Gentex’s $300M expansion to add 500 new jobs

Ottawa County's biggest employer is growing.

Gentex Corp., a high-tech supplier of electro-optical products for the automotive, aerospace, and commercial fire protection industries, is investing $300 million to expand its operations in the city of Zeeland and Zeeland Charter Township. 

Gentex’s expansion includes a new 250,000-square-foot manufacturing facility, a 60,000-square-foot expansion of its existing facility, and a new 350,000-square-foot distribution center. The project will create 500 new jobs in West Michigan. 
“We’re excited to announce that after two years of analyzing our manufacturing and R&D footprint, we’ve reached an agreement with the state of Michigan that supports our long-standing commitment to the state and provides the incentives necessary to facilitate our future growth initiatives in Michigan,” says Steve Downing, president and CEO of Gentex.

“Gentex has been a technology leader in the automotive, aerospace and fire protection industries for many years and employs over 5,000 people in West Michigan currently,” he says. “Today, we are announcing that we will continue that commitment.” 

Many partners worked to win project

Lakeshore Advantage, the economic development organization that assists employers with growth opportunities in Ottawa and Allegan counties, connected the company with local and state resources to support this project. 
“Gentex is our region’s largest employer and is an excellent example of a future-focused company expanding and providing high-skilled jobs in West Michigan,” says Jennifer Owens, Lakeshore Advantage president. “We are honored to support the growth of this local-turned-global company, and we celebrate their continued success.”

Other instrumental partners are the city of Zeeland, West Michigan Works!, Zeeland Charter Township, Grand Rapids Community College, and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC). The MEDC is supporting this project with $11.1 milion in state incentives. 
“Congratulations to the entire Gentex team on your continued success here in Michigan,” says Quentin L. Messer, Jr., CEO of MEDC and president and chair of the Michigan Strategic Fund board. “We appreciate your vote of confidence in West Michigan’s talented workforce and the Zeeland community as you grow your company. 

“We are grateful to the governor, legislators, and local officials for their continued support of critical tools that make projects like this possible. We’re pleased to work with local partners like Lakeshore Advantage, the city of Zeeland, and Zeeland Charter Township to ensure Gentex remains a key partner in our work to grow this critical high-tech, advanced industry in West Michigan.”
City, township tax breaks

The city of Zeeland is supporting this project with a 12-year Industrial Facilities Tax Exemption that is expected to be approved. 
“The city of Zeeland congratulates Gentex once again on their growth, and we especially thank them for choosing to expand their operations in the Zeeland area,” says Tim Klunder, Zeeland city manager. “We are blessed and fortunate to have a corporate partner such as Gentex that desires to be in our community. Their ability to offer excellent jobs to people in our area is exciting and further solidifies what makes them such a tremendous asset for our community.”   
Zeeland Charter Township is supporting this project with a 12-year Industrial Facilities Tax Exemption that also is expected to be approved. 
“The growth occurring at Gentex and their continued investment in Zeeland Township and the city of Zeeland is exciting,” says Tom Oonk, Zeeland Charter Township supervisor. “Zeeland Charter Township is pleased to support this expansion and the benefits it will provide to our community.”
Jobs training programs coming

West Michigan Works! is supporting this project with a Workforce Training and Hiring Plan that includes funding for on-the-job training and incumbent worker training.
“We are thrilled to support efforts leading to improved economic growth for a local employer and viable jobs to our community,” says Amy Lebednick, West Michigan Works! business solutions director. 
Grand Rapids Community College is supporting this project with a Michigan New Jobs Training Program.
"GRCC and our GRCC Lakeshore Campus location support upskilling and building the future workforce for Ottawa County," says Julie Parks, GRCC's interim dean of workforce development. "We are proud to partner with Lakeshore Advantage, West Michigan Works!, and the MEDC to help Gentex continue to advance its work."
Michigan was chosen for this project over competing sites in Alabama, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia.


Read more articles by Shandra Martinez.