The Automotive Hall of Fame in Dearborn tonight will induct its newest class of honorees. Frank Venegas Jr., founder, chairman, and CEO of Ideal Group in southwest Detroit, and recipient of the Distinguished Service Citation, spoke with DBusiness Daily News about the state of the region and his advice for fellow entrepreneurs.
1. DDN: What aspect of your career are you most proud of?
FV: Watching my kids take the business into the second generation. My daughter, Linzie, was born a month or two after I started the business, which is going to be 36 this year. She and my son, Jesse, who is 34, have always been there with me, working Saturdays and helping the business grow. That’s probably my proudest moment.
2. DDN: From your vantage point, what do you think the region can be doing to attract jobs and businesses?
FV: Continue to do what they’re doing. I always look at kids as a barometer, and I have seen many (young people) coming here to buy or lease an (apartment, office, or commercial space) in downtown Detroit. The schools are full and companies and businesses are looking for people to work for them. So just keep doing what we’re doing, and we’ll get there.
3. DDN: Are you looking forward to the new bridge between Detroit and Windsor?
FV: We’re a big player here in southeast Michigan, and with us being in southwest Detroit, we’re just licking our chops on that one. (Laughs) Our sales from our construction company are north of $100 million a year, but even with that, we can’t build the (entire) bridge. But we certainly can do the toll bridges and tollgates on this side (of the border). You also can really see the excitement and the vision of what the Illitch family has laid out here to make the city a vibrant place that people want to visit (with their new $450-millionn hockey arena and surrounding neighborhoods planned at I-75 and Woodward Avenue).
4. DDN: What other projects are you excited about at Ideal Group?
FV: My main customer is General Motors — we do a lot of construction work for them and I’ve been on GM’s global supplier council for almost 10 years. They’ve got a lot of additions and a lot of new buildings and facility movements, so I’m excited for my automotive customers. I see a lot of great work for the suppliers and the OEMs.
5. DDN: What advice do you have for today’s entrepreneurs and business owners?
FV: I (look at) my time as slices of a pie. And I’ve always given a pretty good slice toward working in the community and teaching the skills that I was given. And the crazy, wild thing is this: when you give up a big piece of your pie to your work and help people, they make pies, and they bring it back. So all of sudden, I’ve got a lot of pie. And if I relate that back into the business, I can attribute a lot of my success based on how much I’ve helped others. A lot of people say, “You give a dollar, you’ll get $10 back.” That’s not true. You give a dollar, you’ll get $10,000 back.