We Can't Buckle.  

Detroit News painted a really prett picture of Mr. Dauch.

His axle factory gears up for a better today, a stronger tomorrow

To some, it was an aging industrial wreck faced with extinction. But Richard E. Dauch envisioned an urban jewel. And, in a classic feat of entrepreneurship, he led a team in 1994 that wagered more than $1 billion that a dingy, unprofitable General Motors Corp. axle factory could be transformed into a vibrant manufacturing complex.

While other companies were abandoning Detroit in the early 1990s, Dauch forged the first major corporate startup to locate in the city in 20 years. His American Axle & Manufacturing replaced street lights, rebuilt sidewalks and bought and demolished empty homes in the neighborhood. The actions helped reduce crime in the area by half.

Today, the 65-acre American Axle campus straddling the Detroit-Hamtramck border off Interstate 75 bustles, churning out 16,000 truck axles a day. Riding America’s craze for 4-by-4 pickup trucks and sport-utility vehicles, the firm has preserved 4,000 Michigan jobs and helped generate 800 new ones.

Julia T. Boluk, former Hamtramck city council president and a neighbor of American Axle, says the company routinely goes far beyond the normal demands of corporate citizenship. A dramatic example last December was the firm’s decision to prepay taxes to help the city make its payroll.

“They’ve also contributed to sprucing up some publicly owned land,” Boluk says.

“My goodness, the blight they’ve cleaned up. Just around the corner from my street, a few of the homes had been demolished and one was burned out; it was a known area for crack trafficking. American Axle bought the property and cleaned it all up.”

To Dauch, American Axle’s chairman, it’s all a matter of perspective.

“Many of America’s corporate titans have given up on manufacturing, allowing Silicon Valley and Juarez, Mexico, to replace the manufacturing hubs of Detroit, Toledo and Buffalo,” he says. “I was determined not to let it happen here. Detroit doesn’t need more warehouses. We need value-added manufacturing that generates jobs and decent wages.”

Raised on a dairy farm in northeast Ohio, Dauch compares his civic and corporate role to that of a linebacker — a lot of basic blocking and tackling. The comparison is natural for the former Purdue football player.

Friends and business associates call it “Dauch Determination.” A former top manufacturing executive with Chrysler Corp., he was a leading architect of the automaker’s commitment to reinvest resources in Detroit. And under Dauch, American Axle has institutionalized civic responsibility. Its bylaws require the company to invest and look after community interests where it operates.

Dauch also pays attention to individuals’ well-being. Over the last 30 years, he has helped raise millions of dollars for the Boy Scouts of America, Boys and Girls Clubs of Southeast Michigan, Junior Achievement and the United Way.

He champions and monitors workplace diversity. The ranks of female employees at American Axle have grow to nearly 20 percent today from less than 5 percent in 1994.

The company also has a program that identifies and trains students to make the transition from high school to plant. “Our greatest legacy may be how we educate future workers,” Dauch says.

— David Phillips

It's a pretty picture that Mr. Phillips draws, isn't it?. I wonder how it is that it could have started so beautifully, but gone so wrong? What I really really really wonder is why he thinks we're going to step aside and freaking take it.

Please, don't buckle now.


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  • Joe638NYC  
    8:42 PM

    Nice article. If I were a millionaire I would have to donate money also. Not for the love of any organization but for tax purposes, that wouldn't make me a saint either.

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