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Blacks Who Are Turning Things Around

William Reed | 12/2/2010, 9:07 a.m.

Ford Motor Company has had a successful business turnaround. The century-old corporation's rebound is a great American story in which Blacks played pivotal roles. The way Ford went from a $12.7 billion loss in 2006 to a $2 billion profit in three years is an African-American success story.

Black Americans' economic history is intertwined with that of automobile production. As consumers and/or workers Blacks played a role in Ford's turnaround. Starting a century ago Ford has helped build the country's economy and middle-class and made history advancing agendas of African Americans. So, it's important to note roles African Americans are playing at Ford and its success. Black American leaders of note are impressed with ways Ford Motor Company's Group Vice President of Global Purchasing Tony K. Brown "turned Ford around."

Ford's top-ranking Black officer, Brown has a $65 billion procurement portfolio and makes decisions regarding Ford's operations and suppliers that impact countries and communities. At a major industry gathering on January 9, 2011 at the MotorCity Casino Hotel's Sound Board Theater in Detroit, Brown will be given Decisive Media's "Executive of the Year" award. The awards program is in conjunction with the North American International Auto Show and places Brown front and center as a "Black role model in the industry."

Randi Payton, publisher of the "African Americans on Wheels", has gained acclaim in the industry that makes Decisive Media's imprimatur meaningful to Brown and Ford. The Urban Wheel Awards promote "awareness of companies and individuals who have made progress toward embracing diversity." Payton's publications broaden awareness of "all areas of the auto industry", including suppliers, dealers, employees, aftermarket, corporate philanthropy, marketing and green technology. Payton says Ford's turnaround "should remind Americans about the power of staying positive in difficult times, whether they are corporate executives, managers, or new to the workplace." Payton points out that: "Tony Brown is not just a leader in developing quality minority suppliers for Ford, but oversees all its suppliers...Through his leadership; he has helped to rebuild consumer confidence in Ford products and services."

Ford has a long corporate culture promoting community engagement. From the beginning Ford encouraged and set the stage for empowerment of African Americans in the industry and national economy. Henry Ford was one of the nation's first businessmen to provide Blacks a level playing field, his ethic guides people like Brown to help in inner cities and actively provide solutions toward urban and inner city problems. Brown led Ford's provision of more than $150 million business to minority- and women-owned companies in 2009, and says that Ford expects to exceed 10 percent minority-and women-owned sourcing goal in 2010. Brown says "Ford Motor Company truly 'gets it' when it comes to inclusion and helping diverse suppliers not only to survive, but also to succeed."

According to industry statistics, people of color purchase one-quarter of new vehicles annually. More and more of these consumer segments are recognizing Brown for his impact in the car industry and on the national economy. In 2006, Al Sharpton gave Brown the National Action Network's "Keeper of the Dream" award, Jesse Jackson gave Brown Rainbow/Push's "Keep Hope Alive" award in 2008 and, in 2009, the the Michigan Chronicle newspaper named Brown winner of its Legacy in Motion Executive of the Year. Chronicle publisher Sam Logan, said the award honors those who made significant contributions to southeastern Michigan's economic growth, social change and overall development. It's time to recognize executives like Brown for ways they're keeping pace with the mainstream, yet reaching back to where they came from. Brown is a contemporary force making today's Ford a major international force. It's good to have people like him guiding and implementing corporate and community issues. Ford is America's second largest automaker and the world's fourth-largest. Ford manufactures or distributes automobiles across six continents and in 2008 produced 5.5 million automobiles with about 200,000 employees and 90 plants. The brands include Ford, Lincoln, Mercury and Volvo and Ford Motor Credit Company financial.

(William Reed is available for speaking/seminar projects via BaileyGroup.org)