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Accomplished African American business owners are expected to reach back and help right the ship for aspiring entrepreneurs working in their wake. Millionaire business magnates are expected to put into motion a myriad of measures to motivate the working class and “bring up” the race. Titans on the order of John Johnson (Ebony), Earl Graves (Black Enterprise) and Reginald Lewis (TLC Ventures), more often than not, are looked to invest some portion of their sizeable portfolios to impact economic outcomes for members of the community.

Global Automotive Association founder Dr. Bill Pickard believes in giving back to Detroit – in a major way, with major gifts.

Pickard is sponsoring the first-ever “Thank You Detroit” event June 22 through June 24.  to benefit the Charles H. Wright Museum and the Motown Museum project. The African American arts and culture devotee is in a class of his own rewriting rewriting the narrative on race and wealth with one hand while delivering on personal promises to develop individuals and communities with the other.

“Thank You Detroit” Weekend features a series of activities including a Friday, June 22 black-tie gala with The Four Tops at The Roostertail, a picnic for current and past employees of Pickard’s McDonald’s franchisees on Saturday, June 23, and a free gospel extravaganza featuring: Pastor Marvin Winans, Karen Clark Sheard and a Detroit based 100- voice Ecumenical Chorus on Sunday, June 24. The gospel extravaganza will be held at Detroit’s Orchestra Hall and starts at 7 p.m. UAW Ford Vice President Jimmy Settles will co-host the concert.

The altruistic entrepreneur and philanthropist recently announced a $1 million gift to the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History. “I want to prioritize and revitalize the Charles H. Wright Museum.” explained Pickard, whose commitment to cultural development is the hallmark of the the Thank you Detroit weekend events.

The $1 million Wright gift will be presented at Pickard’s first-ever “Thank You Detroit” Weekend which launches with a black-tie gala at The Roostertail restaurant on Friday, June 22. In addition, Pickard will also award $1 million to the Motown Historical Museum expansion project, and a $100,000 donation to Wayne County Community College District.

The combined gifts of $2.1 million are targeted toward education and cultural programs at each institution.

“I came to this great city nearly 50 years ago, and still marvel today at how much I owe Detroit and the individuals who have been and continued to be hallmarks in my life,” said Pickard. “I am deeply humbled by what has been given to me … and hope the ‘Thank You Detroit’ weekend will serve its purpose of showing my sincerest and deepest appreciation.

“I envision all of our citizens, especially those that have been in Detroit for decades, being able to participate in a fuller and more wholistic manner in all aspects of the city’s renewal,” said Pickard, enthusiastically adding, “that means social, economic, political and civic participation. That means involvement on your neighborhood associations, lodges churches, community groups … everything.”

“When I moved to Detroit [from Flint] my aunt lived on Sorrento and Joy Road, a good solid working-class neighborhood. The pride of that neighborhood was that every December, Detroit Edison sponsored a Christmas light party on the block … and if you didn’t have your lights up and looked good a committee would knock on your door,” he said reminiscently. “That stuff is gone, but that’s what held communities together.”

The business …

Pickard is the founder, and former president of Global Automotive Alliance (GAA), a $500 million-dollar logistics and manufacturing company which opened in 2017 in the city’s historic Southwest Detroit district. GAA is one of the nation’s largest African American-owned businesses with 1,600 national and international employees. The new facility includes office space, a warehouse, and a small business incubator. “Bill Pickard and his team could have built their first headquarters anywhere, but they chose Detroit because they see the growth opportunities here. We are thrilled to have the GAA officially establish itself as part of our community,” said Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan.

In 2015, the City of Detroit awarded VITEC LLC, one of GAA’s member companies, an $11million vehicle parts inventory management contract, making it one of the largest awarded to any minority firm by the city. Pickard is also a co-managing partner of MGM Grand Detroit Casino, CEO of Bearwood Management Company and co-owner of five Black-owned newspapers, including the Michigan Chronicle.

Pickard’s 47-year entrepreneurial career began as a McDonald’s franchisee in Detroit when he and his partners became two of the very first African Americans to own a McDonald’s franchise in the country and the fast food pioneer’s history. During a series of interviews featuring Black McDonald’s franchise owners, many of whom developed their business acumen were able to secure ownership as a result of Pickard’s assistance and capacity building. Each of them, bar none, attest that their former employer’s support for their personal and professional development was vital to achieving their more than ample portions of success.

During the much anticipated “Thank You Detroit” weekend, the straight-talking, but always thoughtful Pickard will pay homage to current and former McDonalds’ employees at a picnic in their honor on Saturday, June 23. By Pickard’s own admission, diversity is key to surviving and turning a profit in business.

“In today’s economy, succession and diversification are paramount to business longevity,” said Pickard. “Unfortunately, it also poses the greatest challenge for minority-owned businesses The affable entrepreneur, who is at once personable and complex, has a take no prisoners type of approach to doing business in a challenging climate. When the city was not so appealing to international investors — let alone local business people —Pickard stood steadfast and resolved to put his money where his mouth is … in the future of Detroit.

“I intend to continue to help nurture and build the next generation of entrepreneur’s, especially in our community,” asserts the mogul.

Philanthropic activities …

Dr. Pickard who is also a board member of the National Urban League and the NAACP has a concrete commitment to more tangible developments like his $3,050,000 gift for construction of three new residential halls at his Western Michigan University alma mater. Most recently, the Pickard family donated $1 million to the National Museum of African American History in Washington, D.C.; a total of $3 million to Western Michigan University; and hundreds of thousands of dollars gifts to Grand Valley State University, Central Michigan University, Wayne State University and Mott Community College.

“I believe vision and attitude are imperative. Your mind has the capacity to unfold what you visualize and verbalize. A negative mind will never harvest positive results. Vision, attitude, and perception help crystalize dreams and motivate productivity, even during those most challenging times,” Pickard said in an interview.

The weekend …

“Thank You Detroit” Weekend features a series of activities including a Friday, June 22 black-tie gala with The Four Tops at The Roostertail, a picnic for current and past employees of Pickard’s McDonald’s franchisees on Saturday, June 23, and a free gospel extravaganza featuring: Pastor Marvin Winans, Karen Clark Sheard and a Detroit based 100- voice Ecumenical Chorus on Sunday, June 24. The gospel extravaganza will be held at Detroit’s Orchestra Hall and starts at 7 p.m. UAW Ford Vice President Jimmy Settles will co-host the concert.

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