By Maureen McDonald
May 1, 2008
Soon after accepting a buyout from one of the world’s largest employers - General Motors Corp. - Lorna Utley stepped up to an invitation to serve as president and CEO of Goodwill Industries of Greater Detroit. Her new crusade is finding jobs for those with the toughest barriers to employment in a tough economy.
We caught up with Utley, 53, as she emceed a going away party for her predecessor, Delois Whittaker Caldwell. Smiles filled the room as the top job was passed from capable hands to capable hands this spring.
Goodwill Industries, a nonprofit training, placement, retail and manufacturing agency now 86 years old, serves almost 14,000 people a year in southeast Michigan, helping those with physical disabilities, mental challenges and uncertain residency find gainful work. Goodwill’s 270 employees in three counties help clients earn an average of $10.68 an hour and a sense of pride.
Corp!: How did you handle the transition from your role as director of the General Motors Foundation to CEO of Goodwill?
Utley: I believe strongly in the work we are doing at Goodwill. I was fortunate to have a six-month transition period whereby Delois served as president emeritus. She helped me learn the ropes, coaching and counseling me so we could achieve specific objectives for the agency. I also continue to receive mentorship from Atlanta Goodwill Executive Ray Bishop. I am fortunate enough to work with employees who know Goodwill inside and out. People with great talent.
Corp!: What is the best skill you bring forward?
Utley: I listen and take suggestions, modifying as appropriate. I’ve had nonprofit leadership experience as chair of Inforum, helping shift the largest professional women’s organization to a new name and stature from its history as the Women’s Economic Club and I’ve marshaled the resources of GM to help citizens around America after a crisis. Between jobs I started the Grosse Pointe Foundation for Public Education. I believe in the collaborative process for accomplishing change.
Corp!: What is your guiding principle?
Utley: The team of Goodwill can accomplish anything they envision for those we serve. We have four sites in Oakland County, two in Wayne and Macomb and a factory/headquarters next to the Motor City Casino in Detroit. We hope to add locations in Washtenaw and Livingston counties.
Corp!: Where do Goodwill clients work?
Utley: Likely you’ve seen our people around the streets of downtown Detroit running sweepers for Clean Detroit. Soon we will start cleaning buildings for the Detroit Zoo. Teams of trainees serve up ice cream at Ben and Jerry’s in the Compuware building. Our factory is ISO 9001:2000 and 14001:2004 certified, our employees provide light assembly, packaging, cabling and kitting services.
Corp!: Tell us about your family.
Utley: I have two grown children and two Labrador retrievers that insist on a daily walk around our neighborhood. My husband and I love getting outdoors.
Corp!: What do you do for fun?
Utley: My husband, Jud, and I are planning a return trip to Napa Valley in fall. We are big wine enthusiasts.
Corp!: Will you bring anything along?
Utley: My knitting needles. I’ve found it is a creative way to wind down when I’m stressed. I’ll bring a few historical novels along. Reading is very inspiring.