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Grandson co-founder Idema last family member to retire

Steelcase closes chapter on family ties

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

GRAND RAPIDS, Michigan - The Dutch connection to one of North America's largest furniture makers is fading further into the background with the early retirement of Steelcase president and CEO Bill Crawford Sr., the grandson of co-founder Walter Idema. Crawford is the last family member of a co-founder to serve as an executive at Steelcase.

Crawford joined Steelcase when he graduated from university, now 34 years ago. Through the years, family has been a big part of the corporate culture at the furniture maker. Crawford called it a stabilizing influence.

Ever since the 1850s, Dutch immigrants have found employment in Western Michigan's woodworking industry which evolved into a thriving furniture making sector. As the company name suggests, Idema and the Wege family successfully developed a alternative product line of furniture. Steelcase owns several smaller lines, such as Metro and Vecta.

The area has still two other large, locally-owned furniture makers, Herman Miller and Haworth.