At its annual business meeting held recently in Erlanger, Kentucky, Toyota Motor North America, Inc. (TMNA) discussed goals and objectives with direct and indirect suppliers in preparation for the new fiscal year. As customary at these meetings, Toyota, the world’s largest auto maker, honored suppliers who have exceeded the company’s expectations. Among the 25 suppliers honored was Metro Detroit-based Chemico Group, which received Toyota’s “Superior Performance Award,” the automobile company’s highest honor for performance.
“We are proud and honored to be recognized by Toyota Motor North America for our efforts in supplier quality,” said Leon C. Richardson, founder, president and CEO of Chemico, the nation’s largest veteran and minority-owned chemical management supplier. “All of us at Chemico recognize the significance of this award. It demonstrates our deep commitment to providing excellent service and customer satisfaction.”
“We look for suppliers that go above and beyond in meeting our requirements and expectations,” said Jim Holloway, TMNA’s general manager of supplier relations, risk management, and supplier diversity. “Chemico has been instrumental, especially with our Georgetown facility in Kentucky, as we were ready to launch the all-new Camry in June. By working collaboratively with Chemico, we were able to develop a win-win scenario. It was a very compressed lead time, but Chemico was able to meet the aggressive schedule.”
While Chemico is a certified minority business, the company was chosen for the award from a large field of non-minority-owned suppliers.
“This award is about performance, and not about the fact that Chemico is a minority supplier,” said Jason Reid, TMNA’s general manager of indirect purchasing for all North American manufacturing sites. “Chemico is a phenomenally performing business that happens to be minority-owned. Chemico met and exceeded our expectations at our Georgetown, Kentucky and Blue Springs, Mississippi facilities.”
Yet, Richardson credits much of Chemico’s success to being a member of the Michigan Minority Supplier Development Council, a 40-year-old non-profit organization whose mission is to certify minority business enterprises (MBEs), develop their capacities, and help generated procurement opportunities with its corporate membership. To date, MMSDC has 1,200 MBEs, and works with 300 corporations. It has orchestrated more than $26 billion in annual contracts between major corporations and certified minority business members.
“Chemico is a brand that stands for excellence,” said Michelle Sourie Robinson, MMSDC’s president & CEO. “Their recognition by Toyota with Toyota’s highest award is a validation of Leon’s and Chemico’s commitment to elevating expectations and delivering value. We are proud to have supported his effort and growth to this point, and look forward to a continued partnership. His success is a reflection of our collaborative efforts and uncompromised commitment to the success of our minority business enterprises.”
Executives at TMNA agree on the impact of MMSDC.
“We recognize that some small minority businesses are not always ready to work with a large automotive manufacturer, like ourselves or some of our competitors.” Reid explained. “So, we are deeply involved with working with the Michigan Minority Supplier District Council to help facilitate business opportunities with certified minority suppliers.”
Toyota’s position on diversity and inclusion has always been an open book. The company is a member of the Billion Dollar Roundtable (BDR), which was created more than a decade ago to achieve spending of $1 billion or more with minority and women-owned suppliers/businesses.
Additionally, since 1990, the annual Toyota Opportunity Exchange has provided MBEs and women business enterprises (WBEs) suppliers with a yearly platform in which to build relationships with the giant automaker. Millions of dollars in diverse supplier contracts have been generated over the years, as a direct result of connections and relationships made at Toyota Opportunity Exchange.
“Our diverse suppliers are very strategic to us because of their creativity and flexibility and the entrepreneurship that they bring to the table,” said Holloway. “It’s very important to us to not only use our supplier base, but to grow it. Leon and Chemico are great examples of partnerships and how TMNA has been instrumental in helping them grow.”
Chemico was started in 1989 and is a certified chemical management supplier specializing in integrated solutions for the entire chemical lifecycle that includes procurement, on-site inventory management, distribution, environmentally conscious disposal, and more. The company is a Tier 1 supplier to automotive original equipment manufacturers (OEMs). Chemico employs more than 300 people across 22 states and three countries. Last year Chemico sales exceeded $100 million. In addition to being recognized by Toyota for excellence as a supplier, Chemico has received General Motors’ “Supplier of the Year” honors for the past seven years.
“Toyota has done an outstanding job at recognizing and developing and supporting minority companies throughout North America, and it goes beyond just my company,” Richardson said. “They hit the mark to give certified suppliers like Chemico an opportunity. However, when suppliers get an opportunity, they have to perform.”