Edgar Prince was an engineer-developer-industrialist, who became very wealthy in an industry that is not known for its high degree of profitability. The industry is the original equipment auto parts industry, the supplier industry to the automobile manufacturing industry. The auto parts industry has few, but very large clients, the automobile manufacturers. Large clients typically set the prices they will pay for their supplies, and since large clients usually have most of the power, the prices they are willing to pay are usually set as low as possible. So the key to success in the auto parts industry is to be a low cost, but high quality producer. Prince Manufacturing, the Holland, Michigan based company Prince had built up over the years, was able to be that low cost, high quality producer, and thus was able to compete successfully and prosper.
Edgar Prince was born in Holland, Michigan, in 1931. His father was Peter Prince, owner of a produce company, which supplied stores in the western Michigan area, including Holland and Grand Rapids, Michigan. Edgar Prince’s ancestors came over to Michigan as immigrants during the large migration wave of Dutch immigrants in the middle of the nineteenth century. Edgar Prince’s father, Peter Prince, apparently had a hereditary heart disease problem, and died prematurely, in 1943, when he was only 36 years old, from a heart attack. At the time of his father’s death, Edgar Prince was only 11 years old.
Edgar apparently was technically oriented and entered the University of Michigan’s engineering school, from where he earned a B. S. degree in engineering, probably around 1953. Following graduation, he met a local girl, Elsa Zwiep, from Holland, Michigan, and the two got married soon thereafter. The year 1953 was the time of the Korean War, and probably to avoid having to serve in the army, Edgar joined the U. S. Air Force. He apparently was fortunate not to have to participate in the Korean War, and spent his service time at bases in Colorado and South Carolina.
Following his military service, the Prince’s returned to Holland, Michigan, where Edgar was able to find a position as an engineer for the Buss Machine Works, a local die cast machine manufacturing firm. Prince was ambitious and managed to rise to chief engineer rather quickly. However, he had bigger ambitions. And in 1965, Prince and two of his fellow Buss Machine Works colleagues, founded their own die cast machine manufacturing firm. The company was a quick success, and by 1973, the Prince Company employed hundreds of employees in its several divisions. It is not clear whether Prince’s colleagues had a share in the firm, but if they did, Prince was clearly the major share holder.
Along the way the Prince Company expanded from the manufacture of die cast machines to products that were produced using the die cast machines. One of these products was the lighted sun visor. Again it is not clear if this product was developed by Prince, or whether it was a design of the automobile manufacturers, and Prince was just the builder of the lighted sun visors. In any event, the lighted sun visor became the start of many related automotive products churned out by Prince Manufacturing. By 1980, Prince Manufacturing had several plants and over 550 employees, rising to 1500 employees in 1987.
As early as the 1970’s, Edgar Prince had worried about his longevity, considering the early death of his father. He became a serious exerciser, and tried to avoid the effects of too much stress. He even decided to also get his employees involved in exercise, and built an extensive exercise facility for use by his employees, as part of the company’s headquarters facility. But apparently heart disease is a serious killer, even in those cases where considerable efforts are made to avoid it. Edgar Prince passed away in 1995 at the rather moderately young age of only 63. Following the death of Edgar Prince, the entire Prince Manufacturing firm was sold to another large automobile parts producer, by the name of Johnson Controls, for over one billion dollars.
Edgar Prince and Elsa Zwiep had four children, three daughters and one son. The three daughters were Elizabeth (Betsie), Eileen, and Emilie, and the son was Erik Prince. Betsie is married to Dick De Vos, the son of the co-founder of the Amway Corporation, now named Alticor. Dick De Vos was the unsuccessful Republican gubernatorial candidate in Michigan’s 2006 election. Erik Prince became quite well known in 2007, as the owner, chairman, and chief executive officer of Blackwater Worldwide, the security firm with huge contracts in Iraq, protecting the U. S. State Department employees. Following the death of her husband, Elsa Zwiep Prince married a church minister by the name of Broekhuizen, and Elsa is now known as Elsa Prince Broekhuizen.
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“PROMINENT DUTCH AMERICANS IN U.S. GOVERNMENT LEADERSHIP POSITIONS, 2015.
Edgar Prince, http://www.nndb.com/people/472/000130082/
Blackwater,The rise of the world’s most powerful mercenary army