DETROIT - Joe Dumars, the just-retired star guard of the Detroit Pistons, is trying his hand at helping manage the basketball team - but only so long as it doesn't interfere with his growing automotive-supplier business.
Dumars, 36, is the majority owner and chief executive of an emerging automotive-parts company, Detroit Technologies Inc.
Detroit Technologies, a Southfield, Mich.-based company Dumars founded in 1996, is just coming into its own. In June, the company purchased a half interest in a 30,000-square-foot factory in Detroit with Gates Formed Fibre Products, an Auburn, Maine-based division of Gates Corp.
Detroit Technologies and Gates are partnering to make automotive trunk interiors and other interior trim for automakers, notably General Motors. Despite his new career, Dumars has maintained his ties to basketball. Recently, the Pistons named him vice president of player personnel, a newly created position that gives Dumars an opportunity to evaluate talent. But Dumars says his work with the Pistons will not interfere with his primary focus, the auto industry.
'Business is where my interests lie,' Dumars said last month from his business office in Bloomfield Hills, Mich. 'We're giving the (Pistons') job one year to see how it works out, to see if I have the time to give.'
The contracts to make trunk interiors are Detroit Technologies' first as a direct supplier to the automakers, said Bill Vaughn, a minority partner in Detroit Technologies and principal in the Southfield, Mich.-based manufacturer's representative company, TechStyles Inc.
MOLDED PRODUCTS, MORE
Gates is supplying raw materials and manufacturing expertise for the moldable carpet parts that Detroit Technologies will begin producing in September, he said.
Late this year, Detroit Technologies expects to employ 30 people at its refurbished Detroit plant, and it hopes to expand that number to 50 as it gets new contracts, Vaughn said.
Initially, Detroit Technologies will produce trunk interiors for the Pontiac Bonneville, Oldsmobile Aurora and Buick LeSabre. For the 2000 model year, Detroit Technologies has contracts to make trunks for the Cadillac DeVille. And it is preparing to produce parts for the 2003 Pontiac Grand Prix, Vaughn said.
With negotiations under way with Ford Motor Co. and Toyota Motor Corp., Detroit Technologies expects to generate $30 million in business by 2003, he said.
Those contracts are just for the molded products division. Dumars and Detroit Technologies also plan to make other interior and composite parts for vehicles using plastics, foam and textiles, Vaughn said.
STRATEGY: GOOD PEOPLE
Detroit Technologies has spent the past three years preparing for a direct business relationship with the automakers, Dumars said.
The company recently exited a three-year relationship with Mackie Automotive Systems, an antomotive-parts assembler and logistics company based in suburban Toronto, that GM had helped to put together in order to prepare Detroit Technologies for the big show.
Dumars said his business strategy is to surround himself with good people and support them in their jobs. Dumars owns a 52 percent stake in Detroit Technologies. His minority partners are Vaughn; Vaughn's partner in TechStyles, John Mastin; and John Frasco, an attorney in Bloomfield Hills, Mich.
Dumars' CFO at Detroit Technologies is Ralph Caponigro, who retired as CFO of Compuware Corp. last year and is the father of Dumars' agent, attorney John Caponigro of Sports Management Network. Dumars, the Caponigros and Frasco all have offices in the same building.
Dumars shuttles between his basketball duties and the auto-parts business. He said the Pistons job offers enough flexibility so that he can spend time most days commenting on players or watching practices, then returning to Detroit Technologies. Dumars said the ultimate prize is a good long run in the auto-supplier business. He said his biggest challenge is selecting the right jobs to accept from among the hundreds that cross his desk. 'We have a lot on our plate.'