Phil F. Jenkins joined the Mackinac Center for Public Policy Board of Directors in February 2005. A longtime contributor and member of the Mackinac Center’s Ann Arbor Board of Advisors, Jenkins brings to the Center tremendous business experience and a deep appreciation of individual liberty, limited government and the free-enterprise system.
Jenkins is the founder and CEO of Sweepster Inc., which manufactures attachment, walk-behind, self-propelled and airport runway sweepers used in airports, municipalities, agriculture and construction around the globe. The company’s annual sales exceed $50 million, with aviation products generating about 25 percent of the gross revenue.
Jenkins was a young engineer working for Caterpillar Tractor when he agreed to take over the family farm equipment business, then called Jenkins Equipment Company. The company, based in Dexter, Mich., sold various lines of farm equipment, and it also built and sold truck bodies and related items. A couple of years later, a friend who sold Jeeps asked Jenkins whether it was possible to mount a street-sweeping attachment to the front of a Jeep. Over the following weekend, Jenkins and his friend tinkered with a "sweeper" borrowed from village officials, eventually engineering a mounting system.
Realizing there was a market for the product, Jenkins began manufacturing the sweepers. In the first year, the company sold 87 units; by 1958, it was making sweepers full time, and in 1963 the company was renamed Sweepster Inc. Today's products include hydraulic and mechanical drive sweepers; pickup and windrow sweepers; tow-behind and self-propelled brooms; and replacement brushes for all makes. Sweepster recently merged with FFC Attachments of Lee, Ill.
A dedicated philanthropist, Jenkins has donated generously to the University of Michigan’s medical school and hospitals, to the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum and to teen shelters in Washtenaw County. Jenkins is an engineering graduate of Purdue University.