College of Engineering, Computing and Applied Sciences

Thriving in Interesting Times – Investing for Growth


The second in a series of virtual panel discussions related to how manufacturing is succeeding in a COVID-19 economy was held last month. Anand Gramopadhye, dean of the College of Engineering, Computing and Applied Sciences at Clemson University, and John Lummus, president and CEO of the Upstate SC Alliance, are partnering to host conversations with industry leaders as part of a series titled, “Thriving in Interesting Times.”

The discussions are designed to broaden engagement between Clemson engineering and science alumni and the broader University community.

Mark Johnson, the Thomas F. Hash Endowed Chair in Sustainable Development and director of Clemson University’s Center for Advanced Manufacturing, serves as the moderator for the series.

“We’re focusing on how different types of organizations are succeeding in these interesting times,” said Johnson. “And how universities in particular are working with their industrial partners to help them achieve that success.”

The second panel featured four industry leaders: Cara Cornelius, director of wholesale, car dealer and two wheel channels, Michelin North America; Sam Erwin, executive vice president and regional president of the Carolinas, IBERIABANK; Mike Mansuetti, president, Bosch in North America; and Chuck Spangler, CEO and president, South Carolina Manufacturing Extension Partnership.

Cara Cornelius is an alumna of the Clemson University industrial engineering program. She has a diverse background in engineering, supply chain, logistics, customer service, sales and operations in both the United States and Europe. Cara serves on the Women’s Leadership Board for the United Way and is a member of the advisory board for Clemson’s College of Engineering, Computing and Applied Sciences.

Sam Erwin is a Greenwood County native and a cum laude graduate of Clemson University. Previously, Sam served as chairman, president and CEO of The Palmetto Bank from 2009 until 2015 and regional president with United Community Bank until October 2016. He is involved in a wide variety of civic and professional organizations including serving Clemson University through his participation on the Board of the Rutland Ethics Institute.

Mike Mansuetti works with Bosch’s business units and sales organizations to guide the company’s growth in the United States, Mexico and Canada, with a focus on mobility solutions, cross-divisional sales, and new business field development. He serves as executive champion for the Bosch Diversity and Inclusion Council for North America and leads the organization in its digital transformation journey. Mike is also a 2020 recipient of the Thomas Green Clemson Academy of Engineers and Scientists at Clemson University.

With over 30 years of experience in a variety of industries, Chuck Spangler has been with the South Carolina Manufacturing Extension Partnership for 26 years. Chuck has assisted thousands of small to medium sized manufacturing companies throughout South Carolina and the United States in improving their operations and financial performance. He is also responsible for cultivating a network of resources throughout South Carolina, including the South Carolina Department of Commerce, Economic Developers, Community Colleges, Chamber of Commerce, and a network of third-party consultants.

The session focused on the remarkable transformation of business in response to COVID-19 over the past few months. Immediate adjustments were needed to respond to facility closings by key suppliers and customers, to establish processes and obtain supplies to ensure a safe work environment, to adapt to shifts in products and services, and to quickly restructure to maintain financial stability. Now that many businesses have adapted to the initial challenges of this new reality, there are emerging opportunities to thrive that require new investments for infrastructure, inventory, and product development. Understanding opportunities to invest in growth is a key element for leadership at this critical time.

 The four panelists discussed leadership challenges, outlook for the months ahead, and areas for future investment in capabilities and infrastructure enabling growth. They discussed the importance of leadership, culture and relationships during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Business and engineering leaders provided four perspectives on investing for growth in this time – from multinational manufacturing firms in the automotive and energy sectors, to support for small and medium sized manufacturers across Upstate South Carolina, to banking that services the firms across the region.

The complete conversation can be found here.

The next virtual panel conversation in the “Thriving in Interesting Times” series will take place on Thursday, Jan. 27, at 7 p.m. (ET). In this panel, business and engineering leaders will discuss solutions to COVID-19. Friends of the Clemson University community are invited to attend. For more information, contact Amy Hunt, senior director of development at

Key quotes from the panel discussion:


“It’s amazing, I think, to see who’s stepped up and who’s really taken this and run with it from a performance perspective and who the people are who have kind of sat by the sidelines. I think it helps you understand that this whole leadership shift, it’s a different way to lead. Gone are the days of the manager who says you have to be in the office every day for me to know that you’re working. You have to trust your people and you have to make sure that you’re giving them all the right tools to be successful working from wherever they’re working from and making sure that we’re all contributing to the greater good of the team.”

Cara Cornelius, director of wholesale, car dealer and two wheel channels, Michelin North America


“These manufacturing companies and what they’re doing, it’s pretty amazing. I don’t see a lack of capital, I don’t see a lack of inexpensive financing, all of those are out there. And then, of course, what’s really key for all the manufacturers out there – projections are more important now than they’ve ever been. Banks are going to push companies really hard to think about what 2021 and 2022 look like.”

Sam Erwin, executive vice president and regional president of the Carolinas, IBERIABANK


“In this new age of mobility, nobody will be able to do it alone. So it’s going to come through collaboration, through partnerships, joint ventures, I think we’re going to see a lot more consolidation in the automotive space. And I think everybody’s learned to never waste a good crisis. We’ve been looking for some opportunities there. It has reinforced some of the learnings about being very intentional on where you’re investing and where you’re placing your bets.”

Mike Mansuetti, president, Bosch in North America


“What was so thrilling to see was so many companies in South Carolina step up and convert over to making face shields, masks, and gowns really quickly, some of them within 24 hours. Some were going to have to lay off their whole staff, 20-30 people. Instead we had some firms that not only saved and kept their employees, but they’ve added 10-20 more employees because of the PPE production.”

Chuck Spangler, CEO and president, South Carolina Manufacturing Extension Partnership

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