Steelcase

drtel / Creative Commons

Plans for a new school in West Michigan for students in kindergarten through college are moving forward. The school will focus on science, math, technology, arts and engineering.

There was some controversy when news of the school first came out this spring.

Jerry Zandstra represents the non-profit group that’s buying the massive pyramid-shaped building from furniture-maker Steelcase.

drtel / Creative Commons

Grand Rapids-based furniture maker Steelcase plans to donate its iconic pyramid-shaped building to a nonprofit group.

Steelcase spent more than $100 million to build the more than 600,000 square-foot building in 1989. It’s been for sale for a lot less, around $20 million, for a couple of years. But it hasn't sold.

Steelcase spokeswoman Laura VanSlyke says the company talked to a few potential buyers, but the size and unique shape “does make it difficult for certain companies to take it over.”

Courtesy photo / Steelcase

Steelcase CEO Jim Hackett announced to the company’s board of directors during an annual shareholder meeting Wednesday he’ll retire early next year. Hackett led the Grand Rapids-based company for 19 years.

“I couldn't be happier about what Steelcase has become and where we're headed,” Hackett said, “But it's time to provide opportunity to others, and time for me to pursue some other interests. While continuing to run the company with as much energy and excitement as I did when I took the role in 1994, I'll also ready myself for the next chapter in my life.”

Steelcase has been around for more than a hundred years. But over the last decade the recession and technology have forced all the big office furniture companies in West Michigan to adapt to major changes in how and where people work.

Grand Rapids-based Steelcase, Holland based-Haworth and Zeeland-based Herman Miller are showing off new lines of chairs, collaborative office spaces, and home offices at the annual show for the office furniture industry show known as NeoCon.

Together, West Michigan’s ‘big three’ sell nearly $6 billion in office furniture a year; making up more than half of all sales in the country. Designers and suppliers from across the state are also involved in this year’s show - MLive.com/The Grand Rapids Press lists them all here.

Industry analyst Mike Dunlap has been going to NeoCon for 34 years. He sees new technologies like smart phones and tablets creeping even further into what would traditionally be considered furniture.

“All of the major manufactures now are beginning to change their thinking to putting technology into the furniture as opposed to putting it on it,” Dunlap said.

Dunlap says Haworth is getting lots of attention for its new product called Bluescape, which he calls “an Ipad on steroids.”

Steelcase

A longtime leader of Grand Rapids furniture maker Steelcase died over the weekend.

Robert Pew died Saturday in Florida.  He was 89.

Pew was Steelcase’s chairman of the board for 25 years, from the mid 1970’s until 1999, when he became chairman emeritus.   

During Pew’s tenure at the top of Steelcase’s management, the company became one of the world’s largest makers of office furniture. 

As a philanthropist,  Robert Pew has given millions of dollars for public education.   He also played a pivotal role in the establishment of Grand Valley State University.

Greg Flinchbaugh / Creative Commons

Steelcase, the world’s largest office furniture maker is celebrating 100 years in business. But sales of the metal filing cabinets Steelcase is named for are declining; same with traditional cubicles and other large pieces of office furniture. Steelcase is changing its identity.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Steelcase doesn’t manufacture much office furniture in West Michigan anymore, but it still has about 3,000 employees here. They gathered for the birthday celebration at the Grand Rapids headquarters for cake and a balloon drop.