DEARBORN (WWJ) – Ford Motor Company was named as one of America’s top corporations for its support of women-owned suppliers, the first time an automaker has earned the award.

The Women’s Business Enterprise Council selected Ford for its 13th annual listing of America’s Top Corporations for Women’s Business Enterprises. It is the only national award honoring corporations for world-class programs that level the playing field for women’s business enterprises to compete for corporate business.

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Ford earned the award for developing and driving innovative best practices across its organization that result in productive business partnerships with women entrepreneurs and valuable products and services for their customers.

In 2011, Ford spent $1.06 billion with women-owned suppliers in the U.S., a 22 percent increase from $866 million in 2010. Since 2009, Ford has more than doubled its sourcing with women-owned businesses.

The increase in 2011 includes higher spending with suppliers that are playing a key role in Ford’s expanding portfolio of high-quality, safe, fuel-efficient products equipped with smart technologies. Examples include:

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• Dura Automotive Systems, an Auburn Hills, Mich.-based company that is owned by Lynn Tilton’s Patriarch Partners investment company. Dura, which makes a variety of control systems, engineered assemblies and other products, supplies the award-winning heated power rear sliding window for the F-150 pickup.

• Systrand Manufacturing, a Brownstown, Mich.- based company owned by Sharon Cannarsa. Systrand is producing machined parts for the next generation of Ford’s hybrid transmission that will be used in the new Ford Fusion Hybrid and C-MAX Energi plug-in hybrid.

• Dakkota Integrated Systems, owned by Andra Rush and based in Holt, Mich. Dakkota won a contract to produce fascias and headliners for the redesigned Ford Explorer, which more than doubled sales in 2011 from 2010, finishing the year with 135,704 units sold in the US.

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Tony Brown, group vice president of Ford Global Purchasing said they are proud to receive the recognition and hopes it brings renewed attention to this important segment of their supply base.