Medina County Immigration Summit 


7:30AM-8:00AM Breakfast and Networking

8:00AM-8:10AM Welcome and Introductions from Bethany Dentler Medina County Economic Development Corporation

8:10AM-9:00AM Keynote Address from Logan Kolas The Buckeye Institute

9:00AM-9:10AM Break

9:10AM-10:10AM International Newcomers Panel Moderated by Tanya Budler – Rise Together

10:10AM-10:30AM Immigration Presentation from Asma Easa American Immigration Council

10:30AM-11:30AM Immigration Policy Panel Moderated by Christy Staats – Bibles, Badges and Business

11:30AM Brief Closing Remarks

Logan Kolas The Buckeye Institute

Logan Kolas is an economic policy analyst with the Economic Research Center at The Buckeye Institute, where he researches and writes about state and local taxes, state-level budgets, technology and innovation policy, and labor market issues. Kolas has conducted state-level tax modeling and budget research for states such as Iowa, Louisiana, New Hampshire, and North Carolina. He has authored policy papers, book chapters, blog posts, and op-eds on restoring Ohio’s technology and innovation leadership, effective data privacy laws, the impacts of federal and state labor market policies on work, and modernizing Ohio’s outdated economic system to return the Buckeye State to economic prosperity and leadership. The author of The Buckeye Institute’s three-part Policies for More Innovation series, Kolas authored A Policy Primer for Emerging Technology in Ohio and Modernizing Ohio’s Policies to Seize New Economic Opportunities. Kolas also authored Ohio’s Global Fight for Talent, detailing the need for Ohio to upskill and reskill its domestic workforce while attracting talent from other states and countries. Kolas’ policy proposals on Ohio’s workforce were praised by Governor Mike DeWine and Lt. Governor John Husted. Kolas has testified to legislative committees on free-market policy and privacy issues. His commentary has appeared in regional and national outlets, including The Hill, RealClear Policy, The Columbus Dispatch, The Cincinnati Enquirer,, Crain’s Cleveland Business, Dayton Daily News, The Lima News, and St. Louis Post Dispatch, amongst others. Prior to joining Buckeye, Kolas was a research associate at the Herbert A. Stiefel Center for Trade Policy Studies at the Cato Institute, where his research focused on the impact of international trade on employment, the effect of international trade taxes on state and federal government policies, and the regulatory burden imposed by the government on American businesses and families. Kolas is a native of Cincinnati and, throughout his career, has focused on researching Ohio-related policies. He earned his Bachelor of Science in economics and political science from George Washington University and holds a Master of Science in applied economics from the University of Maryland.

Tanya Budler Rise Together

Tanya Budler is the Founder and Managing Principal of Rise Together, an impact consulting firm that partners with public, private, and nonprofit organizations to create the systems-level change that enables and empowers international newcomers to join the local workforce. Currently, Rise Together is co-creating and co-managing the Cuyahoga County Newcomer Navigator Program, facilitating the Refugee Services Collaborative of Greater Cleveland, facilitating United Way of Greater Cleveland’s Social Determinants of Work Initiative, and building a Welcoming Workforce in Cuyahoga Falls and Summit County. A people-centric problem solver, Tanya started her career in the private sector by building global youth programs, orchestrating international events, and leading workshops across eight countries. Her career has since expanded into government, serving as an Economic and Social Recovery Fellow in the Office of the Governor of Connecticut and contributing to workforce efforts at the US Department of Transportation. Inspired by the immense potential at the intersection of public, private, and nonprofit sectors, Tanya made the bold move to Northeast Ohio in January 2022 to establish Rise Together. Armed with a B.A. from Dartmouth College and an Ed.M. from Harvard Graduate School of Education, she strives to drive change by creating thriving ecosystems that harness the power of international newcomers.

Bahati Ntahurunga USCRI

Bahati arrived in the United States in 2012 from Uganda as a refugee. In 2021, Bahati graduated from Cuyahoga Community College and has continued her education at Western Governors University. Bahati enjoys being involved in community activities and has been employed at USCRI as a Case Manager and at MetroWest as a Health and Wellness Coordinator.

Kerrie Bellar Bellar Events

Kerrie Bellar is a distinguished entrepreneur and visionary leader in event management. Hailing from the United Kingdom, Kerrie honed her expertise through a rigorous education in both education and business and finance. With a successful career spanning the UK, she brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to her endeavors. Relocating to Ohio in 2020, Kerrie established herself as a cornerstone of the Medina County community, where she founded Bellar Events, an esteemed event management company. As a mother of two college-age children, Kerrie embodies dedication, resilience, and a commitment to excellence in all her endeavors. Her presence at this immigration summit exemplifies her passion for fostering connections and driving positive change on a global scale.

Mark Owens Team NEO

Mark has over fifteen years’ experience within the marketing and public affairs industry in a variety of operational and managerial positions across several sectors including retail, insurance, financial services, and non-profits. Overseeing all elements of Team NEO’s marketing and communications team, Mark is responsible for creating and accelerating the organization’s marketing strategy and brand recognition across the Northeast Ohio Region and beyond. He is focused on driving the vision of helping promote Northeast Ohio, offering local partners a more powerful platform to share their successes, market their assets, and attract more investment. Very active in the local community Mark, currently serves as Chair of the Business Advisory Committee at Cuyahoga Community College, President of the Cleveland Irish Business Network and Co-Chairs the Sister Cities Committee at Global Cleveland. He has also served as Chair of the Greater Cleveland Sports Commission Associate Board and is a past board member of Ohio City Incorporated where he remains involved as a member of the Irishtown Bend Park strategy and development committee. Mark was appointed as the first ever Honorary Consul of Ireland for Ohio in March 2023. The role an important element of the Irish State’s global engagement, supporting the broader development of economic, business, and cultural relations while providing consular assistance and services to Irish citizens. He joins a network of approximately 100 Irish Honorary Consuls or Honorary Consuls General throughout the world, including 10 in the U.S. Born in Derry City, Ireland, Mark moved permanently to the US (Cleveland area) in 2001 having previously studied at John Carroll University as part of a scholarship program. Prior to this he studied at Manchester University, where he graduated with a production management degree, and he recently completed his Executive MBA at South East Technological University (SETU), Ireland. Married to his wife Maria, they have two wonderful children, along with two crazy dogs and a bird. They reside in Rocky River on Cleveland’s west side. 

Max Rodas Nueva Luz Urban Research Center

Max Rodas has been involved in responding to the challenges faced by the urban communities of Greater Cleveland, Ohio since 1988 and for the last 23 years he has been the Founder and Executive Director of Nueva Luz Urban Resource Center, an organization addressing the root causes of systemic poverty and health inequities in Cleveland’s Cudell Neighborhood\. Pastor Rodas has served as a Trustee for Mount Vernon Nazarene University and was appointed by both Ohio Governor Strickland and Governor Kasich to serve on the Ohio Commission on Latino Affairs. He is also a member of the Greater Cleveland Hispanic Roundtable and graduated from Leadership Cleveland Class of 2008. On the national level, he represents Ohio at the National Latino Evangelical Coalition as it relates to salient Latino issues such as education, safety and business development. Pastor Rodas is originally from Guatemala, holds a graduate degree from Olivet Nazarene University and was ordained by the Church of the Nazarene in 1984His wife, Kim, is a LISW-S and provides the clinical leadership and credentialing to all the medical, housing, legal and nutrition case managers. Kim and Max have 3 adult children – Natalia, Nathan and Max Enrique.  They also have 3 amazing pets – Mazy, Munch and The Cat.

Tina Thomas-Lewin The Will-Burt Company

Prior to moving to the States with her husband and later joining The Will-Burt Company in 2015, Tina worked for the UK Government in the Department for Education. Her team were responsible in overseeing the budget for Her Majesty’s Treasury for all learning providers in England. At The Will-Burt Company, Tina holds the position of Corporate Controller and is recognized for bringing change and improvements to the overall financial processes and reports shared with management across the world. Tina is a life-long learner and often finds herself diversifying from the world of accounting. She has a BA Honors degree from the University of Portsmouth, a qualified Chartered Management Global Accountant (CGMA) and Fellow member of the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (FCMA). Tina qualified as an Organizational Development Certified Professional (ODCP) and has gone on to co-facilitate classes for subjects including Empathy, Radical Candor, Time Management and Trust. Tina loves giving back to her community through volunteer work. Following her graduation from Leadership Medina County Signature Class in 2017 and LEAD in 2023, she volunteered on their Finance Committee for six years. She is Treasurer on the Board of the Medina County Police Activities League, a youth crime prevention program that helps to create trust and understanding between police officers and Medina County youth and is a Board Advisor for Ashland University’s Women in Leadership course. Outside of accounting and volunteering, Tina and her husband love renovation projects and travelling. They both love to give back to those around them showing the next generations there are opportunities available and if they can help in some way that is exactly what they will do. Tina and her husband reside in Medina County while their adult children and two very energetic grandsons stayed back in the UK for their careers and spouses but have had second thoughts after visiting Ohio over the last ten years.


Tom VanderLaan Carlisle Brake and Friction

Tom VanderLaan is globally responsible for the $400 million Carlisle Brake and Friction business headquartered in Medina, and a member of the CentroMotion senior leadership team. His career spans over 35 years leading global businesses and functions in automotive, commercial vehicle and industrial sectors. He previously held positions at Brose, AVL, Remy, Visteon and Aptiv while living in both the US and Europe. He immigrated with his family from Aruba to Cleveland, becoming a US citizen in 1985.

Asma Easa American Immigration Council

Asma Easa is the Senior Policy Manager of State and Local Initiatives at the American Immigration Council. She works with the business community, including chambers of commerce, individual employers, and state-wide business coalitions, as well as local government, where she provides support with development of policies, programs, and initiatives that are more inclusive, uses data to show the economic benefits of immigrant integration, and provides technical assistance and strategic advice to create more welcoming immigration policies and programs. Previously, she was the Senior Policy Fellow at New American Economy. Asma has extensive experience in research and development, stakeholder management, and strategic planning and outreach in academia, nonprofits, and urban planning. Asma holds a Master’s in International Public Policy, a M.S. in Urban and Regional Planning, and a B.A. in International Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. 

Christy Staats Bibles, Badges and Business

Christy Staats is from Stow, Ohio, and went to Miami University receiving a BA in Communications, and BA in Comparative Religion. She worked with Cru for 15 years, 11 of which were in the UK. She founded Cru’s national refugee and immigrant ministry in 2015. She was invited to join the Bibles, Badges and Business work of the National Immigration Forum in 2018 and has been organizing and speaking with faith, law enforcement and business leaders about the need for immigration reform since.  She is nearly finished with her masters in Theology from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.

Rick Carfagna Ohio Chamber of Commerce

Rick Carfagna serves as Senior Vice President of Government Affairs for the Ohio Chamber of Commerce.  In this position, he is responsible for leading the Chamber’s legislative team and overseeing the Chamber’s public policy agenda. Carfagna formerly served three terms in the Ohio House of Representatives, representing the eastern half of Delaware County and all of Knox County.  His tenure included a role in House leadership as Assistant Majority Floor Leader, where he helped develop and implement the majority caucus’ policy agenda.  He also spent time as Chair of the House Finance Subcommittee on Higher Education and as Vice-Chair of the House Public Utilities Committee.  As State Representative, he was the architect of Ohio’s $270 million Residential Broadband Expansion Program to bring high speed internet infrastructure to unserved households throughout the state.  He also had measures enacted that combat human trafficking, stabilize mental health emergencies, provide customer protections to parents of children in daycare, and provide greater access to, and emphasis on, computer science offerings in K-12 education. As former Chair of the Ohio Retirement Study Council, Carfagna provided legislative oversight over the state’s five public retirement systems and their approximately $218 billion in combined assets.  Carfagna also chaired the Midwestern Higher Education Compact, a consortium of 12 member states that strengthens postsecondary education through cost-savings initiatives and policy solutions. A native of the Columbus area, Carfagna earned his B.A. in Political Science from John Carroll University.  Following graduation, he was accepted into the Ohio Legislative Service Commission’s Fellowship Program and later served as a legislative aide in the Ohio House of Representatives.  From 2002 until 2017, Carfagna worked as Government Relations Manager for Time Warner Cable, where he oversaw legislative and regulatory issues at the local, state, and federal levels. Prior to serving in the Ohio House, Carfagna was elected to the Genoa Township Board of Trustees in 2009 and re-elected in 2013.  He was appointed by his peers to serve as Board Chair in 2011, 2014, and 2016. Rick Carfagna and his wife, Jill, reside in Genoa Township and are the proud parents of a daughter, Isabella.

Dr. Daniel Chand Kent State University

Daniel Chand, “Danny,” is an Associate Professor of Public Policy and Political Science Department of Kent State University. His primary research topic is immigration policy, which he explores through public policy and public administration theory. Danny’s work has been published in top administration, policy, and nonprofit journals such as Policy Sciences, Policy Studies Journal, Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, Public Performance and Management Review, American Review of Public Administration, Administration and Society, and VOLUNTAS. His research has explored topics such as the discretionary power of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents, decision-making by immigration judges, and advocacy by immigration nonprofits. He has also contributed op-eds to outlets such as the Cleveland Plain Dealer and has actively worked with the Ohio ACLU. Prior to earning his Ph.D., he spent a number of years working with nonprofits on both development and advocacy projects. His experiences ranged from state-level lobbying with nonprofit public interest groups, to working for political action committees (PACs), to implementing program evaluations for charitable associations. From 2006 through 2008, he served as a Peace Corps volunteer in rural Zambia.

Brian Decker Decker’s Nursery, Inc.

Brian Decker is the President of Decker’s Nursery, Inc., a wholesale nursery focused on Plant Propagation, new plant variety introductions, and production of finished nursery stock for the wholesale industry. The 3-generation family business wasfounded in 1921 by Paul Offenberg, Grandfather to Brian Decker.  Paul Offenberg was a Professional Horticulturalist trained in his native Holland. He served as Royal Gardener to Kaiser Wilhelm prior to emigrating to the United States in 1921 and founding Offenberg Nursery.  Decker Nursery, officially formed in 1980, is known internationally as an industry leader in ornamental plant grafting, cutting production, and commercial plant production.  Decker Nursery ships within the United States to about 40 states and Canada.