Haworth Distinguished As 'World Trader'

May 12, 2008
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HOLLAND — Haworth Inc. has been honored as the 2008 World Trader of the Year, an annual award that recognizes a business, organization or individual in West Michigan that has “demonstrated a commitment to international trade.”

Henry Oosterhouse, Haworth’s global transportation manager, accepted the award from the West Michigan World Trade Association last Monday at the Economic Club of Grand Rapids luncheon.

“There are a lot of great companies in West Michigan that are highly involved in the international markets, and for us to be singled out and recognized with this award is truly a privilege,” Oosterhouse said.

Haworth is well known as an international leader in office furniture and work space interiors. The company exports to more than 60 countries, imports from 11, and has manufacturing facilities in Holland, Allegan, Big Rapids and Douglas, as well as plants in China, India and Europe.

Haworth prides itself on exacting standards of quality. Haworth is the industry’s only Malcolm Baldridge National Quality Award finalist, an award the U.S. President bestows upon businesses and health care and educational organizations that are deemed to be outstanding in their fields. Haworth is also the only industry manufacturer to have received the Michigan Quality Leadership Award. The company was the first in the industry to be certified in ISO 9000: 2000 and 14001. Additionally, it was the first in the industry to receive ISO/IEC 17025 accreditation, an international standard recognizing technical competence and mechanical testing.

America’s future is in trading with other countries and must trade globally just for its survival, said Congressman Vern Ehlers, R-Grand Rapids, who spoke at the Economic Club luncheon as part of the World Trade Week celebration. Ehlers talked about how creativity is absolutely essential for the success of a business or a nation because creativity is what sparks innovation.

The United States ranks as the most competitive economy, but the rest of the world is catching up, Ehlers warned. He noted that in 12th-grade math scores, the U.S. ranks second from the bottom among developed nations.

As Ehlers sees it, it’s imperative that the country prepare its young people with the math and science skills that the technical, scientific and engineering jobs of the future will require. Otherwise, America will soon lose its foothold on the competitive landscape, he said.

It’s equally imperative, he added, that the general population of consumers and voters understand the importance of those educational goals so they, too, can help advance them.

What the United States needs to do, Ehlers said, is dismantle its attitudinal barriers towards math and science.

He also encouraged the federal government to get behind the America COMPETES Act. The act, which was signed into law last August, is meant to double funding for basic research in the physical sciences, so as to encourage scientists to explore promising and critical areas such as nanotechnology, supercomputing and alternative energy sources.

The importance of energy was another of Ehlers’ topics. Energy is the country’s most basic resource, and he encouraged the development of solar, biomass, wind, hydropower and wave energy sources and the preservation of limited natural resources such as wood, coal, oil and natural gas.

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