WALKER, Mich. (WOOD) - More than one out of every 100 people in the Grand Rapids-Holland-Muskegon region work directly for the company Fred Meijer helped build.
It is one piece of the legacy of the late grocery-discount store pioneer.
The raw number: Meijer Corp. employs roughly 9,700 people in the area, according to figures from economic development group The Right Place.
And for every 100 grocery industry jobs, another 20 are created by the economic spinoff, according to the group.
That's significantly smaller than the spinoff for a manufacturer, but employees, of course, are spending the money they earn on cars, homes and apartments.
And Meijer creates work for the people who supply the goods the grocery-discount stores sell.
Joe Dietrich's family has been doing business with Meijer for "about four generations," he said. "We started in the early 1950s with Meijer ... You could say it's been a good 60 years."
Dietrich, his brother and their sons grow apples on 700 acres in northern Kent County.
Riveridge Produce near Sparta sells the apples for the Dietrichs to stores, including Meijer. Meijer is one of Riveridge's top five customers.
"And that's pretty significant when you consider that Meijer is a regional operator and a lot of our customer base is national or international," said Don Armock, a co-owner of Riveridge. "[Meijer is] very, very important to us."
The Walker-based retailer accounts for 10 to 15% of the sales at Riveridge, so you could say that at peak season, Meijer is putting 35 or more of the produce company's 350 employees to work.
Meijer has roughly 2,000 workers at its Walker corporate headquarters -- plus two stores in that city.
"Meijer is a very critical piece of the economic picture here in Walker because they are the largest taxpayer," said city manager Cathy Vander Meulen.
The company's properties in Walker have a taxable value of around $50 million, Vander Meuelen said. That would mean the company pays around $2 million per year to property tax recipients including the city, county and schools.
And the Meijer headquarters generates economic spinoff for Walker, much as the stores generate business for places like Riveridge.
"Over the course of time, Fred's made us a lot better because he's always had a focus on making sure that his customers were taken care of -- they didn't get any surprises, they were satisfied with what he was selling them," said Armock, the co-owner. "So it's been a constant push for us to raise our standards and do a better and better job."
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