About 65 Michigan business and civic leaders are traveling to Turkey this weekend to sign a historic partnership. Members of the East Lansing-based Prima Civitas Foundation and the Lansing Economic Area Partnership, or LEAP, will meet with automotive parts makers and exporters in Istanbul. There, they’ll sign two “memorandums of understanding” that will facilitate trade alliances between Michigan and Turkey.
Ray DeWinkle is leading the Lansing area team. He’s the senior vice-president of global business development for LEAP.
De Winkle told WKAR’s Kevin Lavery the trip stems from a prior meeting with the head of a leading auto parts association in Turkey.
RAY DE WINKLE: Since the opportunity presented itself, we figured, “how could we leverage that?” Our job as LEAP is to represent this region globally. This presented a golden opportunity. So what we did is, I did meet with the secretary general of that association, we learned what their objectives and goals were, what their capabilities of their members were, and realized that there were some very good opportunities for synergy that would benefit those companies and benefit our region and benefit potentially our companies.
KEVIN LAVERY: What are you expecting to learn this trip – or hoping to learn this trip – that will be an extension of your first trip?
DE WINKLE: Well, every time we go it’s a very fascinating culture; you always learn more and you build deeper relationships. You know, we went over in February because of the opportunity to explore the fashion industry; and by the way, there’s some interesting synergies that we’re developing there too, where we’re working with local companies in this region to help them be successful as well.
I ended up, I was going back a month and a half later to be in Europe anyway, going over with our governor (Rick Snyder) representing the tri-county region. And what we were able to do then is leverage that opportunity to actually go back and host a seminar at this Turkish automotive parts suppliers association. We had the MEDC (Michigan Economic Development Corporation) join us electronically; it was 2:30 on a Monday morning here, and we had two of their staff members with us. We made presentations, we presented the region, we presented the state; we presented strategies for how these companies might look at the North American market.
LAVERY: If Michigan and Turkey build such a business relationship that infrastructure is placed in both countries as a result of this, what would you say to the Michigan worker who may feel that their job is on the line; that it may be shipped to Turkey?
DE WINKLE: There is absolutely mutual benefit here. Global trade benefits everyone. I truly believe in global trade being a benefit for each. The goal is that eventually these companies will be creating establishments here and creating employment opportunities here. So, companies are going to globally source anyway, we can’t control that. The question is, how can we capitalize on that to create a better future for our workers here?
LAVERY: What are we expecting to import and export through this relationship?
DE WINKLE: Some of that is to be determined. But certainly, we’re starting right now by focusing on the automotive parts industry. And there are indeed mutual synergies for our companies and for their companies.
LAVERY: It seems like your previous trips to Turkey just this year are already paying some dividends because the delegation that you’re leading will sign two very important documents while you’re there in Istanbul.
DE WINKLE: As life goes to those who are willing and those who show up, I’ve been there twice already this year, nurturing relationships, which leads to the signing of two Memorandums of Understanding on behalf of our region with the Association of Automotive Parts and Components Manufacturers and the Uludag Automotive Exporters Association, which represents 43-hundred active members from 56 cities. A very large trade association. Those relationships are what allow us to open doors. So, these types of agreements are historic; it hasn’t happened for this region. I’m privileged to represent this region through my work with LEAP to be able do that; to be able to open those doors.