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Baker Donelson Takes Leading Role in 2010 Southern Automotive Conference

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(October 5, 2010 / Jackson, MS) As the platinum sponsor of the 2010 Southern Automotive Conference (SAC), Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz, PC, is taking a leading role in supporting this networking and educational event for automotive suppliers and service companies that will take place on October 6-8, 2010, at the Harrah's Casino and Resort in Tunica, Mississippi.

Presented by the Mississippi Automotive Manufacturers Association (MAMA)—in conjunction with the Tennessee Automotive Manufacturers Association (TAMA), Alabama Automotive Manufacturers Association (AAMA), and Mississippi State University's Center for Advanced Vehicular Systems—the SAC is expected to draw more than 300 attendees representing suppliers, original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and other industry specialists from across the country and the world.

According to Bill Mendenhall, a shareholder in Baker Donelson's Jackson office and chair of the Firm's Economic Development team, the Firm's significant level of involvement in the conference is due to the increasing importance of the automotive industry in the Southeast. "In recent years, automakers and suppliers have recognized the Southeast as a very attractive area for long-term growth, making the automotive industry a critical part of the economy in our region," said Mr. Mendenhall. "Because the SAC brings together a broad spectrum of businesses involved in the automotive industry—including OEMs, suppliers and the vendors who service them—this event is a unique opportunity to highlight our region's growing position in this sector."

After an opening address from Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour on Thursday morning, the conference will offer educational sessions throughout the day on Thursday and on Friday morning. Topics will include opportunities and challenges related to the electric car, the impact of the macroeconomic environment on the automotive industry, and emerging requirements related to labor and employment law.

Baker Donelson labor and employment shareholder Edward R. Young, who has a unique nationwide practice focused on the representation of management in all phases of labor relations and employment law, will be a panel member during the session "Employment Law and New Labor Legislation." The only attorney appearing at the event, Mr. Young will address the impact that recent legislation and regulations will have on the automotive industry's labor force.

"The last two years have seen significant developments in the area of labor and employment law. The National Labor Relations Board, a majority of whose members have been appointed by President Obama, has made numerous anti-business decisions, and more of these changes are currently under consideration by the NLRB," said Mr. Young. "These changes are having, and will continue to have, a major impact on the automotive sector, which employs a large portion of our country's workforce."

The SAC will also include a session of the Southern Automotive Women's Forum (SAWF) entitled "The Business of Doing Business with Women in the Automotive Industry." Baker Donelson is a founding partner of the SAWF, a nonprofit, professional organization dedicated to promoting the personal and professional advancement of women in the automotive industry who are located in the Southern Region of the United States. Louann Prater Smith, a shareholder in Baker Donelson's Chattanooga office and a member of the SAWF's Executive Leadership Team, notes that the industry is the seeing more women involved at all levels of the business. "The automotive field has historically been very male-dominated, but there is real momentum now for women to become more of a force in the industry. The SAWF wants to ensure that women are part of the growth our region is seeing as automotive assembly and support plants locate and expand here."

As part of this mission, the SAWF will award scholarships to young women who are pursuing studies in science, technology, engineering and math, otherwise known as the STEM fields. "We are particularly interested in encouraging girls and young women to focus on the STEM fields with the hope that they will use those skills to go into careers in the auto industry," says Ms. Smith.

Mr. Mendenhall adds, "This is a challenging but exciting time for the American automotive industry, as it works to redefine itself in the face of a changing global business model. The Southeast is strategically positioned to contribute to the rebirth of a stronger, more efficient automotive sector, and Baker Donelson is committed to making sure that our region continues to benefit from the resulting economic development opportunities."

Baker Donelson is not a newcomer to the legal, economic development and manufacturing issues OEMS and suppliers face when they relocate to the region. The Firm's Economic Development attorneys have participated in many significant projects in the southern United States, representing businesses in connection with manufacturing and warehouse projects, commercial and retail developments, and housing developments throughout Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Georgia and Tennessee; and serving as bond counsel, underwriter's counsel, issuer's counsel, trustee's counsel, bond insurer's counsel and credit enhancer's counsel in virtually every area of both tax exempt and taxable public finance in states throughout the South and beyond. Baker Donelson's economic development experience has been recognized by Southern Business & Development magazine, which ranked Baker Donelson as one of the top law firms that understand economic development.

More information and registration for the conference is available online at http://www.saconf.com/SAC10.html .

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Johanna Burkett
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