DETROIT — Lear Corporation CEO Matt Simoncini was awarded the 2017 Crain’s Newsmaker of the Year award on Thursday afternoon at the MotorCity Casino Hotel. He led the automotive supplier’s turnaround from a bankruptcy into a profitable company. Simoncini also helped to open the company’s Detroit Innovation Center in 2015.
This year, he worked alongside Mayor Mike Duggan and Dan Gilbert to attempt to convince Amazon to build their second headquarters in Detroit. Simoncini will be retiring in the next few weeks but remains hopeful for Detroit’s comeback and a regional transit plan.
“We have an available and educated workforce,” the Lear CEO said. “We don’t have the jobs. Organized labor needs a seat at the table. We’ve got a figure out a way to break that equation. We need to establish manufacturing again in the city of Detroit.”
The special event featured a discussion between KC Crain of Crain Communications and Simoncini. When asked about mass transit and education, he responded:
“I think they go hand in hand. We’re all planting a flag and we’re proud of the resurgence of Detroit. We need to be able to get people to jobs. Right now there are two uncoordinated bus routes. To me it’s ridiculous. We need to come together as a community and solve this equation. We need to have mass transit. We should be able to take a train to Ann Arbor. This is unacceptable.”
The Lear Corporation CEO said that he would be retiring his position on February 28. His successor will be Ray Scott, executive vice president and president of seating. However, Simoncini has agreed to remain with Lear in an advisory role through the end of 2018.
“Detroit’s my home. One of the hardest parts is why are you leaving? I will be involved in philanthropic efforts. I don’t ever see being a CEO again.”
Some have said that Simoncini should consider running for Michigan governor. While he declined, the Lear CEO joked that we already have another man in the audience who’s running. Then, he pointed at Lt. Governor Brian Calley who was on hand for the event.
“I’m honored as a DPS kid,” Simoncini answered. “I’m honored to be thought of as a viable candidate. The reality is I’m unspoken. There’s a lot of skills that don’t play well.”
Other honorees at the Crain’s Newsmaker of the Year event included:
- Mike Duggan, Mayor of Detroit
- Art Van Elslander, Founder of Art Van Furniture, Van Elslander Capital and the A.A. Van Elslander Foundation
- Martha Ford, Majority Owner of the Detroit Lions
- Dan Gilbert, Founder and Chairman of Quicken Loans / Rock Ventures
- Vinnie Johnson, Majority Owner and Chairman of the Piston Group
- Wright Lassiter III, President and CEO of the Henry Ford Health System
- Rip Rapson, President of the Kresge Foundation & La June Montgomery Tabron, President & CEO of the Kellogg Foundation
- Dug Song, CEO of Duo Security Inc.
- Deirdre Waterman, Mayor of Pontiac (Mich.)
Each February, Crain’s honors a top newsmaker of the year for the previous year.
For more information about Crain’s Newsmaker of the Year, visit http://www.crainsdetroit.com/awards/newsmakers/2017