KENNEWICK -- A sellout crowd gathered Wednesday in Kennewick to learn about the lessons Dan Preston discovered on his path to prosperity.
Preston, 62, an engineer and inventor, developed the digital version of what became General Motors' OnStar program. He also is the CEO of Eagle Harbor Holdings, based on Bainbridge Island.
He was the keynote speaker at the Tri-City Regional Chamber of Commerce's annual meeting and awards luncheon at Three Rivers Convention Center where he received the Alumnus of Distinction award.
Preston's first inventive success was in 1997, when he helped design a cellphone battery with a GPS inside when his Portland company, Advanced Technologies, was working with various Hanford contractors, including Westinghouse Hanford and Fluor Daniels.
"One of the lessons I've learned is to find a problem worth solving and putting a GPS inside a cellphone was one of them. Now it's possible to trace a 911 call placed from a cellphone," he said.
Preston is best known for developing the digital version of what became General Motors' OnStar program.
"This was a completely new system that got data on and off the car. The old one did not do that. Also our version worked with the digital network," he said, adding that his company also designed and built the call centers.
He also has founded several technology-based companies.
"I've invented and re-invented myself more than once," he said.
The first lesson Preston said he has learned on his path "is change is inevitable. You need to embrace it."
He defines prosperity as more than financial success. It's good fortune too, the good things that happen to people, he said.
"I've had the support of my wife, Tina, good friends and good investors. I have great guys around me, and work is lots fun. In a sense I'm the janitor who won the lottery and still went to work on Monday," he said.
Other awards announced at the meeting:
-- Ambassador of the Year for 2011: Jim Carey of Cruise Holidays for his enthusiasm and support of the chamber and its events.
-- The S.T.A.R. Award (for service, time, attitude and reliability): Ron Hue of HAPO Community Credit Union.
-- Toby Bouchey, outgoing chamber board chairwoman, received a framed photograph by John Clement for her years of service.
-- Impact Awards were given to two businesses for their tireless support of the chamber and its mission. One went to Charter Communications, the second to Washington River Protection Solutions.
-- Business on a Roll Awards for showing the most growth and gains in the past year were given in three categories: businesses with 10 or fewer employees, Desert Valley Eye Care; businesses with 10 to 50 employees, Action Auto Services; and businesses with more than 50 employees, McCurley Integrity Dealerships.
-- Loretto J. Hulse: 582-1513; email@example.com