Philanthropic Spirit Award
Anyone who has lived in the Upstate knows that Michelin North America is headquartered off of I-85 at Pelham Road. What they might not know is how much the company does for the community. With 6,500 employees in the Upstate, the renowned tire manufacturer has certainly supplied a significant number of jobs in the area. But their involvement goes so much deeper than that.
“Michelin’s core values of respect for the customer and quality in their products also build respect for the community in which the company operates,” says Dick Wilkerson, former Michelin president, who retired three years ago. The result? A core corporate belief in giving back.
Take Michelin’s involvement in the United Way, for starters. Over the last decade, the company’s contributions have surpassed $12.5 million, with nearly 5,000 employees, making individual donations in 2013 alone.
“Michelin gets it,” says Don Gordon, executive director of the Riley Institute at Furman University. “They understand the value of promoting a wide variety of things to make South Carolina better.” Through their participation in the Institute’s Diversity Leaders Initiative, Michelin has become a force in helping bring people together to move South Carolina forward. “I don’t know another company in the state that’s as generous or committed to civic involvement as Michelin is,” Gordon says.
Michelin is likewise a chief player in the arena of education, where the majority of its efforts support children just starting school. Through Michelin’s Challenge Education Program, the company sends volunteers into Title 1 schools to work with students on math and reading skills, or to supply a caring adult “lunch buddy.” More than 200 Michelin employees in the Upstate participate in the Challenge Education program, which works with schools—a total of 20, with 8 in the Upstate—in all the North American locations where Michelin has facilities. Last year, 400 employees logged close to 5,800 volunteer hours.
[callout] COMMUNITY GARDEN // Meet the other fourth annual Charitable Giving Award recipients. [/callout]
“Our employees who volunteer in this program probably get more out of it than the children do,” says Pete Selleck, the current chairman and president of Michelin North America. “It’s so rewarding when the lights go on and a child starts to see something he or she didn’t before.” For older students, Dream Connectors pairs Michelin with companies like BMW and Greenville Health System to send volunteers into area middle schools to provide career education to seventh graders, while the Michelin Technical Scholar Program offers full scholarships and paid internships to outstanding students in two-year technical college programs. Small business startups also profit, with the Michelin Development Program providing mentors, as well as loans, to local would-be entrepreneurs. The program hones in specifically on small businesses, fueling what Selleck calls “the engines of economic growth.”
Michelin is pleased to have had a hand in making the Upstate the international center of manufacturing excellence that it is today. “Anytime you’re recognized for doing good work in your community, it’s a huge honor,” Selleck acknowledges. And there’s work yet to do. “We know this community is still a work in progress, and we can’t afford to rest on our laurels,” he says. “We need to keep driving our community forward.”