The Rainbow Push Automotive Project held its 13th annual Global Automotive and Energy Summit October 2 – 4 at the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino in Detroit. More than 500 people attended the event, including automotive executives, entrepreneurs, government and elected officials and a host of other professionals.
The chief aim of our yearly conference is to maintain a dialogue that helps increase opportunities for minorities at every level of the automotive industry. The conference’s theme, Economic Parity: One Voice, One Goal, speaks to that objective. Studies show that there is a disproportionately low representation of people of color in the automotive industry relative to minority-owned dealerships, minority-owned automotive suppliers, minority-owned marketing and PR firms and other areas of concentration.
“Communities of color are still being treated as charity or social projects and not the profit trajectory that we represent,” Glenda Gill said, executive director of the Rainbow Push/CEF Automotive Project. “A new paradigm must be created for minority businesses to grow and be sustainable, and that’s what this event is about.” Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr., founder of Rainbow Push, elaborated further. “Parity in the industry is important. We have freedom, but not equality. We purchase cars, but we don’t get reciprocal trade for our purchases. We must leverage our spending power to demand our share of dealerships, our share of contracts, our share of opportunities.”
Our conference activities also included a Career Day at Cass Tech High School in Detroit. This event promoted career opportunities in the automotive and energy fields, with some of the area’s most prominent business leaders serving as panelists. Leon Richardson of ChemicoMays, Jocelyn Allen of General Motors and Saundra Marion of Detroit Manufacturing Systems were a few of those that contributed their time and expertise to the high schoolers.
Moreover, the Automotive Project, in conjunction with the General Motors Foundation, presented scholarships to 25 college students during the conference. Rev. Jackson spoke to the group and urged them to consider a career in the automotive field. “There are more than 7,000 parts to a car,” he told them, “and each part is an industry. Remember, there’s more to the car than the ride. We want you young people to know every part of the car—the doors, the rims, the electronic parts, memory chips—and how each one can play a part in you having a future in this industry.”
The Automotive Project also unveiled its comprehensive research document during the conference that chronicles the economic impact of the automotive industry on urban communities. The document makes a business case for why auto manufacturers would target urban areas in the first place. Partly, it cites studies that reveal manufacturers located in densely populated urban centers are more productive because they benefit from better access to skilled labor. It also explores how an auto manufacturing facility with 2,000 workers located in an urban area can support an additional 5,200 jobs in the local community. “Our research document tells the story of how vital the auto industry is to our community,” Gill said. “It’s essential that we know just how important.”