Friday, November 5, 2004

Opportunities at the Exchange

Toyota event aids minority firms

By Jeff McKinney
Enquirer staff writer

Lisa Lunsford, president of Thinc, a management consulting firm, talks with Delphi's John E. Taylor during the annual Toyota Opportunity Exchange on Thursday.

Business is brisk at Superior Maintenance Co.

The Elizabethtown, Ky.-based provider of janitorial, maintenance and other services to businesses landed a $4 million contract after taking part in the Toyota Opportunity Exchange for minority businesses and the automaker's suppliers.

Kevin Shurn, president of Superior Maintenance, said his firm's revenues have grown tenfold and its work force has risen to more than 500 people from 10 since it first participated in the event in 1990.

His company became a Toyota supplier in 1993. It also recently landed a new contract with Continental Teves North America, a Toyota brake and part supplier.

Shurn returned Thursday for the 2004 Opportunity Exchange at the Sabin Cincinnati Convention Center. He was among about 2,000 Toyota suppliers and minority businesses enterprises (MBEs) at the event.

By building its ties with Toyota and taking part in the exchange, Shurn said his company has landed six contracts.

It now provides services to Toyota sites in Georgetown and Erlanger in Kentucky and Princeton, Ind.

"The thing for MBEs at this show is to make valuable contacts," he said. "Nowhere else can you go and have the opportunity to meet over 200 potential customers; and, most importantly, these companies have been directed by Toyota to increase their minority participation."

Wyatt and Wade Goins said the event helped them land several clients since 2002.

The twin brothers are partners at Innovative Marketing, an advertising and creative design firm in Forest Park. Wyatt Goins said most of those clients are manufacturers that supply products directly to Toyota, and his firm provides brochures and other marketing-related services.

"It's about being at the right place at the right time, and the Toyota Opportunity Exchange allows you to be at the right place at the right time," he said.

The show has grown over the years. Since the first Opportunity Exchange in 1990, the event has jumped from $350,000 in contracts to minority businesses to $95 million through last year.

In 2002, Toyota set a target to spend 7.5 percent of its annual North American purchases with minority companies.

When combined with purchases between Toyota suppliers and other minority business enterprises, the automaker hopes to surpass its goal of awarding $1 billion in contracts to minority businesses by next year.

All of Toyota's purchases for its North-American-built vehicles are made from its Toyota Manufacturing North American operation in Erlanger.

T. Williams, supplier diversity manager at Toyota Manufacturing North America, said the opportunity exchange has generated more than $8 million to $12 million per event in contracts to minority businesses during the past four years.

Eric Ellis, president and CEO of Integrity Development Corp., a management-consulting firm in West Chester, said the event gives minority businesses access to contracts that they might not otherwise get. His firm is a diversity consultant to Toyota.

"The Toyota suppliers know that they are here to identify viable partnerships with MBEs," he said.


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