Family of Vets Steady Supply Source for Jobs

Excerpt from The Detroit News article:

Family of vets steady supply source for jobs

John E. James, vice president of operations for the James International Group, stands with Carla Preston, Director of Ford’s Supplier Diversity Development program, at subsidiary Renaissance Global Logistics. (Daniel Mears / The Detroit News)

U.S. Army engineer John A. James returned from a tour of duty in Vietnam in 1969 with high entrepreneurial aspirations.

He started a transportation company, OJ Transport — now James Group International — with a single 1967 Ford truck. Four decades later, he is one of the longest-tenured veteran- and minority-owned companies in the automotive supply chain in Detroit.

James, 71, an African-American and CEO of JGI, now works side-by-side with his sons. John E. James, 31, is vice president of operations and an Army vet who served a tour in Iraq. Lorron James, 30, is vice president of business affairs.

JGI, through its subsidiary Renaissance Global Logistics, a global packing and exporting company, employs more than 200 — most of them veterans and minorities. The company has become an example of the many success stories in the supply chain.

“John James is a pioneer,” said Carla Preston, director of Ford’s Supplier Diversity Development program, now in its 35th year. “He is an icon in the industry and in supplier diversity development.”

Ford’s Supplier Diversity Development program started in 1978, a half dozen years after RGL first partnered with Ford.

The family, as of last year, owns the company’s 375,000-square-foot facility at Clark and Fort streets in southwest Detroit, a building previously leased from Ford Motor Co.’s land development branch.

It hasn’t been an easy task for John A. James. Though he started with one truck. he quickly discovered he needed more. He purchased 23 used diesel trucks from Ford’s private fleet in 1978.

John A. James met resistance from the Interstate Commerce Commission, which controlled interstate commerce and licensed only certain companies to transport goods.

James fought the ICC all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court in the late 1970s to earn entry into the automotive parts transportation field.

He was the first leader of an African-American owned company granted authority to transport auto parts in Michigan, and the first nationally to be granted the authority by the ICC.

Now, the company is firing on all cylinders, working with Ford assembly plants in 14 different countries to ship auto parts.

“We hope we are still there in the fourth, fifth generation of Jameses,” John A. James said.