From Where I Sit
By Mike Dunlap
Michael A. Dunlap & Associates LLC
I’m still staggering and spinning from the “Imported from Michigan” Super Bowl commercial for Chrysler featuring Eminem who declares, “This is what we do!” This commercial still offers me a level of pride for the state of Michigan that has been lacking for a long time. It is an extraordinary message and may become more memorable than either the location or the outcome of this year’s game.
Not unlike the image of the words “auto industry” and the word “Detroit,” most people who read this column would probably respond to the words “office furniture industry” with the same words “It’s what we do!” because it is synonymous with West Michigan.
But it’s much more than that. “It’s what we do!” could be shouted out the windows many times over in dozens of locations for many other industries in our state and not just in West Michigan. But let’s start here.
- American Seating Co. makes more bus seats in Grand Rapids each year than any other location in North America — and perhaps the world — and has been in business for 125 years.
- Amway Inc., founded in 1959, is one of the world’s largest direct selling organizations with a global presence that exceeds many Fortune 500 companies.
- Bissell Inc. has been a world leader in the manufacture of floor cleaning and treatment products for more than 130 years.
- Domino’s Pizza started out with just one store in 1960 in Ann Arbor. Today, there are more than 9,000 stores — including more than 4,000 outside the U.S. and is one of most recognized quick-service brands in the world.
- Dow Corning, based in Midland, serves the diverse needs of more than 25,000 customers worldwide and is one of the world’s longest standing joint ventures between Dow Chemical and Corning Inc. More than half of Dow Corning’s annual sales are outside the U.S.
- Gentex is perhaps best known for its automotive mirrors, but that’s not all they do. After starting in 1974 as a manufacturer of high-quality fire protection products, they revolutionized the industry with the world’s first dual-sensor photoelectric smoke detector — a device less prone to false alarms yet quick to detect slow, smoldering fires. Today, millions of Gentex smoke detectors and signaling devices are found in hospitals, hotels, office buildings and other commercial applications throughout North America.
- Gordon Food Service started out as a butter-and-egg delivery business more than a century ago. Today they are the largest family-owned food service distributors in North America — and one of the largest privately held companies in the U.S.
- Kellogg Co. began with only 44 employees in Battle Creek in 1906. They now manufacture in 18 countries and sell their products in more than 180 countries around the world.
- Spartan Motors in Charlotte is a leader in the design, engineering and manufacturing of custom chassis and vehicles for the emergency-rescue, recreational vehicle and specialty vehicle markets.
- Stryker Corp. was started in 1941 and is a global leader in the medical technology industry and now has over 15,000 employees worldwide and $7.3 billion in sales.
- S2/Tiara Yachts was started in 1974, building sailboats under the name S2 Yachts. Within 10 years, S2 was one of the top five sailboat manufacturers in the USA and eventually produced powerboats called Tiara Yachts. The subsidiary, Energetx Composites, is a leading producer of components for large-scale wind turbines to the alternative energy industry.
- Two Men and a Truck started in the early 1980s as a way for two brothers to make extra money while they were in high school. Now, nearly 30 years later, the company has grown to more than 200 locations worldwide.
- Wolverine Worldwide was founded in 1883. This diverse business model spans approximately 190 countries and territories around the world and embraces 12 owned and licensed brands with millions of loyal customers.
- X-Rite is the global leader in the development and manufacture of innovative color solutions and serves a range of industries including printing, packaging, photography, graphic design, video, automotive, paints, plastics, textiles, dental and medical markets.
- Zeeland Farm Services is Kikkoman’s largest supplier (outside of Japan) for soy sauce.
The state of Michigan is one of the USA’s largest sources of tart cherries, sugar beets, navy beans and soy beans. There are so many more examples that I simply don’t have enough time or space to highlight them all.
Yes, we know that Steelcase, Herman Miller and Haworth are three of the four largest commercial furniture manufacturers in the world and there are at least 14 other office furniture companies in this region. These are all part of “what we do” in Michigan.
Pretty cool, isn’t it?
That’s how I see it, From Where I Sit!