The National Business League and automaker Stellantis announced Tuesday that they are partnering to launch an inaugural program to develop and support black-owned supplier companies through education, connections and resources.
The goal is to eventually bind these supplier companies with contracts. According to the National Black Supplier Development Program, the partners said they have selected 15 black-owned supplier businesses for this phase, 60% of which are located in Detroit.
“This program will not only provide corporate-to-business opportunities, business-to-business opportunities, and government-to-business opportunities, but it’s really a platform for that internal networking as well,” said Ken Harris, president and CEO of Lidha. National Business. He added that an ecosystem will be created in which significant black-owned companies can contract with black-owned small businesses.
The program has a strong focus on two topics: building a growth plan and understanding financial stability. The program has a new learning management system that will connect suppliers with other companies and businesses. There are also opportunities for participants to work with Stellantis.
“What we set out to do was firstly look at what the market is doing – if there are opportunities and professional services in the future – and also look at the opportunities internally as an automotive company – what would we need as we start to transition into this movement space?” said Gregory Hawkins, business resource group and global integration manager at Stellantis. “So what we did was select suppliers that had those capabilities to deliver what we not only need today, but in the future .”
In addition to Stellantis’ support, Comerica Bank, Cummins, DTE Energy, Ford Motor Co., General Motors, Lear, Magna and Toyota are joining the program as corporate partners.
Participating companies are Boulevard Content, ESG International, BSM Logistics, Goss LLC, Greenwood CRE, ConForm Automotive, JMA Global, Rolling Out Media, Livegistics, Revolt Media, Pro-Tech Group, Superior Innovative Solutions, The Harmon Group, Powerhouse Energy 360 and The widow. These companies provide goods such as solar batteries to electronic vehicles, transportation, insurance, media, cleaning, and advertising.
A pilot for the initiative, which Hawkins called Phase One of the program, began last year with 13 participating businesses.
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“In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which undoubtedly had a demonstrable impact on black business, along with the black race riots that led to a global black lives matter movement, it matters — which ignited this push for racial equality, Harris said, “Our goal was to level the playing field and be intentional with a program that would have a significant impact on the inequities that exist in this country.”
The partners are approaching Phase Two of the program with a kick-off event Tuesday at the Stellantis Conner Event Center in Detroit. Its Tier 1 supplier, vehicle manufacturer, banking and finance partners are expected to be in attendance, where they will network with new participating businesses.
Harris said new corporate partners will receive an orientation. “And then we’ll have the template for them to be able to engage, whether it’s mentoring and coaching, education and training, access to opportunities within their supply chain, etc.,” he said.
Hawkins and Harris have a vision to eventually support over 2.9 million black-owned businesses nationally. Hawkins said the partners are building the foundation for suppliers so more businesses can benefit from the network in the future.
“We understand that whoever comes after them will have the luxury of taking advantage of all that content, that capability and that network,” Hawkins said. “So while most of it is now online, any of those 2.9 million suppliers can go into that platform, understand how to use it, get the same education and development.”