Armando Ojeda: My name is Armando Ojeda. I’m the Executive Director of the Michigan Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. I’m here today in our studios with Keith Ford, Vice President of Purchasing Services for Lear Corporation. Welcome, Keith.
Keith Ford: Thank you, Armando. It’s great to be here.
Armando Ojeda: Great to have you. Keith, we see you at all of these events and, you know, we know you’re the head purchasing person at Lear Corporation, so we’d like to know a little bit about you. Tell us about yourself.
Keith Ford: Okay, thank you Armando. My background is primarily in finance. I worked for 13 years at Ford Motor Company in a variety of finance-related capacities. I then worked for four years at New Holland, which was the agricultural arm of Fiat, and for the past 17 years I’ve been involved with Lear Corporation in a variety of finance-related roles. Most recently I’ve been involved with purchasing – focused on purchasing finance, non-production purchasing, purchasing systems as well as supplier diversity.
Armando Ojeda: For those folks that may not be as familiar with Lear’s international presence, we know that you have – meaning Lear Corporation – has a very significant presence in Mexico and Latin America. Can you tell us a little bit about your history and what it is that you’re doing there today?
Keith Ford: Sure. Lear has really a long history in Mexico. I’ll start with Mexico first. In the mid-1960’s we made our initial investment there and we’ve progressively increased our presence and footprint over the years. Currently we have over 25 facilities that are involved with product engineering, manufacturing and administrative roles in Mexico. We employ over 38,000 employees and we’re the largest employer in the Juarez area.
In Honduras, we’ve had manufacturing facilities there for over 10 years, and we’re also one of the largest employers in the Santa Barbara area. So as you can see, these regions are very important for Lear Corporation from both a commercial as well as a manufacturing perspective.
Armando Ojeda: So you’ve had some significant involvement with the Hispanic population internationally and so I know that you’ve done some sort of analysis of the population, the demographic changes that are going on here in the United States. And so I wanted to ask you about, you know, what you see for supplier diversity and how you are going fold in Hispanics into that – into that area.
Keith Ford: Okay, first of all diversity is a very important element of our overall business strategy, and one of our core values at Lear. So with that, we also look at the growth of the segments of the population. The Hispanic population is one of the fastest-growing segments of the overall population, so from my perspective, they will be an important part of our growth strategy and our diversification strategy when it comes to supplier diversity.
We have a number of relationships – strategic relationships – today, and as we expand our reach and our footprint from a supplier perspective, we will reach even further into the Hispanic community. And that’s our plan from that perspective. Overall, diversity makes sense for our company and it’s going to make us a stronger company.
Armando Ojeda: You had a really good year last year in terms of supplier diversity spend, bringing – growing the suppliers that you have and then you’re also aspiring now to become a member of the Billion Dollar Roundtable. So tell us about that journey that you’re going to be undertaking.
Keith Ford: We made great progress in 2012, but there’s still more work to be done. Based on spending, Lear Corporation is almost two-thirds of the way to the Billion Dollar Roundtable. In conjunction with our plan to increase spending, we’re also implementing the other best practice techniques that current BDR members are suggesting so that we ensure that we have a strong, robust and vibrant supply base with the full diversity that we need going forward.
Armando Ojeda: Terrific. So Lear Corporation is rather unusual in that it’s not a business-to-consumer, so you don’t have direct relations to consumers like the OEM’s, but yet you have appointed a new Chief Diversity Officer, David Maxwell. So I’m curious as to, you know, how that came about and what the thinking was behind that.
Keith Ford: Yeah, Dave’s appointment as Chief Diversity Officer reflects Lear’s commitment to diversity and doing business in – and community service, really. In his newly-created role, Dave is going to report directly to Matt Simoncini, our CEO. He will work closely with Matt and the senior executive team to put in place the processes and techniques necessary to ensure that we employ the most diverse workforce possible, have a very strong and vibrant and diverse supply base, as well as continuing to serve the communities where we do business.
Dave is really well-qualified for this position, having served both in manufacturing as well as human resource-related positions in the past with Lear Corporation. He also has overseas experience. This is a global position, which is a bit unusual also, but you’ll see more about that as Dave’s job unfolds and – and going forward. So it’s really a key position from that perspective. Dave is very well-suited for the role, and it’s a key leadership position.
Armando Ojeda: Well, you’re to be commended for that. We’ve been visiting with Keith Ford, Vice President of Purchasing Services at Lear Corporation. Thank you very much again, and we look forward to participating with you on this journey.
Keith Ford: Great.