Keynote Speaker: Deb Lyzenga

Deb Lyzenga Headshot

Deb Lyzenga is the Sector Strategies Manager for the State of Michigan. In her role she is taking her regional workforce experience and spearheading state-level projects, and initiatives that promote employer collaboratives and talent pipeline management.

Deb has 18 years of leadership experience in workforce development, education, and private sector manufacturing in West Michigan. She has successful project management experience through new program development and business expansion. Deb promotes demand-driven workforce development strategies to help attract, retain, and develop talent in high growth industry sectors.

She was instrumental in the development of several initiatives including MiCareerQuest™ an innovative, experiential student career event that has expanded across the state. The development of non-traditional apprenticeship programs in Healthcare and Information Technology, and apprenticeship expansion in Manufacturing and Construction leveraging state and local resources for businesses covering 15 occupations.

Deb holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology from Oklahoma State University and a Master of Public Administration from Grand Valley State University.

Stephen A. Hilger

Stephen Hilger

Steve Hilger is engaged in complex commercial business transactions and litigation with an emphasis on construction law. He has tried many cases in multiple state and federal courts, and has appeared in several state courts of appeal, the Michigan Supreme Court, United States District Courts, United States District Courts of Appeal, the United States Supreme Court on cert, and multiple arbitration tribunals across the country.

Steve is active in mediating and arbitrating complex commercial and construction law and related cases. His cases range from simple construction issues to complex commercial, municipal and industrial projects involving claims and issues in the tens of millions of dollars.

Steve is also involved in extensive contract preparation and review. He is routinely involved in extensive negotiation of transactions and agreements, as well as pre- and post-litigation mediation. The remainder of Steve’s practice involves in-depth participation in and the making of recommendations for business decisions and business strategies, as well as assisting in regulatory compliance and promoting and developing best practices.

Ben Hammond

Ben Hammond

Attorney Ben Hammond focuses a significant portion of his practice in construction law, where he is routinely engaged in complex litigation. His clients are representative of all parties involved in construction, including owners, design professionals, general contractors, subcontractors, and suppliers. Ben is also active in commercial and residential real estate transactions and has years of experience providing legal services directly relevant to those requests. In addition, Hammond utilizes his business acumen to counsel businesses in business law, succession planning, mergers and acquisitions, and business disputes.

Justin Wheeler


Justin Wheeler assists clients with all types of business and real estate matters. Whether a simple land contract or a purchase of a commercial building with existing tenants, Justin works diligently to make sure that all aspects of any business transaction or real estate deal are complete and accurate from start to finish. He regularly negotiates, drafts, analyzes, and revises various types of business and real estate contracts.

When taking a break from practicing law, Justin loves to golf and volunteers a great deal of time to the Rental Property Owners Association of Michigan (“RPOA”) where he was recently appointed to the Board of Directors. As a real estate investor, Justin has a passion for real estate and enjoys helping those in the industry. At the RPOA, Justin serves as preferred counsel, teaches continuing education courses to RPOA members on lease drafting and evictions, and serves on the organizations Services and Publications Committee.

Chris Nyenhuis

Chris Nyenhuis

Chris regularly appears in both state and federal courts where he represents public and private companies, small businesses, and individuals in a range of industries, including manufacturing, finance, and technology. Chris has broad experience resolving disputes prior to litigation obtaining favorable settlements during litigation and arguing and prevailing on motions to dismiss and motions for summary judgment. He has experience in all aspects of pre- and post-trial litigation, including discovery and depositions, mediation, arbitration, motion practice, trial, and collecting on judgments.

Ann Plummer


Ann has over 25 years of experience and spends 100% of her time at Beene Garter assisting clients in various construction trades, including general contracting, fire protection, electrical, security, ornamental iron, heavy highway, excavating, homebuilders, roofing, mechanical, structural steel, and general trades and interiors. Along with traditional accounting services, Ann provides her construction clients with operational assessments, job-cost system design, prevailing wage consulting, cost certifications, tax credits and deductions, and construction accounting method consulting. Ann’s clients say that they trust her opinion and rely on her for crucial industry information.

Eric Smith

Eric S - Headshot

Before starting at Beene Garter, Eric earned his MST at Grand Valley State University and his Bachelor’s in Accounting and Business Administration from Aquinas College. He has over 22 years of experience in public accounting and works with a variety of corporate clients managing their tax planning and compliance. His management focus is most often directed toward the food & agribusiness, manufacturing, construction, and wholesale distribution industries. He is a proud member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) and the Michigan Association of Certified Public Accountants (MICPA).

Trace Bauman

Trace B - Headshot 2

Also representing Beene Garter, Trace has over 12 years of experience working with a variety of clients, including small business, construction and manufacturing clients. He provides tax planning and consulting services to businesses, and has expertise working with international tax incentives for domestic companies. He earned his BA in Accounting from Cornerstone University and his MST from Grand Valley State University, and is a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), Michigan Association of Certified Public Accountants (MICPA), and the Construction Financial Management Association (CFMA) West Michigan Chapter.

Eric Larson

Eric Larson

Eric Larson of Beene Garter is highly skilled in the fields of financial valuation, transaction negotiation, merger and acquisition representation, and corporate financial analysis. He has provided business valuations for various situations including, estate and gift taxation, succession planning, employee stock ownership plans, purchase and sale advisement, purchase price allocation, marital dissolution, and other tax and business related matters.

He has also shared his expertise in financial analysis, valuation, and transaction consulting across a number of industries, including agriculture, general and specialty contracting, plastics and metal manufacturing, transportation, finance and insurance, health care, professional services, and more.

He’s currently an adjunct faculty member in Grand Valley State University’s economics department. Eric graduated from Grand Valley State University with a Bachelor of Science degree in economics and a Master of Business Administration degree.

Lisa Pohl


Lisa has over 15 years of experience as a tax professional with extensive corporate, litigation and public accounting experience. Her specialties include developing and implementing highly-effective state, local and international tax strategies as well as managing a full range of compliance team initiatives to ensure timely and accurate filings of federal and state tax returns.

Lisa earned her Bachelor of Business Administration in accounting from Baker College and her Juris Doctor from West Michigan University Cooley Law School.

Brad Poggi

Poggi, B

Representing HUB International, Brad entered the Insurance and Risk Management business in 1984. He specializes in helping contractors build and enhance their risk management, insurance and surety programs.

Brad understands the risks contractors face every day and has developed many different ways to help deal with those risks. His solutions are tailored to the risk tolerance and budget of each contractor and include: Liability and Workers’ Compensation claims management; Workers’ Compensation strategies; safety program development and implementation; loss sensitive programs, pre-bid contract reviews for insurance costing and risk management purposes; consulting on surety bond program development, growth and implementation.

Phil Casto

Casto, Phil

Phil Casto is currently serving as a Sr. Risk Consultant in HUB International’s Risk Services Division.  Phil has extensive experience in the construction, manufacturing and petrochemical industries.  Phil serves as a resource for the insurance brokerage operations, providing solutions in the areas of risk mitigation, safety, regulatory compliance, and workers compensation.

Prior to Joining HUB in 2012, Phil held the position of Senior Safety Consultant with a private safety consulting firm where he provided clients in construction, manufacturing, refining, and petrochemical industries with strategic risk solutions and oversaw safety program implementation at all levels. Phil ensured clients maintained compliance with applicable federal and state regulations, has helped companies to understand regulations, and is an asset during the compliance auditing process.

Additionally, Phil is an authorized outreach instructor for OSHA 10 and 30 hour courses.  Phil has been authorized by OSHA to teach both the general industry and construction safety courses.

Phil’s educational background includes a Bachelors of Science degree from Illinois State University in the area of Occupational Safety.  In addition, Phil has achieved his Certified Safety Professional (CSP) designation and Construction Health and Safety Technician (CHST) designation through the Board of Certified Safety Professionals (BCSP).