With the North American International Auto Show just days away, Who’s Who Publishing and Real Times Media are gearing up for the unveiling of the fourth edition of “DRIVEN In Living Color: A Tribute to Multi-Cultural Achievement in the Automotive Industry.” This is the first ever multiethnic edition of the automotive compilation.
“We are very pleased to be expanding the ‘DRIVEN’ brand to showcase the accomplishments of many diverse communities in the auto industry,” said Hiram E. Jackson, CEO of Real Times Media. “There are so many people of color who have assisted in the development of the industry. We wanted to broaden the tent to share more of these incredible stories of achievement.”
The book will be unveiled Wednesday, Jan. 15, at the Garden Theater in Midtown Detroit. The reception begins at 6 p.m. A copy of the book is included in the $75 ticket price. Continue reading for a sneak peek at the inspirational stories featured in the book.
As a young girl growing up in the small, agricultural/industrial town of Marion, Indiana, Latondra Newton had no inkling that her career path would lead her to become the automotive industry trailblazer she is today. Born one of six children, Newton credits her mother — who was born in the segregated South in 1935 — as her biggest inspiration.
“My mother overcame so many obstacles to successfully raise and educate six children to be productive citizens,” said Newton. “And she did it with such class and grace.” Although Newton lost her mother several years ago, she says her presence is palpable still.
“There was one thing my mother said that will always stick with me: ‘You can live the rest of your life letting ignorance get you down, or you can do something useful.’” Because of those words, Newton has made it her mission to build a purposeful career.
Today, Newton is group vice president for Toyota Motor North America, Inc. She has held a variety of positions since beginning her career with Toyota in 1991 and with that experience, learned the value of solving problems.
“Companies like people who can imagine how things should be and those who are willing to do the work to close the gap between the current situation and the ideal,” she said. “Cultivating the meaningful relationships I have formed, both personal and in business – these are the things that wake me up each day. I always wake up before my alarm, thinking about the things I want to tackle that day.
“I kind of stumbled into this industry and I’m proud that I’ve been able to live out my passion for developing talent over the years. I’ve made it a point to position very diverse and capable talent to take on meaningful roles throughout the company.”
Frank Venegas, Jr. is the chairman and CEO of Ideal Group, a thriving Detroit-based organization with annual revenues of $200 million, employing over 400 people. He is an innovative business leader and has developed diverse companies sharing common corporate values and culture.
A lifelong Detroiter, Venegas takes pride in his roots, sense of duty and commitment to his city. His family moved to Detroit in 1917 from Mexico and settled on the southwest side of town. Having eventually moved to Redford Township, Michigan, Venegas was brought back to Detroit by his good friend, former Detroit Tiger and fellow entrepreneur Hank Aguirre. As Venegas recalls, it was Hank who “chided me for not having any businesses in Detroit.” So, in 1995 he and a few of his constituents decided to each move one of their businesses to the Clark Street Cadillac plant in Southwest Detroit.
As a part of this move, Venegas had a sit-down with former Detroit Police Chief Ike McKinnon, Father Bob of St. Anne Catholic Church, Angie Reyes of the Detroit Hispanic Development Council (DHDC) and four of the five major gang leaders in the area and negotiated a deal that would afford the gang members an opportunity to turn their lives around while also garnering security for the incoming business entities. To put in plainly, the gang members wanted a job while Venegas and his associates wanted to operate their businesses without any gang-related interference. This led to Venegas employing over 70 former gang members, many of whom are still employed with his company.
Wendy King, marketing communications manager at Ford Motor Company, has overcome her share of obstacles throughout her life. Her parents came to Detroit from Taiwan in 1979, when Wendy was 3, to pursue their master’s degrees. Upon completing his education, her father accepted a position as a professor in Taiwan. Taking that opportunity, her parents wanted King to receive formal Chinese education in their home country. So after living in Michigan for five years, she returned to Taiwan in the middle of third grade. When she started her new elementary school in Taipei, King not only had to learn how to read and write Chinese but every subject was taught in Mandarin, which was very difficult for her after being raised in the United States with English as her dominant language.
“Being able to adapt, learn and have the ability to overcome that challenge was life changing. I’m typically not comfortable with new situations, I thrive on stability and confidence in my environments,” said King, which obviously was not the case when she started school in Taiwan.
During her nine-year career at Ford, King not only has had the opportunity to take on many different marketing positions, she has also started her family and has three children. She and her husband work full-time but they make sure they’re both involved in taking care of their children’s emotional, physical and developmental needs. King makes certain that her work and/or family are not compromised in any way. After residing in California for a short time, King and her husband returned to Detroit in 2000. They wanted their children to be close to their grandparents. “Making sure you have the right support system is important,” King said.
To read more outstanding stories, pick up a copy of “DRIVEN In Living Color: A Tribute to Multi-Cultural Achievement in the Automotive Industry.”