Malmstadt Builds Woodworking

April 24, 2006
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HOLLAND — Keith Malmstadt doesn't normally seek out the spotlight, but lately it has been seeking him.

Malmstadt, the president of Great Lake Woods Inc., was recognized recently as the Michigan Small Business Administration's Small Business Person of the Year after being chosen as the Holland Area Chamber of Commerce's Small Business Person of the Year in the fall.

"Normally I don't go for the publicity, but I do appreciate the opportunity to show what we can do here," he said of the company, which manufactures wood and laminated moldings for ceilings, furniture and other products with wood components.

Malmstadt was nominated for the statewide honor by the Holland chamber, said Richard Temkin, district director of the Small Business Administration.

Temkin said Malmstadt and Great Lake Woods stood out because of the company's growth, among other reasons.

"The business is doing very well," he said. "It's very successful, with excellent growth in sales, profits and employment."

From 1993, when Malmstadt bought a third of the company, to now, Great Lake Woods has grown from a $3 million company to $23 million, and from 30 employees to 180. It has also greatly increased its product line, adding more than 50 products in 2006 alone, and has grown physically from 35,000 square feet to 103,000 square feet with two construction expansions

Malmstadt, while proud of these accomplishments, said there is more to come for the company, of which he is now the majority owner.

There are plans to add another 20 employees, and he is looking for more space to expand.

"We anticipate continued growth," he said.

Great Lake Woods also stands out because of the type of business it is, Temkin said.

"It's one of your more traditional businesses here in Michigan," he said. "Keith obviously found a way to be successful at that."

Temkin said the award recognizes the contributions that small businesses make to the economy. While larger businesses are restructuring and laying off workers, Temkin said small businesses are growing and adding jobs to the state.

"Small businesses like Great Lake Woods are the ones that are filling that void and doing well," he said. "One of the reasons that we do this award is to recognize that segment of the economy and impress upon people its importance."

Malmstadt attributes the success of his company to being customer-service oriented and investing in new technology and products.

"We're trying to diversify and enhance what we're doing," he said.

The company has decreased its previous lead time of four to five weeks to less than two weeks.

"I knew if we were able to drive the competition to the highest level possible, I knew we would succeed in the industry," he said.

Though his name is on the award, Malmstadt said he is proud of the employees and the work they have done for the company.

"It certainly has been a team effort," he said. "This has been Great Lake Woods working together. People here are very proud of what has gone on."

With more growth on the horizon, Malmstadt said he knows where he will look to hire skilled workers for the company. Malmstadt and Great Lake Woods have been helping to prepare for the growth and future of the industry by being a part of WoodLINKS, a program that prepares high school students for jobs in the woodworking industry and allows companies to hire skilled workers.

"We look throughout the WoodLINKS program across the nation to recruit and relocate to West Michigan," he said.

Through WoodLINKS, Malmstadt said he is able to give back to the community while helping the industry gain skilled workers.

"Today there's almost 100," he said of the number of high school programs. "Throughout the United States, there are over 10,000 kids that will be enrolled next fall."

Malmstadt, who recently became the board president for WoodLINKS, said the program is important because it offers students a way to have a viable income directly out of high school.

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