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CEO of office furniture giant Steelcase to retire in February 2014

Courtesy photo

Steelcase CEO Jim Hackett announced to the company’s board of directors during an annual shareholder meeting Wednesdayhe’ll retire early next year. Hackett led the Grand Rapids-based company for 19 years.

“I couldn't be happier about what Steelcase has become and where we're headed,” Hackett said, “But it's time to provide opportunity to others, and time for me to pursue some other interests. While continuing to run the company with as much energy and excitement as I did when I took the role in 1994, I'll also ready myself for the next chapter in my life.”

Steelcase has been around for more than a hundred years.But over the last decade the recession and technology have forced all the big office furniture companies in West Michigan to adapt to major changes in how and where people work.

Industry analyst Mike Dunlap says Hackett helped Steelcase manage those shifts.

“I think his legacy is going to be his strong and firm decision-making process, that although it wasn’t always popular and it wasn’t always right, he wasn’t afraid to make the decisions,” Dunlap said.

Steelcase’s workforce in West Michigan shrunk as manufacturing moved overseas in the 1990s. Still, he estimates about 3,000 people work for Steelcase in Michigan. The company’s revenue was $2.9 billion in 2013.

Dunlap says Hackett helped lead Steelcase from the age of cubicles to the more collaborative workspaces of today. He also pushed the company to integrate furniture with technology and expand Steelcase’s global sales.

“He saw this as a trend well before many others to the point where some people really didn’t think he knew what he was talking about,” Dunlap said.

He says Hackett learned to be a good team leader playing football under former University of Michigan coach Bo Schembechler.

Hackett will remain with Steelcase as vice chair of the company’s board of directors.

Lindsey Smith is a Peabody Award-winning journalist currently leading the station's Amplify Team. She previously served as Michigan Public's Morning News Editor, Investigative Reporter and West Michigan Reporter.
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