On the road in and around Phoenix, Arizona:
Phelps Dodge Corporation
Phelps Dodge is the world’s second largest copper company (after the government of Chile) so I’m not surprised to see the company’s name in copper on the outside of its 20-story Phelps Dodge Tower. Even the elevator is completely copper plated on the inside. The company is 111 years old.
The company leases seven floors in the Tower. I examine two large display cases filled with colorful rocks dug up around a copper mine while I wait in the reception area.
CEO Douglas Yearley has rocks in his office—four to be exact. All contain copper. Yearley’s corner office also contains artifacts he picked up in Africa. I note three real plants in his office including two cacti.
Hanging on a wall in the boardroom I see a large (6 foot by 12 foot) canvas painting of the company’s nearby Morenci mine. Individual oil paintings of the company’s three founders—Anson Greene Phelps, William E. Dodge and Daniel James—also hang here. (For more information: PD)
I visited this conglomerate (1992 revenues $2.6 billion) five years ago. Then, it was called Greyhound Corporation and I picked the worst possible time to visit. It was the day the company announced they were selling Greyhound Bus.
Back to the present: now there’s a new, beautiful 24-story headquarters building that replaces the company’s former offices. The locals call this area "Uptown." It’s about a mile from downtown Phoenix. The "Uptown" area contains more office buildings than downtown.
The lobby of this marble and rose-granite building is elegant. There are giant, hand-woven tapestries hanging by the elevators and large vases of fresh flowers scattered about. The grassy grounds contain a sculpture garden with a small, man-made creek running through it. I like the life-size sculptures of a golfer carrying clubs, a bear relaxing in the sun wearing sunglasses and sandals, and a woman planting flowers.
Nancy Dedera, Director of Public Relations, says about 600-700 employees work in the building. CEO John Teets’ office on the 24th floor is supposed to be gigantic but I don’t get to see it.
Dedera does show me the company’s impressive state-of-the-art fitness center. I’ve read that Teets is a weight lifting and fitness buff. Dedera tell me Teets walks up all 24 flights of stairs to his office several times a week. But does he use Dial deodorant/anti-perspirant?
The company’s cafeteria—called the "Food Court" and open to the public—makes my list of Ten Best Company Cafeterias. The food is fantastic, the help is terrific and the desserts are homemade and unbelievable. To collect my research, I ate a bowl of bread pudding (topped with real whipped cream), a slice of white chocolate pie topped with blueberries, and two homemade chocolate cookies. The peanut butter pie called to me but my stomach finally said enough.
In the lobby of the building I walk by the Breck Girl Hall of Fame. Dial Co. owns Breck shampoo. This exhibition features 150 Breck Girl portraits from the 1930’s to the 1970’s including Brooke Shields, Cheryl Tiegs, Cybill Shepherd, Jaclyn Smith and Christie Brinkley. A woman security guard watches over the exhibit and answers my questions. I ask the guard for a favor and she complies. That’s why I now own a picture of me standing next to Kim Bassinger’s "Breck Girl" portrait. (For more information: DL)
Bar-S Foods Co.
Still in the Uptown area of Phoenix, I stop to visit the 33rd largest meat processing company in the country. It’s on the 13th floor, according to the building directory but when I go to push the 13th floor button in the elevator, I find a "Bar-S" logo in its place. This company disregards superstition, apparently.
The company was born in 1981, the result of a LBO with Cudahy and its parent company, General Host Corporation. Today Bar-S has over $300 million in revenues. Offices look pretty functional here. CEO Timothy Day shares his with a ceramic pig. Morris Kinne, Vice President & General Counsel, shows me around. When he takes me into the break room, I check out the refrigerator. Expecting lunchmeat I find instead half-a-dozen full-size hams, each wearing the Bar-S brand.
Valley National Corporation
Valley National Corp. is the bank holding company for Valley National Bank, the largest bank in Arizona ($11 billion in assets). I meet with Stephen Roman, Senior Vice President: Corporate Relations Department. Valley National has recently agreed to a merger with Columbus, Ohio-based Banc One.
I’ve learned not to cross a company off my list just because I happen to read something about a pending merger. Too many times the deals fall through. I ask Roman when Valley National’s merger will close. He tells me April 1, 1993.
This company-owned, 38-story, 640,000 square-foot reflective glass building is the tallest building in Arizona. The 38th floor is a private bank dining facility. The 37th floor houses the Arizona Club—the local watering hole for Phoenix’s business elite.
The firm’s senior executives have their offices on the 36th floor; the same floor that houses the creme of the company’s impressive Indian and Western art collection.
I visit CEO Richard Lehmann’s office and see he has several Phillip Curtis paintings hanging there. The boardroom has an oil painting—"Hold-Up In Canyon"—painted by Newell Convers Wyeth. I see at least four paintings by Charles M. Russell, and works by Frederic Remington, Olaf Wieghorst, Lawrence Tenney Stevens, and Joe Beeler.
America West Airlines
America West Airlines filed Chapter 11 in June of 1991 so I’m expecting a guarded reception. I’ve visited several companies in bankruptcy and the mood is usually pretty somber.
Corporate offices are in a high profile, five-story red brick building right across the street from the Arizona State University campus.
Headquarters is also adjacent to a large brick plaza area where there are outdoor concerts. Dik Shimizu, Manager: Public Relations-Corporate Communications-Media Relations & Employee Communications, tells me the concerts are a nuisance when employees work late. It’s hard to concentrate when 5,000 people are cheering outside the windows.
The company has terminated many employees. Shimizu’s long title tell the tale of corporate consolidation and downsizing. But Shimizu is upbeat during my visit, which surprises me. He says America West plans to cut even more jobs soon—maybe even his!
I ask Shimizu if smoking is allowed here. He answers, only on those floors that have a "special filter system." The only floor with this "special filter system" is the second floor where all the senior executives have their offices. As we step off the elevator onto the second floor it reeks of cigarettes—special filters or not.
I see several model airplanes in CEO Michael Conway’s office. I’ve visited all the major airlines and have come to the conclusion that it must be mandatory for airline company CEOs to have model planes in their offices. (For more information: AWA)
Corporate offices for this marketer and distributor of computer products (1992 revenues $1 billion; net income $5 million) are in a one-story complex of grey buildings in an upscale corporate office park in Tempe, Arizona. It’s "Fountainhead" after the huge water fountain on the site.
I get bounced around on the phone from one department to another. After waiting over TWO hours in the lobby, I leave. (For more information: MICA)
On the road in Tucson, Arizona..
Ten miles north of downtown Tucson in a nondescript three-story office building, I find the corporate offices of Magna Copper, a copper mining company (1992 revenues $814 million; net income $58 million). The small lobby area contains two copper murals of desert scenes and two fake cacti. The receptionist sits behind a counter made of (surprise) copper.
Cyndy Connor, Executive Secretary, answers my questions and walks me around the offices. Why is the company headquartered here? I ask. She tells me offices used to be at their large open-pit mine 40 miles north in San Manuel. Two years ago company executives decided transportation would be easier if offices were in a big city.
Walking down a hallway we pass a large 10-foot by 12-foot mural map of the world done in copper. Unbelievable. I don’t see any copper or rocks in CEO Burgess Winter’s third floor corner office. I’ve found that mining company executives usually have rocks in their offices. I do see a computer in Winter’s office and three fake plants. (For more information: MCU)
Tucson Electric Power
On the fringe of downtown Tucson is the company-owned, six-story headquarters of Tucson Electric Power—a financially troubled utility company (1992 revenues $627 million; net income $-79 million.)
Anna Cunes, Public Affairs, gives me an upbeat reception even though the local newspapers mention the possibility of the company filing for bankruptcy protection.
CEO Charles Bayless’s wood paneled corner office on the top floor contains five Indian Kachina dolls, seven rocks, an Indian rug on the wall, an Indian vase and a "nerf" football.
(For more information: TEP)
And now...picky Paul picks perfect pastries:
I haven’t visited Tucson for five years but I can’t leave until I check to see if Stacia’s Bakery Cafe is still around. Yep, I find it. This bakery has, in my humble opinion, the best 7-layer cookies in the country! In my travels, I try all sorts of bakeries, pastry shops and donut shops around the country. Here are a few of my top picks:
La Fiorentina Pastry Shop in Springfield, MA—the best cannoli I’ve ever had.
Malnights Bakery, Kalamazoo, MI—try the eclairs, they’re great.
Kennedy’s Cake & Donuts, Cambridge, OH--11 showcases filled with baked goodies. It’s even a stop for tour buses.
R&R’s Country Store, Sweet Valley, PA (near Wilkes-Barre)--in the middle of no-where. Great pies.
LaPuma Spumoni & Bakery, Mayfield Heights, OH—excellent cannoli.
Laura’s Candies, New Orleans, LA—fresh creole pralines.