Lakeshore Advantage makes case for West Michigan living to Gentex interns

Gentex is hosting 110 interns from 24 different colleges from across the country — more than any summer before, Gentex talent acquisition specialist Chris Pollack told a group of those interns gathered at Zeeland’s Lawrence Street Park last week.

But once their time with the automotive manufacturer is done, what reason do they have to stay in West Michigan?

Plenty, says Kelsey Sivertson, communication and event manager Lakeshore Advantage, a nonprofit that supports West Michigan businesses

“We love getting out and showing these emerging leaders why so many people continue to choose this area,” Sivertson says.

Game show fun

During the Gentex intern welcome event, the students played a few games to get to know their temporary home a little bit better such as “West Michigan business bingo” and “The Price is Right - higher or lower” where they guessed at West Michigan statistics such as average commute time (32 minutes), number of breweries (94), and the number of dog-friendly beaches and parks (30).

They also “bid” on two showcases that included fun-filled West Michigan days spent at area businesses and parks. The Ottawa County Department of Parks and Recreation sponsored park passes for each student, so they could explore county parks during their internships.

Bringing in $8.2 billion a year, manufacturing is 40% of West Michigan’s Gross Domestic Product. There isn’t a shortage of positions for the budding engineers if they choose to make West Michigan home after graduation.

'Get out and explore'

“You’ll hear this over and over from locals, but seriously get out and explore, because there are so many special places,” Sivertson told the students.

Kole Augustine, of Ithaca, is interning in the Gentex embedded software testing department where he will test out prototypes.

West Michigan is much different than his hometown of Ithaca, Mich., or his college Michigan Technological University in the Upper Peninsula.

“I’m from corn fields and dirt roads. Here we have beach towns and sunny days,” Augustine says. “It’s nice to see all the nature and culture.”

Augustine had already visited three beaches and four parks in his first couple of days in West Michigan.

“I’ve been exploring on my own,” he says. “I’m going to try to knock out as much as I can.”

Read more articles by Andrea Goodell.