Gerald Edwards, chief executive officer of Engineered Plastic Products, has been named the Ypsilanti Area Chamber of Commerce's Small Business Person of the Year.
was born in Chicago, but was raised in Cleveland in what was a rough section of the city, or what Edwards refers to as the "Watts" of Cleveland.He attended Heidelberg College in Tiffin, Ohio, where he planned on becoming a social worker.
"I wanted to cure some of the ills of the world," he
said.After graduating from college, Edwards went to work for Ford Motor Co., staying there for 14 years.When he left Ford Motor Co. in 1986, he took a position as an assistant plant manager with Detroit Plastic Molding, the world's largest supplier of automotive plastic parts.After working for the Detroit company for four months he was promoted to plant manager.
Although the company owned 10 plants throughout the Midwest and was doing well, the plant where Edwards
was employed was having financial trouble.When Edwards heard the plant was either going to be closed or consolidated with other locations, he approached the owner about buying the Detroit location.He then became the owner of the company, renaming it Engineered Plastic Products Inc.
has made numerous contributions to charities, including providing educational assistance and full college scholarships to more than 25 students; he
assisted in the financing of the construction of Sumpter Community Church of God
in Belleville; through the Michigan Minority Business Development Council
helped develop the Mycrops program, a business training, summer employment, college, scholarship, internship and career employment program that selects 15-20 first-semester freshman high school students and trains them in business operations.He works with Project Help by employing more than 15 homeless people from the area and annually donates winter coats for needy children.
After visiting Namibia in South Africa, Edwards
wife, Jada, started the Edwards Foundation
, which raises money for Namibian children.Edwards
was named Entrepreneur of the Year by the Minority Business Owners Association of Washtenaw County
, has received the Outstanding Service Award from the Ypsilanti-Willow Run branch of the NACCP, earned the Coleman A. Young Business and Community Involvement Award from the Michigan Party Black Caucus, and in 1999 was selected as Michiganian of the year by the Detroit News
said, "Anytime I feel that I have made it, I look at a picture of the house I grew up in, which I keep on my office wall.It always lets me know that no matter how successful I am, I'm still no better than those who have less than I have.I have to take a portion of what God has blessed me with, and give it back to the community."Edwards
wife have been married 30 years and have three children.
The award will be presented to Edwards
during the Chamber's First Tuesday breakfast from 7:30 to 9 a.m. June 3 at the Morris Lawrence Building, Washtenaw Community College