Gentex Founder Fred Bauer Receives Innovation Trailblazer Award

Posted in News on November 15, 2016

Zeeland, Michigan – Lakeshore Advantage presented Fred Bauer, chairman and CEO of Gentex, with the Innovation Trailblazer award at the organization’s annual meeting that celebrated innovation in West Michigan. This video tribute to Fred Bauer, who started manufacturing fire safety products at Gentex in 1974, was shared at the meeting prior to him receiving the award.

“Lakeshore Advantage is doing great things, working with businesses and entrepreneurs,” said Bauer in remarks after accepting the award. “It’s important for established business leaders to walk along and mentor entrepreneurs to ensure and contribute to their successes.”

During the presentation, Jennifer Owens, president of Lakeshore Advantage, shared that among the top ten manufacturing employers in Ottawa County over the last 30 years, Gentex steadily climbed to the top. Gentex went from the 10th largest manufacturing employer in Ottawa County in 1996 to the largest manufacturing employer in Ottawa County in 2016.

“Employers who innovate grow,” said Owens. “Gentex is an organization that embodies our culture of innovation in West Michigan. They continually improve and find new and different ways to research, discover, develop, implement and provide quality products that customers need, decade after decade.”

Fred Bauer revolutionized the fire protection industry with the world's first dual-sensor photoelectric smoke detector - a device less prone to false alarms yet quick to detect slow, smoldering fires, as Gentex’s first manufactured product. Today, Gentex is an industry product development leader in the aerospace, fire protection, and automotive industries, with products including the auto-dimming car mirrors and aircraft windows.

Three hundred investors and guests gathered to celebrate “Innovation in Action” at the Lakeshore Advantage annual meeting. Highlights included:
·       A video compilation of innovation at a sampling of area companies and organizations: Hamilton Community Schools, BizStream Academy, Ottawa County, Tiger Studio and Jolt Energy Storage.
·       An Innovation In Action handout to be scanned using the LAYAR app to then view the full versions of each innovation story from the compilation video.
·       An Innovation Showcase, with founders of some of the region’s up-and-coming startups and their products: Encoris, Fathom, PrograMax, Ring Cam, Tiger Tech and Volta Power Systems.
·       A Lakeshore Advantage update, including a year-to-date return on investment of $151 for every $1 invested.
·       The Grand Rapids Community College Discover Manufacturing Mobile Lab with virtual welder, 3-D printer, mini-mill and CAD stations for attendees to tour.

“Along the Lakeshore, innovation occurs naturally for a great number of our organizations. It’s in our regional culture,” said Lakeshore Advantage board chair Mike Ramirez. “Continue to innovate, to look through a new lens to do things better, differently.”

Businesses are encouraged to share their innovation stories with Lakeshore Advantage throughout the coming year. Quotes submitted by area business leaders in the region were shared throughout the program to serve as words of wisdom on what inspires them to innovate at their organizations.

“Continued innovation demands that the organization combat complacency by creating a culture of perpetual restlessness.  You can never allow the organization to feel that it has arrived.  Instead, everyone must be driven by and focused on the excitement of coming up with the next big thing,” commented Fred Bauer, on creating a culture of innovation in the workplace.

Pioneer Construction, Fifth Third Bank and Edify North sponsored the meeting. Lakeshore Advantage announced they will be hosting an investor meeting where the organization will unveil their year-end numbers in January, 2017.

Assets from the 2016 Lakeshore Advantage Annual Meeting, including presentation, video and program can be found here