Detroit Welcomes Google Chairman Eric Schmidt

Executive chairman of Google, Eric Schmidt, came to Detroit in early August to talk to local businesses about growing their sales via digital offerings.

You know you’ve made it big when Google comes knocking on your front door. In early August, the success of Ideal Group in southwest Detroit, which sells a variety of commercial products and services online using Google AdWords, caught the attention of the search engine’s executive chairman, Eric Schmidt. Several other regional businesses that have tapped Google’s services were in attendance, as well.

“There’s a lot of manufacturing businesses in Michigan,” Schmidt said, during a roundtable discussion. “And customers are no longer looking at the phone books.”

What caught the eye of Schmidt and other Google personnel in attendance was the fact that for every dollar that Ideal Group spends, the company generates $18.92 in sales. Linzie Venegas, sales and marketing manager for Ideal Group, says that 50 percent of the company’s new customers come from online sources, and Google generated the bulk of those leads.

Ideal Group offers everything from construction and contracting services to retail and surplus equipment sales. For the latter group, Venegas and her team set up on online auction site, one of five company-owned websites she oversees, to sell surplus items like cabinets, tools, and lockers. She also manages sales for Ideal Shield, which manufactures durable plastic handrails, guardrails, and bollard covers for companies like Target, McDonald’s, Walt Disney, and Wal-Mart.

Schmidt spoke to business leaders from such companies as Belle Tire and Con-Way Inc. about how Google’s marketing tools allows businesses to market their wares and services in a straightforward manner. He also mentioned how Google allows potential customers to find specialty products quickly.

Louis Green, president and CEO of the Michigan Minority Supplier Development Council in Detroit, says his organization uses Google to highlight technological opportunities for participating members. “Free Internet tools are the greater equalizer,” says Green.

Schmidt went on to say that small businesses constantly generate new ideas, or change direction. As a result, they can get their visions monetized by using the Internet to draw more customers. In turn, businesses will be able to hire better employees, because people want to work for a winning company.

“There is a big range of the sizes of businesses that use Google,” Schmidt says. “We all benefit from this broadband penetration.”

This year, Google plans to hire 60 to 75 employees at its two regional offices — Birmingham and Ann Arbor. Last year, Google’s advertising tools, such as AdWords and AdSense, helped create $1.3 billion in economic growth in the state.

“We exists because of this electronic commerce,” says Schmidt. “It’s easy to criticize the Internet, but where would we be without it?”