Dearborn Area Chamber announces Innovator of the Year final nominees

Peggy Richard

‘To raise new questions, new possibilities, to regard old problems from a new angle, requires creative imagination and marks real advance in science.’
— Albert Einstein

By Peggy Richard
Director of Events
Dearborn Area Chamber of Commerce

Thank goodness the true innovators. True inventors never listen to the naysayers. Henry Ford invented the Model T Car and founded the Ford Motor Co. John C. Sheehan created the synthesis of natural penicillin; Daniel Gerber invented canned baby food; William Boeing founded Boeing Aircraft — all innovators who changed the face of business, science and the world. From Michigan’s largest institutions to its newest startups, innovation is the key for businesses to advance the state’s economy.

“Innovation means the introduction of new things and methods,” Business Review Publisher Jim Stephanak said. “If we have learned anything these last few tumultuous years in Michigan, it’s that new things and methods can’t come soon enough.”

Michigan has always been an innovator and leads the country in the areas of innovation and patents. And, it will be innovation that helps us accelerate through our next economic transformation. Innovation needs a supportive culture and takes time to get right. It goes beyond just new products but finds new ways of looking at outdated processes.

The Dearborn Area Chamber of Commerce recognizes the importance of innovation each year with its Innovator of the Year Award. This award is given to a forward-thinking business model whose lead function addresses “New Economy” markets from Dearborn and Dearborn Heights. We are thrilled to have three such innovative drivers as our final three nominees. The winner to be announced April 19 at our Business Awards Ceremony & Expo.

Henry Ford Collegiate Academy:
Dearborn Public Schools offers unique career-focused programs, a full service district managing 20,000 students and some of the best teachers and students in the nation. Dearborn Public Schools in partnership with Henry Ford Community College, is now the only district in Michigan to offer a state-funded five-year program — where students receive a diploma and associate’s degree including books — at no cost to families. This will attract families to the area, will solidify decisions to stay in the community and offers those students who may not be able to afford higher education.

Goodwill Industries:
For more than 90 years, Goodwill has put metropolitan Detroiters with employment challenges to work. Facing declines in industries that employed its clients, increasingly challenging grant and philanthropic environments and a distressed auto industry, Goodwill examined its history and made the decision to innovate by rededicating itself to creating and growing a new resale business model.

With the mission of creating a new business and new jobs, Goodwill opened a new, upscale retail store in Dearborn in September 2012. This innovative store has created these jobs, provided a location for Dearborn residents to donate unwanted items, stimulated the surrounding economy and has helped the environment as they reuse, recycle, repurpose or resell all items received.

Village Ford Dealership Plug-In Vehicles:
Village Ford, Henry Ford’s first dealership in 1910, is the first in the country to sell Ford Motor Co’s. three new plug-in vehicles—Focus Electric, C-MAX Energi and Fusion Energi — to the greater Dearborn community.

In order to do this, the dealership became electric vehicle certified, involving a number of strict requirement renovations and is among the first of 200 Ford dealerships to do so. Demand for EV’s among consumers and dealers is so high that 900 — one-third of all Ford dealerships — will be certified by this spring.

We are proud to shed light on these business innovators at this event that also recognizes Business of the Year (Severstal North America), Leadership Award (Lynne Killion, PostNet Dearborn) and Small Business of the Year (Westborn Market).

The BRACE event connects and showcases organizations in the Dearborn and Dearborn Heights community. The luncheon, including a video component spotlighting each awardee, also will highlight businesses celebrating milestone anniversaries, from five years to 180 years. The expo will enable companies to promote their products and services to more than 300 business owners, community leaders and corporate professionals.