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Supply Chain Reaction Helps Create Diverse Workforce in Detroit

May 23, 2008

In 2002, Johnson Controls joined Ford Motor Co., General Motors, Chrysler, Toyota Motor North America and seven other corporations at the Billion Dollar Roundtable, a short list of U.S. companies that spend $1 billion or more with women- and minority-owned companies.

   Johnson Controls has been on that list ever since, and in 2007 spent $1.5 billion with historically underrepresented suppliers. Johnson Controls’ automotive division is based in Plymouth, Michigan.

   Never underestimate the influence of the supply chain.

   "What we’ve found is our customers are really the ones who make sure we have underrepresented suppliers in the market," said Cassandra Alston, executive director for global workforce development at Johnson Controls. "To do that, you make efforts to make sure they’re included in the bid process and you reach out and build strategic alliances to build these businesses up."

    In Detroit, minority-owned MPS Group provides facilities management, materials handling, logistics, supply chain management and other services to companies that include Johnson Controls, Ford, Chrysler and GM. A registered minority business enterprise, MPS Group makes the extra effort to attract and hire top-flight minority employees. The company’s 150-person workforce was 39 percent minority in 2007; women and minorities together made up 51 percent.

   Some of those new minority hires come through an internship program with Detroit Public Schools. The company is also working with the Ross School of Business Global MBA program at the University of Michigan to involve international students in MPS Group’s global strategic planning.

   "It’s a requirement," said MPS Group president and CEO Charlie Williams of his company’s commitment to diversity. "Chrysler, Ford, GM—they’re asking us, ‘Where are you spending your dollars?’ And it’s consistent with our core values."