June 25, 2014

A Vision to Steer the Future









Laurent Bresson stood before more than 400 people at a Saginaw Future event in February 2013 to announce exciting news. News that Nexteer Automotive would allocate $10,000 to create a fund to benefit programs and initiatives throughout Saginaw County. But what happened next surprised everyone.

“Shortly after the announcement in February 2013,” said Luis Canales, director of global communications at Nexteer Automotive, “our corporate leadership immediately bought into the idea of giving back to the community. They decided to fully endow the fund with a significant contribution – one that will pay out a tremendous benefit to our community forever.”


Reconnecting with the community

The idea for the fund started much earlier. Three years earlier, to be exact. Canales had envisioned a way for the corporation to reconnect with the community.

“We had been absent from the community for a long time.”

Following Delphi Corporation’s bankruptcy in 2005 and eventual sale to General Motors in 2009, Nexteer Automotive was born. In 2010, Nexteer was sold to China-based Pacific Century Motors.

“Even though Nexteer Automotive has essentially been in existence for more than 100 years, we were still considered a start-up,” remarked Canales. “We, as a company, just were not ready to commit to funding an initiative like the Steering the Future Fund.”


Dual impact

The Steering the Future Fund is ahead of the curve. It has two different ways it can make an impact – a committee comprised of employees that review grant applications on a competitive basis and can also award discretionary grant dollars on an as-needed basis to meet immediate needs.

The committee is comprised of 10 employees from various departments at Nexteer Automotive, both salaried and hourly, and includes two UAW representatives.

Committee members review applications four times during the year for the competitive grant process and are able to award up to $2,500 during each review. Right now, the goals are to focus on projects that will enhance STEM education, youth education and manufacturing. In order to apply, an applicant must secure a Nexteer Automotive employee as a sponsor.

“The sponsor requirement serves two purposes: it incentivizes the community to get to know Nexteer and the sponsor employee to get to know the community.”


Laurent Bresson, Nexteer Automotive president and chief operating officer and Luis Canales, director of global communications, present a $1,500 check to Angela Barris, Mid-Michigan Children’s Museum president and chief executive officer, for Car Works Gallery updates in September 2013.


Working with experts

Nexteer Automotive could have created a private foundation to give back to the community, but soon realized the challenges in doing so. That’s when they turned to Saginaw Community Foundation.

“At Nexteer, we rely on experts around the world to help make our business successful. When it came time to establish the Steering the Future Fund, we took the same approach. Immediately, we recognized Saginaw Community Foundation as experts in philanthropy,” said Canales.

Canales remarked that working with Saginaw Community Foundation to manage their fund frees the staff at Nexteer Automotive to focus on the tasks they know best how to perform. It provides a better return on investment by allowing dollars that might have been spent creating and managing a private foundation to be put to work helping programs and initiatives in the community.


2013 Steering the Future Fund GrantsPlanting the seeds

Nexteer Automotive’s commitment to our community didn’t end with the creation of the Steering the Future Fund. In 2013, a scholarship fund to benefit graduating high school seniors also was established.

The scholarship idea was born in the Global Supply Group with the desire to make a difference in the community through education. Initially, the scholarship was funded by an annual golf outing fundraiser and all proceeds raised were paid out each year. After the success of establishing the Steering the Future Fund at Saginaw Community Foundation, a better approach was soon realized.

“Instead of raising funds each year at a certain level and risking donor fatigue, the decision was made to create an endowed scholarship at Saginaw Community Foundation, that like the Steering the Future Fund, would provide a benefit forever.”

Nexteer Automotive still holds its golf fundraiser and the now the proceeds contribute towards fully endowing the scholarship. In 2014, four $1,000 scholarships will be awarded.

“This is something we want to do forever. Not just for a few years when business is thriving. Endowing the scholarship allows this to happen.”


Reaping the rewards

The Nexteer Automotive Scholarship will help make the dreams of a college education come true for students in Saginaw County. And the corporation has a dream of its own.

“The goal of our scholarship is to cultivate local talent,” said Canales. “It’s a basic business need to have great talent. And it all starts right here at home.”

By investing in STEM and youth education via grant awards and scholarships for students pursuing engineering or business degrees, Nexteer Automotive hopes to accomplish just that – by steering the future to reach its dreams.





2013 was another great year of making an impact in Saginaw County. Download a PDF and read more inspiring stories and see what is going on “behind-the-scenes” in our latest annual report.