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Building more than cars: Toyota Opportunity Exchange brings Minority & Woman-Owned Business Enterprises (M/WBEs) into automotive game

CINCINNATI (October 28, 2014) – Kevin Shurn operated his business from a two-bedroom apartment when he attended Toyota’s first-ever Opportunity Exchange in 1990. Three years later, he secured his first contract, providing janitorial services to Toyota’s Georgetown, Ky., plant. Today, his Elizabethtown, Ky.-based Superior Maintenance Co. has more than 500 employees, serving Toyota manufacturing facilities in Kentucky, Indiana and Texas. 

“No one goes to the extent that Toyota does to help minority and women-owned businesses,” said Shurn, now a Tier I-level supplier. “Just as Toyota expects you as a supplier to meet quality, cost, safety and delivery expectations, it has an expectation – not only a target but an expectation – for their Tier I suppliers to work with minority and women-owned businesses.” 

It is a formula that has proven successful: now in its 25th year, Toyota’s annual Opportunity Exchange (OE) has resulted in more than $250 million in contracts for M/WBEs like Shurn’s. 

The two-day event – which included best-practice seminars, panel discussions and a trade show – concluded Tuesday, Oct. 28, at the Duke Energy Convention Center in downtown Cincinnati. Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing North America (TEMA) started OE with about 100 attendees, and it has grown to become one of the largest minority business events in the country – attracting nearly 2,000 people who attend the event free of charge. 

One of those is Rosa Santana. Recently, Toyota announced her newest company – Forma Automotive LLC – as its first Hispanic woman-owned direct supplier. Beginning in 2015, Forma Automotive will assemble Tacoma truck beds at Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Texas (TMMTX). Her business success story also began at Opportunity Exchange. 

“Had I not participated in OE, my company would not have been known the way it is by Toyota, and we would not have been offered this great opportunity,” said Santana, who began attending Opportunity Exchange in 2005. 

To show how OE works, Santana met Shurn at the 2005 event, which resulted in a chance to provide maintenance and janitorial services to TMMTX. Superior Maintenance contracted with Santana’s original staffing company, Integrated Human Capital, to provide workers for that operation; since then, IHC has provided staffing, recruitment and direct-placement services to an additional 17 suppliers at that site. 

“Twenty-five years ago we saw the need to put our commitment to diversity into action – to make it real, to reflect an example for our team, for our community and for our suppliers,” said Gene Tabor, general manager of purchasing for TEMA. “I believe Toyota’s commitment leaves our own company, our Tier I suppliers and especially our M/WBEs in a better situation.” 

“We have examples too numerous to mention. It starts with an introduction, and can lead to a thriving business opportunity.” 

Toyota has a 5 percent goal for Tier I supplier spending with minority business enterprises in North America, and, at last year’s event, a new 2 percent goal for purchases of goods and services from woman-owned businesses was announced. Toyota buys from 500 suppliers across North America, which results in $27 billion worth of purchases annually. 

“I think the WBE spending goal is a positive for women,” said Linda Torakis, president of McKechnie Vehicle Components, headquartered in Roseville, Mich. “This is still a male-dominated industry and I think it’s great to encourage suppliers to look at women-owned businesses. Just providing the opportunity for us to be out there and to open the door is a great thing. We can compete on our own merits.”

Torakis began attending Opportunity Exchange in 2008, just after she and her husband had purchased McKechnie – which was on the verge of collapse. In 2010, McKechnie began talks with OE attendee Murakami Manufacturing USA Inc., which produces exterior mirrors for Toyota. This year, McKechnie secured a $1.2 million contract to supply chrome trim to Murakami for the Lexus RX350. McKechnie also connected with Tokai Rika at OE, resulting in more than $1 million for production of chrome-plated parts for the Ford Mustang and Fusion this year, and, in 2015, for the Nissan Maxima. 

Tier I suppliers see a distinct value in partnering with smaller minority-owned firms. 

Larry Crawford, chairman and CEO of Diversity-Vuteq LLC, is a Tier I supplier who has attended OE for nearly 15 years. “At an event like this we are always looking because people come up with innovative ideas,” Crawford said. “What’s discounted a lot is that minority companies have to be really innovative just to survive because usually they’re small in scope and face enormous challenges, so sometimes they come up with things the big companies haven’t thought of and better ways of doing them.”



Over the course of more than two decades, Opportunity Exchange has helped generate new business for MWBEs and continues to help direct suppliers diversify their own supply base. These partnerships help add value and innovation to Toyota’s products and services. For more information about Toyota's supplier diversity program, please visit www.toyotasupplier.com. Additional information can be found at www.toyotaopportunityexchange.com, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ToyotaOE and Twitter, www.twitter.com/ToyotaOE. 

About Toyota 
Toyota (NYSE:TM), the world's top automaker and creator of the Prius, is committed to building vehicles for the way people live through our Toyota, Lexus and Scion brands.  Over the past 50 years, we have built more than 25 million cars and trucks in North America, where we operate 14 manufacturing plants (10 in the U.S.) and directly employ more than 40,000 people (more than 32,000 in the U.S.).  Our 1,800 North American dealerships (1,500 in the U.S.) sold more than 2.5 million cars and trucks (more than 2.2 million in the U.S.) in 2013 – and about 80 percent of all Toyota vehicles sold over the past 20 years are still on the road today.   
Toyota partners with philanthropic organizations across the country, with a focus on education, safety and the environment.  As part of this commitment, we share the company’s extensive know-how garnered from building great cars and trucks to help community organizations and other nonprofits expand their ability to do good.  For more information about Toyota, visit 



Honoring trailblazers in supplier diversity


SCMSDC presents Leadership Award to Bill Imada; recognizes Southern California Gas,

Northrop Grumman and Verizon for supplier diversity excellence 

LOS ANGELES, Oct. 21, 2014 -- Southern California Minority Supplier Development Council’s (SCMSDC) 30th annual Leadership Excellence Awards reinforced how supplier diversity has shifted from once being a socio-economic outreach program for minority- and women-owned businesses to an initiative that corporate leaders and individual companies embrace as business imperatives and view as good, practical business sense. 

Held October 1 at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel, the council honored the “best of the best” in supplier diversity. Its prestigious Leadership Excellence Award was presented to Bill Imada, founder, chairman and chief collaboration officer of IW Group, a minority-owned advertising, marketing and communications agency focused on the growing multicultural markets – marking only the second time in 30 years that an MBE received this honor.  

For the second consecutive year, Southern California Gas Co. (SoCalGas) was named Corporation of the Year. Also for the second straight year, Northrop Grumman Corp. received SCMSDC’s Corporate Innovation Award. Verizon was the recipient of the Corporate Ambassador Award. 

“Our 2014 honorees are trailblazers in supplier diversity and have raised the bar for others to follow,” according to SCMSDC President Virginia Gomez. ”Never satisfied with the status quo, they continue to innovate and excel in minority supplier development and create business opportunities in the minority community.”    

Leadership Award 

In accepting the Leadership Award from SCMSDC Board Chair and Southern California Edison Director of Supplier Diversity Joe Alderete, Imada said, “I’m a product of people like Joe Alderete...When we pitched business to Edison the first time, we failed. Three years later, we failed again, and Joe told me not to give up. The third time, we won a contract, and they didn’t make us a Tier 2 supplier – they made us Tier 1. And, now we are helping Edison with mass market advertising. The message to MBEs is, ‘Do not give up.’”

For more than 20 years, Imada has represented some of the top companies in the U.S., including American Airlines, Coca-Cola, Farmers Insurance, Godiva Chocolatier, McDonald’s, Southern California Edison, Walmart Stores and others. 

He is active in the community and serves on several boards and advisory councils, including the Advertising Educational Foundation, California Asian Pacific Chamber of Commerce Center for Asian American Media and the LAGRANT Foundation. 

Imada also co-founded the Asian & Pacific Islander American Scholarship Fund and established the Asian/Pacific Islander American Chamber of Commerce & Entrepreneurship. He was invited to meet President Barack Obama with 12 other Asian/Pacific Islander American leaders and was also appointed to the President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. 

The only other MBE to receive SCMSDC’s Leadership Award is Earvin “Magic” Johnson, chairman and CEO, Magic Johnson Enterprises, and founder and chairman, Magic Johnson Foundation. 

Corporate Awards 

Awards were given to corporate members in recognition of their exemplary supplier diversity achievements. These included:


  • ·         Corporation of the Year Award -- Given to a corporate member that has consistently provided tangible offerings to diverse entrepreneurs through training, development and the award of contracts. SoCalGas, which achieved a record 45.4 percent spend with diverse suppliers last year, received high marks for its supplier diversity policies, programs, leadership best practices and overall spend results.


  • ·         Corporate Innovator Award -- Northrop Grumman Corp. was praised for its programs to develop diverse suppliers.


  • ·         Corporate Ambassador Award -- Verizon was recognized for its commitment to providing educational opportunities to help diverse firms grow and succeed.


Other award nominees were Kaiser Permanente; MillerCoors; Nestlé North America; Randstad; The Walt Disney Company; Toyota; Union Bank; and US Bank. Local nominees include USC, American Honda Motor Co. and Los Angeles World Airports. 

Corporate members are nominated by SCMSDC's Minority Business Enterprise Input Committee (MBEIC), which is comprised of minority business owners who provide the board and council with constructive and solutions-oriented input on issues affecting minority-owned businesses. The National Minority Supplier Development Council’s (NMSDC) national corporate nominees competing for the NMSDC Corporation of the Year Award are automatically placed in competition for the local, regional council award. 

A selection committee, including organizational leaders who advocate for ethnic minority businesses, MBEIC members and MBEs-at-large, determine award recipients. This year, the committee members were MBEIC Chair Bonnie Nijst, ZEESMAN; MBEIC Vice Chair Denise Peoples, Peoples Choice Staffing; Sue Bhatia, Rose International, Inc.; Greg Craig, Anahau Energy; Ruben Guerra, Latin Business Assn.; Dennis Huang, Asian Business Assn.; Ying McGuire, Technology Integration Group; and Tracy Stanhoff, American Indian Chamber of Commerce. 

Corporation of the Year co-chairs were Joe Blackstone, Blackstone Consulting, Inc.; Rita Kalwani, KAL Architects; Sujata Mody Kamdar, GBS Linens; Sanjay Kucheria, Trinus Corp.; Bonnie Nijst, ZEESMAN Communications; Denise Peoples, Peoples Choice Staffing; Phil Ramos, Philatron; Anita Ron, BriteWorks, Inc.; and Pat Watts, FCI Management. 

Dignitaries and special guests 

Several dignitaries were on-hand for the Leadership Excellence Awards, including NMSDC President Joset Wright-Lacy; Los Angeles Councilman Curren Price, who chairs the Los Angeles City Council Economic Development Committee; Board of Public Works Vice President Monica Rodriguez, who champions diverse business inclusion and access to city contracts; former state Assemblywoman Gwen Moore, author of GO 156, the powerful legislation that ensures access, inclusion and awards to diverse businesses; Gaddi Vasquez, senior vice president of Edison International; and 1972 Heisman trophy winner and entrepreneur Johnny “The Jet” Rodgers, who gave the keynote. 

In Wright-Lacy’s welcoming remarks, she said, “I’m proud to bring greetings from MBEs and corporate members throughout 24 regional councils to make sure we are leveling the playing field for diverse suppliers. There’s nothing more important than making sure that everyone gets a chance to play.” 

Alderete, who will be retiring from SCMSDC’s board and Edison in December, received the council’s Lifetime Achievement Award, as well as a resolution from Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s office and Councilman Curren Price, commending him for his dedication and tireless service in supplier diversity. 

Event sponsors 

(Platinum) Southern California Edison, Southern California Gas; (gold) Toyota; (silver) WellPoint; (bronze) Northrop Grumman; (corporate sponsors) American Honda Motor Co., Inc.; AT&T; Chevron; EastWest Bank; Fluor; NBCUniversal; The Walt Disney Company; Verizon; (MBE sponsors) Anahau Energy; BriteWorks, Inc.; Blackstone Consulting; Cordova Bolt; FCI Management; GBS Linens; KAL Architects; Peoples Choice Staffing; Philatron; S.C. Anderson; TLM Petro Labor Force; Trinus Corp.; and ZEESMAN.  


                Southern California Minority Supplier Development Council is the premier organization strengthening economic ties between large, public-, private- and foreign-owned corporations and minority men- and women-owned business enterprises. As the region’s leading minority business advocacy organization, SCMSDC represents the interests of more than 600,000 minority businesses in its 13-county service area in Southern California. The council offers nationally recognized certification to minority-owned businesses, strategic networking between corporate members and certified firms, and education, information, and skills development to help minority businesses enhance their capacity. Headquartered in Los Angeles and one of 24 affiliate councils in the National Minority Supplier Development Council network, SCMSDC has made a positive impact in the minority business community since its founding in 1973. For more information, visit www.scmsdc.org.



Vicki Cho Estrada

Cho Estrada Communications

(661) 255-8024




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Group O Appoints Jeremy Aune as Vice President, Mobile/Retail Operations

MILAN, IL — Group O announced today that Jeremy Aune has assumed the role of Vice President, Mobile Device and Retail Operations.
Jeremy Aune, Group O Vice President of Mobile and Retail OperationsIn this newly created role, Aune will oversee the company’s supply chain operations that support the mobile and electronics industries, including manufacturers, retailers and telecommunications carriers. Headquartered in Milan, IL, Group O currently supports the mobile and electronics industries from operations centers in Mendota Heights, Minnesota, Carrollton and Fort Worth, Texas, and Memphis, Tennessee.
“The rate of change in the mobile and electronics space demands fast, precise and flexible supply chain solutions,” said Group O CEO Gregg Ontiveros. “Jeremy brings proven experience in helping our clients to implement world-class operations that are both consistent and transparent.”
A graduate of Western Illinois University, Aune joined Group O in 2005 as a production manager in one of the company’s Milan facilities. Prior to his new role, he also served as director of Group O’s Fort Worth value added reseller operation, which manages the purchase and inspection of more than $3 billion annually in mobile devices for the telecommunications industry.
“I’m excited about this new role and the opportunity to help our clients achieve their business goals,” said Aune. “As their needs have evolved in ensuring a reliable stream of product and marketing support to retail locations, Group O has responded with the right mix of people, process, technology and facilities. Whatever the challenge, we can get it done.”
A resident of Keller, Texas, Aune will be based from Group O’s Carrollton office.

About Group O
Group O is a diversified business process outsourcing provider specializing in marketing services, business analytics, supply chain operations and strategic packaging solutions. A Corporate Plus member of the National Minority Supplier Development Council (nmsdc.org), Group O is an NMSDC National Minority Supplier of the Year honoree and is recognized as a Top 5 Latino-owned Business by the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. Headquartered in Milan, IL, and with major operations in Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota and Texas, Group O is one of the largest Hispanic-owned companies in the United States and employs more than 1,500. To learn more, visit www.GroupO.com.


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