Williams Is Winner

June 5, 2002
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OK, she didn’t take home the top award. But RitaWilliams, CEO of Gill Industries, is still a winner. And through her, female CEOs will be reaping rewards as well.

The John G. Thodis Michigan Manufacturer of the Year Award will be given to BrianLarche, president of Engineered Machined Products Inc. in Escanaba, tomorrow at a ceremony in Lansing sponsored by the Michigan Manufacturers Association. Williams and RonHoward, general manager of Smurfit-Stone Container Corp. in Ontonagon, also will receive awards for being among the three statewide finalists.

Williams, who is the first woman finalist for the award, which was instituted in 1981, is being recognized for her exemplary contributions to her community and Michigan’s manufacturing industry.

From 1992 to 2000, Gill Industries has expanded from 198 employees to 682 employees. The tool and die company added a 19,500-square-foot expansion last year, along with a 43,500-square-foot expansion to its Walker facility. Gill Industries has partnered with Hope Network, a nonprofit organization committed to gaining productive employment for the disabled and disadvantaged, for contractual work and was honored with Hope’s Good Corporate Citizen Award.

Williams was named one of Automotive News’ “Top 100 Woman in the North American Automotive Industry,” and helped spearhead a $6 million campaign to establish the Tassell M-TEC Fund at Grand Rapids Community College. She served as campaign chair.

But the MMA is recognizing Williams for more than her community service. MMA officials pointed out that the Gill Technology Center has significantly increased the number of jobs available for product engineers in West Michigan through its investments in product design and development.

And that is allowing manufacturers from throughout the state to benefit from that expertise.

  • How important is that manufacturing base to Michigan?

Just ask DaveCole, director of the Center for Automotive Research, an arm of the Environmental Research Institute of Michigan.

Cole said the results of a 1998 study sponsored by the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers and the Association of International Automobile Manufacturers shows the direct and indirect contribution of the automotive industry to the U.S. economy.

“The average auto job in this country has an economic contribution of over $132,000 a year. The average job in our economy has an economic contribution of about $60,000. So the auto job is well over two times the significance to the economy as the average job, which is why you see so much focus on attracting auto jobs and trying to inject those jobs into the economy.”

And it’s not in just one sector of the economy.

“A job in an auto manufacturing plant has an economic multiplier of 7.6, which means that for every job that one of the Big Three, or a Japanese or European company share, there are 6.6 other jobs in the economy supported by that job. Again, it’s a measure of the economic impact and importance of the industry. Obviously, Michigan has the largest impact in the industry of any state.

“The proportion of white collar workers in the auto industry in Michigan has been increasing dramatically, which is consistent with the fact that we have more and more engineering competency here, and are therefore less likely to be proportionally impacted by cyclical changes in the industry as we were 30 or even 10 years ago.”

And the stereotype of autoworkers being just “line workers” is dead, too.

“Of all the industry sectors, the auto industry has more R&D spending than any other industry sector. A lot of people are surprised at that because they think the industry is rust belt and low tech, but that’s certainly not true. There’s $18.5 billion in R&D done by the industry, and that leads all industry sectors.”

  • In today’s As I See It column, Kent King Securities financial consultant GregDodgson tells investors to take a breather and stop worrying about the stock markets.

Simple advice after a roller-coaster year. To that end, we offer a Stock Market Dictionary to read while you’re cooling your heels.

— Momentum Investing: The fine art of buying high and selling low.

— Value Investing: The art of buying low and selling lower.

— Broker: Poorer than you were in 1999.

— P/E Ratio: The percentage of investors wetting their pants as this market keeps dropping.

— Standard & Poor: Your life in a nutshell.

— Bull Market: A random market movement causing an investor to mistake himself for a financial genius.

— Bear Market: A 6- to 18-month period when the kids get no allowance, the wife gets no jewelry and the husband gets no sex.

— Stock Split: When your ex-wife and her lawyer split all your assets equally.

— Market Correction: The day after you buy stocks.

— Profit: Religious guy who talks to God.

— Bill Gates: Where God goes for a loan.

— Alan Greenspan: God.

  • The following statement was heard on the street in downtown Grand Rapids. Two people are discussing the new name of the MayaLin-designed park on Monroe Center, called RosaParks Circle, and the attention it’s receiving in the media.

“Who is Rosa Parks anyway?” asks one, to which the other responds, “I think she’s LymanParks’ wife.”

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