This past March, Northwood University announced this year’s Outstanding Business Leader Award Recipients, which recognizes exceptional individuals who have significantly contributed to the business world and their communities.
Saturday, April 15, the 2023 Outstanding Business Leaders Celebration took place at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, MI where they honored the six individuals presented with this prestigious award.
- Fred Bunting, Founder, and Chairman, Auto-Wares Group of Companies, Grand Rapids, MI
- Grant Baidas, Owner of The Exchange Bar & Grill, Northville, MI
- Vinnie Johnson, Founder, and Chairman, of Piston Group LLC, Redford Charter Township, MI
- Andres Lopez, Chief Executive Officer and President, O-I Glass, Inc., Perrysburg, Ohio
- Michael and Dianne Morey, Founders of Bandit Industries, Inc., Remus, MI
- Gina Thorsen, CEO, Jacquart Fabric Products, Home of Stormy Kromer, Ironwood, MI
Fred A. Bunting
Founder & Chairman,
Auto-Wares Group of Companies
As a third-generation auto parts professional, some might say that motor oil runs through Fred Bunting’s veins. At just 14 years old, Fred got his start at the family automotive aftermarket business, working his way through myriad positions including stocker and unloader to buyer, truck driver, and salesperson. While the family business was sold in 1967, Fred’s automotive career was just taking shape. Less than 10 years later, in 1976, he founded Auto-Wares Group of Companies headquartered in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
With an unmatched passion for the automotive industry and a long-term growth mindset, Fred has spent the last 47 years building Auto-Wares Group of Companies into a successful enterprise that now owns 13 major automotive aftermarket companies and over 200 retail auto parts stores throughout Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, and Wisconsin. Employing upward of 2,300 staff, Auto-Wares services more than 450 auto parts stores and 36,000 wholesale accounts daily.
Fred graduated from Ferris State University with a bachelor’s degree in business administration and a second degree in marketing and retailing. His dedication to the automotive aftermarket industry and educating the next generation of technicians and service leaders has earned him many recognitions over the years, including Northwood University’s Automotive Aftermarket Education Award, Auto Value Man of the Year, Art Fisher Award for Excellence in Education, Mort Schwartz Excellence in Education Award, Master Automotive Aftermarket Professional (MAAP) designation, and the 2016 Automotive Warehouse Distributors Association (AWDA) Jack Creamer Leader of the Year Award.
Beyond Auto-Wares Group of Companies, Fred remains an active leader within the automotive aftermarket industry, serving on the board of directors for the Auto Value and Bumper to Bumper National Program Group, as well as the Automotive Warehouse Distributors Association. Today, Fred and his wife Becky split their time between residences in Michigan and Florida. They have two grown children, Robert Bunting and Tracie Sanford.
About Northwood University’s Outstanding Business Leader Award
Every year, the Northwood University Board of Trustees presents the Outstanding Business Leader Awards. Each awardee is selected on the basis of personal achievements which typify the unique philosophy of Northwood University. Criteria used in the selection of awardees include their contribution to the philosophy of private enterprise, support of the integration of business and the arts, contributions to education, industry, economic innovation, creative marketing ideas, community involvement, religious leadership, philanthropy, and professional success.
The goal of the Outstanding Business Leader program is to provide a means to overcome the tremendous challenges faced by today’s college students. Honorees provide a powerful motivation for these students, and their personal stories are proof that true success is obtainable. It is through the stories of these inspirational leaders and entrepreneurs that our students are challenged to model and participate in their personal character development process.
The Outstanding Business Leader Award was developed by Dr. Arthur Turner, co-founder of Northwood University, and was established by the Board of Trustees in 1981. The Outstanding Business Leader Executive Committee plays an integral role in the preparation of the future business leaders of a global, free-enterprise society by providing inspiration, mentorship, and scholarship to Northwood University students.
Proceeds from the Annual Awards Gala support the OBL Endowed Scholarship Fund at Northwood University.