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Development News

GR Chair Company owner credits company expansion to thriving West Michigan

Deborah Johnson Wood

Tom Southwell says the untold story of West Michigan is that the region is thriving, and he points to his company's recent manufacturing expansion as proof. Southwell is a partner in the Grand Rapids Chair Company, which just added a 28,000-square-foot table top manufacturing facility to its properties.

The company, headquartered in the old McInerney Spring and Wire plant on Chestnut St. SW, added the former Studio Ink / StudioCraft building, 837 Godfrey Ave. SW, in response to increased customer demand for tables for healthcare, education, hospitality, corporate and government environments.

"We've always made tables," Southwell says. "We saw the opportunity to enhance our production in both volume and flexibility, and to make other types of tabletops and chair components. This new plant allows us to increase our volume capacity, our throughput and our quality while lowering our prices for customers."

The cost reduction and increased quality control come from bringing the entire manufacturing process in-house, Southwell says. That process uses both modern CNC equipment and traditional woodworking machinery – both of which require skilled employees for operation.

"Dave Miller, one of my partners, had his eye on the Cadillac of machinery, which is generally real old pieces of machinery," Southwell says. "We were able to purchase 20 of those machines for the new building and clean them up with new bearings, new knives."

The company hired 12 skilled employees who already knew how to operate the equipment.

"The craftsmen that are available for employment in West Michigan you can't find anywhere else," Southwell says. "The work ethic of the people is such that the people care about the products they produce."

"Michigan kind of gets a bad rap, primarily due to the auto industry," he says. "Grand Rapids and West Michigan is a thriving place for us to do business and we encourage other companies to do the same."

Source: Tom Southwell, Grand Rapids Chair Company

Deborah Johnson Wood is development news editor for Rapid Growth Media. She can be contacted at deborah@rapidgrowthmedia.com. Development News tips can be sent to info@rapidgrowthmedia.com.
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