Bill Pickard, Don Coleman, Leon Richardson and Rodney O’Neal

One hundred Black presidents and CEOs. That sentence alone speaks volumes. It speaks to the heights to which African-Americans have risen in business. It speaks to the beauty of dreams and the focus, dedication and preparation necessary to attain them. But perhaps most importantly, it speaks more to the possibility of such achievements than the achievements themselves. It makes us all glow with pride, knowing that those who have ascended up the corporate or entrepreneurial ladder did so not with a faint heart, but with an undying and unyielding faith in themselves and their vision.

The men and women featured in this year’s edition of “Who’s Who in Black Detroit” have certainly overcome tough obstacles and made untold sacrifices to reach this level, both personal and professional. And maybe that’s what makes their accomplishments so admirable. To navigate the treacherous terrain of the business world and achieve what they have achieved is a telling statement and one that, again, speaks volumes.

There are entrepreneurs on the list and there are those who climbed the corporate ladder. Neither is less impressive than the other, but it should be pointed out that African-American-owned businesses are on the rise. From 2002 to 2007, the number of Black-owned businesses increased by 60.5 percent to 1.9 million, more than triple the national rate of 18.0 percent. Over the same period, receipts generated by Black-owned businesses increased 55.1 percent to $137.5 billion. In 2007, the retail trade, healthcare and social assistance sectors accounted for 27.4 percent of Black-owned business revenue. And with 32,490 establishments, Detroit ranked fourth in the nation of cities with Black-owned businesses, behind New York, Chicago and Houston.

The 100 Black presidents and CEOs featured in the publication make up a cross section of business disciplines and industries. These leaders represent the automotive, construction, education, healthcare, hospitality, media and the nonprofit industries and employ thousands of people in and around Southeast Michigan. These businessmen and businesswomen have proven to be the best and brightest at what they do; many of them have received industry awards, acknowledgements from their original equipment manufacturer (OEM), automotive clients or generally remained at the top of the list in their respective industry.

The economic impact of these companies is big for this region. Collectively, they total billions of dollars in annual revenue and contribute handsomely to the overall economic recovery and vibrancy in Southeast Michigan. Several individuals on the list operate multiple entities.

Dr. Bill Pickard not only heads Global Automotive Alliance, he also owns six McDonald’s franchises in the Detroit and Ann Arbor areas. He is most proud of the fact that he’s assisted others with obtaining McDonald’s franchises. Leon Richardson of ChemicoMays operates the largest African-American-owned chemical management concern in North America, and his company’s stellar delivery of quality goods and services has earned it General Motors’ Supplier of the Year award three consecutive years. Don Coleman of GlobalHue runs the largest ad agency targeting minority consumers. His clients include Verizon Wireless, Walmart and Chrysler Group LLC, among others.

There’s Dr. Herman Gray, Children’s Hospital’s first African-American president; Mark Douglas, second-generation leader of Avis Ford in Southfield, taking the reins from his father, Walter Douglas; Gregory Jackson of Prestige Automotive, one of the first African-American-owned companies to gross more than $1 billion. There’s Bill Perkins of the Perkins Automotive Group; he is also the first African-American co-chair of the prestigious North American International Auto Show in Detroit. Ron Hall Sr. of Bridgewater Interiors was awarded a $900 million contract with General Motors, the largest contract ever handed out to a minority business by GM.

The success stories that abound throughout the publication are inspirational and a testimony to the benefits of dedicated and focused hard work. Many of these individuals came from little, whereas others may have been provided a bit of a head start economically. Regardless of the origin of their journey, each individual, to one degree or another, withstood systemic pushback but persevered and ultimately reached their destination. They are all solid pillars in our community and deserving of being celebrated.

To obtain a copy of the 6th edition of “Who’s Who in Black Detroit,” visit http://www.whoswhopublishing.com.

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