Southwire and work his way up to present day director.

Joseph has a Bachelor’s Degree in Engineering, focusing on Electrical Engineering from Purdue University in 2001.


Eric Shangle

Senior Vice President of People & Culture

Eric Shangle is the Senior Vice President at Pine Gate Renewables and also a veteran of the United States Navy. 

Eric graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1997, focusing on ocean engineering. Eric would also later receive a Masters in Human Relations at the University of Oklahoma in 2002. 

Eric is also a member of the SHRM Executive Network and a fellow at the Veterans Advanced Energy Project, where he advances the careers, people, and the profession of people leadership in the renewable energy sector.


Matt Abele

Executive Director of the NC Sustainable Energy Association

As NCSEA’s Executive Director, Matt Abele helps to drive the internal and external strategies necessary to implement successful policy solutions designed to transform North Carolina’s energy market. In his role, Matt works with members, partners, and staff to align priorities and build collective momentum around pathways designed to decarbonize the electricity, transportation, and building sectors. 

Prior to joining NCSEA, Matt worked with numerous national and regional clean energy non-profit organizations, helping to implement communications, marketing, and policy strategies. In addition, Matt serves as the host and producer of the Squeaky Clean Energy Podcast.

Matt holds a Master’s degree in Communication from North Carolina State University and a Bachelor’s degree in Sustainable Technology from Appalachian State University. Additionally, Matt holds a Certificate in Renewable Energy Management along with a NABCEP Entry Level PV Installer Certification.

Fireside Chat

Machelle Baker Sanders

North Carolina Secretary of Commerce

In February 2021, Governor Cooper appointed Secretary Machelle Baker Sanders to lead the North Carolina Department of Commerce, enlisting her experience as former Administration Secretary. 

Sanders brings 30 years of strong management and leadership experience to Commerce as a seasoned pharmaceutical and biotechnology executive, previously serving as vice president of manufacturing and general manager of Biogen’s largest manufacturing facility in Research Triangle Park. 

A graduate of North Carolina State University, Sanders holds a Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry and a Master of Health Administration from Pfeiffer University. As a native North Carolinian and mother of twin daughters, she previously served as the Chair of the North Carolina Commission on Inclusion, North Carolina Complete Count Commission, and the Andrea Harris Social, Economic, Environmental, and Health Equity Task Force. Additionally, she serves on the Interagency Council for Coordinating Homeless Programs (ICCHP), Commission of Indian Affairs, and the North Carolina State University Board of Visitors.

Dr. Lisa M. Chapman

President of Central Carolina Community College

Dr. Lisa M. Chapman became President of Central Carolina Community College, effective April 1, 2019. Dr. Chapman is the former Senior Vice President/Chief Academic Officer at the North Carolina Community College System Office in Raleigh.

Before going to the state level in 2014, Dr. Chapman had been with CCCC for 27 years. At the college, she held the positions of instructor, Chair of the Math and Science Department, academic dean, Vice President of Academic Affairs, and Executive Vice President of Instruction.

Tyler Gronbach

Vice President of External Affairs at Wolfspeed

Tyler Gronbach is the Vice President of External Affairs at Wolfspeed, a company that develops and manufactures semiconductor products. The Company offers silicon carbide and GaN solutions for both high power and RF applications and serves customers worldwide.

Before Wolfspeed, Tyler was the Vice President of Communications at Patheon, which provided drug development and manufacturing services to global pharmaceutical, biotechnology, and specialty pharmaceutical companies. Tyler was VP from 2014 until 2017, when On August 29, 2017, Thermo Fisher completed the acquisition of Patheon and he became Vice President of Communications for Thermo Fisher.

Tyler has a bachelors in communications and public relations from Marist College, where he was a reporter for the school newspaper; founding member of the Tau Kappa Epsilon chapter; worked as an admissions representative for the school during final year of school.

PANEL III: Chip, batteries and chargers


Xan Fishman

Senior Director of the Energy Program at Bipartisan Policy Center

Xan Fishman is the Senior Director of the Energy Program at the Bipartisan Policy Center, working on energy and infrastructure policy with a focus on permitting reform, climate and trade, and carbon management.

Prior to joining BPC, Fishman worked for Congressman John Delaney for nine years, most recently as his Presidential Campaign Manager and as his Chief of Staff in Congress. He helped Congressman Delaney draft and champion priority legislation to invest in infrastructure, address climate change, and spur social impact investing. Before his career in policy and politics, Fishman was a teacher for five years, teaching high school physics and math in Greensboro, North Carolina, and English as a Foreign Language in Tel Aviv, Israel.

Fishman graduated from Swarthmore College with a double major in Astronomy and Religion. He received his M.A. from Tel Aviv University in TESOL.


Ellen Lenny-Pessagno

Vice President of Global External Affairs and Sustainability at Albemarle Corporation

Ellen Lenny-Pessagno is Vice President for Global External Affairs and Sustainability for Albemarle, a global specialty chemicals company with leading positions in lithium, bromine and refining catalysts.

Ellen leads a global team to develop and implement the Energy Storage external affairs and sustainability strategy, works proactively with government authorities and communities to create long-term relationships, and develops partnerships with organizations such as industry associations, think tanks, and other external stakeholders to support Energy Storage growth. As a member of the Energy Storage Leadership Team, Ellen and her colleagues developed and are currently leading the execution of the 10-year energy storage growth strategy. 

Prior to this role, Ellen was Global VP Lithium Sustainability and Country Manager Chile. She was responsible for developing the sustainability strategy for the Lithium Global Business Unit. Ellen led Albemarle to become the first lithium company to complete the Initiative for Responsible Mining Assurance self-assessment globally in Albemarle´s Salar mine site in Chile and the first to begin its third-party audit. As Country Manager, Ellen represented Albemarle in Chile, executed the corporate strategy, and led all external affairs and community and environmental management.


Jed Routh

Vice President of Markets and Products at Kempower North America

Jed Routh is Kempower’s Vice President of Markets and Products for North America. Routh has been in this leadership position at the Durham, NC site since May 2023.  In this role, he heads Kempower’s product management, engineering, marketing, and communications functions.

The bulk of Jed’s career has been spent in the commercial vehicle segment where he has a varied background with past roles in functions including supply chain, product management and sales and marketing.   As both leader and team member on early EV development projects in the commercial vehicle space, Jed found a new passion for electric vehicles, and he transitioned his career to this new segment.

Routh holds an MBA from UNCG, as well as a Masters of Engineering Management from Arizona State University.

He lives in Franklinville NC with his wife, Lisa. The two have 4 adult children and two grandchildren.

Before Kempower, Jed was the Director of Business Development for eTransEnergy in Charlotte, North Carolina. Before eTransEnergy, Jed was the Vice President of Thomas Built Buses where he directly supervised six employees who manage 33 salaried employees responsible for sales, marketing, service, and dealer operations. Manages a network of 42 dealers across North America and a Direct Sales team responsible for large accounts. Successfully implemented new processes and programs to increase sales.

Jed graduated from Appalachian State in 1991, with a Bachelors in English. Jed also received his MBA from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, and his masters in Engineering from the University of Arizona in 2016. 


Dr. Robert Cox

Acting Executive Director of EPIC at UNC Charlotte

Professor Robert Cox is Acting Executive Director of EPIC. Previously he served as an Associate Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at UNC Charlotte, as the Assistant Director for the Energy Management Research Vertical, and Associate Director within the Energy Production and Infrastructure Center (EPIC).

Dr. Cox focuses on advancing EPIC’s research in the areas of grid resiliency and energy utilization. His team is part of the National Science Foundation’s Industry / University Cooperative Research Center for Sustainably Integrated Buildings and Sites. This work focuses on the use of data to improve energy utilization in buildings. His team works closely with many industry partners, including Wells Fargo, Bank of America, Ingersoll Rand, Duke Energy and Atrium Health and is a graduate of Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

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