By Mary Lehman
Large suppliers to the Big Three must report what percentage of their subcontractors are minority-owned companies. To what degree this requirement encourages suppliers to use more minority-owned subcontractors is unclear. However, automotive suppliers with international clout do maintain diversity programs. TRW, the international giant in automotive, space, defense, and information technology industries and an important contractor to the Big Three, is but one example.
Ford, GM, and DaimlerChrysler collectively maintain a Web site (www.bigthree.com) to help small, disadvantaged businesses and 8(a)-certified firms learn about the eligibility requirements for selling to automotive manufacturers. Minority vendors interested in automotive contract opportunities, either as a prime contractor or as a subcontractor, can also get information from the following sources:
-- The Small Business Administration, specifically its 8(a) Business Development Program (www.sba.gov).
-- The National Minority Supplier Development Council, which links corporations and minority-owned businesses. Its regional councils – called Purchasing Councils – certify and match minority-owned businesses with member corporations looking to purchase goods and services; they also provide businesses with technical assistance, training, and support to grow and market their services to prospective buyers (www.nmsdcus.org).
Being a supplier for Ford Motor Co. has distinct advantages for companies, beyond generating significant revenue streams, says Ric Gonzalez, CEO of Gonzalez Design Group, Madison Heights, Michigan. The group of companies supplies a wide range of products and services, from engineering and manufacturing of tooling and equipment to technical personnel and printing and marketing material. Mr. Gonzalez says the group has been a Ford supplier for about 25 years.
"They're probably our best customer," says Mr. Gonzalez. "They've treated us extremely well over the years. They've actually helped us grow the business by helping us move in a strategic direction, in a way they wanted their suppliers to look. … [Ford has] loaned us money to help get our operation growing. It's a very holistic approach."
Mr. Gonzalez says that Ford contracts account for about half of the group's revenues, which he estimates will total $150 million this year.
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