BUFFALO, N.Y. -- This week's City Shaper changed careers to build a new business in Buffalo. Bak USA makes laptops and tablets in the old Sheehan Hospital on Michigan Avenue. 2 On Your Side’s Kelly Dudzik spoke with Chairman and C.E.O., J.P. Bak about what made him choose Buffalo.
While Bak now calls Buffalo home, he's originally from Denmark.
"I grew up in a country where there were no poor people, no real problems, everything was paid for by the government,” explains Bak.
He graduated from law school, built his own law firm with his wife- who is also an attorney- and together they decided they needed a change.
"We said to ourselves we want to kind of pay back a little bit of this extremely blessed life we have had, and that's when we sold the law firm, and we moved to America," says Bak.
They were successful business people in the United States when the earthquake happened in Haiti in 2010. Bak wanted to do something that would have a lasting impact, so his family built a tablet manufacturing company from the ground up in Haiti.
"We hired people that were selling fruit in the street and trained them to be operators, and we had the best workforce possible in Port-au-Prince," he says.
The Baks then wanted to start a tablet business in the U.S. Bak USA opened in 2015 in Buffalo with 15 employees. It has now expanded to a staff of 80.
"What brought you to Buffalo?" asked Dudzik.
"It's a very comforting area. People are very supportive. From the government to everybody in the society, so we felt we are among good friends from the beginning because they share in Buffalo our values. People first, business important, profit important, but it's very important to be a good citizen and create some value in your neighborhood," says Bak.
Bak USA laptops are used in schools and the company makes a tablet for workers to use in the field. One person builds each device from start to finish.
"We have many people working for us that actually come from the neighborhood, but also when we started the business here in Buffalo, we said that Buffalo has two elements that we could plug into. One, highly, highly qualified academic, educated people from the University at Buffalo and not very highly educated but great workforce that simply just didn't get the chance in life," says Bak.
Bak says he isn't trying to compete with big manufacturers. He's trying to make a positive impact on people's lives.
"It's actually one person that got a job and changed her or his life, and the family's life, produced for another person that might be able to change his or her life," he says.
Bak plans on opening satellite offices across the country within two years using Buffalo as a model.
"How does it make you feel to know that you're having such and impact and that you're providing an opportunity for people that maybe wouldn't have had an opportunity like this?" asked Dudzik.
"I mean, for me personally, every day is a big celebration of what we started in Haiti," says Bak.
Bak says the Buffalo headquarters will grow to a workforce of 100 to 150 very soon when they expand production.
If you know a City Shaper, let Kelly know.