Meet Lorron James, working to make the city a distribution hub
By Matt Totsky
Meet Detroit resident Lorron James, a vice president/co-owner of James Group International (JGI), a company founded by his father, John. James joined JGI in February 2007 as the marketing/sales manager and has also held other positions during his 10 years working at several JGI operating companies, including Magnolia Automotive Services, TLX and Renaissance Global Logistics.
Born and raised in the Palmer Woods section of Detroit, James attended Brother Rice High School in Birmingham and later studied and played football at Arizona State University.
“I graduated ASU in 2005 and worked for three seasons with the Arizona Diamondbacks baseball team as the coordinator for community affairs,” he says. “But the lure of working at my father’s company in my hometown was too great, and I had to come back.”
A World-Class Logistics Leader
JGI is a privately held group of companies that offers international supply chain services. Founded in 1971, the company has become a fixture in the Detroit business scene with a roster of clients that includes Ford Motor Co., General Motors and Toyota.
“Our company continues to expand through international joint ventures and information technology as well as the revitalization of property that we own throughout the city,” James says. “Our location right on the Detroit River is essential in our efforts to make the area a logistical distribution hub because it allows us to reactivate our partnerships with the Port of Detroit, which includes sea vessels and railroads.”
One of JGI’s newest clients is Xenith, a designer and manufacturer of football helmets and shoulder pads and part of Quicken Loans founder Dan Gilbert’s diverse portfolio of companies.
“The helmets are assembled and warehoused in our Ford headquarters on Fort Street,” James says. “Xenith occupies just under 20 percent of the 375,000-square-foot facility.
“Over the years, we’ve done everything from trucking to exporting to working with new technologies. Our goal as a company is to always stay in touch with the times, and the Xenith project is a perfect example of that.”
James strongly believes in leveraging the assets of the city to keep his company growing. “We are very adamant about hiring people who live in the neighboring communities,” he says. “The Metro Detroit area has the highest concentration of engineers in the country, and these people are very resourceful and dedicated to their craft. We realize that our employees are our most precious resource and that a business is only as good as its people.”
JGI is committed to supporting the communities where its employees live and work. This commitment is demonstrated through corporate donations to philanthropic organizations, service on nonprofit boards by its executives and the many hours that JGI employees have donated over the years to help make a difference in the lives of others.
“This mentality has been a part of our company since the very beginning,” says James, who serves as co-chair on the Children’s Hospital of Michigan Foundation-Leaders for Kids Advisory Board, the Boys & Girls Club of Southeast Michigan, the United Way Cabinet as well as its Emerging Philanthropist group.
He’s also worked with Fleece & Thank You, a nonprofit organization that donates colorful blankets to children battling various illnesses. “To me, these sorts of initiatives are essential,” he says. “I feel there’s a responsibility to give back to the community, and we want to leave the city better than how we found it.”
Learning from the Best
A highlight in James’ career has been the chance to work alongside his father, John A. James, at the company he founded more than 45 years ago. “It’s been an honor and privilege,” James says. “My father was the middle child of nine kids, and he worked hard to make his way from Mississippi to Michigan to start his own business. He has not only been my father, but my mentor and my hero as well. He has shown me a lot about the business side of things and even though we don’t always see eye to eye, he’s always been incredibly receptive to my ideas.
“One of the most important things I’ve learned from him,” James continues, “is the fact that there have been so many people in this city who came before us and were able to do so much with very few resources. He taught me to slow down, take things in, explore different angles and not move too quickly at every opportunity. And that’s been invaluable, not only to me, but also to the success of our company as well.” NS
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