You might think that growing a family business from a single product line to a global corporation with $1 billion-plus sales wouldn't leave a lot of time for community service.

Yet Dick Haworth, chairman emeritus of Haworth Inc., has generously shared his time and expertise with the Mackinac Center as a member of our board of directors — and with other education and civic groups as well.

"Dick has a deep belief in the principles this country was founded on and in quietly sharing those principles with others," Mackinac Center President Joseph G. Lehman said. "He's been a faithful contributor to many of our projects, particularly the workshops we host for high school debate students."

Haworth Inc. (then called Modern Products Inc.) was established in 1948 by Dick's father, G.W. Haworth, in his family's garage in Holland, Mich. In its early years, the company specialized in designing and building office partition systems.

When Dick was named president and CEO in 1976, he set the firm on course to become the global operation it is today with an extensive product line of workspace furniture and accessories, markets in 120 countries, 20 wholly owned manufacturing facilities, 7,000 members and more than 250 patents, including 14 held by Dick.

In spring of 2009, the legacy created by the Haworths passed to Dick's son, Matthew, who was named chairman of the board. Dick found it gratifying to see the family-owned, values-oriented business pass to another generation.

The Mackinac Center had a similar transition a year earlier, when President Lawrence W. Reed became president emeritus in 2008 and Lehman was named his successor.

"Having board members like Dick is one reason the Mackinac Center made the transition so smoothly," Lehman said. 

"The best investments are in good ideas and the people behind them," Haworth said. "It works in business, and the Mackinac Center is showing how free-market ideas can turn Michigan around."

Some say that a key reason for Haworth Inc.'s success is that Dick creates the kind of workplace where people can be creative and entrepreneurial.

We think that's a good prescription not just for business, but for the state of Michigan.