On the road in and around Charleston, South Carolina...
But first some notes on Charleston:
Riding into Charleston, South Carolina (population 70,000) I don't whether the city will still look ravaged from the devastation left by Hurricane Hugo in 1989? Nope. Except for a few church
steeples under scaffolding, the place seems restored to its former charm. Buildings and houses in downtown are a venerable gold mine for Civil War and Revolutionary War buffs. The city has done a marvelous job preserving its historic past.
The InterTech Group
About 12 miles north of downtown Charleston and five miles west of the airport is the plain, one-story headquarters for The InterTech Group, a privately-held manufacturer and defense
contractor. The company is actually located in North Charleston, whose population of 60,000 makes it almost as big as Charleston.
Jerry Zucker, Chairman, CEO, President and co-founder wants to meet with me, I'm told, but he isn't in the office today because of Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year. Cordially taking Zucker's place, James Boyd, Treasurer, Secretary and co-founder invites me into his office.
The company owns its 88,000 square-foot building, which sits next door to a fire station and across the street from a high school football field. Boyd says InterTech donated the football
field to the city. Boyd says the company is very decentralized and there are only 14 employees at the corporate offices. One of the company's plant is located about a half mile away from headquarters.
I ask Boyd about the company's revenues but he only admits the company is listed in several publications as being the second largest privately held company in South Carolina (textile giant
Milliken & Co. is #1.)
The company manufactures parts for the space shuttle-Challenger, polymer fibers, and private label golf balls as well as other products. When I ask Boyd about the company's air fleet he
says the company's bankers have been pestering them to buy a corporate plane. It can't be justified (tax-wise) unless at least five people use it, Boyd explains, and since only Zucker and Boyd
need to use it, there's no reason to buy one. Boyd mentions lack of airport connections as being a downside a headquarters in Charleston.
The company doesn't have a formal boardroom but Boyd takes me to a spartan conference room that connects Boyd's office to Zucker's. Pictures of the company's various plants hang on the walls. Boyd says they've run out of room to hang pictures of all the plants.
As for Boyd's office: he has a 90-gallon fish tank in his office, which he calls "soothing". I notice the lunchroom has a 250-gallon fish tank.
In and around Columbia, South Carolina...
Did you know Columbia (population 100,000), is the largest city in South Carolina and was purposely built in the geographic center of South Carolina. Why? Because the early South Carolina
movers & shakers wanted their capitol located exactly in the middle of the state.
Now, I'm on the 19th floor of the 20-story Palmetto Center building in downtown Columbia talking to L.M. Gressette, Jr., CEO of SCANA Corporation--a utility holding company. The building is the third tallest in town. SCANA occupies 17 floors. SCANA (1991 revenues $1.1 billion) has been in the building since 1985. About 900 employees work in the place. Though
the building has a helipad, it has never been used.
When I meet with Gressette, I ask him why the company didn't locate on the 20th floor--the top floor. He tells me it's because the top floor has no windows and it's the main communications
center for the utility subsidiary (South Carolina Gas & Electric).
I ask Gressette if the company allows smoking in the offices. Gressette replies, "nobody's except mine". Ahhh--the perks of being head honcho.
"How's business", I ask. "Business is off because of the mild weather," Gressette
answers. I keep forgetting utility companies like hot summers and cold winters. (For more information see: SCG)
Onward to the city of Spartanburg...
Milliken & Co.
When I arrive in Spartanburg (population 50,000), I pick up a local information brochure which calls Milliken & Co. "the "world's largest privately-owned company." Well, the Spartanburg Chamber of Commerce, although rightfully proud of its own, doesn't have it's facts straight. Cargill Co., the Minneapolis-based giant with over $50 billion in revenues, is the largest privately held company to my knowledge. However, with an estimated $2.5 billion in revenues, Milliken & Co. is probably the world's largest, privately held textile company.
It's at least five miles around the perimeter of Milliken & Co.'s property. It's a 600-acre site located about three miles west of downtown Spartanburg. The grounds are magnificent! Terry May,
Director of Public Affairs and Michael Ponder, Engineering Services Manager, tell me over 500 variety of trees are found on the grounds, along with five lakes, eight fountains, a helipad, a
walking trail and over 200 bird boxes. In case you don't know, bird boxes are homes for birds perched on top of 10-foot metal poles.
The company built its first building on this site in 1958 and has added the others over the years. There are now seven buildings, with a combined 650,000 square feet of space. About 1,100 employees (oops, they're called "Associates") work in the complex.
My two guides, May and Ponder, take me to the Management Development Chart Room. Six-foot high blackboards run the length of the wall. There, I see over 1,000 drivers-license-size cards of management personnel arranged in flow chart-like fashion. Naturally I investigate this strange phenomenon more closely. On the top of one flow chart there's the card of CEO Roger Milliken. His card contains the following information: his picture, his age, how long he's
worked for the company (his grandfather founded the company), and several little colored circles.
I ask about the circles. What do they signify? Milliken & Co. requires all Associates to complete a minimum of 40 classroom hours of professional education each year. For example, an orange circle on your card means completion of a Dale Carnegie course.
Next May and Ponder walk me through rooms and rooms full of product lines on display. The company makes an amazing number of products: felt used in tennis balls, residential carpet, throw
rugs, active wear, nylon fabric for boat sails, floor coverings, athletic uniforms, specialty chemicals, car air bags, typewriter ribbons for typewriters--the list goes on and on.
I ask May if I can see the CEO's office. He tells me Milliken doesn't have one. Strange but true. Turns out CEO Milliken has no office at headquarters; instead he works out of his home.
Then I ask to see the company's boardroom. "We don't have a boardroom", replies May. Ponder speaks up and tells me the "Partners Room" could be considered the boardroom so they show me
that. Inside the well-appointed Partners Room is a U-shaped table where customer ("partners") contracts are signed.
Nobody has an enclosed office including Dr. Thomas Malone, President. His desk is in the corner of a large trading floor-size room with about 100 other people undistinguishable from the rest. I don't even see a nameplate at Malone's desk warning people he's second in command.
Throughout the complex I see dozens of words of wisdom usually posted on the wall. Here's a sampling:
"Good is the enemy of best"
"Best is the enemy of better"
"Our greatest fear should not be change but our failure to
"Tell me and I will forget; Show me and I may remember;
Involve me and I will understand."
Some of these sayings are permanently mounted on the walls while others are just taped up. May explains Milliken likes to leave them up for a while before he decides to make them permanent.
Ponder, who's responsible for the grounds and buildings, takes me for a ride in his Jeep on a tour of company property. The whole place used to be a peach orchard. None of the property is fenced
and on nice Spring days, townspeople use the grounds for picnics. We stop to go inside one of the guest cottages hidden away on the grounds. There are seven of these and boy, are they nice!
Several private dining facilities adjoin the cottages. The dining rooms are gorgeous. I wonder why I wasn't invited to stay in one of these. Oversight, I guess. Continuing on my tour, I notice every tree on the property has a nameplate in front of it with pedigree background information.
As we drive by the helipad, Ponder tells me they have an 8- passenger Sikorsky helicopter, a Citation 3 and two Citation 1's.
It's no problem finding the headquarters building for TW Services in downtown Spartanburg because you can see the 19-story company-owned office tower from miles away. The next tallest
building in town is three stories high. Built in 1990, the 193,000 square-foot structure overwhelms the area.
Getting to TW's main reception area on the fifth floor isn't possible unless the guard in the lobby area uses his access card to let you up. Luckily he decides to let me up.
TW Services (1991 revenues $3.6 billion) is the fourth largest food service company in the U.S. The company owns Denny's (1,391 restaurants); is the largest franchisee of Hardee's (500 restaurants); owns Quincy Family Steakhouses (216 restaurants); El Pollo Loco (211 restaurants); and Canteen Corporation--one of the largest contract food service management companies in the United States.
Elaine Richner, Public Relations Manager, takes me to the 10th floor. Canteen Corp. has its offices there. In the lobby there's a terrific collection of antique vending machines--some dating back to the 1930's. In the break room I notice a Canteen vending machine dispensing free sodas to employees. A Pizza Chief vending machine sits next to the soda machine as part of the company's test marketing research. It's great. You put in $1.75 in the machine, and in two minutes a hot pizza comes out.
About 950 employees work in this building and four other buildings in the city. The company's first Hardee's (built in 1961) is still operating several blocks away. You'd think TW Services headquarters would have a cafeteria. Nope. Richner says the company purposely decided against an on-site cafeteria so employees would support local eating establishments.
The top two floors are combined and contain a 196-seat auditorium. The 16th floor contains only the offices of Jerome Richardson, CEO, and Coleman Sullivan, Vice President: Corporate
Communications. This gives you an idea of the importance the company places on communication. A plaque in Richardson's corner office reads: "The first sign of intelligence is---Silence".
All over the company--posted on walls, printed on notepads, and even engraved on the company's circular boardroom table--is the this statement:
"Our goal is to be the best food-service company in the world
by the year 2000" followed by the initials JJR.
Richner explains the statement originated out of an executives brainstorming session when J.R. Richardson came up with the above statement. (For more information see: TWFS)
I find the corporate offices of privately held Mayfair Mills about 11 miles from downtown Spartanburg. Built in the 1920's, the company-owned, two-story red brick structure is next door to one of the company mills.
I wait in a tiny drab lobby with a 1950's look about it, but not for long. Tall, gregarious Frederick Dent, Jr., President, bursts into the lobby and gives me a warm welcome. He takes me to
his small, spartan windowless office and tells me the company was named after the famous Mayfair Hotel in London.
About 30 people work in the 68,000 square-foot building. A creek runs behind the property, with the plant and headquarters building sitting on 158 acres. Inside I notice a lot of cotton scene pictures hanging on the walls.
Frederick's father, who is CEO, was Secretary of Commerce under Presidents Nixon and Ford. Dent also tells me company revenues are between $200-$300 million.
Though it's 4:45 PM on a Friday, Dent grabs a couple sets of earplugs and gives me an hour tour of the noisy plant. Dent boasts that the mill has the latest machinery. As we walk through the
plant I notice all the machinery seems to be made in Germany or Japan. I thought the U.S. was the cotton king of the world so I'm puzzled not seeing any made in the U.S.A. machinery. I ask Dent why and he explains that U.S. machinery makers didn't keep up with technology, innovation and research. The Germans and Japanese put out a better product.
City of Greenville
About 30 miles to the west of Spartanburg is Greenville. I know something is going on in Greenville. Cities with populations of only 50,000 don't usually have Hyatt Regency and Marriott
hotels. I stop in at City Hall and talk with Ben Anderson, Director of Financial Services.
The big news in the local papers is the ground breaking of BMW's new $300 million car production plant in Greenville, so I begin by asking Anderson about that. Anderson is in a bragging
mood. "Michelin has their U.S. headquarters here; Hitachi is here; and Bowater built a new building downtown," he tells me proudly.
The city built a parking garage next to the new Bowater building, financed by municipal bonds. Bowater agrees to pay off the bonds (guarantees them) if for any reason the city can't pay.
Anderson goes on to stress Greenville's diversity. Greenville likes to call itself the Textile Capital of the World. Plus, city isn't reliant on any one company or industry and Anderson is
expecting a big housing boom. The BMW plant alone is expected to employ at least 3,000 people plus some BMW executives relocating from Germany.
Liberty Corporation (1991 revenues $364 million) is an insurance holding company. Its principal subsidiaries are Liberty Life Insurance Company and Cosmos Broadcasting Corporation (owner of seven television stations).
Headquarters consists of three company-owned, connected buildings on a 35-acre site about four miles from downtown Greenville. Total square footage of the three buildings is 300,000. The lobby is in the oldest building (built in 1955). Francis McCullough, receptionist, is friendly and helpful. She sends for Teresa Price, Internal Communications Director, who comes to the
lobby to meet me.
Price shows no interest in our interview and we zip through the questions. When I ask if I can see the CEO's office and boardroom, Price agrees to phone and find out. She tells me to wait
in the lobby until someone comes to get me in a few minutes. Then
she leaves. Pretty tacky if you ask me.
McCullough, the receptionist, gets a call a few minutes later saying someone will come meet me and walk me over to the executives' building. Here's what I find: Hayne Hipp, CEO, is on the top (4th) floor. He doesn't have a corner office. He does have an interesting collection of glass
paper weights and six kinds of hippopotamuses--three are glass and three are wood carvings. Why hippos? Well, when your last name is Hipp, he explains, people tend to send you hippos. Hipp's
grandfather founded the company.
The most unusual item I notice in Hipp's office is a brightly-colored, four-feet tall Wyle E. Coyote (the hard luck Road Runner chaser) telephone stand. Hipp's secretary says he saw it on a trip and just had to have it.
The boardroom on the second floor is pretty typical except for the four tapestries on the walls. They are from Japan, Northern Syria, Indonesia and somewhere else--I can't tell you where because
its identifying plaque is missing. (For more information see: LC)
In a three-story building located on Main Street in downtown Greenville I find the corporate offices of Multimedia (1991 revenues $524 million) The company owns newspapers, television stations, and syndicated television shows. The same building also houses one of its own newspapers--the "Greenville Times."
I go up to the third floor reception area. They direct me to Corporate Communications on the second floor. Nobody expects me or knows anything about my project. I ask someone in Corporate
Communications if she can call the CEO's secretary to find out where my advance materials ended up. "Mr. Bartlett's office is in Cincinnati," she says unhelpfully. Bartlett is the CEO.
I then ask if she or anyone else can please call Bartlett's office in Cincinnati. Not one of the three women in Corporate Communications department will do this. One of these women--Melinda
Coleman, Director of Information Services--tells me she has only a few minutes to spare for my questions.
Frustrated by the lack of help in this department, I go back up to the third floor and tell the receptionist about the poor results I'm getting downstairs. I ask her if she can call Cincinnati and ask Bartlett's office if they have received my materials. I explain to her that I don't want to leave only to find out later I should have asked for Mr. So and So. She declines but she does go down the hall to see if she could get one of the vice presidents to spend a few minutes with me. She
comes back with bleak news. She tells me I should see Melinda Coleman on the second floor. Oh great. She's the one who gave me brush off.
Overall the company seems unorganized and everyone in it unprofessional. But I would hate to lose my near perfect score of lousy receptions at media companies. (For more information: MMEDC)
Located on Main Street about five blocks up from Multimedia, I visit Delta Woodside Industries (1991 revenues $590 million)--a textile and apparel manufacturer. The company leases the second floor of a four-story building. Only nine employees man the corporate offices.
First thing I notice is the smell of wood. The entire interior is covered with wood paneling. I find out later the company plans to put down hardwood floors throughout the offices and hallways.
The lobby features antique maps of South Carolina (from the 1700's and 1800's) along with an antique printers table and surveyor's equipment.
Joann Lewis, the receptionist, is expecting me. She says she'll be happy to answer all my questions and she is prepared. She's read my advance materials and even put her answers to my
sample questions in her computer. She calls over Hope Winkler, secretary to Erwin Maddrey, II, (CEO) to help out.
They take me to see the boardroom. It's full of antiques: a wood duck carving, an antique foot rest, an old cotton scale and 12 paintings depicting cotton growing and harvesting. The main
attraction in the boardroom, however, is a large, four by four feet, painting of a dog. The dog has no special significance but employees named it Barney.
Who's responsible for the decorating, I ask? Maddrey's wife, who also commissioned the stuffed and mounted salmon under glass in Maddrey's office. I don't think Maddrey caught the 10 lb. 7 oz.
fish because according to the card inside the glass, it was caught in 1865. One last item in Maddrey's antique-filled office: a giant five-pound Hershey bar sits on the coffee table. According to Winkler, Maddrey received it as a gift awhile ago and he keeps
threatening to open it.(For more information: DLW)
A visit to the city of Clemson and its university...
About 30 miles west of Greenville is Clemson, population 6,000. Greenville is home to Clemson University that has an enrollment of 17,000. The town and college remind me of Auburn
University in Auburn, Alabama. Both towns have about the same population and both schools have about the same enrollment.
What's funny is both schools have these massive football stadiums. Clemson's Memorial Stadium is the eighth largest on- campus facility in the nation (79,854 capacity.) Auburn's is even
bigger. Inside and outside Clemson's stadium visitors see huge signs reading "Welcome to Death Valley."
Education is big business. Clemson, a land-grant, state- assisted university had revenues in 1991 of $296 million. Clemson's campus sits on 1,400 acres. Seventeen thousand acres of University
farms and woodlands devoted to research in forestry, agriculture and agricultural engineering surround the campus. Many college campuses can't build new buildings or increase the size of their
campuses because they're surrounded by development. Clemson's acreage gives them enviable room to expand.