Program will support Black suppliers through education, networking – Detroit Free Press

The National Business League and the 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 connect these supplier companies with contracts. Under the National Black Supplier Development Program, the partners said they have selected 15 Black-owned supplier businesses for this phase, 60% of which are based in Detroit. 
“This program will not only give access to 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 the National Business League. He added that an ecosystem will be created in which substantial Black companies can create contracts with small Black-owned businesses. 
The program has a major focus on two topics: building a growth plan and understanding financial stability. The program has a new learning management system that will connect the suppliers to companies and other businesses. There also are opportunities for participants to work with Stellantis. 
“What we intended to do was first look at what the market is doing — whether there’s opportunity and professional services in the future — as well as looking at opportunities internally as automotive companies — what would we need as we begin to transition ourselves into this mobility space?” said Gregory Hawkins, business resource group and global integration manager at Stellantis. “​​So what we did was select the suppliers that had those capabilities to deliver what not only we 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. 
The 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 Vehya. These companies provide commodities such as electronic vehicle solar batteries, transportation, insurance, media, cleaning and advertising.
A pilot for this initiative, which Hawkins called Phase One of the program, launched last year with 13 participating businesses.
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“In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which obviously had a demonstrative impact on Black business, coupled with the Black racial unrest that led to a global Black Lives Matter movement — that sparked this black racial equity push,” said Harris, “Our goal was to level the playing field and be intentional with a program that would have a significant impact on the disparities that exist in this country.”
The partners are approaching Phase Two of the program with a kickoff event Tuesday at the Stellantis Conner Event Center in Detroit. Its Tier 1 supplier, auto manufacturer, banking and finance partners are expected to be present, where they will network with the new participating businesses. 
Harris said the new corporate partners will receive an orientation. “And then we will have the template for them to be able to engage, whether it’s in terms of mentorship 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 that the partners are building the foundation for the suppliers, so that more businesses will be able to take advantage of the network in the future.
“We realize that everyone that comes behind them will have the luxury of benefiting from all of that content, that capability and that network,” Hawkins said. “So while much of it is now online, any one of those 2.9 million suppliers can go into that platform, understand how to use it, take that same education and development.”


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