It’s a transformative development taking place on Detroit’s southwest side. The Delray community is set to be home to a world-class automotive plant, providing opportunity to Detroit residents. LM Manufacturing is in a joint venture with Magna Seating of America, and LAN Manufacturing, a minority-owned auto supplier. It’s also in a partnership with Bedrock, Detroit’s largest real estate developer, helping LM Manufacturing to occupy 296,000 square feet of space at Bedrock’s Sakthi Industrial Campus.
The facility will manufacture automotive seats and create nearly 400 jobs. Sylvester Hester, President and CEO of LM Manufacturing hoping that this investment creates a “multiplier effect” for the community.
“Instead of going into retirement, when this opportunity became available and the ability to put it in Detroit, it really means something to me.”
As the facility undergoes redevelopment and expansion, Hester is excited this industrial space will allow people to grow and support their families, while aiming to create a service climate. LM Manufacturing’s top client is Ford Motor Company as they will build for the Ford Bronco and Ranger.
“We support the iconic Ford Motor Company and they have wonderful products and services and they deserve our best for their customers, …launching this new facility is something that is very important and we need to launch well.”
The last part of that statement is a key point. Hester has created a sense people culture where every employee he greets, there is an equal hand gesture spelling out of the letter ‘L’ and ‘W’, which represents Hester’s company philosophy of “Launch Well”.
He maintains this gesture builds a workplace culture of reminding everyone what they are there to do and that means being focused on building quality into their products and services.
“Where you spend your time is where your hope lies”. It’s a phrase Hester refers to when he speaks of Ford Motor Company’s commitment to do a certain amount of business with women and minority owned businesses because of they’re time, talent, and treasure as a beneficiary of underserved communities. Hester often spends his time at a public school in Detroit multiple times a month, because it’s where part of his hope lies.
“When I see these young people, I see myself. I know they’re looking for what’s next and asking, ‘what am I going to do in this big world?’”
Hester finds it crucial to have LM Manufacturing in the community where students can one-day be hands-on and have a road map to what their future could be in the automotive industry. “This region is the garage of the country for vehicles”. He refers to the array of production such as gas powered cars, electrification, autonomous mobility, connected and smart interactions being assembled in metro-Detroit. It’s part of what excites him in which LM Manufacturing plays a role as being one of the automotive components where “our DPS students have the opportunity to be exposed in hopes of getting in some of these future career opportunities.”
It’s a part of the “multiplier effect” his envisions that draws economic impact for Detroit.
Hester is a Black man pioneering and leading the world-class automotive LM Manufacturing facility and as much as he sees this space as one of the components to an innovative automotive community and inspiration for young Detroiters, he too had an example of being exposed to opportunity by someone whom has inspired him.
“I went though all the ‘ships’ with Dr. Pickard”. He is referring to legendary businessman and philanthropist Dr. William F. Pickard, Chairman of Global Automotive Alliance, a leader who he seeks to model himself behind.
“I went from internship, to mentorship, sponsorship, a partnership, chairmanship of his company, and then to ownership of my own company.”
Hester is proud to have the LM academy on the workplace campus focused on financial and empowerment for its employees which teaches about credit, budgeting, and saving.
As an minority-owned business, he is proud to help develop and empower his employees as he takes on a people-centered workplace culture. “Our employees can realize here’s where I am and I have a company that is interested in talking with about generational wealth for me and my family – that’s what it’s all about.”
Helping to push LM Manufacturing over the goal line is Kofi Bonner, CEO of Bedrock. “The intellect, the passion for the same things in the community, and his accessibility.” Hester believes this partnership and Bonner’s leadership has helped guide their working direct working relationship. Two Black employers in themselves finding solutions to earlier planning challenges, but in the end creating new opportunities for Detroiters.
“I can say, with his support, without his passion, without his willingness to get in and help push us over the goal line – we wouldn’t be here right now.”