Design Support Growing

June 30, 2008
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Design West Michigan, led by John Berry, a consultant with Greystone Global, is striving to nationally brand West Michigan as design centric.

More than 200 attendees, a larger crowd than anticipated, showed up for an informal gathering held last week at Haworth's corporate headquarters in Holland. The effort is already gaining buy-ins from across the spectrum of business and government representatives, including Congressman Pete Hoekstra, who could not attend the session but relayed his support for the cause.

"It is truly unique that for the first time, designers of all disciplines in West Michigan are gathering to more fully explore the design process and its impact on the regional economy to employers, entrepreneurs and other stakeholders," Hoekstra wrote to the audience. "Design West Michigan is a valuable organization that advocates, educates and connects designers and businesses in a dynamic and creative environment.

"Creativity and sustainability represent the new movement in every aspect of design, and it is exciting that West Michigan is playing an advanced role, including most recently the site of your gathering, Haworth's new headquarters," said the Holland Republican, who pledged to advocate for the continued work of the group as he conducts his business in Congress.

Design West Michigan has set up a Web site to drive communications regarding its effort. It can be found at

  • Herman Miller President and CEO Brian Walker is among the local office furniture executives who realize the importance of marketing this area as a design-rich region. Walker will appear tonight as guest on the CNBC series "The Business of Innovation." In the final episode of the five-part series, Walker will discuss the company's global business model and strategy for driving innovation within new and existing markets.

The episode, to be aired at , also will highlight some of the company's iconic and recent products and a number of Herman Miller's West Michigan facilities. Hosted by Maria Bartiromo, the series explores a range of topics and solutions to the question of innovation.

Walker's cameo appearance is timely in light of last week's announcement that HMI experienced fourth-quarter sales growth of 7 percent and record earnings per share for FY08. The Zeeland-based company had a 350 basis point improvement in operating income, combined with a 12 percent reduction in the average diluted share count, driving a year-over-year increase in fourth quarter earnings per share of 42 percent, to a record $0.71. For the full year, sales were up 4.9 percent and earnings per share were up 29 percent to a record $2.56.

The employee-owners of Herman Miller did a great job of executing this past quarter and year," Walker said in a statement. "Our strategy to diversify into new and emerging markets, both domestically and internationally, is gaining traction. This is evident both in terms of our top-line growth and the breadth of innovative solutions that we are launching in each of our business segments. We're confident that our focus on performance innovation will enable us to continue to solve our customers' problems and create value and growth for our shareholders and employee-owners."

Despite higher sales, the company reported operating expenses of $115.0 million declined by $3.6 million to 22.2 percent of sales, a 220 basis point decrease, compared to the same period in fiscal 2007. HMI officials pointed to the restructuring action taken earlier in the year and the company's continuing focus on expense management.

  • A ComstockPark native has founded Posh Events, an East Lansing consulting firm that helps Lansing area companies, trade and professional associations plan and execute special events. Posh Events was founded by Kim (Erdelyi) Gregory, a former furniture marketing executive and state legislative staffer.

Gregory worked for former Lt. Governor Dick Posthumus in his executive office as well as his 2002 governor's campaign. She also worked with State Sen. BillHardiman and volunteered for State Rep. Dave Hildenbrand

Gregory said Posh Events specializes in business and nonprofit special engagements in mid-Michigan as well as destination events from Mackinac Island to the Florida Keys. She developed her eye for space design while overseeing new furniture installations for several mid-Michigan advertising and lobbying firms.

The company recently produced two corporate events on Mackinac Island. One was hosted by a prominent lobbying firm and the other by the mid-Michigan business community. Both were held in conjunction with the Detroit Regional Chamber's Annual Public Policy Conference. A MichiganStateUniversity alumnus, Gregory has also produced a destination wedding at Casa Morada Resort in the Florida Keys.

  • Regardless of the candidate they may vote for in November, MSU students are strongly predicting that Democrat Barack Obama will win the White House. A panel survey began last year and was extended through a series of statewide primaries that narrowed voter choices.

In the latest wave of the ongoing online survey, the students forecast that the Illinois senator will win the presidency over Arizona Sen. John McCain.

The survey, tracking student preferences since last November, shows a low rate of Democratic to Republican defection and a larger Republican to Democratic shift. The Internet-based survey also asked the young voters, average age 21, what issues they believe will matter the most — and the least — in the election. Results come from MSU's Office for Survey Research in the Institute for Public Policy and Social Research, specializing in public policy, leadership training and survey research.

Students were quizzed just as they left campus for summer break and as New York Sen. Hillary Clinton offered her support to Obama. Among the nearly 300 students participating, 65 percent predicted that Obama would claim the presidency and 26 percent projected that McCain would win. Eight percent said they did not know who would win and 1 percent predicted Clinton.

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