Manufacturer backs lakeshore’s Now for the Next fund


Zeeland-based Gentex, founded in 1974, is a diversified maker of products for the automotive, aviation and fire industries. Courtesy Gentex

A lakeshore economic development nonprofit has received its largest "financial commitment from a private sector employer."

Zeeland-based Lakeshore Advantage said yesterday that Zeeland-based Gentex has committed $240,000 to the nonprofit over three years.

With $100,000 of that going to the area's new Now for the Next economic growth fund, Gentex is the fund’s first corporate “anchor investor.”

The fund is meant to respond to economic development opportunities in the lakeshore over the next 10 years.

The goal of the Now for the Next campaign is to raise $2 million by 2021 to provide anchor investment in Lakeshore Advantage, as well as funds for “catalytic project development” and to initiate or complete “catalytic growth projects.”

“As an advocate for local business development, we strive to keep our engineering, manufacturing and corporate footprint here in West Michigan,” said Steve Downing, president and CEO, Gentex.

The Now for the Next fund campaign was launched in mid-July by Lakeshore Advantage as an effort to replenish the $1.3-million Holland Economic Development Corporation Impact Fund established through the Community Foundation of the Holland/Zeeland Area, or CFHZ, in 2008.

The impact fund served as critical first dollars or gap-filling funds for economic development projects, such as the Holland SmartZone and Michigan State University Bioeconomy Institute.

Lakeshore Advantage has also received $50,000 annually for operations support since the impact fund’s establishment. It said the impact fund's balance is dwindling. 

The Now for the Next fund will be a non-endowed, committee-advised fund at CFHZ, said Emily Staley, VP of marketing and communications, Lakeshore Advantage.

Distributions from the fund will be recommended by CFHZ’s Economic Development Advisory Committee. 

Staley said the fund will be invested by CFHZ to help extend and grow the life of the fund, though the profitability of those investments will not necessarily drive or limit the distributions made from the fund. 

As a non-endowed fund, the committee can make distributions at any point during the year based on the requests it receives. Distributions are not capped annually based on investment income, Staley added.

Lakeshore Advantage

In 2017, Lakeshore Advantage supported 49 business expansion projects in its project pipeline. Of those, 18 announced business growth projects in 2017, totaling over $90 million in private investment and more than 650 new jobs.

The nonprofit was founded in 2003.


Founded in 1974, Gentex (Nasdaq: GNTX) is a manufacturer for the automotive, aviation and fire-protection industries, with $6 billion in market capitalization and sales approaching $2 billion annually.

Gentex is Ottawa County’s largest employer and has more than 5,600 employees in West Michigan.

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