Tag Archives: Haworth

Maybe It’s the Factory Outlet Stores That Make West Michiganders Cheap

(Note this story originally appeared in the the August/September 2011 version of Urban Street | Shore West Magazine)

West Michigan has a reputation…thrifty, cheap, frugal, any way you put it West Michiganders like a deal, or so they say.

But there may be a reason for this; our region is home to a large number of manufacturers.  Often times these manufacturers have overruns, returns, or just old inventory that they need to get rid of.  Lucky for us many of these corporations have factory outlets stores that are open to the public.  These factory outlet stores enable the manufacturers to move some of their extra, old, or returned products, which are available at considerable discount to patrons of the store.  Let’s take a closer look at some of the outlet stores, and see what we may find.

As the name implies, Lakeshore Candle Company produces candles.  These candles are hand poured in their Zeeland facility, where they also have an outlet store at 9434 Pentatech Drive.  According to President Jon Haveman, the store was started as a way to move candles that do not meet their stringent quality standards for their retail store customers.  So often times the outlet store may feature “second quality” candles, which may be up to 50%, discount.  “Second quality” means that the candles have small defects like the wick isn’t centered, or the color is the wrong hue, or maybe label issues, none of which affect how the candle’s performance and fragrance.  Those with non-discriminating eyes, these “second quality” candles are just as good as the ones shipped to customers.  Lakeshore Candle Company’s outlet store is open 10 to 4 Monday through Friday.

Another well-known local manufacturer is Haworth, one of the leading producers of office furniture and workspaces, and they too have a factory outlet store.  But their story is a little more unique.  Haworth has a zero waste to landfill policy, meaning that they do not send any garbage to a landfill.  Recycling and re-using are of huge importance to Haworth.  The outlet store at 1451-100 M-40 in Holland, sells a wide variety of items.  In addition to production overruns, returns, and old products, you might even find some items coming from Haworth’s own facilities that they can no longer use.  So not only could you furnish your home office, but you might also pick up fabric to reupholster the couch, locker to store items in the garage, and even find some extra corporate gifts that might look great in your new office.  You’d surprised at what you may find, and the inventory changes very quickly so be sure to check back often for new items.  According to Haworth, it’s recommend to call the store ahead of time to confirm hours as there may be special sale or inventory hours.  Normal hours are Monday through Thursday 10 to 6, and Friday 7 to 4, and the store can be reached at 616-393-4300.

If you are willing to take a little drive to Allegan, you can also purchase medicine, vitamins, and other healthcare items for a significant discount (as long as you don’t mind the generic labels) from the Perrigo factory outlet store.  Perrigo is a leading manufacturer of over the counter medicines and vitamins, and prescription pharmaceutical products.  The outlet store is at 300 Water Street in Allegan, and their hours of operation are 11 to 5 Monday through Friday, and 9 to 1 on Saturday.  The store can be reached at 269-673-7962.

For those of you still looking for deals be sure to check out the following places as well:

  • Holland Bar Stool Company at 12839 Corporate Circle Place in Holland, has an outlet store where you can pick up stools.  Visit www.barstoolshowroom.com for more details.
  • Zeeland based Herman Miller, another leading office furniture manufacturer, uses Office Outlet at 455 West Washington Street in Zeeland, as their outlet store.  For more information visit www.officeoutlet.net.

Maybe West Michigan does not deserve its reputation as being cheap, but with so many local manufacturers selling their products at discounted prices, how can you resist.

By the way a special thanks to Haworth and Lakeshore Candle Company for answering some questions and providing additional information about their outlet stores.

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Paper Airplanes – Taking Flight with WMAA

Last week the West Michigan Airport Authority (WMAA) which runs and maintains the Tulip City Airport off of 58th Street between US-31 and I-196, sent out an Informational WMAA Brochure on the airport.  It appears that the brochure was sent to all addresses in Holland, Holland Township (maybe because they did vote down a millage), Zeeland, and Park Township.  The collateral contained information about Tulip City Airport like latest developments, testimonials, and messages and identifying WMAA board members.  The  collateral also included something different and unique (which is why I am blogging about it), three paper airplane templates and folding instructions.  This in my mind is a smart move, and a value added bonus.

If you recall, back in November 2008 there was a millage on the ballot regarding whether or not to approve an tax increase which would help support the airport.  It was quite a bitter dispute between both sides, and even though the millage did end up passing, lot of people were left unhappy.  One of the main arguements for proponents of the millage was that the airport creates jobs for the lakeshore community, because local business such as Herman Miller, Haworth, Gentex, Johnson Controls, Tic Tock Studios, and Trendway use the airport to bring customers into Holland, which would lead to more sales, therefore creating more jobs.  Of course this is a difficult example to quantify exactly how much revenue each business has generated as a result of the airport.  But it is understandable that many residents of this area, which has/is experiencing high unemployment. are frustrated with this statement when they find themselves or others they know without work.

As you can imagine, the airport is still a pretty divisive subject in the area, and it is my thought that this marketing piece is one that could help the WMAA earn some brownie points, at least with the kids.  Not to mention actually communicating and detailing what some of the intiatives and current activities are for the airport so that people can see what the millage is actually doing for the airport.  Though I would have also included some information on their “A Ride in the Sky” program, where pilots fly customers over the area, I saw a billboard a few years back on this and I remember a big $50 on it (this is going on my “To Do List”).  I wonder if the airport was used in the wooing of LG Chem to Holland, if so it seems like that would be a massive oversight, it would have fit perfectly with Lakeshore Advantage’s Randy Thelen’s quote, and be a direct example of the airport leading to job creation.

One other thing, whenever I receive some sort of direct mail piece at work or home, I wish that somewhere on the collateral it would identify the company that created it, even if it was created internally.  I want to know who the clever firms are, who is doing interesting stuff, it can be their showcase.  Anyways through some sleuthing (they were mentioned as helping the WMAA craft a communication strategy) I was able to determine that The Image Group in Holland created the brochure, and confirmed it via Twitter (plus Google).  I liken it to an artist who signs their work, and why not – inquiring minds (well maybe it is just me) want to know.

If you want to create airplanes -download the Informational WMAA Brochure here.

Quaeris – An Example On When Not To Use Latin Names

Quaeris (QWHERE US) is Latin for “to seek”, is an organization of West Michigan employers and non-profit member groups (think chamber of commerce’s) which promote West Michigan as an employment destination and provide relocation support to professionals and their families.  When Quaeris made its public launch in early 2010, the first thing I thought was “Damn, why didn’t they have this program around when I relocated here back in 2005.”  The second thing was how interesting it is to see all these companies even competitors band together for this kind of initiative.  To me this arrangement seemed extremely unique, just take a look at the list of companies involved (check out the costs to join).

  • Amway
  • Blue Cross & Blue Shield
  • Davenport University
  • Grand Valley State University
  • Haworth
  • Herman Miller
  • Highland Group
  • Kellogg
  • Meijer
  • MSU College of Human Medicine
  • Perrigo
  • Powell Relocation Group
  • Priority Health
  • Progressive AE
  • Rehmann
  • SDI Consulting
  • Spectrum Health
  • Steelcase
  • Trinity Health West Michigan
  • Van Andel Institute
  • Varnum
  • Warner Norcross & Judd
  • West Michigan Relocation Specialists
  • Wolverine World Wide

You have competitors in a number of markets including office workspace, law firms, medical, and healthcare insurance.  But what I also wanted to find out if there are  any more co-company arrangements like Quaeris out there in different regions.  Trust me this was crazy difficult to find, go ahead and you try searching, it’s impossible.  Well through my awesome web sleuthing I have found this, FUEL Milwaukee.   FUEL Milwaukee was developed for the same reasons as Quaeris “talent attraction and retention”.  Right now FUEL has about 60 employer members.  What is interesting about FUEL is that it started out as a Young Professionals group (similar to area  GRYP and HYP) but morphed with the support of various regional economic groups to become both a membership organization for professionals and for companies as well.

Anyways back to Quaeris, I guess I should not be surprised that these companies are working together for the betterment of the region after all many of them play together already.  Examples like the Intern Olympics (see my post), or the GRid 70 design hub (which apparently only Raleigh and Austin have something similar) featuring Wolverine, Meijer, Amway,  and Steelcase, show regional collaboration at work.

The one marketing angle I want to mention about Quaeris is the name.  So besides the sophomoric humor some may find in the word Quaeris, my main issue is that it’s so non-descriptive.  It does nothing to signify what region this organization promotes.  I just question how prospective talents outside of West Michigan become aware of this organization.  What exactly do you Google to find out about Quaeris?  I tried a couple of quick searches on “West Michigan Business” , “West Michigan Companies”, “West Michigan Relocation” and Quaeris did not pop up on the first page of the search.  I do not have a good answer for how to solve this because I am not sure that something like “West Michigan Area Companies Uniting for Attracting Talent and Giving Resources to Their Spouses so That they are More Comfortable with Moving to West Michigan Organization” or WMACUATGRTSTTMCMWMO might just be a little too verbose.  Perhaps a simple Quaeris West Michigan would be enough.  What are your thoughts on the name or other suggestions?

So please help me if you know of any other regional organizations which feature companies working together to bring awareness and employee talent to their area, let me know.  I would love to dig into this deeper.

NeoCon 2010 and the Other West Michigan Companies

Hard to believe but yes, there are plenty of West Michigan companies besides Steelcase, Herman Miller, and Haworth who will be participating in this year’s NeoCon show on June 14 through the 16th in Chicago.  It always surprises me how one tradeshow in Chicago, year in and year out gets the local West Michigan media into a frenzy about office furniture.  I guess it makes sense.  According to my informal research through LinkedIn Companies Function – Haworth, Herman Miller, and Steelcase all  have over 500+ employees in West Michigan, so 1,500+ total, plus their families, retirees, and the number of people interested in these companies, the list goes on and on.

But I am here to shed some light on the other players in the furniture industry here in West Michigan, that are participating in NeoCon, and I was quite shocked by the size of the list.  Here we go:

  • 2/90 Sign Systems – Grand Rapids – Sign design, wayfinding, manufacturing of both interior and exterior signs and sign systems, project management, installation and post-installation maintenance
  • American Seating – Grand Rapids – Seating from auditorium to stadium to office to education and transportation
  • BIFMA International – Grand Rapids – A not-for-profit organization that leads, advocates, informs and develops standards for the North American office and institutional furniture industry
  • Compatico – Grand Rapids – Manufactures and supplies new office furniture systems and parts
  • Configura – Grand Rapids – HQ in Sweeden, with their US location in Grand Rapids, provides software solutions Commercial furniture
  • Flexible Montisa – Plainwell – Features file, storage, and furniture product offerings to facilitate innovative solutions for corporate, educational, and medical institutions.
  • FreshFolios – Byron Center – Pre-designed portfolio websites for photographers, interior designers, architects, artists and all members of the creative community who rely on a well sorted portfolio to display their work
  • Gibraltar – Zeeland – Metal manufacturing company serving the office, institutional, and hospitality furniture industries
  • Gill Industries – Grand Rapids – A full service supplier of engineered, mechanical assemblies to a wide variety of markets such as automotive, furniture and multi-use vehicle markets
  • Grand Rapids Chair Company – Grand Rapids – Besides chairs, they also provide tables for commercial environments
  • Great Openings – Ludington -Provider of quality metal filing and storage products to the office furniture industry
  • Gross Stabil Corp -Coldwater – Manufacturer of casters, bases, and gas cylinders for office chairs
  • GT Industries – Byron Center – Foam products, lots and lots of foam based products
  • Guilford of Maine – Grand Rapids – Surprisingly they are headquartered in Grand Rapids, they are a textile provider
  • Izzy+ – Spring Lake – Officer furniture provider for a variety of industries
  • Knu Healthcare – Zeeland – Manufacturer of healthcare furniture, and part of Industrial Woodworking Corporation
  • Leland International – Grand Rapids – Contemporary seating and tables manufacturer whose products are built to order and provide project designers the opportunity to customize features such as color, finish, trim, size and cut out design
  • Light Corporation – Grand Haven – Design and manufacture fluorescent task lights and ambient light fixtures for office furniture industry and high bay fluorescent fixtures for industry, gymnasiums and retail.
  • Nucraft – Comstock Park – Design and manufacture furnishings for conference rooms, lobby and reception areas, private offices, and training areas
  • Pulse Design – Grand Rapids – Manufacturer of a desktop connection system with touch-control electronics to hide or reveal the unit on a desk
  • Sparkeology – Holland – New line of office furniture developed by Worden in collaboration with Via Design and Square One Design.   The products target locations are  public buildings’ lobbies and lounges, even libraries because of their flexibility and mobility, and being able to be used in multiple functions and configurations.  Plus based on their twitter feed looks like they are going to give away a lot of loot bags.  Wonder what is inside- anyone want to get me one?
  • Stryker – Kalamazoo – This was an odd one but looks like they are providing some furniture solutions for the healthcare industry
  • Symbiote, Inc.- Zeeland – Manufactures laboratory and technical furniture systems emphasizing custom product solutions, looks like they feature ergonomic solutions
  • Trendway – Holland – Not officially at NeoCon but they will have something going on in their showroom at the merch. mart.  Office furniture manufacture famous for their On Time guarantee.
  • VanerumStelter – Grand Rapids – Provider of products and services for their interior environments.  Chairs, desks, tables, workstations for all levels of education and for office environments.
  • Workstuff – Grand Rapids – Provider of adjustable keyboard systems and ergonomic workplace solutions.

So what do you think?  I am really surprised by the number of companies from Zeeland representing.  Anyways this just goes to show that there are plenty others in West Michigan besides the Big 3 who are part of the office furniture business (even though some of these companies are not directly related to the industry).

Additionally, here is a short list of other players in the furniture industry who are not attending NeoCon.  Do you have any more companies to add to the list?

  • Avian Boards – Grand Rapids – Manufacturer of lightweight board to be used for a variety of applications
  • Charter House Innovations – Holland – A seating and decor company with a wide range of solutions for a variety of industries.  Big focus on sustainability.
  • OMT Vehyl – Holland – The result of a merger of two German companies to provide products for the office furniture industry
  • RT London – Grand Rapids – Has a emphasis on furniture for the education segment with learning and dorm room solutions
  • Worden – Holland – Maker of furniture for the educational and library markets, also behind Sparkeology.

Wow

Last week, I had the opportunity to attend an event over at one Haworth Center in Holland, MI.  Of course this was at Haworth, and all I have to say is Wow.  What an amazing building and workspace, granted I only saw a small section of the building, but I was still impressed.  Haworth pulled out all the stops for this building, hell the pond in front even had swans, not Canadian geese but swans!  Anyways for more information on the building visit this website.  The website gives you a virtual tour of the building while highlighting the sustainable design features, organic workspaces and workplace insights which is quite fascinating.  Again if you ever have the opportunity to visit One Haworth Center, I highly recommend that you do.