Gentex to open on-site daycare, preschool in partnership with local nonprofit

ZEELAND — A major employee benefit is coming to Gentex Corp. in Zeeland.

As part of numerous ARPA-funded projects approved by the Ottawa County Board of Commissioners earlier this month, the Outdoor Discovery Center Network will partner with Gentex to build an on-site daycare and preschool.

More:Ottawa County approved $33.5 million in ARPA funds for 24 projects. Here's what passed

More:Gentex struggled to find workers. It's hired 100-plus with help from a language program.

In a joint announcement Wednesday, Nov. 30, ODC and Gentex said the project is designed to help Gentex employees access convenient, cost-effective childcare.

“We continue to seek innovative ways to ensure Gentex is the employer of choice in West Michigan,” Gentex President and CEO Steve Downing wrote in a statement. “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.

A rendering of the future Gentex Discovery, which will include preschool and daycare.
A rendering of the future Gentex Discovery, which will include preschool and daycare.

"We believe this approach is unique because it combines the benefits of a licensed, on-site facility on our campus with the world-class care and learning environment ODC has provided for years.”

ODC recently opened Dragonflies Discovery Preschool in Park Township, adding to Seedlings and Little Hawks — all of which offer nature-based curriculums.

Gentex Discovery Preschool will be a 43,000-square-foot facility, built on Gentex's corporate campus in Zeeland. It will include 12 daycare rooms, three infant rooms, office and common space, a food preparation area and an indoor play center. There will also be outdoor nature-based playscapes and a fishing pond.

The preschool will be operated by ODC.

“A nature-based education has been found to support a child’s physical, cognitive and social-emotional development,” ODC CEO Travis Williams wrote in a statement. “It also helps instill an appreciation for our natural resources and the need to be caretakers of the world around us.”

Gentex Discovery will be the first of its kind in the region, due in part to extended hours of operation. The center will be open to accommodate children of both first and second shift workers, with a capacity target of up to 250 children per shift.

Gentex plans to offer discounted childcare rates as a benefit of employment.

“Gentex is breaking new ground by offering a first-of-its-kind, fully operating childcare center with extended hours to cover multiple work shifts,” Downing said. “We want to make it affordable for families, so the subsidized weekly cost for care will be much lower than typical childcare rates in the market today.”

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The facility is slated for groundbreaking next spring, with completion and opening expected in 2024.

According to its application for ARPA funding, ODC has similar projects planned in the city of Holland at Stow Co. in partnership with Hope College, in the city of Grand Haven at Shape Corp., in Georgetown Township at NuWool Co. Inc. and in Holland Township at The Shops at Westshore in partnership with the Ottawa Area Intermediate School District.

The announcement for Gentex Discovery comes as many employers along the lakeshore continue to compete for employees. Gentex has also been lauded for its language program, which created Spanish-speaking manufacturing lines to provide more opportunities for employment and promotion within the company.

— Contact editor Cassandra Lybrink at Follow her on Twitter @CassLybrink.

This article originally appeared on The Holland Sentinel: Gentex to open on-site daycare, preschool in partnership with local nonprofit