HOLLAND — When Keith Malmstadt realized there was a shortage of workers with specific skills needed in his wood and laminate company, Great Lake Woods, Inc., he found a way to help both his business and his community.
Malmstadt helped bring to West Ottawa High School a program called WoodLINKS, an industry education partnership that helps high school and college students learn the trade of the wood industry. The program helps students prepare for careers in the wood industry, which allows companies like Great Lakes Woods to hire more skilled workers.
The Holland Area Chamber of Commerce recognized Malmstadt for his work at his business and with WoodLINKS by naming him the Small Business Person of the Year.
“This means a significant amount to me, and I very much appreciate it,” said the 53-year-old Holland resident after receiving his award Oct. 11 at the chamber’s Early Bird Breakfast.
Getting students interested in a career in the wood industry during high school is an important step to ensure a well-educated and skilled work force, Malmstadt said.
“If we didn’t foster the development of potential candidates at that level, we certainly weren’t going to get them later in life,” he said. “They would be gone to many other industries.”
Malmstadt, who was recently named the president of WoodLINKS board of directors, and Great Lake Woods contribute to the WoodLINKS program at West Ottawa High School by donating staff expertise and materials such as lumber and sandpaper. The program, which is located in an 8,000 square foot lab, is a $400,000 investment from the Holland School board and has 180 students enrolled, with another 100 on the waiting list.
“These kids are striving as we go forward,” he said.
Ned Timmer, chairman of the Small Business Committee, said Malmstadt stood out from the other nominees as very well-rounded with his involvement in his business and his community.
“We’re just really proud to have him in our community,” Timmer said.
Timmer said there were at least a dozen other nominees considered for the award.
“It’s always a really nice number of candidates that get submitted,” he said.
Malmstadt said his success and the success of Great Lake Woods has been through dedication, hard work and meeting the customer’s needs.
“We’re successful because we continue to reach out to our customer and try to meet their needs,” he said. “We’re looking at developing a strategy and going forward with what we really want to do.
A commitment to technology, growth, products and processes has also helped the company, which Malmstadt started at in 1993.
Since Malmstadt became part of the company, it has grown more than 700 percent in sales, and from 30 employees to 160. Last year the company added 20 employees and grew by 15 percent, despite the slow economy.
The company, which produces 800,000 lineal feet of molding per week, manufactures everything from architectural molding and embossing to store fixtures and picture frame parts.