Gentex ramping up production

August 26, 2011
| By Pete Daly |
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A vivid reflection of the recovering worldwide auto industry is visible in Zeeland and Holland Charter Township, where Gentex is hiring 300 new employees as soon as possible, part of 1,110 the company plans to add during its production expansion over the next five years.

The Michigan Economic Growth Authority recently approved a state tax credit for Gentex — with an estimated value of up to $2,446,465 over the next three years — to induce the automobile mirror maker to invest approximately $160 million over the next five years to expand its facilities and add new production equipment in Zeeland and Holland Charter Township. The company was reportedly considering a competing site in Alabama, according to a MEGA announcement.

In addition, Zeeland and Holland Charter Township are expected to approve an estimated $7.2 million in local tax abatements as their contribution to the incentive package.

Late last week, Gentex held a job fair at a Holland hotel to recruit 300 new hires for production and engineering positions that begin as soon as possible.

While approving the new state tax credit, the MEGA board also amended an existing state tax credit it had issued in 2002 to include all Gentex facilities in the two communities.

MEGA noted that Gentex is known as the pioneer of the electrochromic, automatic-dimming mirror industry with approximately 19 percent compounded annual growth over the past 19 years. More than half of Gentex interior mirrors are sold with advanced electronic features, including a rear camera display that shows the area immediately behind the vehicle when it is in reverse.

More than 98 percent of the company’s net sales are derived from the sale of auto-dimming mirrors to every major automaker in the world.

The Zeeland-based manufacturer announced all-time record results for the fourth quarter and year that ended Dec. 31. In the fourth quarter, Gentex had net sales of $222 million, up 25 percent from the same quarter in 2009. For the year, sales totaled $816 million compared to $544 million in 2009.

Gentex had 2,800 employees in Zeeland in the summer of 2008; the crash of the worldwide auto industry meant that by December of that year, employment was down to 2,100 — the company's first mass layoff.

It was in recovery mode in 2010, however, with the hiring of 500 employees, and more early this year. More than 100 of the new hires are salaried employees in engineering and other technical specialties.

Late in 2010, Gentex announced the purchase of the 108,000-square-foot former Invensys Controls plant in Holland for increased production capacity, where new hires were already at work.

Today, the manufacturer has about 3,000 employees in West Michigan.

The Federal Reserve reported recently that U.S. auto production increased by 5.2 percent in July, the largest increase of the year. General Motors deliveries in July were more than 7 percent higher than the same month last year.

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