Legendary Detroit businessman plans big ‘Thank You’ for the Motor City

William "Doc" Pickard who is one of the most successful African-American businesses owners in the country, is planning an entire weekend to thank Detroit.

William "Doc" Pickard thegrio.com
(Photo: J. Kyle Keener, Detroit Free Press)

William “Doc” Pickard is one of the most successful African-American businesses owners in the country and  a fixture in Detroit for nearly 50 years. Pickard who is one of the first African-Americans to own a McDonald’s franchise, is planning an entire weekend to thank Detroit, the city that made him.

Beginning Friday, June 22 through Sunday, June 24, Pickard has scheduled a weekend of “Thank You, Detroit” events for friends, co-workers and the city. In the 47 years since he arrived in the Motor City, Pickard has made history being at the forefront of business.

Pickard is founder and chairman of Global Automotive Alliance; co-managing partner of the MGM Grand Detroit Casino; CEO of Bearwood Management Co.; and co-owner of five African-American newspapers.

Pickard was appointed to be a member of President Ronald Reagan’s transition team in 1980. He has also taught business classes at the University of Michigan, Wayne State University, and Grand Valley State University.

He’s also written a bestselling book— Millionaire Moves: Seven Proven Principles of Entrepreneurship, which is a look at his professional journey. He’s working on a new coffee-table book expected by December 2020 featuring 100 little-known African-American entrepreneurs from 1850 to 1950.

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According to the Detroit Free Press, during his “Thank You, Detroit” weekend, he plans to announce that he is giving a $1 million gift to the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History as well as new commitments of $1 million to the Motown Historical Museum expansion project and $100,000 to Wayne County Community College to help female minority entrepreneurs.

“I came to this great city nearly 50 years ago, and still marvel today at how much I owe Detroit and the individuals who have been and continue to be hallmarks in my life,” Pickard, who was born in La Grange, Georgia and spent time in Flint, said.

In 2017, the Pickard family donated $1 million to the National Museum of African American History in Washington, D.C.; $3 million to Western Michigan; and hundreds of thousands to Grand Valley State, Central Michigan, Wayne State and Mott Community College.

The weekend, set for June 22-24, includes an invitation black-tie gala featuring the Four Tops; a picnic for current and past employees of his McDonald’s franchises; and a free gospel extravaganza featuring Pastor Marvin Winans, singer Karen Clark Sheard and a Detroit based 100-voice ecumenical chorus at Detroit’s Orchestra Hall.

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Pickard is optimistic about the future of black business, particularly in Detroit, and sees moves being made by more young entrepreneurs.

“The good news is more young men and women are getting in the economic development space and in neighborhoods,” he said. “What we need now is scale. If there is one thing black businesses do better it is hire more black employees. (Detroit) Mayor Mike Duggan understands the problem. Now we need to figure out how to fix it.”

What advice did he have for today’s young entrepreneurs?

No excuses,” he said. “Is there a level playing field? No, but we have to find a way to do it anyway.

“There’s nothing wrong with a great job in corporate America, he added. “But at the end of the day, we must have more entrepreneurs in our community to be successful.