Employee-owned Holland company on a growth streak

Koops Automation Systems has been collecting accolades as one of the top employee-owned companies in Michigan and among the best places to work.

That commitment to employees is paying off. The 31-year-old Holland company is on a growth streak.

Koops Automation Systems is investing $445,260 in capital improvements to remodel its facility, at 881 Productions Place, in Holland. This is the third expansion project in the past four years. The investment began in 2016 when Koops spent $4.9 million to construct a second facility to expand production floor and office space.

“We are excited for the opportunity to outfit the office area at one of our Holland facilities, enabling us to free up space for our continued growth,” says Paul Brinks, Koops’ President and CEO. “The Koops team has been patiently waiting for this much-needed upgrade, which has been made possible by our community partners.”

Creating open workspace

The company is remodeling 4,000 square feet to create a larger open workspace environment, add a lunchroom and accommodate machinery that will increase and diversify its in-house manufacturing capabilities. 
Paul Brinks is the President and CEO of Koops Automation Systems.
Koops designs, builds, and integrates automation systems. Founder Wesley Koops launched the Holland company in 1989 as a service company dedicated to supplying its customers with special machine designs and engineering services.

Since then, the business has developed a reputation for specializing in factory automation systems for industries including automotive, transportation, aerospace, construction, medical, furniture, and pharmaceutical.

Commitment to the region

Koops sold the company to his employees in 2012, making it an ESOP, short for employee stock ownership plan. There are about 4,000 employee-owned companies across the U.S., according to the National Center for Employee Ownership.

Koops was named ESOP Company of the Year in 2016 by The Michigan Chapter of The ESOP Association.

“Koops has multiple locations nationally, and their continued choice to invest in their Holland headquarters demonstrates their commitment to the region, their confidence in our local workforce and their continued success in West Michigan,” says Jennifer Owens, President of Lakeshore Advantage. “Koops’ culture and manufacturing technology expertise are among the benefits that make them an employer of choice, and it’s our pleasure to assist them with their growth.” 

As a local economic development organization, Lakeshore Advantage assists employers with growth opportunities in Ottawa and Allegan counties by connecting them with local support resources. 

Lakeshore Advantage is seeing significant growth along the Lakeshore in the automation sector. Five of the 36 projects in its current project pipeline are expansions of automation companies.
Manufacturing excellence
The city of Holland has committed local support for Koops in the form of a 12-year Industrial Facilities Tax Exemption.
Koops Automations Systems has developed a reputation for specializing in factory automation systems for industries including automotive, transportation, aerospace, construction, medical, furniture, and pharmaceutical.
“Koops is a terrific employer, providing their employees and our residents with solid pay and benefits, along with contributing in other ways to our community,” says Holland City Manager Keith Van Beek. “Koops is a prime example of manufacturing excellence in Holland, and we are pleased to support their continued growth in our community.”
In 2017-2020, the company was named one of the “Best and Brightest Companies to Work for” in the U.S. The competition identifies and honors organizations that display a commitment to excellence in their human resource practices and employee enrichment. 

Organizations are assessed based on categories such as communication, work-life balance, employee education, diversity, recognition, retention, and more. Employee surveys were used to determine award winners. 

“We do not just talk “team,” we live it out in our everyday practices. In our commitment to providing opportunities for our team members to grow both personally and professionally,” says Brinks.

The company’s more than 200 employees are considered “partners.”

Brinks adds that Koops’ foundational commitment to “living out our Core Values of Team, Integrity, Excellence and Stewardship has been a key player in our continued growth.”

Built with team in mind

The company describes its philosophy as this: “We believe our people are our strength. We pride ourselves on maintaining a fun and welcoming culture while providing our clients with superior service. Our buildings have been built with our team in mind. We understand that, when our team members are engaged and immersed in their work, they can produce amazing results.”

Koops Automation Systems is remodeling 4,000 square feet to create a larger open workspace environment.Koops invites employees to spend time together outside of work by offering recreational opportunities such as basketball and softball teams, running and mountain bike crews, disc golf scrimmage, golf outings, and skeet shooting.   

Compassion is also at the core of the company’s values. Koops established a program that allows paid time off to be donated to team members who fall on hard times with health situations. The company supports the local community with events such as designing and working on a local playground and gathering and assembling care baskets for those in need.

“We have been blessed as a company and with that comes the responsibility of stewardship. It is important for us to give back to our community, not only financially, but also with our time and hard work,” the company explains on its website.

In 2019, the Michigan West Coast Chamber of Commerce honored Koops with its Business Leadership Award.

“We believe in our people and are proud of the team and culture we have formed,” Brinks said at the time. “The hard work of our team is the only way an award like this is possible. It is a testament to them.” 

Read more articles by Shandra Martinez.

Shandra Martinez is the managing editor of The Lakeshore WM.
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