On February 1, 2006, it was announced that Eleanor M. Josaitis was taking a new position. “Who?” you might be wondering. She is co-founder of Focus: HOPE (Detroit; www.focushope.edu). While that organization is widely known throughout the Detroit community—and not just the automotive portion but throughout the neighborhoods of the city itself—it may be something that you’re not familiar with. It is quite simply one of the most remarkable organizations anywhere. After the riots in Detroit in 1967, Father William T. Cunningham and Ms. Josaitis, concerned with the issues of civil and human rights—or the lack thereof—that had led to the rioting and the division of the racial communities in the city and surrounding suburbs, decided to take action. In 1968 they established Focus: HOPE. Early on, they did a study that determined that there were profound, unfair disparities between the prices for food and medicine in the inner city and the suburbs. They worked to address issues of hunger in the inner city community for the young and old, and now help provide food to 43,000 women, kids and seniors every month. While a supplemental food program is important to the health and well-being of people, they determined it is critically important for people to have the means by which they can provide themselves with the necessities (at the very least) of daily living. Focus: HOPE became focused on economic opportunity. Civil rights are not a matter of charity alone; they involve learning, working, and earning. So in 1981 Fr. Cunningham and Ms. Josaitis established the Machinist Training Institute at Focus: HOPE, a place where people from the inner city can learn metalworking skills and capabilities. Other training initiatives followed to help further the education of the students. In 1992 the Focus: HOPE Center for Advanced Technologies was formed with the cooperation of universities and corporations. Students can not only learn about manufacturing engineering, but receive degrees from Lawrence Technological University, Wayne State University, and University of Detroit Mercy. As Focus: HOPE people recognized that information technology was a field growing in impor-tance, they established the Information Technologies Center in 1999. To make use of what some of its students have learned, they established Focus: HOPE Manufacturing, which combines the production of automo-tive components with education. The companies that partner with Focus: HOPE in its immensely laudable efforts include companies ranging from General Motors to Cisco, from Cincinnati Lamb to Microsoft. The organization’s board of directors and board of advisors reads like the who’s who of the auto industry.
On the day it was announced that Ms. Josaitis would become CEO emeritus (Fr. Cunningham died in 1997), I received a copy of a study from the Council of Manufacturing Associations and The Manufacturing Institute, “U.S. Manufacturing Innovation at Risk.” The opening bullet point in the Executive Summary: “America’s manufacturing innovation process is vital to promoting economic growth, productivity gains and increased living standards. The most important components of this productivity-enhancing process include investments in worker education and training, investments in capital equipment and R&D and its ‘spillovers’ — unintended benefits to other producers and society in general. A strong and vibrant domestic manufacturing base promotes those investments and keeps the innovation process functioning.” Which is precisely what Ms. Josaitis and Fr. Cunningham understood some 25 years ago.
Each year at the Management Briefing Seminar in Traverse City there is a group of Focus: HOPE students in attendance among the movers and shakers of the industry. You’d be hard pressed to find more engaged, articulate, committed, and thoughtful attendees. These women and men are not only making their own lives better, but the lives of each and every one of us because of their commitment to learning and manufacturing. May God bless Ms. Josaitis as she continues her work.