General Motors Engineers Apply own Methods to Reduce Urban Blight

General Motors Engineers Apply own Methods to Reduce Urban Blight

Work in Detroit helps build team morale and improves look of the neighborhood and its environment.
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Monday, August 11, 2014 - 11:20am

CAMPAIGN: GM Resource Preservation


As a part of their 2014 business plan, General Motors’ manufacturing engineering team outlined an objective to support both the community and GM’s sustainability initiatives. The team was committed to fulfilling that goal in a way that could also be used as a team-building event for their large department of approximately 90 people.

Enter Hantz Farms, whose work in Detroit has been receiving lots of media attention. Hantz Farms, a business enterprise within the Hantz Group, has purchased large amounts of land from the city of Detroit. Detroit acquired this land from the vast number of foreclosures that have occurred in the city, and therefore receives no income in the way of property taxes from the real estate. By purchasing the vacant lots, Hantz Groups takes liability for the space, and pays property taxes to the city as well as creates jobs by hiring people to work on the farms – effectively reducing urban blight.

This project was noticed by Jennifer Morikawa, a senior manufacturing engineer on the team. When Morikawa discovered Hantz Farms had just finished a large volunteer event, Jennifer reached out to vice president Adam Hollier to see if her GM team could still help and create a volunteer event.

“In a few weeks, we had a plan and at least 40 volunteers signed up to help spread mulch around saplings and remove debris,” said Morikawa.

In one afternoon, the team spread more than 100 cubic yards of mulch around 2,000 trees on 35 lots. The mulch itself was made from trees and overgrown vegetation from the Detroit lots that Hantz Farms purchased and cleared, further adding to the sustainability angle. Additionally, the team removed bricksand other debris from the lots near Hantz Farms to reduce blight and improve the neighborhood’s environment.

“Because our team is made up of manufacturing engineers, we approached it from a manufacturing perspective,” said Morikawa. “With little direction, the team divided themselves into groups and started testing out various methods and tools available to move mulch more effectively and improve their process.”

She added, “Others developed a system to scan the land and remove bricks, glass and other debris from the land that could slow down maintenance of the property.”

The team’s ingenuity and ability to work quickly surprised Hollier. “He was impressed by how hard everyone worked to support the goal of making Detroit a better and more sustainable place for the future,” said Morikawa.

The company’s headquarters in Detroit certainly fuels its commitment to the city and similarly inspires employees to invest their time to turn blight into beauty.