Hero. Mentor. Role Model.
From an early age, Hank Aguirre was destined to be all three. In his youth, Aguirre worked for his father’s business, the Aguirre Tortillas Factory in San Gabriel. He made, packaged and delivered tortillas. At 4am, the young Aguirre would work his hardest to make deliveries before school. The discipline he gained in those early morning “workouts” prepared him for his journey in pursuing his dream of playing Major League Baseball, where he enthralled many fans with his talent and sparked dreams of opportunity in the eyes of the children and youth who watched him. The “Tall Mexican,” as he was affectionately called due to his 6’4” stature as well as the size of his heart, began his career with the Cleveland Indians, was later traded to the Detroit Tigers, followed by a trade to the Los Angeles Dodgers and ending his professional career with the Chicago Cubs. After Aguirre retired from playing baseball, he spent time as the bullpen and pitching coach for the Cubs, but he had larger aspirations in mind.
In 1979, with the encouragement and support of Jack Masterson, an executive with
Volkswagen of America, and attorney John Noonan, Aguirre mortgaged his home to
borrow $350,000 to start up a manufacturing business in southwest Detroit. His company, Mexican Industries, produced headrests, steering wheels and air bags. He knew he could provide jobs by breaking into the auto industry as a parts supplier.
The factory stood in the shadows of Tiger Stadium as a profitable business and a
community outreach. The company gave job opportunities to poor Mexican workers
who were looking for gainful employment. When Aguirre first established the plant, it had only eight employees. After a difficult start, Mexican Industries thrived during the 1980s, becoming a multimillion-dollar business that created hundreds of jobs for people in the Mexican Village neighborhood on Detroit’s predominantly Hispanic southwest side.
As the business grew, Aguirre helped bring economic development and opportunity to his community. Mr. Aguirre was a constant presence in the barrio, offering encouraging words, establishing a scholarship fund for local schools and donating an estimated $50,000 each year to deserving students. He also helped pay for after-hours recreational programs for inner city kids. Aguirre even advocated on behalf of Latinos and other minorities to expand their presence in Major League Baseball’s management and city government positions.
In Aguirre’s plant, he did things that few others dared to do- he offered English classes for his Spanish-speaking workers and Spanish classes for non-Latinos who were interested in learning. Mr. Aguirre had a very caring nature, and it showed in the relationships he developed with his employees. Each morning he would walk through the plant, greeting each person by name, inquiring about their health and their families. His loyal employees were always grateful for the genuine kindness Aguirre brought to their work environment.
In 1987, Aguirre was named “Businessman of the Year” by the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce; and by the mid-1990s, Mexican Industries employed roughly 900, making it the largest Hispanic business in the state of Michigan.
Upon his passing in 1994 due to complications from prostate cancer, the community
of Detroit mourned him like a conquering hero. In fact, Aguirre is celebrated as “an
outstanding citizen in the City of Detroit,” as remembered by the former mayor of Detroit, Dennis Archer. Mr. Archer went on to say that Aguirre “has been a role model to many young men and women in the Hispanic community.” Few professional athletes, whether active or retired, have achieved the humanitarian levels of Aguirre.
Because he was an extraordinary community and business leader who leveraged
his diverse talents to benefit the community he loved, it is fitting that Mr. Aguirre is
remembered and honored by being inducted into the Michigan Minority Business Hall of Fame. The MMSDC’s induction ceremony will be held during its annual ACE Awards on Oct. 6th at the Detroit Marriott in the Renaissance Center.
An Optimist, Risk-Taker and Trailblazing Entrepreneur
The Michigan Minority Supplier Development Council (MMSDC) is proud to induct Mr. Ronald Hall, Sr. into the Minority Business Hall of Fame. The MMSDC would not be as renowned of an organization as it is today without Mr. Hall’s unfailing dedication to the success of the Council and the minority business community.
Many have remembered Mr. Hall as an automotive industry giant. Today, we recognize him as being so much more. He carried a mindset that embraced his passion for what he believed in – remaining optimistic about his endeavors despite the risks and failure he may have faced along the way. Mr. Hall was a man of optimism. He focused on what was possible and how he could make a difference. The current MMSDC is the result of that optimism. During his tenure as President of the Council, Mr. Hall negotiated to have over 20 companies begin or improve contract benchmarks for minority-owned suppliers – again ensuring they had equal access to economic opportunity. He worked tirelessly to grow the number of constituents from 400 to more than 1,600 and helped position MMSDC as one of the premier minority business development Councils in the nation. Thanks to his leadership and extensive work with the MMSDC, minority businesses across Michigan now have even more access to opportunities with the major corporations across multiple industries.
Mr. Hall was not afraid to take risks and was not deterred by failure. His first foray into entrepreneurship ended in the failure of his two Bonanza steakhouse franchises in the late 1980s. After dissolving the steakhouses, Mr. Hall joined New Detroit, a nonprofit organization that supports minority-owned businesses, as Vice President. In 1993, he became the Chief Executive of the Michigan Minority Business Development Council where he was at the forefront of a movement to get the Big 3 automakers and other large multi-billion dollar suppliers to do more business with minority-owned companies and to cultivate entrepreneurs in the communities that they depended on for a large percentage of their sales.
During his tenure with the MMBDC, Mr. Hall met and established strong business relationships with Board members from large companies including General Motors and Johnson Controls. When Mr. Hall was invited to form the joint venture with Johnson Controls, which later became Bridgewater Interiors, he mortgaged his family’s home to come up with his share of the equity. The risk paid off as Mr. Hall grew the minority-owned venture into a $2 billion supplier of automotive seating parts with more than 2,000 employees and plants located in Detroit, Warren, and Lansing, MI and Estaboga, AL. Those plants support seating platforms for Ford, General Motors and Honda. Mr. Hall also served as President and CEO of the equipment leasing company, Renaissance Capital Alliance, and was former Chairman and CEO of New Center Stamping. He also owned the travel agency, Departure Travel Management.
Mr. Hall was also very passionate about helping others, especially in the pursuit of equal economic opportunity for all communities. He was not satisfied with success alone; he truly believed in giving back to his community. Over the years, Mr. Hall served as Assistant Vice President of New Detroit Inc., a coalition created to encourage more minority involvement in major projects throughout the city. Mr. Hall also served on the Boards of Fifth Third Bank’s local operations, Boy Scouts of America – Southeast Michigan, the American Diabetes Association, the Booker T. Washington Business Association and the former Detroit Renaissance (now Business Leaders for Michigan). He was also active with the Southeast Michigan Junior Achievement and the Michigan Boys Basketball Amateur Athletic Union (AAU). Mr. Hall provided input on Small Business initiatives at state and national levels and served as a Board Trustee of his alma mater, Western Michigan University. A generous philanthropist, Mr. Hall supported numerous civic, community, arts, youth, and sports organizations and institutions. He was also a member of the Alpha Phi Alpha and Sigma Pi Phi Fraternities.
In acknowledgement of the significant contributions that Mr. Ron Hall, Sr. has made to benefit the minority business community in the State of Michigan, and especially his dedication to the Michigan Minority Supplier Development Council, there is no question that he be honored as one of the inductees into the Minority Business Hall of Fame. The induction ceremony for the 2016 Michigan Minority Business Hall of Fame honorees will be held during the MMSDC ACE Awards on October 6th, 2016 at the Detroit Marriott in the Renaissance Center. The event celebrates major corporations, educational institutions, government agencies and minority businesses for their continued success in minority supplier development.
Detroit, MI native Robert E. Rossiter served Lear Corporation forfour decades and was an exceptional leader and a driving force in building Lear Corporation into a world-class global company. Bob held positions of increasing responsibility until
he was ultimately promoted to Chief Executive Officer, a position he held for the last 11 years of his career at Lear.
Bob fostered a culture of industry leading customer service, continuous improvement, the highest level of integrity and support of the communities where Lear does business. These core values are the foundation of Lear’s rich culture that
continue to guide Lear today.
Under his leadership, Lear grew from a small U.S. based supplier to a multibillion dollar leading global supplier of automotive seating and electrical distribution systems. In addition to his many career accomplishments, Bob’s contributions to the community included serving on numerous charitable boards, support of hundreds of charitable causes and pledges of millions in financial support to worthy causesworldwide.