Transforming electrification into a vast equity opportunity.
Henry Ford famously said, “Don’t find fault, find a remedy.” Today, Ford Supplier Diversity & Inclusion Head Travis Spencer and the Ford Supplier Diversity Team are doing exactly that for supplier diversity—finding a remedy. Only, this is Ford, so they’re doing it on a truly grand scale. Since 1978, Ford’s total diverse supplier spend tops out somewhere around $171 billion. The positive economic impact of that is staggering and nearly incalculable. Spencer and his team are focused on continuing this growth in supplier diversity.
“Ford looks to lead America in our nation’s shift to electric vehicles. And that’s what led to the creation of BlueOval City (BOC) and BlueOval SK Battery Park (BOC SK),” Spencer explains. “In Stanton, Tennessee, we’re building the largest, most advanced, most efficient auto production plant in our history for next-generation electric pickup trucks and batteries. And with SK Innovation in Glendale, Kentucky, we’re building the BOC SK, twin battery plants that will power Ford and Lincoln electric vehicles. Together, it’s an $11.4 billion investment that will create nearly 11,000 new jobs as well as vast opportunities for diverse suppliers of every type and level. And we want to make sure that we reach each and every one we can.”
BOC and BOC SK illustrate demonstrably Ford’s commitment to the future and the environment. They also give opportunity for Spencer and his team to deliver on their indelible commitment that diverse suppliers not only participate meaningfully, but also lead, gain, and foster future generations of diverse suppliers. To them, that commitment is sacrosanct. It is a stellar group that includes Supplier Diversity & Inclusion Manager Brian Lloyd, and Supplier Diversity & Inclusion Business Analysts LaTara Brown, Sanaa Saad, and Vincent Tucker. For them BOC and BOC SK are a unique opportunity to do what they do best.
“We got really excited when Ford announced these two huge projects. We saw an exponential opportunity to source diverse suppliers,” says Lloyd. “And we hit the ground running, forming eight new relationships with advocacy groups specific to those regions to work organically from the ground up. We also met with local SBA representatives, local diverse supplier advocacy groups in Kentucky, Tennessee, and Memphis, WBENC South, the LGBTQ+ Nashville Chamber, etc. It was imperative to us that our efforts focus on local, diverse suppliers.”
Investing $5.6 billion in Tennessee and $5.8 billion in Kentucky means great opportunity for local diverse suppliers. And the team looks to include businesses for all aspects of work, from construction to logistics to manufacturing—even diverse vendors for support services like food trucks and other worker amenities. Spencer points out that both Barton Malow and Walbridge, construction firms for the Kentucky and Tennessee plants, respectively, have been given diverse supplier targets they must meet. They also each have websites devoted to that process, in addition to Ford’s diverse supplier portal, after construction is complete. But Tucker notes that this isn’t a process where diverse suppliers just sign up and are on their own.
“We have a five-stage process that we take diverse suppliers through to make sure they meet the product and capabilities they say they have and fit the needs we have either internally or with a Tier 1 supplier,” Saad says. “We’re the advocates for all these diverse suppliers. We meet with them before we push them out to our buyers, see what their capabilities are, and coach them if needed before they meet our production team.”
Brown points that diverse suppliers should also do their homework and know how they’re going to add value, “We don’t just hand out business to a diverse supplier because they’re diverse. They have to know how they can make our product better or our line more efficient, for example. We also have developmental programs, if they’re not quite ready to be a Ford diverse supplier. For example, MentorWE is a program for certified WBEs to help them advance and develop their business through corporate and executive mentoring.”
Spencer adds, “BlueOval City and BlueOval SK are like a clarion call from Ford for the future. And that speaks as well to supplier diversity. So, we’ve instructed our internal buyers as well as all of the advocacy groups that we’ve met with to broadcast that Ford is actively looking for diverse suppliers for BlueOval City. We are comprehensively driving supplier diversity through every means possible, both internally and externally.”
Given their track record so far, Ford, Spencer, and his Supplier Diversity team are most definitely finding the remedy for supplier diversity.
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