On the Road in New Jersey
Emerson Radio Corporation
Riding up to the headquarters of Emerson Radio Corporation, which markets consumer products under its "Emerson" trademark, I could sense something was amiss. The 350,000 square foot, two-story, warehouse-type building looks almost deserted.
Sure enough, Melinda Gianetti, Shareholder Relations, says they'll be moving next month from this North Bergen light industrial site to an office park in nearby Parsippany.
In the corner of the lobby area sits a 31-inch color screen Emerson television-which is turned on to a soap opera. Below it is a flashing display with the number 5,882.6. "What's with that?", I ask. It's how many continuous hours the television has been running, replies the receptionist. Also in the lobby is a glass display case filled with antique Emerson radios-some of which are over 40 years old.
When Gianetti walks me into CEO Geoffrey Jurick's office in the middle of the building (which means he has no windows) I notice the Scott stereo system on his desk. Ah-haa!!, he doesn't have an Emerson stereo system I crow, acting as if I just found the CEO of Pepsi drinking a Coca-Cola. Gianetti quickly puts me in my place by announcing they own Scott.
Taking a look in their showroom, which displays their extensive product line, I see televisions, VCRs, radios, compact disc players, tape players and microwave ovens.
The cafeteria for the 150 employees consists of vending machines and two Emerson microwave ovens, which is a relief for Gianetti because until now, she had never checked the microwaves to see if they were Emerson.
I do notice the Emerson computer in Gianetti's office and she says the company discontinued its personal computers in 1991. Revenues in 1992 were $815 million, net income $-24 million.
For more information: EME)
The Genlyte Group, Inc.
Well, I guess it shouldn't come as a surprise to find The Genlyte Group (1992 revenues $425 million, net income $1.4 million) headquartered on 100 Lighting Way in Secaucus. After all, Genlyte manufactures and markets lighting fixtures for residential, commercial and industrial use.
Steve Malaker, Manager Office Services, answers questions as we walk around the 4-story, 125,000 square foot, six-year-old building which features a 4-story rotunda in the lobby. About 185 employees work in the place which has the sterile-look of a hospital-mainly because the insides and outside of the building are painted white.
Directly out front is the New Jersey Turnpike, which is the view from CEO Avrum Drazin's fourth floor corner office. Though the company only leases the building, Malaker assures me the lighting fixtures are Genlyte's. (For more information: GLYT <EQUITY> DES)
Metromedia Company (East Rutherford, NJ) occupies space in a 28-story building across the street from Giants Stadium in the Meadowlands. I was hoping to meet with billionaire CEO John Kluge but I'm VERY disappointed in finding out he works out of New York City-which I just left.
Burns & Roe Enterprises (Oradell, NJ) construction company headquartered in a 3-story building which looks like it was built in the 1970's. Unhelpful people tell me they never received my material and no one is available to meet with me.
New Valley Corporation
New Valley Corporation filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy on March 31, 1993. You many not recognize the New Valley name but, I'm sure you've heard of their wholly owned subsidiary: Western Union.
Having visited over a dozen companies going through bankruptcy, most company officials usually aren't too thrilled about meeting with me. In most instances it's business as usual but sometimes I can physically see changes such as; executive dining rooms shut down, empty offices due to downsizing and firings and, the consolidation of office space.
Built in 1972, New Valley leases space in a five-story, 450,000 square foot building on a 44-acre site in Upper Saddle River, a wealthy residential area. At one time, New Valley owned and occupied the whole building. Now, about 400 employees occupy about 50%
Warren Bechtel, Corporate Communications Director, is upbeat as he walks me around and answers questions. One of the reasons for creating the New Valley Corporation (1992 revenues $449 million, net income $-20 million) holding company was to keep the Western Union name from being blemished during bankruptcy. Having been around since 1861, the name has history and is well recognized.
On one hallway wall is a collection of antique Western Union greeting cards from the 1930's. Mounted on another wall is a four- foot long brass telescope from 1860. This spiffy-looking telescope was stationed near the entrance to New York City harbor and was used to spot incoming cargo ships. When a ship was spotted, the information was relayed back to the merchants so they could ready themselves for the ship's unloading.
Western Union now issues a MasterCard and I guess that explains the display of Western Union credit card applications strategically placed next to the main receptionist's desk.
(For more information: NVL).
Federal Paper Board Company
Northern New Jersey, especially around Montvale, is home to a wealth of companies. Why? The setting is rural, it's only 35 miles to New York City and, many executives reside in the area.
Federal Paper Board Company (1992 revenues $1.5 billion, net income $92 million) was one of the first companies to locate here. Their three-story, 63,000 square foot headquarters sits on nine acres of former farmland and was built in 1968.
Several large glass displays filled with the company's products (boxes, cartons, cups) greet you upon entering the lobby. Federal is the world's largest producer of bleached paperboard. I ask the receptionist about the two fake swans standing guard outside the front entrance and she says it's to keep the Canadian geese from nesting in the adjacent bushes. Evidently for the last several years the geese have been laying, hatching and raising their young in the bushes. Which means besides making a huge mess of goose goo, the protective geese attack visitors walking into the building.
Here's a nugget I pick up thanks to Duncan Kane, Manager-Benefits Administration: Federal Paper Board manufactures the playing board in the Trivial Pursuit game. For more information: FBO
Benjamin Moore & Co.
Located right next door to Federal Paper Board Company is Benjamin Moore & Co., the privately-held paint company with over $450 million in revenues.
Things are looking pretty good walking into the lobby of the 2-story building which looks like it was built in the 1970's. Why? Before I can utter a word the receptionist says she knows who I am. She then hands me a sealed envelope. Hmmm. This is not a good sign. Opening it up there's a short note from Charles Vail, Vice President-Human Resources acknowledging the company receiving my introduction material and the following paragraph: "Mr. Roob has asked me to tell you he considers his office to be private and is not available for inspection to any journalist. I trust you understand and respect this decision". Mr. Roob is CEO of the company.
Seeing the CEO's office is only a tiny portion of what I do as I ask the receptionist to contact Vail. "He's gone for the day and also tomorrow", she replies. Trying to find someone else to meet with me proves futile and for some strange reason I get the feeling the receptionist was told beforehand to deter any of my requests.
From mentioning my experience to other companies in the area, it turns out my reception is pretty much the norm for Benjamin Moore.
Medco Containment Services
Going to as many cities around the country as I have leads to observations. One is, IBM always occupies Class A buildings. If I'm in let's say, Phoenix, then IBM will have offices in one of the newest and nicest buildings in town. What does this have to do with Medco Containment Services? The company recently moved into a two-story, 120,000 square foot building in Montvale recently vacated by IBM.
David Lewis, Employment Supervisor, says the company has been growing so quickly-they keep running out of space. Medco, is the nation's largest provider of prescriptions drug services to employer-funded benefit plans. Medco (1992 revenues $1.8 billion, net income $103 million) also operates twelve mail service pharmacies that dispense and home deliver 500,000 prescriptions weekly.
About 500 employees work in the building, which is leased. I can't see the CEO's office or boardroom because "stuff is going on". (For more information: MCCS)
Going Straight To The Source
Wet Ones, the moist towelettes which come in quart-size cylinder-type containers, are one of the most important accessories I carry on my bike. Hundreds of times these towelettes have come in handy when cleaning up after changing a flat tire in the middle of nowhere, or washing my hands after eating a messy candy bar. I'm very picky about my towelettes. I've tried other national brands and store brands but for one reason or another, it's gotta be Wet Ones.
I'm in a Montvale grocery store buying more Wet Ones when I just happen to look at the label and see they're owned and manufactured by L&F Products. This is even more amazing when I realize the headquarters for L&F is only a half block away.
I'm thinking they might get a kick out of hearing about my trek and how I'm a big fan of their product. So, even though it's 6:30 P.M. I ride over to the building. The front doors are locked as I peek in the large picture windows trying to see what's in the glass display cases in the lobby.
A few feet away from me is a casually dressed man, who seems to be waiting for someone to pick him up. Curious, the man asks what I'm doing. It turns out the man is Gary Pearl, Senior Vice President-Human Resources for L&F Products. Pearl unlocks the front doors and walks me inside so I can check out their product line displayed in the glass cases. To my astonishment I find out L&F Products is a $1 billion plus consumer products subsidiary of Eastman Kodak. I'm very familiar with several of their other products; Lysol spray disinfectant and Tri-flow, an oil lubricant-which I carry on my bike. Pearl tells me to drop by tomorrow and he'll introduce me to the CEO and give me a tour of the place.
Shaking hands the next day with Michael Gallagher, CEO, in his office I notice he's dressed casually. Hmmm. It's not Friday, I ask Gallagher what gives? Gallagher says L&F Products has no dress code and the executives very seldom where suits.
I spend the next hour regaling the amiable Gallagher and Pearl with stories of my travels including my shabby reception at Eastman Kodak's headquarters in Rochester, New York. How upset was I when leaving Eastman Kodak? I bought some Fuji film, stood in front of Kodak's headquarters and had my former girlfriend (who was traveling with me at the time) take pictures of me holding up Fuji film and to this day, I only use Fuji film.
I also tell Gallagher I used to carry a small can of Lysol in one of my saddlebags. Why? Many hotels and motels a few years ago only had a few non-smoking rooms and it came in handy on those times I got stuck in a smoking room. Now, most of the chains are getting better about setting aside more rooms for non-smokers.
Gallagher tries to load me down with two grocery bags full of Wet Ones, Tri-flow and Lysol. Nope, no can do as I explain I have absolutely no spare room in the panniers.
Park Ridge Corporation
Though you probably don't recognize the Park Ridge Corporation name, they're the ones who own Hertz. In 1987 Ford Motor Company and senior management of Hertz formed Park Ridge Corporation to purchase Hertz from UAL, Inc. In 1988 Volvo North America Corporation joined Ford and Hertz management as an investor in the company.
Headquarters for the company is in (surprise!) Park Ridge, New Jersey. The three-story building located in an office park is U-shaped and features a big fountain out front.
Hogging the limelight in the expansive lobby is a 1927 Hertz, the oldest car still operating in the fleet. In 1925 John Hertz took over Shaw Livery Company and for a short while manufactured his own line of cars-which he named after himself. Hanging out next to the 1927 Hertz is a 1966 Shelby Mustang.
Seven kiosks in one area of the lobby give a brief history of the company which this year is celebrating its 75th anniversary. Usually elevators are the focal point of getting people up and down but here, long back and forth, user-friendly ramps centered in the lobby connect the three floors.
I notice nobody's wearing yellow. Ever wonder why the corporate color for Hertz is yellow? Besides owning Hertz, John Hertz also owned Yellow Cab. Hertz was influenced by a University of Chicago study that found yellow with a tint of red was the color easiest to see far away.
Walking up to the receptionist I ask her to call CEO Frank Olson's secretary to find out who's my contact person. Olson's secretary doesn't know and isn't interested in helping out. It's suggested I call Joseph Russo, VP-Government Affairs. Of course I have to go to a nearby pay phone to call because the receptionist says, "you have no appointment". I get voice mail for Laura Parent, secretary to Russo, and leave a message as to what I'm doing and that I'm waiting in the lobby.
After an hour, I call up Laura Parent again. Parent answers and I end up having one of the most unpleasant phone conversations to date. In a most unusual twist, I hang up on Parent. Why? It was right around the part where she says, "you're wasting my time". Though Parent refuses to give me her name and title, I make it a point to obtain it from the receptionist.
BMW of North America
BMW of North America is located in Woodcliff Lake, Mercedes's North American headquarters is in nearby Montvale, so is Volvo and Jaguar. Why? That's the first question I ask Richard Brooks, Jr.-Corporate Communications Manager, as we sit in the two-story atrium lobby. According to Brooks, it's because it isn't New York City yet, it's still close enough to it. Hmmm.
Sitting in the lobby area, which is completely painted white with grey carpeting, Brooks and I have company; the two and four wheeled kind. On display is a 1993 scarlet four door BMW 5401-list price $47,000, a 1993 white BMW 5301 station wagon list price $44,000, a red 1993 BMW R1100R motorcycle list price $11,890 and a blue 1993 BMW K1100RS motorcycle list price $13,990. In one corner of the lobby is a glass display case filled with genuine BMW auto parts.
Though Brooks seems like a nice guy, he acts disinterested and my visit is over in about five minutes. About 390 employees work in the three-story, 225,000 square foot, company-owned building. BMW bought the 20-acre apple orchard site from a nearby farmer but, it came with a stipulation; most of the apple trees were to be left alone and harvested by the farmer.
I check the employee parking lot at BMW and at Mercedes's headquarters. Most of the cars are NOT Beemers and Benz's, which means the employees either can't afford the cars or don't like the 'em.
The Okonite Company
Founded in 1878, privately-held The Okonite Company with over $300 million in revenues, manufactures wire and cable primarily for phone and communications companies.
Corporate offices are in company-owned, three-story, roughly 100,000 square foot building in an office park near Ramsey. Built in the early 1970's the outside and lobby look like they haven't been touched since. Outside of display cases in the lobby showing the company's various cable products, it looks more like the entrance to a factory than a corporate headquarters.
Meeting with Thomas Scanlon, Vice President-Employee Relations is a waste of time because he's disinterested and seems to have no personality. I wonder if working in the drab environment has rubbed off on Scanlon?
About 100 employees work in the place. Where did the company get that Japanese-sounding name? The Ok in Okonite stands for OK, as in everything’s okay.
Orange & Rockland Utilities, Inc.
I slip about 10 miles over the northern New Jersey stateline into New York to visit Orange & Rockland Utilities (1992 revenues $844 million, net income $46 million) in the cozy little Irish and Italian community of Pearl River, a few miles from the Hudson River.
In this beautiful area of hilly forested small towns with churches being the tallest structures, I'm taken aback when I come upon this monstrous 21-story building sitting all alone about five miles from downtown Pearl River.
Thomas Mahoney, Community Relations Administrator, a wise-cracking funny guy, says the roughly 300,000 square foot structure was built 10 years ago by speculators. This white elephant sat empty for several years until Orange and Rockland signed a lease for four floors at I must add, a very good rate. Thanks to the company's prestige, the building occupancy is now almost 100%.
Though you can see for miles from the 21st floor-you aren't seeing anything except for treetops because the area's so densely forested. (For more information: ORU)
Privately-held GAF Corporation is one of those companies which give chemical companies a bad name. Headquarters for this $900 million in revenues company is about five miles from Wayne, New Jersey in a secluded site. How secluded? From the main public road I follow GAF's private road down into a heavily wooded canyon-like area coming to a halt at a guard gate.
From the guard gate you still can't see a thing because of all the trees. The friendly guard calls to find out who's my contact person. I'm put on the line with Jim Strupp, Vice President-Human Resources. Strupp says they received my material and he's most impressed with my unusual undertaking however, GAF isn't interested in meeting with me. I tell Strupp I've gotten great receptions at chemical companies and their refusal to meet with me or at least let me see what their headquarters building looks like from the outside makes one suspicious of what's going on here. No go. I tell Strupp this was a four hour, muggy, hilly 40 mile detour-EACH WAY, just to visit GAF (which is true). No go.
Though some companies aren't interested in talking with me, I pride myself in at least being able to say I've physically seen the headquarters. Do I strike out here? Yes and no. In the guard's shack are a bank of security camera monitors showing various buildings on the grounds. I sneak a peek at one monitor which the guard identifies the brick structure on the screen as housing corporate offices.
Thomas & Betts Corporation
With revenues in 1992 of $1 billion, net income $51 million, Thomas & Betts is one of the world's largest manufacturers of electrical and electronic connectors, components and systems.
Having been with the company over 30 years Robert Berry, Senior Vice President, proves to be a great source for information on the company. Matter of fact, Barry says many years ago he was the one who hired CEO Kevin Dunnigan.
The company leases the top floor (45,000 square feet) in a three-story building on a small ridge overlooking the township of Bridgewater. Built in 1987, the company used to occupy the whole place but, has dramatically decentralized their staff leaving only 70 employees.
I spot a basketball and volleyball court on the grounds. How far is the nearest freeway and airport? I-287 is about 150 yards away and Newark Airport is a 35-minute drive. (For more information: TNB)
United States Golf Association & U.S. Bicycling Hall of Fame
About the only thing these two organizations have in common is they're both located in New Jersey. Riding through wealthy Far Hills, an enclave of large country estates in north central New Jersey, I see a sign for the United States Golf Association and golf museum. Being a hacker and former Arnold Palmer groupie I check it out.
This palatial setting only reinforces golf's reputation as a rich man's sport. The offices for the USGA and museum are located on a beautiful 62-acre former estate. The museum, in a Georgian colonial mansion, was originally designed as a private residence by John Russell Pope, architect of the Jefferson Memorial. Behind the museum are several modern brick buildings housing USGA offices and a research testing facility.
What's in the golf museum? Items such as the moon club astronaut Alan Shepard used on the Apollo 14 mission, a Norman Rockwell painting, an etching by Rembrandt and artifacts donated by golf greats such as Bobby Jones, Byron Nelson, Ben Hogan, Babe Zaharias and Jack Nicklaus. The library of over 10,000 volumes on golf is considered the largest such collection in the world. If you ask me the place is too stuffy and formal; adding a miniature golf course on the grounds would liven things up.
Established in 1987, the U.S. Bicycling Hall of Fame shares storefront space in downtown Somerville with a community business organization. How big is this Hall of Fame? Well, if you took your typical 7/11 convenience store and cut it in half, then cut it in half again-that's about the size of it. Heck, the place is so hard to find I actually rode by it four times trying to find it. On display are pictures of the nearly 40 inductees, racing jerseys, bicycles and several display cases filled with memorabilia. I'm surprised to find no bike racks outside.
Midlantic Corporation, a regional bank holding company with $14 billion in assets, owns 50% of its 12-story headquarters in Edison. Nothing interesting about the blah-looking structure built in the 1970's.
Donald Ebbert, Jr., Senior Vice President & Treasurer, doesn't have much to say except for "it's inconvenient" to show me the boardroom and CEO's office.
How far is downtown? Ebbert says Edison has no downtown. Why is Midlantic headquartered here? Transportation center: about two blocks away you can catch a train to Newark or New York City and about a mile away is the New Jersey Turnpike AND the Garden State Parkway. (For more information: MIDL)
J.M. Huber Corporation
Talking to casually dressed George Schenk, President, privately-held J.M. Huber Corporation, I tell him I just left Midlantic Corporation-which is only two buildings away. The funny part is; Donald Ebbert, Senior VP at the bank holding company AND his assistant had never heard of J.M. Huber. Schenk is taken aback when I say this because that's where this $800 million in revenues plastics manufacturer does its banking.
Corporate offices are in a company-owned, 10-story building built in 1983. About 200 employees work on four floors. Lining the ninth floor reception area wall is a time-line with old photographs showing the company's history. This year is special; it's the company's 100th birthday.
Nothing fancy about Schenk's 10th floor corner office. The company has never had a CEO so, Schenk is top dog. I can't see the boardroom because they don't have one. I do ask the personable 50-something year old Schenk why he's dressed so casually. "We have no dress code", is his answer. He says maybe once a year he'll wear a suit and tie to work.
Schenk mentions J.M. Huber Corporation making the Fortune 500 listing of largest companies for the first time and he and the Huber family aren't happy about all the unwanted attention. Schenk complains about the constant phone calls and inquiries he now gets from publications and newspapers wanting to do stories on the company. He goes on to say my letter of introduction (sent several weeks in advance of my arrival) normally would have ended up in the trash with all the others but, he was intrigued (phew!).
Beneficial Corporation, a financial services company (1992 revenues $1.8 billion, net income $148 million) definitely makes my Top 10 list of tackiest receptions. It's a hot, muggy day (90 degrees with over 90% humidity) as I make my way to Beneficial's headquarters complex in hilly, rural Peapack. This area in west-central New Jersey is horse country.
You know the place has to be big if the company has it's own exit ramp off the main road (200 Beneficial Drive). Coming off the ramp I encounter a female guard manning the guard booth. About 50 yards away I can see several red brick buildings, one of which has a clock tower. The place has the look of a small village.
The guard makes several calls as I stand there for a good 15 minutes in the oppressive muggy heat. I'm then told someone will be out shortly. What! Why is someone coming out to the guard gate instead of me being sent to the main building only 50 yards away? This is not a good sign.
A woman walks up and identifies herself as an assistant to Robert Wade, Assistant Vice President-Corporate Affairs. She tells me everyone is tied up in meetings and gives me an annual report as if that will take care of everything. It was a tough ride getting to their isolated headquarters and I let her know of my disappointment in their cavalier treatment. I then explain I'm visiting another company (Fedders Corporation) right down the road and tell her I'll go visit them, come back and maybe someone will then have time to meet with me. She agrees it's a good plan. I ask her, "how far is it to Fedder's" and she replies,"I don't know, I don't live around here". Jeez, this woman must go through life with blinders on because it turns out Fedders is located RIGHT NEXT DOOR to Beneficial's complex on the main road. I mean, Fedder's building is just about the only other building in either direction for miles and there's a sign out front!
Back an hour later, the guard makes a phone call. Robert Wade gets on the horn and says the best he can do is answer my questions over the phone as I stand next to the guard shack. WHAT!!! "Is there some reason why I'm not invited onto the property or at least into a building?, I ask. "I'm trying to accommodate you, either take it or leave it", Wade answers back.
How bad were things with this guy? Going down my list of questions over the phone I ask, "Do you have a cafeteria?". Well evidently he thinks I'm asking because I want to eat there and he goes on to say, "if you're looking for a deli there's one about five miles down the road" and goes into detail on how to get there. How "accommodating" was this guy? About 90% of the questions asked he responded "I don't know" and made no effort to find out. I do find out there are 10 red brick buildings on the huge 800-acre site, with the tallest being three stories. About 1,200 employees work in the complex which has tennis and basketball courts. For some reason I get the feeling they don't want me on the property because I'll write about how plush it is-which is evident even from what little I could see. (For more information: BNL)
As I ride up to Feeders Corporation's (1992 revenues $192 million, net income $-25 million) headquarters on this sweltering hot summer day I'm pretty sure about one thing: their lobby will be cool. Why? Since they're the largest manufacturer of room air conditioners in North America I'm assuming they'll have several going. Wrong. Marlene Volpe, Director of Human Resources, says they
lease the 3-story, 25,000 square foot, red colonial building and the central air conditioning isn't theirs.
Nothing fancy about these offices. Fifty people work in the place with CEO Salvatore Giordano, Jr. and the other executives being located in small offices off the first floor lobby.
(For more information: FJQ)
Merck & Company
I visited Merck & Company's former campus-like headquarters facility in Rahway, New Jersey my first trek around the US. Now I'm visiting their new complex in Whitehouse Station which has been earning all kinds of kudos from environmentalists and architects.
Where is Whitehouse Station? Good question. You won't find it on most maps. It's in central New Jersey along near Route 78, about a 45-minute drive almost due west of Newark.
Not much development in this heavily wooded area as I follow a highway sign directing me off the main road to Merck's headquarters. About a quarter mile I come upon a guard booth where I'm sent over to the small visitor's building on the side of the road.
I've read where Merck & Company (1996 revenues $19.8 billion, net income $3.8 billion) has been #1 for the last six years in Fortune magazine's annual listing of Most Admired Companies. It might have something to do with how efficient the company is run. For example: Many companies don't bother telling security guards or receptionists of my pending arrival which leads to all kinds of snafus. At Merck, the guards had been notified, I'm given a warm greeting and they immediately call the appropriate people. Joseph Simone, who's business card reads; Manager, Safety, Industrial Hygiene, Security & the Environment-Corporate Services Central Safety & Industrial Hygiene, (whew!) gives me the VIP tour of this 530-acre site.
Built in 1992, the 900,000 square foot, 3-story, headquarters building sits on a hillside, barely visible from the on-site ring road. Why is it barely visible? Typically, contractors clear the land, destroying trees, to make a level site for building. Here, 1,300 healthy mature trees and shrubs were tagged, uprooted, balled and moved to an on-site nursery. When construction was completed the trees (many over 40 feet tall) were put back.
The hexagon-shaped building features a FIVE-acre courtyard of natural woods in the center. Below the good-looking structure (Kevin Roche is the architect) is 700,000 square feet of underground parking.
Entering the building lobby you're greeted by a five-story atrium and 12-foot tall stain glass company logo behind the receptionist's desk.
About 1,400 employees work in the place which features a state-of-the-art, 15,000 square foot fitness center stocked with all the latest equipment. A 1.5 mile jogging trail and parcourse loops around a pond. If tennis is your game then try one of the six tennis courts or, play on two softball fields.
The smart-looking 900-seat cafeteria, which includes outside terrace seating, gives everyone a great view of the wooded courtyard. Have a meeting? There're over 80 conference rooms and a 250- seat auditorium.
Hanging on walls and scattered throughout the building is an extensive collection of tapestries-mostly African and, a collection of photographs by female photographers.
One of employee’s major concerns of relocating to this semi-isolated spot was child care. Not to worry. On the grounds near the headquarters building is a 17,000 square foot Child Learning Center.
On-site are three helipads. Merck & Company owns two helicopters which are used to shuttle employees between this site and facilities in Rahway, NJ and West Point, PA. Why is Merck headquartered in Whitehouse Station? Several reasons, it's about halfway between its Rahway and West Point facilities, there's the company's commitment to stay in New Jersey where the company started and, there's plenty of room on the ground to accommodate future expansion.
Hopping in Simone's truck we tour the 530-acre tract which was originally owned by James Logan, land agent to William Penn (we're talking a couple hundred years ago). During the early 1900's a gristmill operated on the site and then in the 1920's a dairy operation. The majority of the land is still woodlands, wetlands and fields. (For more information: MRK)
Privately-held Harvard Industries has its one-story headquarters in Farmingdale inside a fenced-in, gate-guarded complex owned by Frequencies Engineering Laboratories, a defense contractor.
Farmingdale (population 2,000), is about 10 miles west of the New Jersey shore. Riding about a half-mile out of town, I come upon this complex of ugly yellow brick buildings which look like they were built in the 1940's or 1950's. The 70-something year old security guard looks like he's sleeping as I ride up to his decrepit shack.
Though Harvard Industries's headquarters is straight ahead on the right, I'm directed to one of Frequencies Engineering Laboratories's building about a quarter mile down the road.
Sandra Hurley, Director, Corporate Training and Development, is a friendly woman but her answers to my questions leave me confused and suspicious. For instance; Harvard Industries has it's one-story headquarters building with 15 employees located on the fenced-in grounds of Frequencies Engineering Laboratories (which looks like a military base) and Hurley says Harvard has no connection with FEL. Yet, Hurley says she works for FEL AND Harvard Industries.
With over $600 million in revenues, Harvard Industries makes parts for the automotive industry. For example: Harvard is the largest designer and manufacturer of outside rear view mirrors in North America. Other parts include weather seals, fasteners, trim and metal assemblies to name a few.
How old is the company? "About 30 years old", Hurley replies. Is Dr. William Hurley, Chairman & CEO, the founder? "I can't give you that information", she says. How old a gentleman is he? "I can't tell you that" she says again. Can I see the boardroom? "We don't have one", is her reply. Can I see Mr. Hurley's office? "We don't do that" she says. Though you work for both FEL and Harvard Industries there's no connection to these companies other than Harvard having its headquarters on FEL's grounds? "That's correct", she answers.
Concurrent Computer Corporation
What a waste of time visiting Concurrent Computer Corporation, which specializes in manufacturing high-performance fault tolerant networked and real-time solutions.
Michael Stugrin, Director Corporate and Marketing Communications, meets me in the lobby of the one-story, 285,000 square foot facility which besides houses corporate offices (45,000 square feet), is a manufacturing facility. The building looks about 25 years old and is in Oceanport, which is about two miles from the Atlantic Ocean.
Stugrin, who's title would make you think he could at least feign interest-has me out the building in six minutes. Behind the receptionist's desk in the lobby is a large glass enclosed room displaying several of the company's giant computer systems. (For more information: CCUR)
Church & Dwight Co., Inc.
About three miles from downtown Princeton in a heavily wooded, semi-residential area I find the low-key, three-story, 70,000 square foot, company-owned headquarters for Church & Dwight Co., the world's largest producer of sodium bicarbonate-better known as baking soda. This isn't just any brand of baking soda but the world's most famous-Arm & Hammer.
Myrt Luer, secretary to CEO and Chairman Dwight Minton, is gracious in answering my questions sitting in her boss's office because he's gone for the day. The first thing I notice is how homey and comfortable his first floor corner office feels. The second is all the fish memorabilia. I count two wood carvings of fish, five pictures of fish and two pictures of him fishing for fish. Makes me wonder if he's out fishing. On one wall is a large map of Yellowstone National Park and on another are several pictures of him relaxing on his ranch in Montana-located near Yellowstone. The roll-top desk in his office was his father's. I count two real plants, a computer, several large apothecary jars filled with Arm & Hammer baking soda and for reasons unknown to Luer; a boomerang. Also on display in Minton's office are company products over the years which flopped; the can of Arm & Hammer deodorant spray brings back memories to me because I remember trying it.
About 500 employees work in this three building complex which sits on a 22-acre site. Lining walls throughout the hallways are drawings of old advertisements used by Arm & Hammer through the years (the company started in 1897).
Any special reason Church & Dwight (1992 revenues $516 million, net income $30 million) has been headquartered located in Princeton since 1986? Luer says it might have something to do with Minton living nearby. I can't blame him-it's a beautiful area. Princeton University makes my list of 10 best campuses in the country. Vibrant downtown Princeton is right across the street from the good-looking campus.
Before leaving, Luer walks me to a closet, opens the door and says to take whatever I want. The closet contains their various consumer products. Do I want a container of Arm & Hammer's new Pet Fresh carpet deodorizer? No. How about laundry detergent? No. Baking soda? Hmmm, it IS suppose to clean and deodorize and my shoes HAVE been getting smelly. Nah, I'll just take a tube of tarter control Arm & Hammer Dental Care toothpaste. (For more information: CHD)
UJB Financial Corporation
Nice guy Barrie MacKay, Vice President and Director-Corporate Communications/Investor Relations, agrees to meet with me under one condition: we go outside. Why? You can't smoke in the company-owned, 4-story, 159,000 square foot reflective glass building and MacKay's a pack-a-dayer who's in need of a puff.
UJB Financial with $14 billion in assets, is the 44th largest bank holding company in the country. Why is headquarters about two miles from downtown Princeton in an office park complex? I mean, it's tradition-banks are ALWAYS located downtown. MacKay says it was picked for its central location in the state. UJB stands for United Jersey Bank.
UJB Financial (1992 revenues $928 million, net income $-83 million) definitely has one of the strangest-looking boardroom tables I've come across. It's shaped like a rectangle with a hole in the middle (27 feet long, 9 feet wide). What's unusual is there are no table legs supporting it. In the open middle are three granite cylinders with polished steel supports reaching out to hold up the table. Do you realize the significance of this? NOBODY sitting at this table has to worry about kicking or getting stuck next to a table leg. (For more information: UJB)