Made in Michigan: Hi-Tech Optical

SAGINAW TOWNSHIP (WJRT) - (04/29/15) - It's a Saginaw Township facility that's been grinding away at prescription lenses since 1987.

"Two-hundred a day. You average it up, it's been here 30 years, we've made a lot of pairs of glasses," said Brian Schneider, lab manager at Hi-Tech Optical.

We're talking more than 36,000 pairs of eye glasses each and every year - and they're being made by the 12-person laboratory staff at Hi-Tech Optical.

"We're one of the last traditional labs left in the country that will run like this with this type of quantity," Schneider said.

Hi Tech Optical works with eye doctors in all 50 states - and even has a client in Kuwait. The doctors do the exams and send prescription orders to Saginaw Township. Hi Tech makes the lenses, puts them in frames, and then ships them back out.

"These are individual molds that are prescriptions that the doctor orders," Schneider said. "From this process here, it takes generally about 45 minutes to get to this process here to actually put the glasses on your face and to see the difference that the doctor wanted you to have."

Those lenses aren't limited to daily wear. Industrial safety glasses and goggles have become a big part of business.

"Whether it be military, aerospace, anything like that, we're going to try to diversify the best we can," Schneider said.

Hi Tech's lenses can also be found in the frames of many designer sunglasses.

"We're doing some Gucci, Versace, we're doing Nike, Prada. We do it all," Schneider said.

While sales have typically been steady, they haven't always come easy. First, came the contact lens boom - and more recently, the rise of LASIK surgery - but ultimately, at some point, customers tend to come back for a traditional pair of glasses.

"They will need some stuff eventually for up-close, and that's where we come in, but you're right, it was somewhat a hit on the market and business, but not terribly bad," Schneider said.

As for Hi Tech's vision for the future, "We just made an initial investment on an anti-reflection machine, which is a big investment for the company," Schneider said.

The company continues to resist the cost-cutting temptation to automate or send work overseas. The commitment to its staff is to continue producing prescription lenses in the Mitten for years to come.

"Everyone here is Michigan. They're local employees, and to be Made in Michigan, this product here in our backyard is amazing and it feels very good to be able to do that and not out-source anything. Keep it local, keep it home and keep it going," Schneider said.

Not only is Hi-Tech Optical making lenses - they're fixing frames. The Saginaw Township company has become a receiving and repair hub for broken glasses across the United States.

For more information on Hi-Tech Optical, click the link in the 'related links' section of this story.

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