By Carmen M. Woodson-Wray, Gary Crusader
Carlton L. Guthrie is co-chairman and president of Detroit Chassis LLC and its parent company, Spectra LLC headquartered in Detroit, MI. He and his brother Michael are the sole shareholders of Spectra, which has a majority interest in several automotive related businesses. Their business interests include Detroit Chassis, LLC, an assembler of the (Ford Motor Company) F-53 motorhome running chassis and F-59 commercial truck chassis; Detroit Custom Chassis, LLC, a provider of chassis modifications and Magnys, LLC, a process and manufacturing engineering firm. The thing about the Guthrie brothers is that they are natives of Gary, Indiana and are proud to give back to their hometown.
Born in Atlanta and raised in Gary, Carlton was valedictorian and president of his 1970 senior class at West Side High School. He began his career at Harvard College where he received a B.A. with honors in Economics in 1974.
After a brief stint at Philadelphia National Bank, he moved to Procter & Gamble where he was selected District Salesman of the Year after only eight months. He then returned to Harvard and received an MBA in 1978 concentrating in general management. Upon leaving business school, he worked as a management consultant, initially with Jewel Companies, the Chicago-based diversified food, drug and general merchandise distributor as an internal consultant; with McKinsey and Company’s Chicago office as a senior consultant in the firm’s Consumer Group specializing in strategic planning and mergers and acquisitions; and with James H. Lowry & Associates, a multi-office general management consulting firm as executive vice president and COO.
Michael Guthrie graduated from Gary’s Edison High School in 1968. He received a A.B. from Harvard University in 1972 and a J.D. from Harvard Law School in 1975. Michael practiced corporate litigation at the Sonnenschein Law Firm in Chicago for several years and subsequently joined Johnson Products Company, a publicly held cosmetic, health and beauty products manufacturer, as senior attorney. He quickly advanced to the post of vice-president of Corporate Planning & Strategy.
Michael is past president or Board Chair of The National Association of Black Automotive Suppliers, The National Association of Black Automotive Suppliers Scholarship Fund, The Michigan Council on Vocational Education, Junior Achievement of Mid-Michigan and the Children’s Aid Society of Southeast Michigan.
In 1985, Michael and Carlton joined forces to acquire the tool, die and automotive metal stamping operations of Uptilt, Inc. and Trumark. Inc., in Lansing, Michigan. Carlton served as Chairman, President and CEO of Trumark, Inc., an automotive based stamping and assembly company, from its 1985 acquisition through a leveraged buyout until its sale in 2001.
As heads of Detroit Chassis, one of the leading assemblers of running chassis, they supply the parts to all the major RV bodybuilders and have produced chassis for school buses and postal vehicles. Their companies and affiliates can design, engineer and manufacture complete automotive vehicles.
The Guthrie brothers certainly have not forgotten their roots in Gary. This is evident when one considers the amount of time and support they give to various organizations and endeavors that support the young people in the community.
Recently, Carlton was in Gary because he told Coach James Piggee, the sponsor of the annual Historical Black College Tour that he wanted to specifically sponsor some students from his alma mater, West Side. He said, “I told Coach Piggee I wanted to get some information on some of the students like their names and their aspirations that I could sponsor.”
Coach Piggee directed him to Terrance Little, principal of the school, who gave him the names of three young ladies that he sponsored.
Guthrie said in talking to Principal Little about the Turn Around Program at West Side he became very interested in what they were doing. He said, “West Side’s grading system was an F for several years in a row. When the administration brought Little in as principal in 2013, it went from a F to a C. The graduation rate went from horrible to 85 percent and basically, they are turning the school around—so I got excited.”
Guthrie said when he previously talked to people in the school administration he hadn’t gotten much response and they wouldn’t return his phone calls. “These folks (under principal Little) sounded like some people committed to education and helping young people to figure out where they need to start. This is something I am very active in,” he said.
Guthrie said when he saw what they were doing at West Side he offered help by putting together a group of alumni who wanted to come back in, reconnect and help West Side in its Turn Around. He said, “The principal was very excited so we put a proposal together and met with him and from his ideas and based on what his needs were for the school we put together a revised proposal and what we could provide. Hopefully, we can reconnect the alumni back to West Side and do this city wide, but start with West Side.”
Guthrie said he often returns back home to Gary since he still has family here. He was also very pleased to see his old football coach Gene Johnson and tour the “surge” area of the school to see his picture still up. “I was surprised since I hadn’t been back in the school in some time,” he said,
He said when he tells people he is from Gary, Indiana their first response is usually to sing the song “Gary, Indiana, Gary, Indiana My Home Sweet Home.”