GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A first-of-its-kind accommodation is being given to employees at one of West Michigan’s largest manufacturers.

Gentex, known for building equipment for vehicles, has partnered with the Outdoor Discovery Center Network to open a day care and preschool for its employees’ children. The facility will be built right on the campus of Gentex’s corporate offices in Zeeland.

“We continue to seek innovative ways to ensure Gentex is the employer of choice in West Michigan,” Gentex President and CEO Steve Downing said in a press release. “The low availability and high cost of childcare has long been a barrier to employment, and we want to remove that obstacle so more people can experience the benefits of being a member of team Gentex.”

Gentex has unveiled renderings of a new day care for its employees' children.
Gentex has unveiled renderings of a new day care for its employees’ children. (Courtesy ODC Network)

Child care was one of the top issues for job seekers, according to a survey that will soon be published from West Michigan Works. Chief Operating Officer Angie Barksdale says that Gentex’s decision to build an on-site day care will go a long way to attracting and retaining employees.

“This is a great win-win for everybody,” she said.

The day care is slated to begin construction next year and will open for Gentex employees in 2024. It will be 43,000 square feet with 12 day care rooms, three infant rooms and an indoor play center. There will also be nature-based playscapes and a fishing pond built outside of the facility.

Gentex reached out to ODC regarding the partnership after realizing that many of its employees were having trouble finding reliable care for their children. This in turn was causing more turnover within the business.

“Gentex recognized that attracting and retaining this talent is key to providing this child care benefit to their employees,” Vice President of Marketing and Communications for the ODC Network Alexa Redick said.

The day care and preschool itself will be run by ODC, which has had past success with three other locations in Holland. The plan is to give children a “nature-based” learning approach, which Redick said will help with education, mental and physical well-being.

While the day care is a first of its kind in West Michigan, it’s not expected to be the only one for long. Redick is hoping the partnership becomes a model for other businesses.

“I think recognizing that the data demonstrates why this is so important to working families would demonstrate why different companies need to start investing in this as a benefit,” she said. “I’m hoping this starts to become a trend.”