Celebrating 50 years: Why Grand Rapids is part of Gentex’s future

As Gentex Corp. marks 50 years, Ottawa County’s biggest employer, with a workforce of 6,000, wants to grow its presence in adjacent Kent County. 

In the last year, Gentex has opened two facilities in Grand Rapids, a satellite assembly plant in the Madison Square neighborhood, and an engineering tech hub at the 25 Ottawa building downtown.

“This is just the beginning for Grand Rapids in terms of the potential for our operations,” said Craig Piersma, the company’s vice president of marketing and corporate communications. 

That vision will be underscored this weekend when the West Michigan manufacturer returns as the presenting sponsor of the 26th Annual Michigan International Auto Show, which runs Feb. 1-4 at DeVos Place in downtown Grand Rapids. 

Gentex has long been a champion of community engagement, financially supporting education, economic development, diversity, and philanthropic causes throughout the region.

Under the leadership of President and CEO Steve Downing, Gentex is building an on-site child care facility at its Zeeland headquarters to address the shortage of affordable child care, created a scholarship to reduce barriers for women entering the STEM field, and launched a Spanish-language production line to increase accessibility to better jobs for those with limited English-speaking abilities. 

The latter is particularly meaningful for Hispanic workers who are stuck in low paying jobs, says Guillermo Cisnero, president and CEO of the West Michigan Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. 

“We need more organizations like Gentex that are willing to go where the community is and hire the community,” Cisnero says. “It’s not just hiring the community, but preparing the community like they did with their Spanish-language production line. That’s incredible. That’s innovation. I can’t wait to see what Gentex does in Grand Rapids.”

Cisnero was among the West Michigan business, community and government leaders who gathered Tuesday in Zeeland to help Gentex celebrate its 50th anniversary. To 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

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 partnered with Zeeland-based brewery Tripelroot to create a commemorative beer collection.
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 proclaiming Honorary Gentex Appreciation Day,” Zeeland Mayor Kevin Klynstra of Zeeland pointed to the company'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 nonprofit organizations involved in food distribution, affordable housing, domestic abuse support, and other causes.

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 to speak to anyone interested in employment opportunities. 

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. 

Enjoy this story? Sign up for free solutions-based reporting in your inbox each week.