On the road in and around Columbus, Georgia...
DID YOU KNOW...
Columbus is the second largest city in Georgia with almost 200,000 people. I notice an unusual amount of Royal Crown Cola billboards and soda displays in Columbus. Then I find out Columbus
is where Royal Crown Cola was founded.
And now a final interesting item about Columbus. Upon a third conviction of DUI (Driving Under the Influence), the city's local newspaper publishes the offender's picture. Four men have their picture in the paper for this ignominious reason the day I'm there.
Synovus Financial Corporation
Synovus Financial Corporation is a multi-financial service company. The company has its headquarters downtown on the riverfront in a building used as a Confederate arsenal during the Civil War. The building next door is the Columbus Convention Center, which housed a foundry making cannons and ammunition during the Civil War.
Synovus is a holding company composed of three main businesses: banking (with Columbus Bank & Trust being the lead bank), a full-service brokerage firm and a bankcard processing
Total System Services, the bankcard and private label processing component of Synovus, is the second largest bankcard processing company in the U.S. Besides billing and processing cards
for VISA, MasterCard, Diner's Club and Circuit City, the company also does billing and card processing for AT&T's new Universal Card with 4.5 million accounts.
What does the disease-like name, Synovus mean? It's a blend of the words "synergy" (working together) and "novus" (Latin for"new".)
Synovus has your standard-issue basic boardroom. (Aside: I did find, however, a most unusual boardroom table down the street in the main office of Columbus Bank and Trust Company. Called, "The Great Table", it's 24 feet long, eight feet wide and semi-elliptical in shape. The table's center is hand-buffed leather. Twenty-eight carvings of "historic" scenes of the area such as agriculture, a steamboat, a foundry, a bell tower and military decorate the table's perimeter.
(For more information see SNV)
W.C. Bradley Company
W.C. Bradley Company, a privately held company with about 150 employees, is located down the street from Synovus in a 100-year- old, company-owned building. W.C. Bradley was once a cotton wholesaler and its red brick building housed raw cotton. Today the company is into many things: real estate development, agriculture, specialty retailing and the manufacturing and marketing of CharBroil grills.
The first floor has a company museum which features works commissioned in 1985 to celebrate the company's 100th birthday. Next to the museum is a small chapel, which was a gift from the
company's employees. Several employees have been married in the chapel.
Tom's Foods is a privately held snack food company that supplies millions of vending machines nationwide. Its headquarters is downtown in an industrial area. Located on 38 acres, the plain two-story building is next to the railroad tracks. Three plants also occupy the site. A couple of 14-story peanut storage silos are visible behind corporate offices.
By October of each year, 27 million pounds of peanuts are in storage in the silos. In spite of being surrounded by peanuts, Mike Dillon, CEO, has a jar of Tom's jelly beans in his small office. I
am disappointed not to get a tour of one of the plants; I'm hungry.
American Family Corporation
American Family Corporation, a privately held insurance company, is located about three miles from downtown Columbus in a 19-story, 115,000 square-foot building built in 1975.
In spite of the open bible I see in the small lobby area, my reception is particularly shabby. The CEO's secretary isn't in and no one has any interest in helping me. I am told to come back later in the day. When I do (even riding through the rain), I'm told to come back another day. The woman I finally contact in Corporate Communications has a "could care less" attitude.
Later that same day, the local newspaper interviews me. The interviewer is surprised when I tell him about my reception at American Family. He suggests I visit one of American Family's
television stations (one of several they own) across the street and go on the air with the story of my snub. I'm tempted.
Flowers Industries, a wholesale baking company with revenues of $824 million in 1991, is located in Thomasville, Georgia, about thirty miles north of Tallahassee, Florida.
I can smell bread baking as I ride into downtown Thomasville. I assume corporate headquarters would be next to one of the company bakeries. Wrong. About five miles from downtown on
a 52-acre site sits the beautiful plantation-style, three-story headquarters building. Built in 1975, the company-owned site is surrounded by forest. The employees, I'm told, see lots of wildlife
wandering around the grounds. Why the plantation? Because the area is well known for its historic plantations.
A small plaque on a wall near the entrance, barely visible from the road, identifies the place as Flowers Industries. Early American decor is evident throughout the building. Most of the pictures on the walls feature various hunting scenes and foxhunts.
The nearest commercial airport is in Tallahassee, Florida, about 40 miles away. The company's corporate aircraft fleet consists of two Mitsubishi-Diamonds, which use a local airport about ten miles away. The nearest freeway is 30 miles away-- altogether it's a rather isolated spot.
What's the view from the CEO's corner office on the second floor? Amos McMullian, CEO, has a view of his pick-up truck parked out front. It's almost like Sam Walton of Wal-Mart's truck except McMullian's truck is a new Chevy unlike Walton's old one.
As I'm leaving the building I notice the door knob handle of the front door comes up to about knee level. I ask my guide if this is an accommodation for the handicap. Nope. The headquarters is an exact replica of plantations a hundred years ago--people were much shorter then.
(For more information see FLO)
On the road in and around Atlanta, Georgia...
Interface Inc. (1991 revenues $582 million) is the world's largest manufacturer and marketer of modular carpet systems. Chances are when you look at the floor in your office, the carpet (which is a bunch of large tile-size pieces put together) comes from Interface.
Headquarters is 60 miles south of Atlanta and two miles from downtown LaGrange (population 20,000) in an industrial park development. The company-owned, two-story building (built in 1973)
sits in front of one of their plants.
I meet with Michael Stevenson, Manager of Human Resources. I ask him if people unfamiliar with Interface assume it's a computer software company? Stevenson laughs and agrees the name does have a high-tech ring to it.
Fifteen people work in the corporate offices which, along with the plant, sit on a 10-acre site. CEO Ray Anderson has a corner office on the first floor with a marvelous view of the parking lot.
(For more information see: IFSIA)
The burb effect: Atlanta is a big stop for me and I decide to first visit the companies located downtown. In most big cities I do the suburbs first and then work my way downtown. Here's something I find to be true about the suburbs--I get a better reception at companies located in the suburbs than those located in cities. I figure the hustle and bustle of downtown must make people more abrupt and less friendly.
Bank South Corp.
The corporate offices of Bank South Corporation (1991 revenues $410 million) are in downtown Atlanta, in a 21-story building known as the Bank South Building. Walking into
the lobby I check the building directory. I find the executive offices on the third floor. I don't see a receptionist when I get to the third floor; that position has been replaced by a desk, a phone, and a list of names and extension numbers.
My research indicates Robert Guyton is the CEO but I don't see his name on the phone list. Hmmm. Now I need some help. I spot a woman sitting behind a desk in a nearby office opening mail. I walk into her office, explain my confusion and ask her to call Guyton or his secretary. The woman continues opening mail and answers me without looking up. She tells me Guyton left over a year and a half ago. Undeterred at this point, I ask her if she would please call the current CEO or his/her secretary because they probably received the letter I sent to Guyton. "We do not still receive his mail," she answers. Boy, real sweetheart here?! Still ready to give it one more try, I ask her who's the new CEO. Pat Flinn, she answers. Ahhh. Now we're getting somewhere. "Can you please call up Flinn's secretary to see if she's expecting me," I ask.
Still sorting mail she says, "I'm his secretary." Whoops. Now I've hit the wall. She informs me I must have an appointment to talk to anyone. Then she dismisses me and goes back to her mail.
(For more information see: BKSO)
Fuqua Industries (1991 revenues $925 million) is headquartered on the 49th floor of the 52-story Georgia Pacific Building in downtown Atlanta. The company's three main businesses are Snapper Power Equipment (lawn mowers, snow throwers), Qualex (develops photographic film into prints & slides) and Fuqua Sports (manufactures and imports equipment, clothing and
accessories for outdoor recreation and team sports activities).
Charles Scott, CEO, isn't in but Nancy Hooks, Administrative Assistant to the CEO, takes me into Scott's office and answers my questions.
The number of employees at the corporate offices has dropped recently from 45 to 15. Business must be slow since Hooks also tells me the company plans to sublease these offices and move to
less expensive office space. Employees will miss this location. Occasionally they get the binoculars out and look at the penthouse of the CNN Center complex 10 blocks away, Hooks says. Why? To spy on Ted Turner and his wife, Jane Fonda, of course.
(For more information see: FQA)
Atlanta Gas Light Co.
Atlanta Gas Light Company (1991 revenues $964 million) is the largest natural gas distribution company in the southeastern United States. It's also the oldest company in Georgia.
Atlanta Gas Light has leased the same space in a downtown 25-story building for 30 years. About 140 employees occupy four floors.
Leslie Schirra, Public Information Specialist, walks me down the street to an unfinished 55-story structure. In December 1992 the company plans to make this building its new home. David Jones,
CEO, has an office on the fourth floor of the new building with a great view and Schirra wants me to see it. The new building's fourth floor has a long way to go before it's finished. I see nothing but concrete, stucco and lights hanging from extension cords. His corner office does have a nice view of nearby Georgia Tech's campus. Nothing very special about that unless you're Jones--a Georgia Tech alumni. (For more information see: ATG)
I visited BellSouth on my first trek around the country five years ago and I can't resist visiting them a gain. Why? I want to give the largest of the seven Bell holding companies a second
chance. Last time I visited the security guard refused to call anyone unless I had an appointment with a specific person. Here's the replay of that conversation: "Can I use the desk phone to call the corporate offices?" I asked the guard. "No", the guard said. "Is there a pay phone I can use?" I asked next. The guard pointed to a large waiting area with a pay phone. I went to use it but couldn't find a phone book. I walked back over to the guard. "Do you have a phone book?" I asked. "No, we don't have any phone books". This seems unbelievable. "Do you mean to tell me this--the corporate headquarters for the phone company--has no phone books?" I ask. "That's right," the guard answered. Finally I go out in the street, found a phone and a phone book and called the executive offices. I shouldn't have bothered since my efforts only resulted in a brush-off.
So here I am, five years later, ready to forgive and forget if BellSouth will let me. The corporate offices have moved to a new 20-story building about four miles from downtown Atlanta in a booming area known as Mid-town. BellSouth (1991 revenues $14 billion) has about 800 employees occupying 16 of the 20 floors. Jim Breedlove, Director--External Affairs, comes to the lobby to meet me. The lobby turns out to be as far as I get. In fact I'm out of the building in under 10 minutes. Breedlove gives me fewer details than I'd get calling "information."
(For more information see: BLS)
Making the grade...
My "Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary" defines
telecommunications as "communication at a distance." But I've
graded these companies on their performances close-up.
Here's my grading system:
Now here's the grades:
Pacific Telesis Group---------------------C
United Telecommunications (Sprint)--------A
Southern New England Telecommunications---C
Turner Broadcasting System
I pick a lousy day to visit Turner Broadcasting System (1991
revenues $1.5 billion). Yesterday the company's baseball team--the Atlanta Braves--beat the Pittsburgh Pirates to win the National League pennant.
Corporate headquarters--the huge CNN Center--includes a 465-room Omni Hotel, approximately 830,000 square feet of useable office, studio and retail space.
I lock up my bike carefully. It takes me over an hour to find a secure spot. The building security people won't let me bring my bike into the building complex.
From the security guard's desk on the second floor I call up one of CEO, Ted Turner's secretaries. She tells me, very rudely, that she hasn't a clue what I want nor can she help me. When I ask her for her name she hangs up on me. Persistent as usual, I finally get in touch with Adrianne Proeller, Manager Corporate Communications. She received my introduction materials and invites
me up to her office.
I sit in her office for about half an hour while she finishes up some paperwork. Proeller tells me the phone has been ringing off the hook all morning from people she hasn't heard from in years,
wanting--you guessed it--World Series tickets. She apologizes several times for the unknown secretary who hung up on me.
Proeller says about 3,000 employees work in the Atlanta area. I find it humorous that the company's legal department occupies the 13th floor. The company cafeteria--open 24 hours for use by the CNN and "Headline News" staffs--is called the "Hard News Cafe". The company also provides a fitness center for employees and the CEO's wife--Jane Fonda.
I get a tour of the CNN and "Headline News" newsroom. If you happened to be watching CNN at that moment you would have seen me in the background following Proeller across the newsroom floor. (For more information see: TRS/B)
Coca-Cola Enterprises (1991 revenues $4 billion) is the world's largest Coca-Cola bottler. It
manufactures and markets the soft drink brands of the Coca-Cola Company to 51% of U.S. population.
The first thing I see in the lobby is a Coca-Cola vending machine that dispenses free cans of soda. I also notice quite a few people hanging out and smoking cigarettes.
The company leases 115,000 square feet in a 11-story building owned by the Coca-Cola Company--headquartered next door. It's all in the family--the Coca-Cola Company owns 49% of Coca-Cola Enterprises.
Margaret Carton, Director--Investor Relations, meets with me but acts very guarded. I ask Carton why I saw so many smokers in the lobby area. She tells me the lobby serves as the company's designated smoking area. Seems odd to me; walking into a smoke- filled lobby sure seems counter to Coca-Cola's wholesome image.
Next I visit Summerfield Johnston, Jr., CEO's corner office. Several paintings of horses adorn his office walls. Johnston breeds horses. (For more information see: CCE)
Heaven in a Hyatt:
During my stay in Atlanta, I spend three nights at the Hyatt Hotel, which has about 1,200 rooms. Generally I find big hotels--over 400 rooms--cold and impersonal. Not here, however. Here I find heaven at a Hyatt.
It all starts with Chris Guree, Administrative Assistant to the General Manager. When I check in she asks me if I'd like a basket of fruit and mineral water sent to my room. I tell her no
thanks and explain that although I'm from California, I'm not a vegetarian or health-food aficionado. Quite the opposite, in fact. I tell Chris I'm a devout junk-food and fast-food junkie. She
laughs and I figure that's the end of it. But Chris doesn't forget.
At the end of the my first long day in Atlanta I return to my hotel room and find a big basket courtesy of the Hyatt. They've filled it with candy bars, cookies, pretzels, almonds and cans of
Day two is even better. This time when I get back to my hotel room I find a large sombrero (Mexican hat) filled with chips and a bowl of guacamole alongside two long-neck Corona beers sitting in a bucket of ice. It's no dream--a meal fit for a junk food king.
On my third and last night the hotel treats me to a carafe of milk next to a plate of fresh cookies. Nice, nice place. Stay there if you're ever in Atlanta and say hello to Chris.
W.B. Johnson Properties
I find the corporate offices of privately-held W.B. Properties next to its flagship hotel--the Ritz-Carlton Buckhead (over $500 million in revenues). My visit coincides with the announcement that
the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company won a Malcolm Baldridge National Quality Award. Everything's hopping since, in the hotel business, this award is BIG.
Stephanie Platt, Public Relations Assistant, takes time to meet with me but tells me the phones have been ringing off the hook all day. I ask her who most of her callers are--people offering
congratulations, the media? Platt explains that many of the callers are other hotel
companies. Winners of the Malcolm Baldridge National Quality award must agree to allow other companies to come in and take notes on their operations.
The 80-100 employees at W.B. Johnson enjoy a enviable perk. The company serves them a free lunch at the Ritz-Carlton next door.
The company's reception area is elegant, furnished with 18th and 19th century paintings. It looks and feels much like the elegant hotel next door.
Colonial Pipeline Co.
Privately-owned Colonial Pipeline Company, with revenues in 1991 of $520 million, is the largest volume-refined, liquid petroleum products pipeline operating in the world. Last year it
transported 15.8% of all gasoline, kerosene and fuel oil used in the U.S. The company has an impressive ownership roster:
Amoco Pipeline Co. 14.32%
Atlantic Richfield Co. 1.58%
Citgo Pipeline Investment Co. 13.98%
Conoco Pipe Line Co. 7.55%
Mobil Pipe Line Co. 11.49%
Phillips Petroleum International
Investment Co. 7.10%
BP Oil Co. 8.96%
Texaco Trading and
Transportation, Inc. 14.27%
Union Oil Company
of California 20.75%
The company leases space in the plush 27-story Resurgens Plaza office building, located in the Buckhead section of Atlanta. Tommie Murphy, Donald Brinkley's (CEO) secretary, gives me a
warm and enthusiastic welcome. Murphy, employed here over 25 years, is a super lady with a grandmotherly quality about her. Murphy tells me she thinks my project is marvelous and she wishes she could come along.
While waiting for R.E. Ahlfinger, Director--Human Resources, Murphy takes me to the company's new Pipeline Control Center. It looks like a miniature version of NASA's Houston control center. The company's pipeline system stretches from Houston, Texas through the Southeast and Eastern Seaboard to New York Harbor.
When Ahlfinger joins us I ask him why the company located in Atlanta? Ahlfinger answers me by pulling out a map showing the route of the pipeline system--Atlanta is right smack in the middle
of it. The company's air power includes a Citation 2 plus three Cessna 82's used for patrolling the pipeline.
I also ask Ahlfinger about the competition. Surprisingly, the company's fiercest competitor, Plantation Pipeline Company, occupies the very same building. Talk about sleeping with the
enemy. Ahlfinger assures me it's coincidental. Brinkley (CEO) occupies a corner office on the top floor of the building with a fantastic view of the Atlanta skyline 10 miles away. It's 4 p.m. on a Friday and Murphy tells me Brinkley has gone home. He commutes several hours from Cleveland, Ohio every weekend.
Home Depot must lease space I think as I ride out to visit. The booming home center retailer would soon outgrow any office it built. Consider this: in 1982 the company had revenues of $117
million; in 1986--$1 billion; in 1991--$5.1 billion. This works out to a 10-year compound growth rate of 58.4%. Net earnings in 1991were $249 million. Whew!
I'm right about the lease. Headquarters, located about 10 miles northwest of downtown Atlanta, is a leased 18-story building.
I check in with the receptionist who makes a few calls trying to find someone to meet with me. While waiting I notice a rack of Home Depot charge card applications on the receptionist's desk. For some reason I can't picture visitors to the executive offices filling out Home Depot Charge card applications.
The receptionist sends me to meet Lonnie Fogel, Director--Public Relations. Fogel says he received my introduction materials and then impatiently asks me: "what do you want?" A few minutes of his time, I tell him. He's already meeting with a group of reporters, he says, but motions me to follow him into his meeting.
We walk into a conference room. Ten people sit around a circular table. Fogel introduces me to the others by saying, "This guy rides around the country on a bike, visiting corporations and
asking questions." What an enthusiastic introduction. He doesn't even mention my name.
I never do find out who these people are. Fogel rushes me through my questions while munching on a sandwich. He does make time for me, I'll grant him that. But it is very grudgingly given.
Fogel manages to include some interesting facts between bites of his sandwich. Home Depot employees have unlimited use of two gyms and a massage therapist (!). He also tells me the company's headquarters rest on the site of an old black cemetery. You can see several old tombstones among the trees in the heavily wooded forest out front. And sometimes, on dark nights when the moon is full...(For more information see: HD)
On the road in and around Augusta & Savannah, Georgia.
Morris Communications Corp.
I leave Anderson, South Carolina early in the morning and arrive in downtown Augusta, Georgia (population 50,000) in the late afternoon. I feel great because even though I covered 110 miles today, I still have time to visit privately held Morris Communications Corporation before the day is over.
I find the corporate offices in a four-story, company-owned building known as the "News Building." Built in 1916, the building houses the offices of the Augusta "Chronicle-Herald"—owned by Morris Communications. The company owns 18 daily newspapers around the country including several in Alaska. Its largest newspaper is the morning paper in Jacksonville, Florida.
I read the directory in the lobby of the building and see the executive offices are on the third floor. From the look of things in the drab-looking lobby I don’t expect much in the way of plush furnishings when I get to the third floor. Surprise—the floor is elegantly furnished in Early American.
William Morris, III’s (CEO) secretary greets me. She tells me Morris received my material. Then she asks me where I was before biking to Augusta. I tell her Anderson, Georgia and she asks me "where’s that?" Oh great! I think to myself—Anderson has a population of 40,000 and she hasn’t heard of it!? She tells me Morris is busy so I end up talking to Edward Skinner, Vice President: Newspaper. You would think someone in the newspaper business would be curious about a corporate business reporter on a bike but Skinner answers my questions with zero enthusiasm and shows no interest in what I’m doing. I ask him three times for some kind of background material on the company; each time he says it’s too much trouble to find. I’m feel especially disappointed not to meet Morris because I want to ask him how it feels to be booted off Forbes’ annual list of the 400 richest Americans. According to "Forbes" Morris’s name didn’t make the list because Naegele, a billboard company purchased in 1985, and the Jacksonville, Florida newspaper Morris bought in 1982 are slumping.
A visit to the site of the Masters:
As a kid I watched baseball on television every Saturday. The only thing I liked better than watching the Chicago Cubs play was watching Arnold Palmer hitch up his pants and lead a charge down the fairway. So, when I ride about three miles outside downtown Augusta and find Augusta National Golf Club, the site of the Masters Golf Tournament, I have to check it out.
First of all, I always thought this golf course was out in country somewhere. At least it always looks that way on TV but alas, across the street from the Augusta golf course, in either direction, there are strip malls as far as the eye can see. I turn into the entrance intent on taking pictures of the famous course however a friendly but firm guard blocks my way. I try to tell the guard I’ve biked all the way from San Diego to see this place but that ploy doesn’t work. Of course this guard has probably heard all kinds of stories. A man talks to the guard while I’m there and he’s trying to get the guard to relent and let him into the pro shop to buy a sweater. No dice for either of us. But it is not my way to leave completely empty-handed. I persuade the guard to give me a scorecard. On the back it lists the names of each hole. They are all named after trees: Hole 2 is Pink Dogwood, Hole 14 is known as Chinese Fir and Hole 16 is Red Bud.
In and around Savannah, Georgia...
Downtown Savannah, Georgia (population 140,000) may have the largest 18th and 19th century National Landmark District in the U.S. but it also has a large number of run-down housing projects in its downtown.
Savannah Foods & Industries
The tallest building in downtown Savannah is 15-stories. It’s where I find the corporate offices of Savannah Foods & Industries, one of the nation’s largest cane and beet sugar refiners (1991 revenues $1.2 billion). The company leases three floors in the building. The executives gather on the 8th floor. About 180 employees work in the place. I meet Edward Hill, Vice President—Corporate Advertising and Marketing. He apologizes for his offices being so "boring" after I regale him with some highlights from some of my other visits. CEO William Sprague’s office looks no-frills and functional. Sprague has a view of City Hall across the street. Hill says Sprague just bought a house next to his. Hill’s commute time is only 12 minutes and he walks to work.
I insist Hill take me to the break room so I can check the sugar packets to be sure they’re Savannah Food’s brand. Yep, they are. Why is the company headquartered in Savannah? Because there’s a large sugar refinery nearby. (For more information see: SVAN)
Morris Newspaper Corp.
Not too many pages above this I describe my visit to privately held Morris Communications in Augusta. Now I’m visiting privately held Morris Newspaper Corporation in Savannah. Charles Morris is the CEO and founder of Morris Newspaper Corp. His brother, William Morris, is the CEO and founder of the Augusta-based Morris Communications. The interesting part is these two brothers reportedly intensely dislike each other.
To make things confusing, William Morris in Augusta owns the Savannah daily paper. My visit to Morris Newspaper Corp. is very different from my cold reception at Morris Communications. First I receive a warm and hospitable welcome from Miriam Potter, Vice President. Corporate offices are in a magnificently restored downtown three-story home built in 1813. It’s one of the 10 oldest buildings in Savannah. Charles Morris bought the property in 1971 and spent two years restoring it. Fifteen people work in the home/building. To get in the place I ring the doorbell. Potter tells me the company keeps the front door locked because the building isn’t in the best of neighborhoods and when everyone’s on the road, only a few secretaries are in the place. Then Potter gives me the deluxe tour. Though the home has been converted to offices, the conversion is such that if the building was sold it could be quickly turned to a home again. Potter’s office use to be the second floor library. A portrait of William S. Morris, Charles Morris’s father, hangs over the Georgian fireplace in Potter’s office.
The first floor Octagonal Room, originally the formal dining room, is now the company’s boardroom. A ceiling medallion and chandelier add stately elegance to this room.
On the second floor, right above the Octagonal Room, Morris has his corner office. It has a working fireplace, a chandelier, two old Walter Hagen golf clubs, several paintings of African art and an African spear. Three golf scorecards are displayed and mounted on one of Morris’s walls—two scorecards of holes-in-ones scored by Morris on local golf courses; and a double-eagle he earned at Augusta National.
It figures Gulfstream Aerospace would locate their corporate offices at an airport. Forstmann Little & Co., the private New York investment firm, has controlled the company since 1990. Here, on its company-owned, 250-acre site at Savannah Airport, the company builds the acknowledged Rolls Royce of business jets—the Gulfstream. There’s over a million square feet of covered space on the property.
The security guard at the gate makes me produce picture identification. He tells me it’s company policy. He places several phone calls for me to headquarters and after several minutes Andrew Whitaker, Employee Services Supervisor, agrees to talk to me. I have a great time and get a terrific tour of the place. I also meet with Henry Ogrodzinski, Vice President—Corporate Communications.
About 3,400 employees work in the sprawling complex. The tallest building is two stories high. Airport regulations limit all buildings to no more than two stories. CEO William Lowe has a spartan, dreary-looking, wood-paneled office on the second floor. It’s not much to see except for his view of the runway.
Whitaker reminds me Gulfstream used to be owned by Grumman Corporation and later by Chrysler. When the company built its offices back in 1968 Grumman called the shots. I can sure see Grumman’s influence. I remember Grumman’s headquarters in Bethpage, New York. It also was a very no-frills, functional place. My favorite part of the tour is my chance to go inside several Gulfstreams (G-3’s & G-4’s) and see what these planes look like on the inside.
All Gulfstream planes are made to order so we visit the woodworking department. I see one craftsman putting the finishing touches on a fold-up card table with real gold lace trim.
A few new unfinished Gulfstream IV’s stand out on the tarmac along with quite a few G-3 and G-4’s in for repairs and remodeling. Gulfstream test flies their planes using the Savannah Airport runways. Finally I ask Ogrodzinski how many corporate aircraft the company has. He tells me four. With a straight face I can’t resist asking him: "What kind of planes—Citations, Falcons or Sabreliners?" He laughs.
Charter Medical Corp.
Macon, Georgia is 165 miles east of Savannah. Downtown Macon and doesn’t seem to have much going on. It’s quiet and slow-paced. I guess I’m expecting more from a city with a population of 120,000. I go to the tallest building in town where I find Charter Medical Corporation. Charter Medical went public in July, 1992 after going the LBO route in 1987.
CEO William Fickling, Jr. tells me the company owns parts of the 16-story building and occupies half of the office space. The company’s name sits on top of the 25-year old building in large blue letters. About 250 employees work in the place. One of the conference rooms is called the Cherry Blossom Room because the city is known for its annual cherry blossom festival.
Fickling is tall (6’4") and a man of few words. Sitting behind a massive double-sided partners desk he says he’ll give me five minutes to go through the questions. I notice a large oriental tapestry hanging on one wall. The executive offices also feature a large collection of oriental painted plates and lamps. Fickling has a jar of Tootsie Roll-Pops on a desk. "Are you hooked on them?" I ask.
"No, I just like to give them to visitors," he answers. Then he offers me one.
(For more information see: CMD)