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Key Note Speaker – Laura Ellsworth



Laura Ellsworth is Jones Day's first Partner-in-Charge of Global Community Service Initiatives, spearheading the Firm's rule of law initiatives around the world. In her litigation practice, she has handled landmark public nuisance cases, multijurisdictional product liability matters, the largest health care bankruptcy of its time, and nationwide qui tam cases. Laura's commercial litigation work repeatedly has been recognized in Best Lawyers in America, Chambers, and Super Lawyers, and she was named one of Pennsylvania's top female litigators by the Legal Intelligencer. She served on the Local Rules Advisory Committee for the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania and in 2013-2014 was co-chair of the Federal Judicial Selection Committee for the Western District of Pennsylvania. She served as Partner-in-Charge of the Pittsburgh Office from 2003 to 2015.

Laura is active in civic and community affairs, serving on the board and executive committee of the Allegheny Conference on Community Development and chair of the Greater Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce, chair of the Youth Policy Council, vice-chair of the Three Rivers Workforce Investment Board, and past chair of the United Way Women's Leadership Council. She was named by Governor Rendell as one of the Top Businesswomen in Pennsylvania and was appointed by Governor Corbett to serve on the boards of the Pennsylvania State System for Higher Education, the Pennsylvania Council on Privatization and Innovation, and the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts. She also serves on the boards of Magee-Womens Research Institute & Foundation (leading their $100 million global campaign), Imani Christian Academy, the Heinz History Center, F.N.B Corporation, Waynesburg University, The Duquesne Club, the McCune Foundation, and the University of Pittsburgh Institute of Politics. She previously served on the boards of the Pennsylvania Economy League, YMCA of Greater Pittsburgh, the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium, the Pittsburgh Public Theater, and Neighborhood Legal Services. She also serves on many advisory boards, including A+ Schools and the Chatham Center for Women in Politics. Laura has taught law classes in inner-city schools and conducted two Lawyers Without Borders programs in Nairobi, Kenya, before lawyers, prosecutors, and judges.

Laura's civic contributions have been recognized in the 2013 CCAC Educational Foundation Outstanding Lifetime Achievement Award, the 2013 ATHENA Award, the 2014 Pittsburgh Business Times Business Women First Award, the 2014 Pennsylvania Diversity Council's Most Powerful & Influential Women Award, the 2016 Carlow University's Women of Spirit Award, the 2016 Legal Intelligencer's Lifetime Achievement Award, and named a 2017 Lawyer of the Year by Best Lawyers in America. In 2015 she was named #20 among the 50 Most Powerful People in Pittsburgh.




Breakfast Speaker - Helen Hanna Casey
Chief Executive Officer
Howard Hanna Real Estate Services

Helen Hanna Casey


With more than four decades in the real estate industry, Helen Hanna Casey, her sister Annie, and brother Hoddy lead the 3rd largest real estate company in the United States, overseeing over 250 offices and 9,000 sales associates and employees in eight states. Now in its third generation, Howard Hanna continues to be family owned. Helen credits the most exceptional, committed management team in the world, including her daughter, niece and three nephews, with being the force behind the growth of Howard Hanna Real Estate Services.

Her leadership and savvy marketing mind have helped Howard Hanna realize its potential by developing a multi-media approach to advertising. The innovation includes early use of television through the Showcase of Homes and seizing the opportunity to use technology as a marketing vehicle in the mid ‘90s. Today, HowardHanna.com receives over a million visitors a month.

With Helen’s guidance, Howard Hanna partners with national media as well as local vendors, including newspapers and target mailings.

Helen is dynamic, committed, and passionate about all she does in life; her family, her company, and her community. She currently serves as Vice Chair of the National Association of Realtors (NAR) 2017 Corporate Ally Program Advisory Board and as Chair of NAR's 2017 Corporate Investor Council. Just as dedicated to the community, Helen is a member of the Allegheny Conference on Community Development Executive Committee, is a member of the International Women's Forum, is a past Chair of the Greater Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce, sits on the board of TriState Capital Bank, and on the board of the Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera. In addition, she is a requested keynote and featured speaker in the industry, to women's groups and business leaders throughout the country.

Helen has received the Distinguished Service Award from REALTORS® Association of Metropolitan Pittsburgh (RAMP) and has been named by Inman News as one of the 100 Most Influential People in Real Estate. Helen and her sister Annie were named among the Top 200 Women in Business by Working Woman’s Magazine, for which they were invited to and honored at the White House. Helen has also been ranked as the “Most Powerful Woman in Real Estate” by Swanepoel Power 200, and received numerous other awards and honors.

Helen has also been a keynote and featured speaker in the industry to woman’s groups and business leaders throughout the country, and also to philanthropy groups. She was a Keynote Speaker for RISMedia 2013, a Speaker for the NAR Leadership Conference in 2014, and has been a Feature Speaker for numerous different NAR events.


Session Speakers:

Alex Alpert - Crater

Alex A Profile

Alex Alpert is an entrepreneur and innovator. His career in the moving business began in the driver’s seat, but he quickly rose through the ranks, being awarded with numerous honors along the way - “white glove” service reputation, CARTUS Gold Service Award, Meritorious Service Award by the Worldwide ERC and No. 1 COD Salesperson at Wheaton World Wide Moving/Bekins Van Lines. Currently, Alex is the CEO of Crater, a company he founded and that introduced the industry-leading video estimate solution Surveybot. He is an active Board Member of SoCo Nexus, helping enable and accelerate the success of homegrown startups within a dynamic environment. He and his wife Daniela also host the SoCo Nexus Startup Jam project which has become a local success story in Sonoma County for up and coming entrepreneurs.

 Caroline Ahwal - Oakwood Worldwide

 caroline ahwal

Caroline Ahwal began her career with Oakwood in 1999 and has held a variety of positions in the Oakwood organization.  Her primary focus for many years was within the relocation vertical.

Through her successful track record of developing strategic client relationships, managing complex global offerings, executing innovative and collaborative solutions with high-value strategic partners, she was promoted to Global Director of Sales.

Caroline has an excellent history with Oakwood, capturing both the Chairman’s Cup and Presidential Award on multiple occasions for her work within the relocation vertical.

Caroline is based in our Detroit office and manages a team of 13 sales professionals across the U.S.


Chris Collins - Urban Bound

Chris Collins

Chris Collins is Vice President of Sales for UrbanBound, an online Human Resources platform that combines mobility, vetted suppliers, and finance to provide world-class relocation benefits to all employees.  Chris has more than 10 years’ experience in the HR-Technology space, most recently as Vice President of Sales for ADP.  He also serves as Co-President of the Associate Council for The Anixter Center, a not-for-profit that provides support for people with disabilities and related challenges to live, learn, work and play in the Chicago community.  Originally from Ohio, Chris now resides in Chicago with his wife Whitney, son Owen, and Dog Crosby.  He's an avid Buckeyes fan and proudly cheers them on at bowl games across the country.

 Dawn Grafis - BGRS


Dawn joined BGBS in 2011 and has over 20 years of mobility experience in both corporate HR and relocation management company roles.

As a Vice President in Client Services, Dawn leads a portfolio of Client Services teams.  She is responsible for the strategic client relationship and achievement of business goals.  In addition, she supports her team to enable realization of objectives for service delivery, operational effectiveness, customer satisfaction, client satisfaction and employee development.

Dawn earned her Bachelor of Arts from Northern Illinois University with honors. She also holds the industry certifications of CRP and SGMS. She was a member of ERC’s Global Mobility Specialist (GMS) Review Board from 2010 to 2012 and a member of the Board of Directors for the Corporate Relocation Council in Chicago from 1999 to 2002. Dawn also received a Meritorious Service Award from ERC in 2012.

Joleen Lauffer, CRP, GMS, Vice President of Operations Aires

Joleen Lauffer

Joleen Lauffer is Vice President of Operations at Aires. Joleen joined the company in 1997, and previously held the positions of Relocation Specialist, Program Manager, Account Manager and Director of Client Services.  Today, Joleen oversees all operations and technology services.  She holds degrees in Business and Spanish from Washington & Jefferson College and studied in Bogotá, Colombia.  Joleen has also has achieved her CIO Certificate from Carnegie Mellon University.  She also maintains a real estate license, has earned the CRP and GMS designations and is a past recipient of the Meritorious Service Award from the Worldwide ERC®.


John Merriweather – Go Destination

John Merriweather

John L. Merriweather is the President and CEO of GO Destination Services in Carmel, Indiana.  He is currently a board member on the Americas Strategic Council for the Worldwide Employee Relocation Council.

Before founding the company in 1998, John worked in leadership training and quality management for a distribution company in the Midwest.  John launched his career in the United States Army in 1990, where he served proudly for three years including a tour in Operation Desert Storm. 

John is a graduate of Indiana University and he has completed master’s in business coursework at the University of Indianapolis.  John also graduated from the executive education programs at UTEP (University of Texas at El Paso) and the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth.

 Kevin Misiuda - Corporate Accommodations


Kevin Misiuda is the Sales and Inventory Manager at Corporate Accommodations and has been helping people find their home away from home since May, 2005.  Kevin is a certified corporate housing professional and is active in the Corporate Housing Providers Association along with the Greater Pittsburgh Relocation Council.

Kevin is a husband and father of 2, his daughter Vierra and his son Alexander.  Kevin loves being a Dad and enjoys watching them grow and learn new things.  His wife jokes she now has 3 kids to take care of.
In his spare time Kevin repairs small engines and grows asparagus and blueberries.

 Cara Pescho - National Corporate Housing


Cara Pescho is the Vice President of Strategic Alliances – Global Mobility with National Corporate Housing, one of the largest providers of corporate housing and rental assistance in the United States. For more than 20 years, Cara’s dedication to the temporary housing industry and focus on her clients’ success continue to be the driving forces behind her professional achievements, long standing corporate partnerships, and innovative programs developed to enhance the corporate housing experience for private industry and relocation companies.

Over a span of 16 years, Cara has held the positions of Regional Sales Manager, Regional Manager, National Account Manager, VP of Client Relations and currently VP, Strategic Alliances – Global Mobility focusing on National Corporate Housing’s Relocation Management Company clients.  

Cara has served her clients and the industry as a resource for furnished and unfurnished apartments through National’s Single Source Solution™ platform. Cara is active in the Local ERC Charlotte chapter of CMARC, where she has served as Vice President and President.   Cara also participates in several regional relocation councils across the US, EuRa, FEM and the Worldwide ERC, where Cara earned her Certified Relocation Professional designation in 2012.

Cara recently was awarded Highest Revenue Producer in Relocation Sales for National Corporate Housing.  Previous awards include Award of Excellence and Customer Service Awards.  Cara holds her Bachelor of Arts Degree in Business Administration from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

In addition to serving her clients, Cara enjoys spending quality time with her Family.

Matt Phillips – Cohen & Grigsby

Phillips Matt 2 

Matt has been practicing immigration law for over 15 years and has been selected by his peers for inclusion in The Best Lawyers in America. His practice focuses on employment-based immigration, including global/outbound immigration, family-based immigration, naturalization and exclusion/deportation defense. Matt is a Director of the Firm and a member of the Immigration and International Business Practice Groups, and is the Chair of the Global/Outbound Immigration Group.

Marianne Schmidt – Weichert
Vice President of Domestic Tax Services & Reporting
Joined Weichert in: 2006


Marianne leads Weichert’s domestic tax and compensation team, overseeing every aspect of the process, from domestic tax implementation to year-end reporting for relocated employees. She serves as a valued consultant to clients, advising them on payroll processing and tax methodologies. Overseeing all North American tax gross-up and reporting functions, Marianne serves as a Trusted Advisor to educate and communicate with clients and senior management on domestic tax issues and strategy. In addition, she works closely with Weichert Mobility Tax Services on product development and service delivery.

Marianne brings extensive experience and a valuable client-side perspective to her role at Weichert, having previously served as manager of payroll operations and regulatory compliance at Merck. In this position, her major responsibilities included verifying and inputting domestic and international relocation data and processing payroll for over 30,000 employees. While at Merck, she also served as tax and accounting manager, senior tax advisor, and manager of tax compliance and reporting.

Marianne holds a Bachelor’s degree in Accounting from
Montclair University, NJ.




Sneak peak of the speaker sessions:

  • Lump Sum Relocation
  • Corporate Temporary Housing Panel
  • Eyes of the Transferee Panel  
  • Future of Moving Technology Panel
  • Millennials, The Future of Relocation presented by Aires
  • Short Term Assignments and Commuters presented by BGRS
  • Immigration, Changes and What the Future Might Bring 




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