Ronald Wong

Ronald Wong’s parents immigrated to Los Angeles in the 1930’s and made their living in the restaurant industry. He migrated to Michigan in 1971 after getting degrees in math, physics and business from universities in California. While working in the aerospace industry in his home state, he applied to a blind advertisement that turned out to be placed by Ford Motor Co. to lure talent to Michigan. “They were trying to get technical people, (but if we knew) it was for the auto industry, no one would come,” Wong says. He met recruiters at the Los Angeles International Airport, but turned them down because of the location of the job. But, when they called back, they “described everything I wanted in a job!” Intrigued, he flew out to Michigan. “When you come out here and look at the automotive industry, it’s pretty impressive,” Wong says. “And it was good money, more money than I could imagine.” He made the move but, used to the large Asian community in Los Angeles, suffered a bit of culture shock. “I had to find the Asian community here,” he says. Along with some fellow Ford employees, he founded the Association of Chinese Americans, which is now a national organization based in Washington, D.C. on whose board he sits. Wong saw a chance for Ford to go global and pitched it to the company. He became a recruiter for people of Asian descent to join the Ford family. “I had to try to entice people to come out to Michigan, which was a hard sell — to leave Silicon Valley to come to smokestacks,” he says. “But, because I was from California and I was Asian, I was the perfect spokesman.” The draw to the Detroit area, as Wong sees it, is simple. Quality of life, family-oriented environment, lack of competition and cost of living. “Ever since I’ve been here, I’ve lived on the water,” he says. “My house would cost three or four times the amount in California.” He encourages entrepreneurs of all stripes to relocate here. “You can make a better start here, you can make more money,” he says. “There is a lot of competition in LA to get a restaurant going — everyone is doing that.” Some of the downsides to life in this area that Wong cites are unchangeable — flat landscape, cold winter — but others are alterable, including lack of awareness. “People who lived in (New York or LA) were more aware of other races and diversity,” he says. “Many people (in Michigan and Detroit) have never met a Chinese person, dated a Chinese person…it’s a big problem.” Wong left Ford after 27 years and is now president and CEO of Lakefront Capital, a company that, among other ventures, is involved with the retooling of the former Ford Wixom Plant into a alternative energy campus. He is also involved with selling the area’s assets to Chinese companies. “There is land and a lot of infrastructure,” he says. There is a lot here in Michigan, we are just not capitalizing on what we have, integrating the components that we have.”

If You Like This Post, Please Share It!

Comments are closed.