Heritage Vision Plans founder keeps doors open in Detroit for 40 years

George P. Barnes Jr.
George P. Barnes Jr.

December 18, 2015
Mark S. Lee
Crains Detroit Business
View Full Interview

Imagine an entrepreneur keeping the doors open in Detroit for 40 years — and still going strong.

George P. Barnes Jr. has managed to do so and is positioned for continued growth and sustainability. He started out as a staff optician at the now-defunct Metropolitan Hospital in Detroit and has built Heritage Vision Plans Inc. The company services a wide range of clients across North America, including administering vision programs for Ford Motor Co.’s active employees and retirees, the city of Detroit, the Detroit Board of Education, employees of Detroit’s casinos, theWayne County Community College District and others. Heritage Vision Plans is part of a national network that includes more than 3,000 providers in Michigan and 20,000 providers across the U.S.
Initially interested in the commercial and health care aspects of the business, Barnes did research and realized senior citizens and others needed to have glasses adjusted or make small repairs. At the time, these types of services were not available in various neighborhoods across the city. When he would visit homes, the overall reactions were always very favorable.

With this as a backdrop, Barnes opened Heritage Optical Center in July 1975 as the first African American-owned and -operated full-service optical dispensary in Detroit.

In 1991, Heritage Optical applied for and earned an Alternative Financing and Delivery System Certification of Authority from the state of Michigan. Heritage is the only minority-owned company in the state to hold an AFDS certificate, which allows Heritage to offer fully covered and self-funded vision benefit programs. Heritage’s first major client, as offered by then-Mayor Coleman Young, was to provide vision coverage for city of Detroit employees.

I recently caught up with Barnes to share how he’s been successful conducting business for 40 years and discuss his plans for continued sustainability.

Lee: You have been in business for 40 years, all in the city of Detroit. What have been the keys to business sustainability?

Barnes: For me, the keys to success are determination, knowledge and hard work — these are essential.
Read the full interview on Crain’s Detroit Business 

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