If there's a common thread to Sakthi Group's investments in the U.S. market, it is second chances.
The Indian steering-component supplier has emerged as a player in Detroit's urban comeback by putting manufacturing into a low-cost, tax-abated neighborhood in the city's challenged southwest side over the past three years. It has even acquired Detroit's abandoned Southwestern High School as part of its plan, converting its unused football field into a manufacturing site.
The auto supplier also is giving people a second chance.
To expand its Detroit work force to 565 people, Sakthi has relied on a large number of parolees to produce parts for General Motors and Ford Motor Co. Parolees now represent about a third of its workers, Deepak Bhalla, director of purchasing and facilities for Sakthi's U.S. operations, told Automotive News.
Sakthi obtains incentives through a state program called Community Ventures to hire the former inmates.
Not every one of the 185 parolees has worked out for the company, Bhalla said, but most are excellent employees and some have been promoted to supervisor.
"They definitely want a second chance," Bhalla said. "They made a mistake in the past for which they were incarcerated, and then they're not getting hired by people. We have found that, given the proper opportunity and training and everything, parolees could be good employees. We believe everybody deserves a second chance."