George P. Barnes, Jr. MBE Luminary of the Year
George P. Barnes, Jr.
Chairman of the Board
Heritage Vision Plans, Inc.
George P. Barnes Jr., founder, president and chief executive officer of Heritage Optical Center and Heritage Vision Plans, is Michigan’s first black optician to own and operate a full–service optical dispensary, launched in 1975,to provide affordable vision care in Detroit.
In the past 40 years, Barnes has built three Heritage Optical Center locations, one on each side of town. He also expanded his operation to include downtown Detroit–based Heritage Vision Plans, which offers managed and fully covered vision care programs through a nationwide network of nearly 20,000 providers.
Under Barnes’ leadership, Heritage became the only minority–owned enterprise in 1991 to hold an Alternative Financing Delivery System Certificate of Authority from the State of Michigan, a designation the company earned to serve as a vision care benefits underwriter. It remains the only African–American–owned company in Michigan to hold this license. The company also is the first black–owned Tier I vision care administrator for Ford Motor Company’s North American active and retired salaried employees.
Heritage manages and administers vision programs for a broad range of public and private clients, including workforce management firm Bartech Group, Bedrock Real Estate Services, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Bridgewater Interiors, ChemicoMays, the City of Detroit, Detroit Board of Education, auto supplier Detroit Manufacturing Systems, furniture maker Herman Miller, Quicken Loans, all three Detroit casinos and many more.
Born in New Orleans and raised in Detroit, Barnes studied at American Optical from 1963 to 1965 after graduating from Detroit Eastern High School. He continued his studies while serving in the Army from 1966 to 1968. He later completed his professional training in 1969 after an honorable discharge, followed by an 18–month internship at Metropolitan Hospital in Detroit, where he remained until 1975.
A Detroit NAACP lifetime member, serving on the board of directors and executive committee, Barnes supports local communities through scholarships and job opportunities, and free vision care and eyewear programs for youth participants of former Mayor Dave Bing’s mentoring nonprofit, Bing Youth Institute. He also sits on the board of directors of the Michigan Minority Supplier Development Council, is a member of the Michigan Black Chamber of Commerce and serves on the advisory board of the University of Detroit Mercy College of Business Administration.
Barnes, who has received countless local and statewide accolades from civic, business and community organizations in the past four decades, was inducted into the University of Detroit Mercy College of Business Administration Hall of Honor in 2015 for lifetime achievement.
A proud husband and father, Barnes and his wife, Kay, are the parents of three, grandparents of five and great–grandparents of one. At Heritage Vision Plans, son George C. serves on the board of directors, son Leonard is vice president of sales and business development, and daughter, Tracey, is chief operating officer. They are working with their father to ensure the company’s longevity far into the future.