A True American Success Story: Detroit Manufacturing Systems

I met Andra Rush, the CEO of Detroit Manufacturing Systems, when I toured her facility back in December. There aren’t many stories more American than that of Detroit Manufacturing Systems, so I am thrilled the president just touted her incredible success in the State of the Union address.

Editor’s note: Secretary Perez will join a Twitter chat tomorrow at 2 p.m. ET on the State of the Union, how to improve workers’ skills and ways we can grow the economy. Use the hashtag #AskTheWH to ask questions.

In June of 2012, Andra Rush, a Native American businesswoman from Michigan, founded Detroit Manufacturing Systems and brought hope to hundreds of workers in the Motor City. It was the largest manufacturing company in 20 years to relocate to the city of Detroit.

Detroit Manufacturing Systems CEO Andra Rush (left) with Secretary Perez in December 2013.

Their first customer was the Ford Motor Co., building the dashboard consoles and other interior components for the Mustang and the F-150 pickup truck. Today, Detroit Manufacturing Systems employs some 700 workers, and is continuing to expand and compete for new business as the auto industry continues roaring back.

Of the 700 employees at DMS, around 600 came from the city’s American Job Center. Funded by the Department of Labor, that American Job Center used its deep roots in the community to assess, test and screen thousands of workers to find those with the skills Andra and her fledgling business needed to grow. Some of those workers were unemployed at the time they were hired. Even more were underemployed or receiving public assistance, but each was ready, willing and able to help grow Andra’s business.

Detroit Manufacturing Systems workers give Secretary Perez a tour of the facility.

Andra’s relationship with the local workforce system and the skilled workers it provided Detroit Manufacturing Systems was a principal factor in her decision to invest and locate in Detroit. She knew she could count on having the pipeline of workers with the skills her business needed to grow. Stories like these are happening around the country, but there’s no reason we can’t be writing even more.

For Andra and so many like-minded business owners and entrepreneurs, their ability to start up America relies on our willingness to upskill America. We know we have the best workers in the world, but they need us to invest in their ability to compete now and in the future. And American businesses and companies locating here can only grow as quickly as our pipeline of skilled workers can supply them. As Andra and Detroit Manufacturing Systems have demonstrated, investing in and aligning the skills of American workers with businesses looking to hire can make the state of our union even stronger.

Follow Secretary Perez on Twitter as @LaborSec.

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