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Ideal Group

2525 Clark St.
Detroit, Michigan 48209

Linzie Venegas

By Amy Kuras
March 3, 2014

Linzie Venegas has been working at Ideal Group in Southwest Detroit since she was old enough to stuff an envelope. Ideal Group is her family's business, founded by her father Frank Venegas in 1979, just about a month before she was born. She's grown up in the business, doing a variety of jobs within the company and joining as an official employee in 2002. She now serves as chief marketing officer and business unit manager for Ideal Shield. "My family is very close inside of work and outside of work," she says. "I always felt like this was home and I didn’t want go anywhere else."
Ideal is a traditional manufacturing company, with five subsidiaries involved in everything from manufacturing guardrail systems to managing surplus property. But Venegas, along with her brother Jesse, are positioning the company for the next generation. As Chief Marketing officer, Venegas has created innovative marketing plans that harness state of the art technology to spread the word about Ideal.
For example, she was recognized by Google for her use of AdWords to attract customers, which she says has been more effective than trade shows and direct marketing in helping customers find them. The company also has several professional videos on YouTube that tell the Ideal story, and they use social media to talk about their many community projects.
As the next generation of leadership at Ideal, she and her brother are as committed to Detroit as ever, Venegas says. Much has been made of the decline of Detroit's manufacturing economy, but it’s a big part of the company's—and family's—identity to be in the city. "It's very important for us to stay in Detroit," she says. "My family came here in the early 1900s, and we always want to remain a USA manufacturer."
The Venegas family has done a great deal of community work in Southwest Detroit, both through Ideal Corp and on their own. For example, they were instrumental in the founding of Catholic high school Cristo Rey and donated Chromebooks to the students, as well as also purchasing a bus for them and launching a program that will allow high school seniors to take a course at Marygrove College while in high school, allowing them to earn college credits for free while they are still in school. Cristo Rey's model involves students helping to finance the cost of educating them by working at local companies one day a week, gaining valuable work experience and contacts. Ideal hosts several teams of students, who get mentoring, field trips, and possible paid summer internships.
"We just kind of fell in love with the kids," Venegas says. "We really want to grow the school to be the best school possible for them."
At Ideal, the students are paired with mentors so they can get to know younger people in professional careers, many of which came from the same neighborhoods they live in. It helps expand their view of what the future could hold for them if they put the work in, Venegas says. "They see, 'If I stay at Cristo Rey, I can go to college. If I go to college, I can get a good job. And if I get a good job, then I can be like this person I am sitting next to.'"
Ideal Corp has reinvented two lots in the Southwest Detroit neighborhood. At Cadillac Urban Gardens on Junction, they turned shipping crates into raised beds, where volunteers from the company and community members tend vegetable gardens during the summer months. People from the neighborhood can come to the garden and take as much food as they need during the growing season. Another lot, known as Scarcyny Community Garden, has benches, murals, and flowers, which attracts people from all over the neighborhood to connect with each other and enjoy the space – they even spotted a wedding there once. 
They've also been strong supporters of Detroit Hispanic Development Corp., which works in Southwest Detroit creating opportunity in the community, especially for youth. Ideal has funded a community room with computers for kids to come study after school, among other projects.
The family believes it's important for Ideal to give back to the community that gives so much to them.
"I think that this neighborhood is our family," Venegas says.  "We're a neighbor here too, and I feel if you take care of your community, your community will take care of you."

All photos by Doug Coombe. 

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