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Great Lakes Honda
“I was blessed to grow up in a diverse community like Ashtabula, Ohio, where I learned to get along with everyone, from the cowboy to the farmer to the doctor.”
“While I am considered a minority business owner and auto dealer, I have never felt like one,” nominee Huang said. “I was blessed to grow up in a diverse community like Ashtabula, Ohio, where I learned to get along with everyone, from the cowboy to the farmer to the doctor.”
Huang was on track to be a dentist before his passion for the car business took him in a different direction. A 1988 graduate of Western Reserve Academy in Hudson, Ohio, Huang studied biology at The Ohio State University in Columbus, graduating in 1992. He also earned a D.D.S. at The Ohio State University College of Dentistry in 1997, but it was a summer job selling autos that changed his career trajectory.
“My father is a well-respected OB/GYN in Ashtabula, who wanted all of his children to enter a medical profession,” Huang said, noting that his sister and brother are both successful doctors. “And back then, my father had a little problem with me going into the automotive business. But his attitude has changed over the years.”
During his junior year in dental school, Huang opened a small used-car lot next to his father's office in Ashtabula. He later partnered with John Rocco and founded Great Lakes Auto Network in 1996. Today, they own five dealerships in Ohio, representing brands Buick, Chevrolet, Chrysler, Dodge, GMC, Honda, Hyundai, Jeep and Ram.
Understanding the importance of education, Huang and his company spearheaded an initiative called Educar, which offers all schools in Ashtabula County the opportunity to raise needed funds through a raffle. The winner receives dollars toward the purchase of a car or cash. “Educar has raised more than $250,000 for local schools,” he said.
Huang is also the local chairman of Hyundai Hope on Wheels, a program that raises money for pediatric cancer research. “As a trained medial professional and a D.D.S., my most meaningful civic achievement has been my work with this group,” he said. “The more than $1 million we have raised for Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital in Cleveland, Ohio, has had a profound impact on young lives in peril within our community.”
While Huang has earned recognition for his philanthropic efforts, he is most proud of receiving the inaugural Community Impact Award from Cox Automotive in 2015. “This national honor recognizes the impact that Great Lakes Auto Network has had on education in Ashtabula County,” he said.
He added, “I am also happy that I have changed my father's opinion of the auto industry, a profession I truly love. I have been blessed.”
Huang was nominated for the TIME Dealer of the Year award by Damon Lester, president of the National Association of Minority Automobile Dealers. He and his wife, Julie Post, have four children.