Larry Kieft’s family arrived in Grand Haven in 1856, and they have been building the Michigan economy ever since. Bringing generations of farming experience from the northern Dutch provinces, the Kieft family made a thriving business of celery, garden vegetables, leafy greens, greenhouse tomatoes, flowers and perennials.
Larry’s work on the farm and in industry took him to the heights of innovation and to some of the depths of poor policy and government interference. Clumsy regulations, subsidies to favored businesses, and the heavy hand of organized labor are growing challenges to Michigan entrepreneurs. His service as chairman of the Grand Haven Board of Light and Power also showed Larry how misguided federal and state energy policies are literally turning off the lights in our state.
When an old friend of Larry’s from Hope College told him about the Mackinac Center, this lifelong farmer saw a chance to plant a seed. Now Larry and his wife Christine are Legacy Society members, supporting our work to improve Michigan governance and create a freer, more prosperous state.
With degrees in economics and business, Larry made a career with companies including the energy equipment manufacturer Dresser Industries and American Seating Corp., the nation’s premier provider of seating for mass transportation.
If you work in any office, you have probably seen Larry’s work. He initiated and led the development of a plastic, corrugated-board celery container in the 1970s. These containers were used for a decade by South Bay Growers in Florida and are still in use by the U.S. Postal Service. They’re the plastic tote boxes that carriers use for large batches of mail.
Larry is retired but keeps serving the community. He has held leadership positions with an assisted living retirement home, the Grand Haven Community Center, and the First Reformed Church, among many others. He has established several endowed scholarships. As a Legacy Society member, he thinks a lot about preserving freedom for the future.
“Be as educated as you can be, regardless of what the subject matter is,” Larry says when we ask his advice for future generations. “Have a moral base to your character." He sees value in both trade schools and colleges, with the important thing being the formation of independent thinkers. And he considers the Mackinac Center essential to Michigan’s future. “I’ve been frustrated by the lack of change created by elected bureaucrats,” he says. “I like that the Mackinac Center and other think tanks can create change.”