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From Local Manufacturer To Global Innovator: Steelcase Celebrates 100 Years

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This is not you father's file cabinet. Steelcase products now enable collaboration and teleconferencing in flexible work spaces.

This is not you father’s file cabinet. Steelcase products now enable collaboration and teleconferencing in flexible work spaces.

GRAND RAPIDS — The office furniture maker Steelcase Inc. Friday launched what it says will be a year-long celebration of its 100th anniversary.

The company said it wants to be known more than a leader in products and manufacturing — also that it leads because of its human-centered approach to the future of people at work.

“From the start, our company has been about more than furniture,” said James Hackett, CEO of Steelcase Inc. “We have always focused on people and what people can do. Companies don’t survive for a century — ideas do.  So as we turn 100 years old we want to take this opportunity to look out into the future and see all the things that make us optimistic. We see a future full of limitless possibilities.”

Founded as the Metal Office Furniture Co. on March 16, 1912, the company’s legacy of innovation began with its first product — the fireproof metal waste basket — a leap forward in safety and productivity for its time when, a century ago, cigar and pipe smokers risked workers’ lives because of fires caused from ashes dumped in wicker wastebaskets.

Today, Steelcase continues its focus on innovation with global product solutions for business, health care and education, all based on research and insights about the changing nature of work, what workers need today and how the workplace can help organizations compete in a complex, interconnected world.

Looking ahead to the next 100 years, Steelcase is launching a celebration called “100 Dreams, 100 Minds, 100 Years” as a dialog around the future and innovation necessary to support the changing world of work.

Steelcase began its anniversary initiative by asking children from around the world to envision how people will live and work in the future and to complete the sentence “One day…” with their own ideas expressed in artwork and stories. Highlights of these “100 Dreams” are captured in a documentary film titled “One Day” that will be seen at Steelcase showings around the world and is available online at 100.steelcase.com, along with the children’s artwork.

The company also invited “100 Minds” — thought leaders from around the world — to share their ideas for the future. These “100 Minds” contributors, including author Daniel Pink, architect Patricia Urquiola  and artist Dale Chihuly, share their thoughts through words, drawings, photographs and other multimedia on the 100.steelcase.com site. The minds each have a unique, intriguing perspective on what the future holds, from a greener planet, increased innovation, changes in education to advances in technology.  Their online dialogue is moderated by Emmy and Peabody award-winning author and journalist John Hockenberry.

“Our centennial year is an opportunity to cherish the legacy of our past and embrace our purpose going forward,” Hackett said. “From the start, Steelcase has been a company that has mined human insights and applied them through design to an ever-changing world.  Our company has continually focused on the future, on unlocking human promise through creativity and collaboration, and this fundamental purpose has more meaning every day. These dreams of 100 children and ideas from the 100 minds will influence the world and the workplace. They’re a springboard to the century ahead.”

Steelcase invites people of all ages and experiences to join the celebration and discussion at 100.steelcase.com, to engage with the company’s blog and submit their own ideas for the future.

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