State of the Region Conference to examine effects of automation on economic development

As online ordering giant Amazon adds automated fulfillment centers around the country and fast-food restaurants pilot automated ordering kiosks, questions arise about the impact on jobs and employment. Will more people or fewer be needed, and will robots take over roles usually held by humans in an increasingly automated workplace?

The Center for Regional Development (CRD) at Bowling Green State University will address these concerns at the 16th annual State of the Region Conference on April 16. This year's theme is "The Implications of Automation for Economic Development" and features speakers from Amazon, APT Manufacturing Solutions, SpinGlass and the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland. The conference runs from 8 a.m. to noon at the Hilton Garden Inn in Levis Commons, Perrysburg. Sen. Randy Gardner (R., Bowling Green) will give opening remarks at 9 a.m. following breakfast and networking.

Attendance is free but registration is required.

Register online

The 2018 conference will provide an overview of economic conditions in the region as well as data and analytics on the current workforce in northwest Ohio. It will also provide insights to economic development and elected officials in northwest Ohio about the impact of automation on workforce development efforts.

"Our goal with the State of the Region conference is to highlight the critical economic issues facing our region today and in the future," said Will Burns, CRD interim director.

"Increased automation in our lives and work environments has potentially paradigm-shifting consequences for the future of work in our nation and region," said Dr. Russell Mills, CRD Research Fellow.

Giving the State of the Region address will be Guhan Venkatu, group vice president in the Research Department of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland. He leads the department's regional analysis and outreach group. Venkatu joined the bank in 1998 as a research analyst and has held positions of increasing responsibility, including economist and vice president and senior regional officer of the bank's Pittsburgh branch.

Dr. Eric Daimler, an artificial intelligence expert and CEO of SpinGlass, will deliver the keynote address. A leading authority in robotics and artificial intelligence with over 20 years of experience in the field as an entrepreneur, investor, academic and policymaker, he most recently became co-founder and CEO of SpinGlass, a multi-tiered investment platform for fueling the development and adoption of emerging robotics and AI technology. SpinGlass creates, acquires and applies modern digital technologies, including robotics and AI, to industries traditionally slow to adopt them. Daimler earlier co-founded six technology companies that have done pioneering work in fields ranging from storage software systems to statistical arbitrage.

He is the author of the forthcoming book "Your Augmented Future," a guidebook for entrepreneurs, engineers, policymakers and citizens on how to understand — and benefit from — the unfolding revolution in robotics and AI. A frequent speaker, lecturer and commentator, he works to empower communities and citizens to leverage robotics and AI for a more sustainable, secure and prosperous future.

As a Presidential Innovation Fellow in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy during the Obama Administration, Daimler helped drive the agenda for U.S. leadership in research, commercialization and public adoption of robotics and AI. He has also served as Assistant Dean and Assistant Professor of Software Engineering in Carnegie Mellon's School of Computer Science. His academic research focuses on the intersection of machine learning, computational linguistics and network science. He helped launch Carnegie Mellon's Silicon Valley Campus, and founded its Entrepreneurial Management program.

A panel discussion on "Business Perspectives on the Scope and Impact of Automation" will round out the conference. Moderated by David J. Robinson, principal in The Montrose Group LLC, a government relations and economic development consulting company, the panel will include Wayne Bateman, senior operations manager at Amazon; Brent Miles, vice president for economic development at NorthPoint Development; and Tony Nighswander, president and CEO of APT Manufacturing Solutions.


Bateman works at Amazon's Etna, Ohio, fulfillment center, where he manages more than 3,000 full-time employees at an 850,000-square-foot robotics facility. He has been with Amazon since 2013 in a variety of managerial roles before assuming his current role in August 2017. Bateman holds master's degree in logistics and supply chain management from Wright State University.

With 15 years of economic development experience, Miles is responsible for development prospects, incentive offers and approvals, and governmental relations for NorthPoint. His day-to-day tasks include contracts for incentives, real estate and land development negotiations, and governmental financing structures. In addition, he is president of NorthPoint Incentive Consultants, which assists businesses with federal, state, local, and utility incentive packages. During his career, Miles has procured more than 600 incentive programs for clients.

Nighswander founded APT Manufacturing Solutions, a multi-division industry leader in creative and effective solutions to manufacturing problems, in 1996. A northwest Ohio-based company, APT is a full-service machining and CNC company and a Level IV Authorized System Integrator for FANUC Robotics, which is among the top 20 integrators in the United States. APT specializes in robotic picking, packing and palletizing, and is certified in High Speed Picking used in the food industry.


Robinson is experienced in both the government-relations and economic-development consulting fields through nearly 20 years as an advocate, lobbyist, public relations and government official. He has successfully advocated for over $100 million in local, state and federal funding for economic development site selection and site development projects. He has also worked with clients to develop comprehensive economic development strategies ranging from city and county comprehensive economic development plans, downtown redevelopment plans, research parks strategies and downtown housing strategies. Before forming The Montrose Group, Robinson managed a government relations and economic development practice group for nearly a decade in large law firms, served in the Ohio House of Representatives, at Ameritech Ohio, as press secretary for Columbus Mayor Greg Lashutka, and general counsel for the Ohio Chamber of Commerce. Robinson is the author of two economic development textbooks, "Economic Development from the State and Local Perspective," and "The Energy Economy," both published by Palgrave MacMillan.

The University's CRD is an interdisciplinary research platform with expertise in regional economics and community development. It provides research and consulting to a variety of clients ranging from local economic development offices to industry and small businesses.

Updated: 03/30/2018 03:11PM