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February/March 2012

Diversity/Careers February/March 2012 Issue




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Supplier Diversity

Bridgestone Americas leases from Pacific Rim Capital

The business relationship began at a single Bridgestone facility; it's currently at work at four operating units and twelve company locations


Bridgestone Americas, Inc (BSAM, Nashville, TN) is a subsidiary of Bridgestone Corp, the world's largest tire and rubber company. The Bridgestone Americas supplier diversity program has been running successfully for more than twelve years.

The program began with diversity reporting requests by the company's large original equipment manufacturer (OEM) automotive customers; it has become an integral and vital part of the business. When the program began, total spending with minority- and women-owned business enterprises (MBEs and WBEs) was in the thousands of dollars; today's program spend is more than $100 million a year with diverse suppliers.

BSAM markets a wide range of Bridgestone, Firestone and associated brand tires to consumers and OEMs of automotive and commercial vehicles, as well as to customers in the agricultural, forestry and mining industries. BSAM companies also produce air springs, roofing materials and industrial fibers and textiles, and operate one of the world's largest chains of automotive tire and service centers.

Supporting regional advocacy
Support for regional advocacy groups and certifying organizations is a key element of today's BSAM supplier diversity program. The program is currently focused on supporting national and regional advocacy groups "to increase our supplier diversity profile and develop new supply partners," says Tod Knopp, project buyer for supplier diversity. He notes that BSAM is a corporate member of the National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC) and has worked closely with the group's regional affiliate in Tennessee (TNMSDC). It has also actively sponsored the regional Women's Business Enterprise Council (WBEC) South. In 2012 the company will strengthen its diversity outreach through sponsorship of the U.S. Pan Asian American Chamber of Commerce and the Tennessee Latin American Chamber of Commerce.

Rodney Creager, manager of strategic sourcing in corporate purchasing at BSAM, says the company locates many of its minority suppliers through trade fairs, including the NMSDC opportunity fair, the TNMSDC marketplace of opportunities, the WBEC South opportunity conference and the Toyota opportunity exchange. Prospective suppliers can find registration info at www.diversitybusiness.com/bfusa.

Pacific Rim Capital: equipment leasing and beyond
Creager notes that mentorship through the BSAM supplier diversity program is informal, and Knopp adds that "Efforts may be initiated to help the partnership develop across the Bridgestone operating units.

"Our partnership with Pacific Rim Capital is a strong example of this," he says. "Initially the business relationship began at a single facility but it has grown to serve four of our operating units and twelve company locations."

Pacific Rim Capital (PRC, Aliso Viejo, CA) was founded in 1990 by Marc Mills, who is African American, and David Mirsky. The partners got their start in equipment leasing working for one of the country's largest IT leasing companies. Today PRC is a global financial services company that provides equipment leasing, asset management and a range of innovative technologies for Fortune 250 corporations.

"We felt that business could be done differently and better than it was by our employer," Mills says. When the employer declined to make the changes they recommended, Mills and Mirsky invested their personal funds and established relationships with banks and funding sources. "Together we created a culture anchored by an emphasis on ethical behavior, excellent customer service and innovative technologies," says Mills, who has a BA from Harvard University (Cambridge, MA) and a degree in finance from the London School of Economics (London, UK). Mirsky holds a degree in management science from the State University of New York at Binghamton.

PRC performed, provided value, and grew. "As the largest independent lessor of material-handling equipment in the U.S., PRC functions as a lease originator, servicer and equity investor rather than a broker," says company president Mills. PRC operates in the U.S., Canada, Mexico and the European Union; clients include large corporations in a variety of industries.

A critical role for NMSDC
The relationship between BSAM and PRC was forged in 2009 at the NMSDC annual conference in New Orleans, LA, where PRC approached BSAM's coordinator of supplier diversity for guidance and direction. After a year of teleconferencing and email the companies decided to move forward with the relationship.

Mills credits NMSDC certification with providing PRC with national exposure and increased opportunities. "NMSDC has created more visibility for major corporations through recommendations made by its major corporate members as well," Mills adds.

Best Buy mentoring
While PRC has been informally mentored by BSAM, it is also participating in a formal mentorship at Best Buy. In 2011 PRC was brought into the Best Buy mentorship program, and through the program has had access to senior-level Best Buy execs who gave guidance, advice and professional support. "This has been a development opportunity for PRC to improve operations, develop strategies and set goals to better position ourselves in the RFP process with Fortune 1000 companies," Mills notes gratefully.

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