published Saturday, August 25th, 2012

VW holds event to recruit minority-owned partners

Volkswagen's Keith Eakins, supplier diversity manager, informs attendees about how minority businesses can do work for VW Friday at the Chattanooga Convention Center.
Volkswagen's Keith Eakins, supplier diversity manager, informs attendees about how minority businesses can do work for VW Friday at the Chattanooga Convention Center.
Photo by Tim Barber.
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Volkswagen's Chattanooga plant has 15 minority suppliers so far, and officials for the carmaker Friday hoped to garner more.

"We want to continue to grow it," said Keith Eakins, VW's supplier diversity manager in Chattanooga.

More than 60 people attended a minority business trade show in Chattanooga set up by VW. The meeting was aimed at wooing minority companies that want to do business with VW or some of its big suppliers.

"We hope they walk out of the room and more deals can be made," Eakins said.

Dennis Waggoner, executive vice president of information technology company Zycron Inc., said the trade show was a way of connecting with the German automaker.

"We'd strongly like to do business with them," he said, adding his Nashville company already has a Chattanooga office.

Lonnie Thomas, vice president of sales for OSMO Corp. in Atlanta, said he came to Chattanooga to try to garner business, likely to tie in with a company already supplying VW.

"Our avenue is through a tier company," he said about his electronic security and supply chain logistics venture.

VW already has surpassed its original goal for minority spending on production purchases at its Chattanooga plant, which started assembly operations last year. The company said 8.6 percent of its purchases have come from minority-owned firms, exceeding its initial target of 5 percent, VW reported.

Sergio Garcia, North American sales manager for SaarGummi Tennessee Inc., in Pulaski, Tenn., said his company already supplies VW plastic clips and weatherstripping.

"They're our largest customer," he said.

Garcia termed the trade show "a good start" for VW in terms of finding minority suppliers.

"Chrysler puts on a show bigger than this," he said.

Louis James, chief executive of Detroit-based QIC, said his company does quality inspection of parts for VW's Chattanooga plant.

"We're kind of a necessary evil," he said, adding that such trade shows enable companies to work out business relationships.

Don Osborne, an account manager for Tower Automotive, said the Livonia, Mich.-based business that provides stamped metal for VW wanted to find minority companies with which it could do business.

"We can meet on a one-on-one basis," he said.

Carla Thompson, a commodity buyer for Tower, said she is always looking for companies with cost-saving ideas.

about Mike Pare...

Mike Pare, the deputy Business editor at the Chattanooga Times Free Press, has worked at the paper for 27 years. In addition to editing, Mike also writes Business stories and covers Volkswagen, economic development and manufacturing in Chattanooga and the surrounding area. In the past he also has covered higher education. Mike, a native of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., received a bachelor’s degree in communications from Florida Atlantic University. he worked at the Rome News-Tribune before ...

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