GeorgeP.BarnesJr., 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 provideaffordable vision carein Detroit.
In thepast 40 years, Barneshas built threeHeritage Optical Centerlocations, oneon each side of town. He alsoexpanded his operation to include downtown Detroit–based Heritage Vision Plans, which offers managed and fully covered vision care programs through a nationwide networkof nearly 20,000 providers.
Under Barnes’ leadership, Heritage becamethe only minority–owned enterprise in 1991 to hold an Alternative Financing Delivery System Certificate of Authority fromthe State of Michigan, a designation the company earnedto 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 Ivision care administratorfor Ford Motor Company’s North American active and retired salaried employees.
Heritagemanages and administers vision programs for a broad range of public and private clients, includingworkforce managementfirm Bartech Group, Bedrock Real Estate Services, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Bridgewater Interiors, ChemicoMays, the City of Detroit, Detroit Board of Education, auto supplier DetroitManufacturing Systems, furniture maker Herman Miller, Quicken Loans, all three Detroit casinosand many more.
Born in New Orleans and raised in Detroit, Barnesstudied 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 latercompleted his professional trainingin 1969 afteran honorable discharge, followed by an 18–month internship at Metropolitan Hospital in Detroit, where he remaineduntil 1975.
A Detroit NAACP lifetime member, serving on the board of directors and executive committee, Barnessupports 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 onthe board of directors of the Michigan Minority Supplier Development Council, is a member of the Michigan Black Chamber of Commerceand 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 inductedinto the University of Detroit Mercy College of Business Administration Hall of Honor in 2015 for lifetime achievement.
A proud husband and father, Barnesand his wife, Kay, are the parents of three, grandparentsof five and great–grandparents of one. AtHeritageVisionPlans,sonGeorgeC.servesontheboardofdirectors,sonLeonardisvicepresidentofsalesand businessdevelopment,anddaughter,Tracey,is chiefoperatingofficer.Theyare workingwiththeirfathertoensurethecompany’slongevityfarintothefuture.