Chrysler Group announced that it purchased more than $3 billion from minority suppliers for goods and services in 2002. The total amount represented about 11 percent of its total purchasing spend, maintaining Chrysler Group's position as one of the industry leaders in terms of percentage of dollars spent with minority business enterprises. According to the company, the increase from 10 percent in 2001 to approximately 11 percent in 2002, demonstrates Chrysler Group's commitment to minority suppliers -- despite a difficult economic environment. Since 1983, when Chrysler Corp. established its Diversity Supplier Development program, the Company has sourced more than $21 billion to minority suppliers. Currently, more than 300 suppliers in Chrysler Group's supply base are minority companies. "Chrysler Group has made a steady commitment toward building and developing our minority supplier base," said Tom Sidlik, Chrysler Group executive vice president -- Procurement and Supply, and chairman of the National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC) Executive Committee. "In today's changing society, we realize that Diversity is not just a social responsibility, but a business imperative. It is our belief that our supply base should be a direct reflection of our customer base." Chrysler Group says it has several initiatives in place to develop and enhance minority supplier development, including a mentoring program where Chrysler Group Procurement & Supply executives work directly with minority suppliers to assist in their growth and development. The goal of each relationship is to help suppliers cut costs, improve quality and increase new business opportunities outside of Chrysler Group. The Company also has a "Matchmaker" program that pairs minority suppliers with Tier 1 suppliers to increase business opportunities among the two companies. The program is entering its third year. Since its inception, it has generated $30 million in additional business opportunities to minority suppliers. Chrysler Group says it has been recognized on a national level for its Diversity Supplier Development when it received "Company of the Year" from the NMSDC in 2000. In 2002, Chrysler Group was recognized by the Michigan Minority Business Development Council as "Company of the Year" for the third consecutive year.