ZEELAND TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — One of Ottawa County’s largest employers is growing in the Zeeland area, bringing up to 500 new jobs with it.

Gentex expects to invest up to $300 million to increase its glass processing operations and produce more auto-dimming mirrors, displays and devices for aircraft and vehicles. Gentex also plans to ramp up production of new technology used in vehicle sensor products, wearable technology, medical lighting and fire protection products.

The company is building a new 250,000-square-foot high-tech manufacturing facility and 350,000-square-foot distribution center at 9001 North Riley St. in Zeeland Township. Gentex also plans to add 60,000 square feet to its current manufacturing facility in Zeeland.

Michigan Economic Development Corp. CEO Quentin Messer Jr. said construction recently started and the project is expected to be complete in the fourth quarter of 2023.

“The success of this new facility could lead to even further manufacturing growth and opportunities throughout Michigan,” Messer said during a Tuesday media briefing. 

On Tuesday morning, the MEDC’s Strategic Fund Board approved a $5.5 million business development grant, a $1.89 million Jobs Ready Michigan grant and a tax break that would last as long as 15 years, worth up to $3.8 million for the project.

The MEDC said the incentives were necessary to keep the expansion here after incentives from other states and a different COVID-19 shutdown policy made Gentex “take a more serious look at establishing a presence outside of Michigan.” Messer said Michigan beat out South Carolina, Alabama, Tennessee and Virginia, which were also vying for the investment.

Gentex currently operates 1.5 million square feet of production space and employs nearly 5,000 people in the Zeeland area. The company said the new jobs tied to the expansion will average over $1,100 per week in pay, plus benefits.

“Ottawa County has been one of the fastest growing counties in the country. Not just with population, but with industry,” said Zeeland City Mayor Kevin Klynstra.

Klynstra said although the new facilities are in neighboring Zeeland Township, the city stands to see economic impact as well. He said the city supplies sewer, water and electric services to Gentex.

The city of Zeeland also said having job growth coming out of the pandemic is vital and could attract even more industries.

It’s always a domino effect. They have suppliers and they get busy, they expand. It helps all the way through the supply chain,” said Klynstra.

Zeeland Township leaders echoed the city’s excitement. They released the following statement regarding the expansion:

“The growth occurring at Gentex and their continued investment in Zeeland Township and the City of Zeeland is exciting. Zeeland Charter Township is pleased to support this expansion and the benefits it will provide to our community. “

Tom Oonk, Zeeland Charter Township Supervisor

In addition to the incentives approved Tuesday, Gentex is expected to get a state education tax break connected to an anticipated property tax break from Zeeland Township to support the expansion.

The manufacturer also received approval from the MEDC on Tuesday for projects throughout the state, which include two mixed-use buildings in Lansing and the redevelopment of the former American Motor Company in Detroit.