In Detroit, Magna and Lear see ‘a golden opportunity’

Whether or not that materialized in the way that was promised is up for debate, but Robinson believes many executives are missing the target of having a long-term, sustainable impact on communities.

“Many of them overlooked that right in their wheelhouse, the best way to do that — to create jobs in communities that ensure all people get to thrive — is through supplier diversity,” she said.

Since the Michigan council’s inception in 1977 as an affiliate of the National Minority Supplier Development Council, the number of minority businesses has increased by 1,000 percent, but gross revenue among those companies has remained largely stagnant, according to the council.

A study commissioned by the council last year asserted that at current growth rates, it would take minority business enterprises more than 330 years to achieve revenue equity with white-owned businesses.

In the past couple of years, Ford, GM, Stellantis and other automakers and suppliers have faced general scrutiny of spending practices, prompting many of them to emphasize procurement diversification.

“And that’s why I think companies like Magna are seizing the opportunity to say, ‘If you want to make a difference, we can help you make a difference. Now, we’re certainly going to benefit from it, but we’ll make sure that communities of color also benefit,’ ” Robinson said.

The key to a successful joint venture is mutual benefit, she said, and when the arrangement stops working for either side, it’s time to dissolve the partnership and make room for the next one. Minority business enterprises must also be legitimate on paper and in practice, she added.

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