Toyota & MBEs

In the Know Diversity

Friday, December 19, 2008

Business Courier of Cincinnati - The unsteady economic times are prompting minority business owners to seek clients whose supplier diversity goals are unwavering.

For automotive suppliers in the region, that means Toyota.

Toyota has a minority business spending target of 10 percent, meaning that the company aims to buy 10 percent of its total U.S. purchases of parts, goods and services from certified Minority Business Enterprises. The company spent about 7.7 percent – or more than $1.4 billion – with MBE suppliers last year, according to spokeswoman Tania Blersch. Toyota actually increased its spending with minority suppliers, despite the rotten economy and production challenges.

“We remain committed to our current target and to increasing our number of minority suppliers, as well as spending,” Blersch, a spokeswoman at Toyota Motor Engineering and Manufacturing North America Inc., said in an e-mail. “We actually increased our number of minority suppliers by about 5 percent last year from roughly 130 in 2006.”

That’s music to the ears of business owners like Ed Rigaud.

Rigaud, a former Procter & Gamble Co. executive who was the first CEO of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, now is majority owner of EnovaPremier LLC. The company, headquartered in Louisville, does just-in-time tire and wheel assembly for automakers.

And Toyota is one of its most important clients.

“We’re doing OK, partly because we have such a great lead customer in Toyota,” said Rigaud, whose support for minority-owned businesses also extends to the Minority Business Accelerator housed at the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber. “Toyota is just so great to work with.”

Rigaud and the rest of his ownership team acquired EnovaPremier in late 2007. The company had $500 million in annual sales at that point and had been servicing Toyota for about eight years.

Toyota was a big part of the reason Rigaud decided to acquire a business in the automotive sector, he said.

“They really do believe in what they say about minority businesses,” Rigaud said. “They’ve reconfirmed their commitment to MBEs and to growing their MBE content beyond where it is today. And I think that is impressive that they did that in the face of the economic crisis and the automotive turmoil.”