With over 300 years of combined, front-line experience in manufacturing and business problem solving, Polaris can bring more to your factory floor and front office than any other single organization. We know the Rhode Island business landscape and are dedicated to helping local manufacturers compete on a local, national, and global scale.

Meet our team:

Associate VP, URI Division of Research and Economic Development;
Executive Director, URI Research Foundation

Michael Katz

Michael KatzMichael Katz is the Associate Vice President for Intellectual Property and Economic Development at the University of Rhode Island and the Executive Director of the URI Research Foundation, which provides oversight for Polaris MEP. Michael began his research career, first as a faculty member at the University of Connecticut, then as a staff scientist at the Becton-Dickinson Research Center in North Carolina, and Bayer, Inc. in West Haven, Conn. Michael then began his work in economic development, first as intellectual property manager at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, and then as Associate Director for Science and Technology Ventures at Columbia University. He moved on to become Director of the Office of Industrial Partnerships at Virginia Commonwealth University and later Executive Director of Intellectual Property and Industry Research Alliances at the University of California, Berkeley, where he was responsible for managing industry/university research collaborations and technology licensing. Before coming to URI, he was principal of Strategic Partnership Advisors in Gaithersburg, Md, a consulting firm advising companies on forming research and development relationships with universities. Contact: mekatz@uri.edu or 401-874-4807

Center Director

Christian Cowan

Christian CowanPolaris MEP's Center Director, Christian Cowan, is a senior executive with more than 20 years of experience in technical manufacturing operations and marketing in the IT networking, energy and textile industries. Christian was most recently the Director of Global Product Management for Opengear, a provider of out-of-band IT management solutions.  Previously he served as VP of Marketing for Asure Software, a leading vendor of cloud computing time management software services (SaaS), and as Product Manager at A123 Systems. Christian managed the Security/Environmental Monitoring and IT Network Management lines while Product Line Director for APC, now Schneider Electric. He brings both domestic and overseas hands-on manufacturing experience to Polaris MEP. Christian earned his BSEE degree from Villanova University and his MBA from the University of Rhode Island. Contact: ccowan@polarismep.org

Manufacturing Experts

Nathan Bonds

Polaris MEP Project Manager Nathan A. Bonds has over 20 years of manufacturing experience as an Assembler, Supervisor, Coordinator, Engineer, Continuous Improvement Manager and Quality Manager. He has worked in the Automotive Industry, Injection Molding, Electroplating, Manual Hand Spraying, Paint Automation, Vibe, Polish and Buffing, Sublimation, and Precious Metals Industry. As a Quality Manager, Nathan championed the compliance of Management Systems to ISO 9001; as well as developed and implemented new testing methods due to technological advances at his end user Customer. As a Continuous Improvement Manager, he performed training on Team Management, Facilitation, Structured Problem Solving, 5-S Execution, and Preventative Maintenance Scheduling. He also developed new processes for new product development, streamlining the process, and seeing through to production. As a Plant Scrap Coordinator, he championed a Team of individuals using Lean Methodologies to reduce the highest scrap product lines in each department and drive change management. He is a passionate trainer and teacher. He has certifications in ASQ Training, Root Cause Analysis and is a member of Gemba Academy, Lean Six Sigma and ASQ. Contact: nbonds@polarismep.org

Carl Dwinnells

Carl DwinnellsProject Manager Carl Dwinnells has over 25 years of experience in manufacturing and distribution in the jewelry, electronics, plastics, boating and metal fabrication industries, strongly complementing his background in Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering. Carl has extensive experience in Lean facility design incorporating equipment, materials handling, and office planning for plant expansions, moves, new building design and consolidations. He has also designed for logistics facilities including automatic packaging, handling, RFID, and storage. Furthermore, he supports companies by developing real estate searches, contractor management and support of architect requirements including evacuation plans. He has extensive experience in  PC-based and mainframe computer systems, including teaching AutoCAD, Microsoft Project and utilizing MRP systems (SAP).  In large projects, he supplies Project Management expertise integrating Microsoft Project, AutoCAD and Microsoft Office into planned projects.   Carl holds a Masters degree in Management Science/Industrial Engineering from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

Contact: cdwinnells@polarismep.org

John Gilheeney

John GilheeneyProject Manager John Gilheeney has over 35 years experience working with organizations throughout North America helping them to improve operations, productivity, quality, customer service, environmental, health and safety performance. John has 8 years experience working for DNV (Det Norske Veritas) Certification, Inc. as a Senior Lead Assessor auditing quality, environmental, health, safety and security management systems against the ISO 9001, ISO 14001, OHSAS 18001, National Bio-solids Partnership (NBP) and Responsible Care® Standards and Technical Specifications. Some of the organizations he has worked with include, but are not limited to: Toyota, General Motors, Rohm and Haas, Alcoa, NASA, General Dynamics, Tyco Electronics, BP, Marathon Oil Company, Lucent Technologies, Caterpillar, City of Fort Worth and Rhode Island School of Design. Contact: jgilheeney@polarismep.org

Don Nester

Don NesterSr. Project Manager Don Nester has 35 years experience at Hoechst North America in Coventry RI including: Six years as Plant Manager responsible for all aspects of $150M sales and $50M in capital assets, implementing cultural and technical changes to turn around a company failing because of extreme foreign competition; six years as Quality Manager responsible for delivering quality dyes, pigments and pharmaceuticals products made by 900 employees in 5 business units; Quality Coordinator responsible for reducing hazardous wastes and wasteful use of water; Diagnostician for quality training and productivity improvements; Microprocessor Programming of chemical processes to optimize productivity and cycle times; and department foreman. Don is owner of Work Place Solutions, a firm providing consultant services to improve competitiveness in the areas of people, processes, performance and profits. He is a founder of the RI ISO-9000 Round Table, and Past President of RI Association for Quality and Participation. Don's skills include: strategic planning; expertise in all aspects of six-sigma, lean and other best manufacturing practices; motivational leadership and team builder training; and hazardous materials handling. He is the author of five publications on quality and pollution prevention. Don has a BA in Economics, with minors in Mathematics and Chemistry, URI; MS in Management, Anna Maria College. Other certificate training in Executive Strategies, Leadership, ISO-9000, Auditing Quality Systems, Experiment Design and Hazardous Material Handling. Contact: dnester@polarismep.org

Jeff Stevens

JStevens-70wPolaris MEP Project Manager Jeff Stevens has over 30 years of experience in manufacturing as an Engineer, Continuous Improvement Coordinator, and Quality Manager. He has worked in the wire & cable, glass-to-metal seals, aerosol packaging, urethane molding, jewelry, stamping, drawn tube & waveguide, injection molding, and metal turning industries. As a Quality Manager, Jeff championed the compliance of Management Systems to ISO 9001, Pharmaceutical cGMP's, and the 16949. He has performed Quality Management System audits in the U.S., Canada, and England. As Continuous Improvement Coordinator, he performed training on Team Management, Facilitation, Structured Problem Solving, 5-S Execution, and SPC. He also led management in their Strategic Planning System, coordinating Capital Budgeting, Sales Forecasting, Resource Planning, and Continuous Improvement Team Chartering. Jeff holds a B.A. in Materials Engineering from Brown University and is certified by the American Society for Quality in Auditing, Quality Engineering and Management. Contact: jstevens@polarismep.org

Phil Ward

Polaris MEP Project Manager, Phil Ward, has 35 years of manufacturing experience in the semiconductor industry (including 30 at Intel), with wafer fabrication, assembly and test. He has held staff level positions within Operations, Engineering, Planning and Total Productive Maintenance (TPM). He is a recognized, hands on innovative LEAN leader, educator, facilitator and coach with global experience and is a certified Job Instruction Trainer. As the Director of Manufacturing he led a 591,000 Sq. Ft. Assembly/Test facility with > 500 pieces of equipment and 1100 people. As a TPM Manager, he developed an innovative Maintenance Bootcamp that helped improve the average availability of > 400 machines 7% in 9 months at a wafer fabrication facility and lowered the average product cycle time by 25% by reducing the variability of preventative maintenance scheduling at an assembly/test facility. He has demonstrated routine reductions of 30 -70% in equipment maintenance times while improving product quality through machine stability. He also has experience in machine design, process change management, waste elimination, inventory control, structured problem solving, process and value stream mapping, facilitating Kaizen events, 5S workshops and other lean initiatives. Phil has a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from West Virginia University Institute of Technology. Contact: pward@polarismep.org


Sarah Callahan

Operations Manager, Sarah CallahanPolaris MEP Operations Manager Sarah Callahan has helped small to mid-size businesses with strategic plan development, metrics evaluation and best practices implementation during periods of establishment, growth, and transition. For the past 7 years, she supported the Massachusetts and Rhode Island Chapters of The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society with client cultivation, event management and marketing. Sarah earned a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from Villanova University. Contact: scallahan@polarismep.org


Jon Palmisano

Jon PalmisanoMarketing Manager Jon Palmisano brings over 25 years of integrated marketing and business development experience to Polaris MEP. After starting his career as a color matcher in a RI wallpaper factory, Jon worked as the staff graphic artist for AccuSoft Corporation. He then took on marketing management roles at Tower Technology and TriGuard Group, with a brief stint in between as a senior web design consultant for Avicon, a supply chain consulting firm. Prior to Polaris MEP, Jon directed the marketing and business development for two award-winning software companies, McCabe Software and Agitar Technologies. He earned his B.A. in Art with a minor in Psychology from the University of Rhode Island. Contact: jpalmisano@polarismep.org


Mary Springer

Mary Springer is the Director of Finance and Operations at the URI Research Foundation, which provides oversight for Polaris MEP. Mary has spent most of her 30-year career as a CPA in public accounting, providing auditing and consulting services for small 501(c)3 non-profit organizations. Her experience includes financial management and reporting of federal and state grants. Her most recent position was Chief Financial Officer of C.H.I.L.D., Inc., a private non-profit Head-Start agency. Prior to that she was the Controller at Specialty Chemical Systems, an affiliate of Technic, Inc., a global leader in the chemical/precious metal manufacturing industry. Mary earned her B.S. in Business Administration/Accounting from Bryant University. Contact: mspringer@polarismep.org

Partners & Advisors

David Marquis

David Marquis PhotoChairman of Advisory Board

David is President of ChemArt, a leading designer and manufacturer of photo-chemically etched decorative ornaments and custom collectibles located in Lincoln R.I. He has also served in several Operational positions with the company and led an ISO quality initiative that was a first for a U.S. photo chemical machining installation. In his current role, David oversees the entire ChemArt operation, focusing on strategic planning, continuous improvement, customer retention, and business development. David has taken an active role in promoting manufacturing excellence through several business and industry organizations. He joined the Board of Directors of the Rhode Island Manufacturing Extension Service (RIMES) in 2007, and has served on the Board of the Rhode Island Manufacturers Association (RIMA). Dave also serves on the Board of Directors for the Northern Rhode Island Chamber of Commerce and is on the Board of Trustees for the Williams M. Davies, Jr. Career & Technical High School. A graduate of Bryant University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Business Administration, David also holds an MBA from the University of Rhode Island.