The Saginaw County Chamber of Commerce presents the Community Leadership Awards annually to recognize and honor the individuals in our community who have invested themselves in the people, businesses and future of Saginaw County. Nominated by Sheila Stamiris and JoAnn Crary, Al Zehnder received the Dr. Samuel H. Shaheen Vision Award at the 2015 Community Leadership Awards presented by the Saginaw County Chamber of Commerce on November 6, 2015.
Al Zehnder is the Chairman and CEO of Zehnder’s of Frankenmuth, a four-generation, family-owned organization that includes the 1,500 seat Zehnder’s Restaurant, The Fortress Championship Golf Course, Zehnder’s Marketplace; and now, Zehnder’s Splash Village Hotel and Waterpark.
Al and the Zehnder’s organization constantly reinvest in their people and in their facilities. They follow a shared vision anchored on providing an incomparable, relevant guest experience. Their customer service philosophy is based on extensive training and employees empowered to make decisions. Conducting service training and new employee orientation for all Zehnder’s staff, Al states that empowering company employees is kind of like bungee jumping or skydiving. You have to take a little leap of faith every day.
He took another leap of faith with the creation of Zehnder’s Splash Village. Rather than taking the traditional approach of adding more rooms to an existing hotel, Al envisioned an innovative expansion into the waterpark business. The nearly $20 million investment included not only additional guest rooms, but an eco-friendly waterpark housed under an atrium-style structure with a retractable roof.
Al served as a delegate to the Michigan Governors Conference on Small Business. He has served as President of the Frankenmuth Chamber of Commerce, Past-President of the Frankenmuth Historical Associate Board of Trustees and the Library of Michigan Foundation.
His help and support were vital in enabling the City of Frankenmuth to move forward with a project at the Cass River Dam and entailed allowing the City to make physical changes to The Fortress Golf Course Driving Range.
He was named a Paul Harris Fellow by the Frankenmuth Chapter of Rotary International, served on the Frankenmuth School Board and held leadership roles with the Frankenmuth Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Downtown Development Authority. He also served on the Board of Trustees for Northwood University where he was recognized nationally as one of Northwood University’s Outstanding Business Leaders.
With a vision to achieve, the passion to execute, the persistence and creativity to innovate, and the integrity to mentor and support, Al Zehnder is the definitive entrepreneurial leader and the 2015 recipient of the Dr. Samuel H. Shaheen Vision of Free Enterprise Award.
Congratulations to the other award recipients:
Spirit of Saginaw Award – Michael Hanley
Outstanding Small Business Award – West Side Decorating Center, Gary Fahndrich, Owner
Robert H. Albert Lifetime Community Service Award – Terry R. Niederstadt