Faces of GM stopped in at GM’s Tonawanda Powertrain facility outside of Buffalo, N.Y. recently to meet Plant Manager Steve Finch. We found out about some exciting new products they’re going to be building at the plant soon. But, as we were talking, the conversation turned to the newly-opened Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in Washington, D.C., and Steve talked about the inspiration Dr. King and others have given to him and so many of today’s professionals. Steve says, “I look back to folks like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and those that were active in the civil rights arena back in those days that paved the way, that made the opportunity for minorities and young people to come into corporate America and have a chance for success.”
And Steve reminds us that the auto industry was a huge factor in the creation of the middle class in the United States. Steve said, “The black middle class was very much influenced by the auto industry. (The auto industry) allowed people to come in and make a good living and provide for their families.”
Steve also points out that certain leaders got the publicity during the Civil Rights movement, but others who stood behind them and alongside them to help them achieve their goals, didn’t get as much attention. Recently Dr. King’s surviving daughter, Bernice King, visited Steve’s family church for a conference and she talked about her mother’s role in the effort. Steve says, “She (Bernice King) talked about her dad. But interestingly enough, she talked about her mom … and she brought up the unique aspect of how her mother was so instrumental in keeping her dad encouraged during some of those very dark days of the Civil Rights movement. And it’s interesting, you hear so much about a man like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and you think so much of him, but oftentimes the wife that’s standing right there by his side doesn’t always get the attention and focus.”
Steve knows the importance of having a partner at your side. He and his wife Lillian have been married for 33 years and have five children and eight grandchildren. Steve and Lillian were self-described “high school sweethearts,” and their grandchildren are growing up in a world that is more diverse and more global than ever, partially because of the efforts of people like Dr. King and others who were willing to sacrifice much to give opportunities to future generations.
We will have Steve back on Faces of GM later this year to talk about the engines they’re making at his plant, and the relationship he has with the workers there. But we felt in the wake of the MLK Memorial events, it was only appropriate to take some time to look at the importance of diversity at GM.
Watch the video (below) to hear Steve’s story about how GM changed his life and how he feels about it.