Making an Impact

From nurturing the next generation of manufacturing professionals to conserving the environment for our well-being, countless manufacturing businesses embrace stewardship roles in Michigan’s economy and sustainability every day.

These companies reflect the positive impact the manufacturing industry has in our state and demonstrate a commitment to moving the industry forward.

Marathon Petroleum Corporation (MPC) and DENSO are prime examples of companies that make it part of their culture to be community stewards.

MPC is the largest refiner of crude oil in the United States and the only refinery of its kind in the state of Michigan. They have a long-standing history of supporting neighborhood programs around their Detroit-based facility. MPC’s Detroit Refinery has a core focus on the Boynton Community, considered to be the original southwest Detroit community and is the city’s southernmost neighborhood.

The Refinery’s goals include providing the community with various forms of support and uplifting it through beautification and activation of community spaces, according to Community Relations Representative BreAnna Lockhart. To that end, one of the Detroit Refinery’s extensive community partnerships is with Detroit’s Mark Twain School for Scholars.

“The goal is to get kids excited to come to school by giving them something fun to look forward to, something out of the norm,” Lockhart says.

And the efforts have worked. The school has experienced an 8 percent enrollment increase over the past year, as well as better attendance rates, she says. It’s no accident the school has seen impressive results in a short amount of time. The strategy has been thoughtfully planned through the development of innovative, student-oriented projects. Mark Twain students were particularly excited with a new STEM lab that has video technology, 3D printing, scientific research tools and many other elements that help advance the study of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Because so many of the students didn’t have coats and boots to walk to school during winter, the Refinery partnered with Wayne Metropolitan Community Action Agency to provide essential clothing. So far, they have contributed grants totaling $400,000 to Wayne Metro, which in turn provides coats, boots and other necessities to families with a goal of getting children to school.

Other efforts to boost student attendance have helped such as making a point to celebrate student successes monthly, organizing day trips like a recent visit to the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, organizing a career day and exposing students to a mobile science clinic.

In addition to its efforts at the Mark Twain School for Scholars, Marathon’s Detroit Refinery has begun a pilot workforce development program at nearby River Rouge High School. Through this program, 10 local youths will have paying jobs at the refinery over the summer, which introduces them to manufacturing jobs and gives them the opportunity to learn various skills. The students will also each receive $5,000 scholarships that they can use at a university or accredited trade school.

“We’re trying to build this pipeline into manufacturing,” Lockhart says, adding that the high school workforce program is only one method of reaching out to the students. “We give them a taste in middle school, and we’ve been doing lunch and learns with the high school. We bring them here so that they see how we operate and see that they have a future here. We are trying to get local youth to recognize that they have a path here and that it does not have to be a scary place. We want them to come in, learn about us and ask their questions, and we respond to them.”

Education is one of the pillars of community involvement at DENSO, says Matt Briden, Vice President of Business Planning for DENSO’s North American Thermal Group at its manufacturing facility in Battle Creek. DENSO is a global automotive supplier with a legacy of supporting local communities and advancing green initiatives.

The company offers support as coaches for First Robotics programs, involvement in various STEM initiatives, scholarships through the Battle Creek Area Math and Science Center and with a mobile community unit through Kellogg Community College to increase and promote skilled trades in the area, Briden says.

In addition to promoting education in the skilled trades, DENSO has five Business Resource Groups in Battle Creek, employee-led teams that serve various employee populations. While they may tailor their programming to specific groups, anyone can join and all aim to promote fairness and inclusion, fellowship and support, cultural exchange and career development opportunities at DENSO. The groups, listed below, also contribute to community efforts aligned with their missions.

  • DENSO Women’s Network: The network has partnerships with the Girl Scouts, Society of Women Engineers and Safe Place, an advocacy group for victims of domestic violence and sex trafficking. Last year, network initiatives raised over $4,000 for these causes.
  • DENSO Black Resource Group: The group has supported the NAACP and Southwest Urban League, which focus on the empowerment of children and the education of the Black community in the area.
  • DENSO Burmese Network: With more than 10 percent of employees in Battle Creek being Burmese or of Burmese descent, DENSO works extensively with the Burma Center in Springfield toward the mutual goal of supporting this community. In 2022, the network helped raise over $72K in employee and DENSO-matched donations to assist the center’s humanitarian aid efforts in Myanmar.
  • DENSO Hispanic Network: The newest Business Resource Group in Battle Creek, it operates under the principle of “many voices, one community.” The group’s mission is to promote an inclusive society by providing Latino and Hispanic families with opportunities and resources that lead to individual and community transformation.
  • DENSO Veterans Network: The DENSO Veterans Network has supported the Calhoun County Red White Blue Foundation and the Battle Creek Veterans Administration organization. The network is an essential voice in DENSO’s ability to meet the needs of veteran team members, helping the Battle Creek location be recognized as a veteran-friendly employer by the Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency.

Briden adds that their largest charitable campaign is in partnership with the United Way of Battle Creek, for which they have a charity drive each year that regularly raises more than $200,000. Further, DENSO in Battle Creek supports local events that promote inclusion and belonging, such as Battle Creek Pride. The company also offers donation matching for associates who support or participate in various causes through charitable organizations. He adds that DENSO has numerous partnerships with education centers in the area, and that the company provides a tuition reimbursement program that associates can use.

Along with inspiring students and current workers, both DENSO and Marathon prioritize environmental stewardship.

The Detroit Refinery has contributed grants for the Wildlife Habitat Council, which helps identify, create and maintain greenspaces in the Boynton area.

“We’re planting hundreds of trees every year to make sure we have a greenspace buffer in the northern Boynton community for air, soil and noise filtration,” Lockhart says.

She says the Refinery has also helped plant community gardens through partnerships with “mini block clubs.”

“Our mini block clubs are adopting vacant lots with the goal of beautifying the areas. The community activates them, but we help support them,” Lockhart says. “It’s great that people bulldoze vacant homes to ensure that they’re not contributing to blight in the community, but then you have empty greenspace. The mini block clubs beautify them with above-ground garden boxes.”

The Refinery also has a Neighbors Helping Neighbors program, through which they help seniors and those with disabilities with difficult tasks such as trimming overgrown tree branches.

Additionally, 30 to 40 employees volunteer every two or three weeks to pick up trash in the local area, such as at Fort Street and Schaefer.

“It makes you feel better about the community when there’s no trash anywhere,” she says. “We have over 8,000 volunteer hours from last year just in the immediate community.”

Similarly, DENSO engages in river cleanups and the Adopt-a-Highway program, and they have a pollinator garden on their campus.

Briden adds that they are working to transition themselves into using clean energy when possible. The company has installed EV chargers and is investigating the use of solar on its Battle Creek campus, where they also have their own wastewater treatment facility to help eliminate contaminants from water used in manufacturing . In April, the Battle Creek location joined Consumers Energy’s Business Renewable Energy Program, committing to match energy it uses with wind and solar energy the utility company develops instate. Such initiatives advance DENSO closer to its Two Great Causes: Green — achieving carbon neutrality by 2035 — and Peace of Mind — creating a safe and seamless world for all.

“We cannot get where we want to be without the talent and hard work of our more than 2,300 team members at our facility,” says Briden. “I’m grateful for their commitment to supporting DENSO’s mission of contributing to a better world for all.”

These efforts — and more — exemplify the many strides manufacturers are taking to support Michigan’s students, workforce and the communities where they live and work.

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