DEARBORN - The process looked a lot like speed dating but in this particular case instead of men and women looking for potential love connections, 42 buying teams representing Ford and its Tier One suppliers were seeking out small and medium Michigan companies to do business with.
The 2013 Ford Matchmaking Summit – held recently at the Ford Conference and Events Center – was designed to support Pure Michigan Business Connect, an initiative developed by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) to connect Michigan companies with opportunities to help them grow and expand.
“With a wealth of ingenuity and innovation right in our own backyard it’s smart to tap as much of that as possible here in Michigan. It’s mutually beneficial and supports our local communities and their economic vitality,” said Joe Hinrichs, president of The Americas, who provided keynote remarks at the event. “As we partner with the most talented and most diverse supplier network possible, our relationships become stronger. We all have more opportunities to grow. Our products get better. And ideally, we win a new generation of proud, satisfied Ford owners.”
More than 1,000 small and medium Michigan businesses applied online to participate in the Matchmaking Summit. Just over 300 were selected based on their potential to meet specific sourcing needs outlined by Ford and its Tier One suppliers, which include companies such as Delphi, Lear, BASF and Siemens.
Throughout the day, Ford and its Tier One buyers met – individually and face-to-face – with a variety of Michigan suppliers in 20-minute blocks to determine the potential for current or future partnerships.
“By doing an event like this, we’re reinforcing our commitment to One Ford and our goal of profitable growth for all because we’re investing in Michigan and helping to create jobs,” said Carla Traci Preston, director, Ford Supplier Diversity Development, noting that Ford spent more than $15 billion last year with Michigan-based suppliers.
One of the Tier One companies represented at the Matchmaking Summit was the Rush Group, a woman- and minority-owned transportation organization.
“Business-to-business (B2B) and small businesses are the catalysts for job creation and growth in the state of Michigan,” said Andra Rush, CEO, Rush Group. “The more Michiganders that are working, the more they are able to buy more cars and trucks from Ford Motor Company. So for me it’s just a great completion of a circle.”
Rush says she attended the Matchmaking Summit hoping to find sources for everything from engineering services and packaging to IT support and preventative health care initiatives.
“We’re looking with a global stroke saying what are the products we buy and can we get them here in Michigan because if you can get them locally you see the multiplier effect in job creation but also it’s probably more competitively priced as well,” she said.
Chad Toms, vice president of National Accounts for Reliance One, was attending the event hoping to secure new business. Reliance One is a minority-owned business located in Auburn Hills, Mich., that specializes in providing technical staffing for all aspects of product design and development.
“This is an investment back into our community,” said Toms. “Henry Ford started the Ford Motor Company over 100 years ago in Dearborn and there are so many companies now that have that same entrepreneurial spirit. We want to create something, hire a lot of people and build a brand.”
Stacy Goldberg, CEO of Savorfull, attended the event hoping to find companies interesting in purchasing some of the healthy Michigan-produced snacks and/or health and wellness services her company provides.
“This is incredible – especially for me,” she said. “I’m a small startup and a newer company. This is the way we’re really going to change the economy here in Michigan by giving entrepreneurs like myself an opportunity.”
According to Preston, the Matchmaking Summit was design to provide introductions between Ford and Tier One suppliers and small-to-medium Michigan-based businesses. The rest is up to them.
“I hope we see some business opportunities awarded,” she said. “Hopefully Ford and some of our Tier One suppliers will have some follow-up discussions.”
In addition to its support of Michigan-based suppliers, Ford has been a strong advocate of minority, women and veteran businesses on the state and national level for many years.
In 2012 Ford was named Corporation of the Year by the Michigan Minority Supplier Development Council and the National Minority Supplier Development Council for its commitment to supplier diversity. Ford was also selected for inclusion in the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council’s 13th annual listing of America’s Top Corporations for Women’s Business Enterprises.
“We want to ensure that small and medium businesses as well as minority, women and veterans businesses have an opportunity to grow,” said Preston.