SBA Connects Detroit Suppliers with Leading Corporations

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A U.S. Small Business Administration summit on Tuesday helped more than 350 Detroit based suppliers connect with federal agencies and corporations in an effort to increase government and commercial supply chain opportunities for small firms.

Wilbert Williams, president of Williams-Bayer Industries in Westland, says such relationships can have a positive effect on a small business. His company, a Tier 2 OEM supplier that employs 75 workers, manufactures and assembles parts for the Big Three as well as major Japanese transplants, including Honda, Toyota, and Nissan.

“We would not be as successful as we are if we did not have these relationships,” Williams says, noting that his company produces about $21 million in sales each year. “They have allowed us to grow somewhat exponentially over the years. Next year, we’re looking at some acquisitions and we expect to triple in size in another five to seven years.”

Williams — who introduced Jeanne Hulit, the SBA’s acting administrator, during the summit — launched his business in 2001 because of what he learned while working for Chrysler. “I had an understanding of what the requirements were because I was on the other side of the fence. Now that I’m a supplier, I’ve been able to translate that into a very successful business,” he says.

While there’s a clear advantage to small businesses, larger corporations also benefit from close working relationships, Williams says.

“Typically, (the automakers) would rather work with larger organizations that have the resources — both human capital and financial capital — to support them,” Williams says. “So we support the Tier 1s because there are jobs (they) cannot do as effectively or efficiently as Tier 2 companies. That relationship is extremely important and we’re a vital part of that process there.”

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