Celebrating 50 years: How Gentex became the ‘gold standard’ as an employer

Over the past five decades, Gentex Corp. has grown to become Ottawa County’s biggest employer, with more than 6,000 employees working on its Zeeland campus.

Gentex’s imprint on Zeeland and the greater West Michigan community is equally impressive. The company has long been a champion of community engagement, financially supporting educational, economic development, diversity, and philanthropic causes throughout the region.

“Gentex is now the gold standard for our community, but quite frankly, also for our region and for our state,” said Jennifer Owens, president of Lakeshore Advantage, the region’s economic development organization. 

She praised the company and the leadership of Gentex President and CEO Steve Downing for building an on-site childcare facility to address the shortage of affordable child care, creating scholarships to reduce barriers for women entering the STEM field, and opening a Spanish-language production line to increase accessibility to better jobs for those with limited English-speaking abilities. 

Owens was among the West Michigan business, community and government leaders who gathered Tuesday in Zeeland to help Gentex celebrate its 50th anniversary. To help mark the occasion, Gentex announced a commemorative beer collaboration with Tripelroot Brewery, while Zeeland’s mayor officially proclaimed Jan. 29 Honorary Gentex Appreciation Day.

“As we celebrate Gentex’s 50th anniversary, we look back with immense pride on our achievements and want to thank all those who played a role in our collective success,” Downing said. “This milestone is not only a time for reflection, but it’s also an opportunity to look ahead toward our future. Gentex remains dedicated to driving innovation, expanding into new markets, and maintaining its strong community connections.  We believe the best is yet to come.” 

New revenue heights

In a nod to Gentex’s continued efforts to expand its West Michigan footprint, the company also announced its return as the presenting sponsor of the 26th Annual Michigan International Auto Show, which runs Feb. 1-4 at DeVos Place in downtown Grand Rapids.  The show is hosted by the Grand Rapids New Car Dealers Association and produced by ShowSpan Inc.

Founded in 1974, Zeeland-based Gentex has evolved from a small, local fire protection business to an influential technology leader providing next-generation products to the global automotive, aerospace, fire protection, and medical industries. The company recently announced record revenue of $2.3 billion, the first time in company history that revenue has exceeded $2 billion in a year.

Gentex is perhaps best known for inventing the automatic-dimming rearview mirror, an automotive safety feature that combines sensors, chemistry, and algorithmic decision-making to detect and eliminate dangerous glare. Gentex shipped over 50 million units in 2023 to automakers around the globe.

In recognition of Gentex’s contributions to the community and its 50 years of success, Mayor Kevin Klynstra of Zeeland proclaimed Jan. 29 "Honorary Gentex Appreciation Day." This proclamation honors Gentex's half-century of commitment to the community and its role as a key player in West Michigan.

"Seeing the impact Gentex has had over the last five decades is truly inspiring," Klynstra remarked. "It's not just about economic growth; it's about lives touched, communities strengthened, and achievements reached that extend far beyond Zeeland. Gentex is a great corporate citizen, and we look forward to celebrating their ongoing success for years to come.”

Commemorative beer tied to charity

To commemorate its golden anniversary, Gentex partnered with Zeeland-based brewery Tripelroot to create a commemorative beer collection made up of three beers that symbolize Gentex’s journey through the past, present, and future. For every anniversary series beer sold in 2024, Gentex will make a donation to its Community Share program, which helps fund local non-profit organizations involved in food distribution, affordable housing, domestic abuse support, and other causes.
Gentex partnered with Zeeland-based brewery Tripelroot to create a commemorative beer collection.
Celebrations for Gentex’s 50th anniversary will continue at the Michigan International Auto Show, where the company’s booth will be staffed by recruiting representatives from its Human Resources Department should anyone be interested in exploring employment opportunities. Gentex has two facilities in Grand Rapids, a satellite assembly plant in the Madison Square neighborhood and an engineering tech hub at 25 Ottawa.

As an employer, Gentex is known for its world-class facilities, excellent benefits, tremendous work perks, generous bonus structure, and a corporate culture that values innovation. 
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