February holds more eclectic holidays, events, and noteworthy happenings than any other month on the calendar. Presidents, Valentine’s, and Groundhog Day all reside in February, as well as Mardi Gras, Ash Wednesday, and the Super Bowl. There’s also my unofficial holiday weekend from February 15th-17th I call “Buy Up All the Leftover Valentine’s Day Candy From Walgreens While it’s Cheap Weekend.”
Seriously though, despite having the entire month in dedication, most quickly forget February is Black History Month outside of the first and last days of the month. Despite being a simple animal that (arguably) has no concept of what a shadow is, events like Groundhog Day eclipse what is a perpetually growing, remarkable thing: the African American legacy in the United States. Maybe it’s an issue of it not being promoted in a provocative way, or perhaps it’s because most people think prominent black history events happened before our times, like before the emancipation proclamation or during the civil rights movement.
But that’s just not the case; black history doesn’t cease because of those historically massive, paradigm-shifting events, it evolves. Consider the amount of black entertainers, athletes, politicians, authors, and entrepreneurs that are around now compared to 50 years ago. African American influence in culture, politics and the economy has grown dramatically every decade, and Detroit is a prime example of this. While the city has taken its licks in the past few years, and is on a long road to recovery, many entrepreneurs and job makers have done their best to keep business moving in Detroit. The following black entrepreneurs have made their mark in Detroit business world, and demonstrate that black history is not stagnant, it’s just moved into different areas of significance.
Ronald Hall Sr.
Employing more than 1,500 in the country, Bridgewater Interiors has been active since 1998, and CEO & President Ronald Hall Sr. has been running it since inception. Bridgewater is known for making electronic components, interior and seats for automotive companies like General Motors, Honda, Chrysler and Ford. The company has been a great success in the field, reaching $1.1 billion in revenue in 2009. Despite that, Hall Sr. is involved many other businesses and projects: He’s a board member on the Michigan Minority Supplier Development Council, a group that helps develop minority owned businesses, president/CEO of the equipment leasing company Renaissance Capital Alliance, and Chairman/CEO of New Center Stamping among other things. His son, Ronald Hall Jr., is the VP and General Counsel of Bridgewater Interiors.
James “Jim” Jenkins Jr.
President and CEO of Jenkins Construction, James B. Jenkins Jr. has had his construction company involved with many multi-million dollar construction projects throughout metro Detroit. Past jobs include a $50 million joint venture to renovate Greektown Casino, managing a $430 million joint venture in Ford Field, and $2 million project to touch up aspects of the Blue Cross Blue Shield building in Detroit. A big project a few years back was the Queen Lillian medical office building, an $18 million project that created a five story, 2.7 acre office building. It operates mainly as Wayne State University’s Department of Psychiatry, and is expected to create approximately 280 jobs.
Marvin Beatty, Elliott Hall & Ricardo Solomon
Although the three are distinguished in their own individual ways, Beatty, Hall and Solomon are working on a big joint venture known as the Gateway Marketplace. The three will serve as owners and developers for a massive retail center being constructed at 8 mile and Woodward, centered with a new Meijer and a Marshalls. It’s also expected to have a McDonald’s and a PNC bank, with room for more venues in its 325,000 square feet of retail, making it the largest shopping center in the city of Detroit. The best part about the Gateway Marketplace is that it’s expected to create 900 new jobs in the city, and it serves as a retail bridge between Detroit and the cities of Ferndale, Hazel Park and Pleasant Ridge.
While it may seem like ripples compared other noteworthy black leaders celebrated in February, these business makers are redefining what their city and local culture could be by making Detroit more prosperous. If anything, take a moment to reflect on modern black leaders in your area that are making a significant impact; how are they helping your area?