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Partnerships open doors in Detroit for minority-owned plastics group.

Fifteen years ago, Dr. William F. Pickard owned a number of fast-food outlets around Detroit. He was looking for other fast-growing business opportunities. From what he read in the business press, he judged that his two hottest prospects were automobile dealerships and custom injection molding.

Pickard did not have much success with car dealerships. But his decision to take up injection molding resulted in the creation of the first minority-owned group of Tier One and Tier Two plastics parts suppliers to the Big Three U.S. automakers.

Since 1984, Pickard, a Ph.D. in psychology, has invested in firms producing car interior, exterior, and under-the-hood parts. He now owns 51% of six such firms, which are parts of a newly created Detroit firm named the Global Automotive Alliance LLC.

The Alliance is expected to generate about $160 million in revenue this year. Pickard plans to double that figure next year and hopes to see the Alliance grow to $500 million in five years. Even that figure is small in comparison to the multi-billion-dollar revenues of major Tier-One suppliers such as Lear, Johnson Controls, and Delphi Automotive. Yet Pickard expects his Alliance to deliver something unique - a "one-stop shopping" source for Tier One and Tier Two automotive components. "Pulling our resources together to present a diverse package of products makes good business sense," says Pickard.

Pooling diverse talents

Each business within the Alliance has a different focus:

* Regal Plastics Co., Roseville, Mich., injection molds interior trim and under-hood components and also does some subassembly work. In business since 1968, Regal has been a Tier Two General Motors supplier for the past three years.

* VITEC LLC, Detroit, is a venture between Pickard, partner Larry Crawford, and Walbro Co., Auburn Hills, Mich., a producer of automotive fuel systems. VITEC is a Tier One supplier of blow molded multi-layer fuel-tank systems for GM and Daimler-Chrysler. The firm opened in November 1998 and began shipping tanks this past March. It makes all the fuel tanks for Toyota's European car production.

* Camrose Technologies, Ada, Okla., is a Tier One producer of injection molded fascia and door-handle trim, primarily for GM. It is a 1997 joint venture between Pickard and Ventra, a Canadian injection molder.

* ARD Logistics, Suwanee, Ga., is a Tier 2 firm that assembles seat covers for Johnson Controls as part of an in-line sequencing and assembly program for GM's complex near Atlanta. Pickard and two other partners created ARD in 1998.

* Group Antolin-Wayne, Wayne, Mich., is a Tier One maker of injection molded interior headliners for Ford Motor Co. This venture between Pickard and Antolin, a Spanish headliner-component maker, started production this year.

* Commonwealth Regal Industries, Windsor, Ont., is a Tier Two producer of back-seat interior trim for Daimler-Chrysler. The firm started up in 1994.

'Mentoring' new firms

Pickard says a number of industry developments favor new businesses like the Alliance. One is the consolidation of auto-industry suppliers, which has led primary suppliers to seek out specialty companies for joint ventures. "Joint ventures allow established businesses to provide mentoring for new minority companies, to assist in their development," he says. This helps the Alliance, where 40-45% of the total labor force is African-American, Latino, Native American, or Asian - as is about one-third of the managerial staff as well.

A company-wide internship program encourages employees to recruit their sons and daughters as a means to increase participation by minorities in the field of plastics processing. That participation is already substantial: Pickard notes that over $5 billion in contracts have been awarded in recent years to minority automotive suppliers in Michigan.
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Title Annotation:Global Automotive Alliance
Author:Knights, Mikell
Publication:Plastics Technology
Date:Jul 1, 1999
Words:595
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