On the road in Philadelphia and eastern Pennsylvania
Until recently, there was a law on the books in Philadelphia prohibiting a structure taller than the 548-foot City Hall building. Built in 1894, it's the world's tallest building without a steel skeleton. Visiting Philadelphia six years ago I remember commenting to companies about the rinky-dink skyline in this, one of the largest cities in the US.
Well, they must have listened to me because downtown Philadelphia has about half-dozen new office buildings ALL taller than City Hall. The tallest of these, the 61-story, 1 Liberty Place, home to CIGNA Corporation.
CIGNA Corporation (1992 revenues $19 billion, net income $841 million), an insurance holding juggernaut with almost $70 billion in assets, leases the top seven floors.
Zipping up to the 54th floor reception area I notice a plaque in the elevator that reads: "Notice to vandals-this elevator is being monitored".
Stepping off the elevator I have to talk into one of those stupid, tacky speaker boxes and identify myself to the receptionist before she buzzes me through the two large glass doors. The view's spectacular from the large picture windows in the reception area.
Arnold Wright, Jr., Executive Director CIGNA Foundation, answers questions and shows me a small portion of the company's collection of model boats, fire engines and Far Eastern art. My favorite's a model steam fire engine built in 1892. It's made of wood, metal, cloth AND, it still actually works!
I don't get to see the boardroom because "it's locked up" or the CEO's office because "we just don't do that". (For more information: CI)
Sun Distributors L.P.
It's around lunchtime and Maria Diaz, secretary to CEO Donald Marshall, has just finished answering my questions. Next, Diaz walks me into Marshall's corner office so I can see if it's your standard CEO's office and check out the view from the 26th floor of the 30-story building. One of my quirky rituals is to physically touch the plants in CEO's offices to see if they're real or fake, which by the way are real 70% of the time. So, I'm in Marshall's office playing touchie-feelie with his three plants and guess who walks in? Yep, Marshall walks in and from the look on his face I could tell he wasn't expecting to find a stranger clad in a T-shirt and shorts grabbing his plants.
After Diaz explains what I'm doing, the amiable Marshall shows me around his small, sparsely furnished office. His desk? It's a small ugly circular table he's had for 18 years. The five-foot tall Louisville Slugger baseball bat standing in the corner? It was a gift from Lehman Brothers, who helped Sun Distributors L.P. (1992 revenues $612 million, net income $18 million) spin off from Sun Company a few years ago. The two drawings on the wall showing the cities of Antwerp and Brussels over 100 years ago? He worked for a company overseas for a few years in those two cities. There's a picture of him with a fish he caught, a picture of him with a deer he shot, a bear he shot and a moose he shot plus, several pictures of him golfing.
Only 12 people work in the no-frills corporate offices of this distributor of industrial products.
(For more information: SDP)
Provident Mutual Life Insurance Company
It's not too difficult to figure out why Robert Evanoski, Communications Supervisor, says people call their headquarters the "Darth Vader" building. The 39-story black-glassed structure does have an ominous look to it.
Built in 1983, Provident Mutual Life Insurance (1992 revenues $933 million, net income $24 million) doesn't own the building but, is the main tenant. About 650 employees occupy the first 10 floors.
The lobby area contains six long glass display cases filled with books on the insurance industry. Though the titles of these books sound awfully boring, some of them are over 200 years old. Examples: The Theory and Practice of Interpolation by Herbert Rice (1824), The Principles of the Doctrine of Life Annuities by Francis Maseres (1783), An Essay on Insurance Volume 1 & 2 by Nicolas Magens (1755) and, Life Insurance Problems Confronting Fraternal Benefit Societies by Abb Landis (1848). I wonder if Readers Digest ever came out with condensed versions?
Wow!, the boardroom on the third floor a classic. It's all there: the deep brown walnut paneling with intricate carvings, the 25-foot high graceful ceiling, the 30-foot long oak boardroom table with the power look, distinguished portraits of past CEO's on the wall, the large fireplace and the fake windows. What? Fake windows! Yep, seems they moved the whole boardroom from their previous headquarters into this building only to find they couldn't change the windows in the "Darth Vader" building to match the early 20th century look of the boardroom. So, they came up with this fake wall with fake windows. You can't see through the fake windows but Evanoski walks me behind the fake wall to get the outside view.
With revenues in 1992 of $855 million and net income $3 million, CDI Corporation is one of the largest contract engineering, design, scientific and technical services firms in the world. CDI is also the nation's largest contingency fee recruiter.
Phyllis Varker, Executive Assistant to CEO Walter Garrison, gives me a super duper reception in their new offices. The company less than a month ago took over the 35th floor in Bell Atlantic's new 52-story headquarters building, the third tallest building in Philadelphia.
I ask Varker if the company has "a thing" about the color blue because it's everywhere; blue carpet, blue furniture, blue walls. Varker says CEO Garrison likes the color blue and mentions Garrison's house being painted blue.
Behind the receptionist's desk in the lobby there's a large glass etching of a forest scene. On the coffee table a gigantic book which has got to be the biggest coffee table book I've ever encountered; it's Audubon's Birds of America. Lining hallway walls are numbered prints of birds.
Down one hallway wall there's a bubble gum machine built like a large Rube Goldberg-type contraption. It's made out of wood and stands about six feet. Varker puts in a coin to give a demonstration and for some reason it doesn't work.
Though Garrison, who founded the company in the 1950's is hard at work, I take a quick peek in his office. No surprise here most of the furnishings, carpet and walls are blue.
Next door to Garrison's office is a sitting room he uses for informal meetings. It's here Varker shows me something which momentarily takes me aback. On a table sits which looks to be some kind of white animal tusk. The very proper and formal Varker says it's an Oosik. She asks if I know what an Oosik is. "No", I answer. She then hands me a wooden plaque with writing on it. It's called, "Ode to an Oosik". The whimsical ode goes on to explain what an Oosik is. Turns out it's the male sex organ of the walrus bull! Kind of reminds me of the time visiting a supermarket chain in Florida and walking into the CEO's office. On the counter sits a leather pouch. I thought it was a tobacco pouch. Turned out to be a bull's scrotum. (For more information: CDI )
Comcast Corporation (1992 revenues $900 million, net income $-218 million) occupies space in a downtown office building which looks like it was built in the 1960's. After visiting the 15th and 16th floor receptionists on four separate occasions I give up. I can't figure out if I'm getting the run around or nobody knows what's going on. (For more information: CMCSA)
General Accident Insurance Company of America
Headquarters a 12-story red brick structure built in 1921 and located right across the street from Independence Hall. I drop by on Thursday, Friday and Monday. Security guard/receptionists as well as several people in the Human Resources department prove uninterested in helping so I leave in frustration.
Westmoreland Coal Company
Headquarters for Westmoreland Coal (1992 $541 million, net income $41 million) is on the 7th floor of the 19-story historic office/hotel building called, The Bellevue. Drop by on two separate days only to be told "all the executives are out of the office".
(For more information: WCX)
Strawbridge & Clothier
Strawbridge & Clothier, the largest family run department store chain in the country, had revenues in 1992 of $962 million, net income $18 million. Corporate offices are on the 10th floor of its historic and impressive 11-story flagship store in downtown Philadelphia. Next door a large shopping mall known as the Galleria bills itself "the largest urban mall in the country". Somebody's wrong because when I in St. Louis THEY said their's was the largest in the country.
Built in 1932, this monster-size store contains over one million square feet of floor space.
Before entering the executive offices on the 10th floor I get sidetracked by a company history gallery near the elevators. This year Strawbridge & Clothier celebrates its 125th birthday.
Meeting with Francis Strawbridge, 111, Chairman of the Board, I ask if the company has a CEO. He says Peter Strawbridge is the President and they both share the title of Co-CEO. Why doesn't he have the corner office? In deference to his uncle who retired as Chairman in 1989 and still comes into the office several times a week, Strawbridge (Francis) takes the office next door.
Before leaving the store, Strawbridge says to be sure and check out the old escalator on the basement level. He says it was one of the first escalators ever put into a store. Down I go to investigate. Wow! A plaque next to it says it was first used in 1917 in their other store and installed in this one in 1933. What's so unusual about it? It has WOOD slates instead of metal, plus instead of the flat step there's an angle to it. Off-limits to the public, this antique escalator still gets used by employees to bring up stock from the sub-basement. Thanks to some sweet-talking I get an employee to walk me down a flight of stairs and allow me to ride back up on the antique contraption. Here's one escalator where you definitely hold the railing. (For more information: STRWA)
Four miles north of downtown Philadelphia in a somewhat run-down industrial/residential area I find the corporate offices of Pep Boys (1992 revenues $1.2 billion, net income $55 million), a 340-store automotive chain.
The five-story, 127,000 square foot brick building built in the early 1900's looks more like an old warehouse than a headquarters. In fact it was. Pep Boys bought the building from the US government back in 1947-who had used it as a warehouse.
Though there's only a small sign out front I knew I was at the right place because near the entrance stands a 10-foot tall fiberglass caricature of Manny, Moe and Jack, which over the years has become part of the company's corporate identity. Actually, the three names should be Manny, Moe and Izzy but, Izzy didn't sound as good as Jack.
As with the outside of the building, the insides very no-frills as Ed Gallagher, Audio-Visual Specialist, gives me a tour of the place, home to 500 employees.
In line with the no-frills look there's the company's art collection. It consists of framed annual reports (since 1946) lining the hallway wall outside the executive offices.
Mitchell Leibovitz, CEO, invites me into his top floor middle office, with a boring view of the street. He thinks the view's great because the windows were recently installed in the formerly windowless office. He has a black six-foot tall, stuffed animal gorilla in one corner (which was a gift), 10 real plants, and a large print on the wall of a gorilla named Snowflake.
On a wall in Leibovitz's office hangs a golf ball in a framed case. Also in the case behind the golf ball there's a picture of a small tree with a noticeable dent in it's six-inch wide trunk. Below the picture an inscription reads, "The shot that almost changed the course of Pep Boys". Leibovitz tells me the story: Playing golf with several of his regional managers at a company conference, one of his shots ended up about 10 feet behind this small tree. Leibovitz isn't the best golfer in the world and he isn't the worst so, he figured he'd have no problem hitting the ball straight ahead-missing the tree. He swings, it hits the tree and it leaves this big dent. Well, thinking it's the end of the story I start to laugh. Not smart. Leibovitz then goes on and says the ball ricocheted off the tree, came back and hit him right below the eye. Fortunately, he wasn't seriously injured. At the next meeting of these regional managers they presented Leibovitz with the golf ball in a framed case. (For more information: PBY)
Tasty Baking Co.
About three blocks from Pep Boys I find the headquarters for Tasty Baking Co. (1992 revenues $297 million, net income $9 million) who's snacks, fruit pies, cookies (i.e. junk food) are found in most convenience store in the East. I've recently taking a liking to their Butterscotch sponge cakes and strawberry fruit pies.
Headquarters is in one of their bakery plants located a few blocks from Pep Boys' offices. The bakery plant, painted white looks about 60-years old with a big sign atop the place letting you know it's Tasty Baking.
Boy, do I get the brush-off from Pat Schemm, secretary to CEO Carl Watts. Talking to her via the guard phone in the lobby-less entrance, Schemm says they never received my introduction material sent several weeks in advance and in a couldn't-care-less voice says no one would be able to meet with me. I tell Watts I've visited McKee Baking (Little Debbie snacks), Lance's and Tom's and received warm welcomes. It didn't matter to her. (For more information: TBC)
Don't know if you're aware but, once you leave Philadelphia and head out to the suburbs the terrain changes from flat to very hilly. Huffing and puffing up and down hills I'm making my way to Wawa, Pennsylvania-about 20 miles southwest of Philadelphia and home to privately-held Wawa Inc., a 600-store convenience chain with over $600 million in revenues.
Expecting corporate offices to be located next to a distribution center I'm pleasantly surprised to find them on a beautiful estate known as "Red Roof". Blanketed with huge trees, this 26-acre compound back in the late 1800's and early 1900's was the summer home of George Wood, who founded the company. It's called Red Roof because the original house on the site had a red tile roof.
The furnishings, fireplace and turn-of-the-century pictures lining the walls which greet you upon entering this three-story, 80-something year-old mansion, makes you feel as though you've entered someone's personal residence.
Doris Paige, Executive Secretary to CEO Richard Wood, Jr., gives me a warm welcome and an extensive tour of every nook and cranny of the mansion and of the large two-story structure added on to the backside. The size of the add-on isn't noticeable because the mansion sits on the top of a small hill. How pressed for space is the company? File cabinets occupy several fireplaces and bathrooms have been converted into offices.
Meeting with CEO Richard Wood in his first floor plainly furnished corner office in the added-on wing I notice he's wearing a nametag with his name on it. I mention he's the only person I've seen in the place wearing one. "Any special reason why you wear one?", I ask. "No, not really", he answers. The easy-going, amiable Wood has an interesting collection of items on his office walls. First, there're several aerial pictures of the Red Roof compound and of the company's Wawa dairy plant located down the road about a mile. Then, there're four prints by Frederic Remington and finally, three framed copies of letters written by Abraham Lincoln. What's the story on the Lincoln letters? Wawa can trace it's beginnings back to 1803 when it was known as Millville Manufacturing Company which operated textile mills in New Jersey. One of the lawyers hired over the years to collect debts owed the company was none other than Abraham Lincoln. The letters in Wood's office are copies with the originals kept in a vault.
Before Wood treats me to lunch in the cafeteria I'm whisked down the road for a tour of the company's milk processing plant (built in 1929) and neighboring distribution center.
The cafeteria, simple and no-frills, gives the hoagie sandwich headliner status. Want to wash the sandwich down with milk? Drink all you want because dairy products are free to employees. Freshness is guaranteed because the dairy plant is only a mile down the road. Wawa stores are known for their hoagie sandwiches so Wood insists I try one. Matter of fact, Wood invites me to downtown Philadelphia tomorrow where they once a year create the world's longest hoagie-over 1,300 feet long. One of the problems I've found with having lunch with the CEO is I never get to eat. I mean, this is prime time for asking the CEO questions and taking notes so I end up never eating and if you've been following my stories you KNOW how I love to eat.
Flowers abound throughout the well-kept grounds and walking during lunchtime is popular with employees. The carriage house now houses the marketing department but, the tennis and paddleball courts are still used for their original purposes.
Having visited several stores I was curious as to the company's logo. It's the name Wawa over an orangish-sun with some kind of a bird in flight. Paige says Wawa is a Lenni Lenape Indian word for the Canada goose.
QVC Network, Inc.
Heading 10 miles west of Wawa brings me to West Chester, a bustling community of 18,000 and home to QVC Network, the largest shopping channel in the United States.
I figure to get a great reception at QVC Network because new CEO Barry Diller, a recent transplant from Fox Television and glitzy Los Angeles will be glad to see a fellow Californian here in the hinterland.
Headquarters for QVC Network (1993 revenues $1 billion, net income $57 million) about three miles from downtown West Chester in an office park surrounded by farms and cornfields. The two-story red brick warehouse-type building is huge with satellite dishes visible.
Before walking into the building I notice a blazing red Mercedes convertible coupe parked near the front door entrance and I bet it belongs to Diller, a holdover from his L.A. days. I also spot a large group of smokers puffing away near a gazebo. Usually smokers hang outside the front entrance but there's a sign saying, "No smoking outside of main lobby".
The large lobby features two big screen televisions turned to (you get three guesses) QVC Network and a glass display case filled with jewelry-the kind sold on the channel.
Talking to Marlene Mastriani, secretary to CEO Diller, via the lobby phone she attempts to find someone in Public Relations to meet with me. Calling back in 15 minutes she apologizes and says the people in Public Relations won't meet with me because I don't have an appointment. Hmmm, sounds like those snobby, snotty Hollywood-types have already taken over the place. Usually CEO's secretaries have clout and if they ask somebody to do something it's done. Not this time.
(For more information: QVCN)
Commodore International Ltd.
Two miles down the road from QVC Network in an older office park sits the three-story headquarters of Commodore International Ltd, a manufacturer and marketer of computer-based products (1992 revenues $911 million, net income $28 million).
I'm lucky to get onto the property because a security guard mans a checkpoint about a quarter mile from the building. Calling up on the phone to get authorization for me to enter the premises the phone goes kaput. In disgust the guard waves me on.
The large black-glassed building looks about twenty years old and seems empty. The spartan lobby features a display of several of the company's computers and not much else. It's a very short visit because the receptionist is told by CEO Irving Gould's secretary to tell me they aren't interested in talking. (For more information: CBV)
Intelligent Electronics, Inc.
Sometimes I do an office check. It's 7:30 AM and I'm sitting in the lobby of Intelligent Electronics (1993 revenues $2 billion) making note of what time employees wander in. Though the receptionist doesn't arrive until 8 AM the front doors are open. From a security stand-point it doesn't seem like a smart move but then again, I'm in Exton, Pennsylvania, about 40 miles west of Philadelphia and who's population isn't even big enough to be listed on highway maps.
Patrice Johnson, Vice President-Corporate Communications and Marketing, walks past me several times as I sit in the lobby (wearing my Bloomberg T-shirt, shorts and topsiders) and on her third pass-by stops and asks if I've been helped. Turns out my advance material sent to CEO Richard Sanford trickled down to her and she's familiar with my journey.
Intelligent Electronics, a retailer of microcomputer systems, leases a nondescript small, one story red brick structure in an office park complex called Eagleview, located a half mile from the Pennsylvania Turnpike. They've been in the same building for the last 10 years and have only 23 employees. Their lack of corporate office space and staff is amazing when you consider in 1985 the company had $14 million in revenues and 45 stores; in 1992 revenues were $2 billion and over 1,700 locations.
Though CEO Sanford has a large corner office his view isn't anything to write home about because it overlooks the parking lot. Worth noting: the 50-year old Sanford has no computer in his office. (For more information: INEL)
Shared Medical Systems Corporation
When visiting a company I always look forward to getting a tour of the facility and many a time the extent of the tour depends on the clout of the person showing me around. My three favorite people for doing this; the CEO, the CEO's secretary and the facility/building manager. My visit to Share Medical Systems (SMS) an example of the later.
Malvern, population 3,000, about 25 miles west of Philadelphia and home to Shared Medical Systems (1992 revenues $470 million, net income $28 million), a provider of healthcare information systems and services to hospitals, healthcare corporations and physician groups.
Riding up to their headquarters I note the huge number of cars parked in the employee parking lot and though the two-story building looks long-it couldn't possibly accommodate all those employees.
As Keith Holland, Facilities/Service Manager, shows me around I quickly find out the place is much bigger than it looks. Located in an office park, the company-owned, two-story building is actually two, four-story structures (425,000 square feet) hooked together. From the front you don't see how the backside slopes down into a small valley. Built in 1979, the company has plenty of room to turn the place into a campus because they own 115 heavily wooded acres (including a running creek) behind their headquarters.
Tucked away from the main building is an 80,000 square foot fortress-type structure housing the backbone of the company; it's SMS's Information Systems Center (computer center). Normally this place is off-limits but, since Holland is head of facilities and security and I'm with him-it's no problem. Having seen hundreds of computer centers I always like to ask if there's a back-up power system in place in case power is lost. I'm now finding companies having back-ups to the back-ups.
Over 2,700 employees work in the three buildings, which sit on former farmland. Some of the recreational perks on the grounds include softball fields, a par course, volleyball courts and horseshoe pits. It's open parking, which means if CEO James Macaleer the last one in-he has to hunt for a parking spot like everyone else.
Macaleer's office is very close to the main lobby and his being a former Navy pilot would explain why he has pictures of aircraft on his walls. (For more information: SMED)
It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out why Ametek, which manufactures and sells products such as motors, plastic compounds, measuring & monitoring devices, water purification systems and instruments for airplanes and trucks, located in downtown Paoli. Within spitting distance of the two-story building are commuter train tracks.
Robert Yannarell, Ametek's Secretary, confirms my hunch; executives can hop on a train in Paoli, be in downtown Philadelphia (30 miles away) within 20 minutes, change to the Amtrak train and be in New York City in two hours.
Home to Ametek (1992 revenues $770 million, net income $44 million) since 1987, the unassuming two-story building sits behind two other buildings in a complex known as Station Square.
How plain is the building? Besides having no boardroom there isn't even an elevator up to the second floor which Yannarell says they'll have to rectify shortly to comply with federal standards.
CEO Walter Blankley's first floor office is pretty ordinary except for a large metal spear and a picture of him posing with African tribesmen. The spear was a gift from the tribe and Yannarell assures me it isn't used to keep employees in line.
The place is pretty casual as Yannarell prepares to go to lunch. Does he eat in the company cafeteria? No, they don't have one. Does he patronize one of the local restaurants? No. Walking me out the front door he points to where he eats lunch; on the side of the building are half-dozen picnic tables and with lunch bag in hand he waves good-bye. (For more information: AME)
Big things are happening at UGI Corporation (1992 revenues $708 million) a holding company who's two principal subsidiaries are UGI Utilities, a natural gas distributor and electric utility and, AmeriGas Propane, a propane marketer. Otto Renner, III, Director of Corporate Communications, says the company (the nation's second largest propane marketer) is purchasing Petrolane, the nations biggest propane marketer. The resulting acquisition will mean a doubling of the company's revenues.
Renner answers questions amongst all the construction going on at their five-story, 100,000 square foot headquarters in Valley Forge. The company has leased space in the building since 1974, recently purchased the structure and is now doing renovations.
Valley Forge is about 25 miles northwest of Philadelphia and is a corporate address for many companies. Why? Accessibility to freeways being the main reason but also a mile from UGI (United Gas Improvement) there's the King of Prussia Mall, one of the largest shopping malls in the country. Several miles in the other direction there's a permanent giant greenbelt-Valley Forge National Historical Park.
Currently CEO Sutton has a third floor corner office but, when the lease for the tenants on the fifth floor expires-he'll be moving up. I mention to Sutton how I've visited about 100 utility companies and generally speaking headquarters are usually no-frills and functional because they're publicly regulated. Sutton is pleased when I say his office is plain and not very fancy.
UGI's building was one of the first office buildings built in the area and its location is literally right smack in the middle of several major interchanges: About 100 yards on the backside of the building is an entrance to the Pennsylvania Turnpike and busy Highway 422, on the front side is Interstate 276 and busy highway 202. As Renner points out it's a perfect spot for radio or television stations to do their traffic updates because at 8 AM and again at 5 PM traffic backs way up in all directions. (For more information: UGI)
Safeguard Scientifics, Inc.
Headquarters for Safeguard Scientifics (1992 revenues $857 million) which calls itself "The partnership of entrepreneurs" is in Wayne, a community a few miles from Valley Forge. The company is owner or part owner of a variety of companies in the information technology market.
Thelma Brinson, Manager-Personnel/Office Administration and Facilities, shows no interest as she answers my questions sitting in the main lobby which is as far as I get. Fifty employees work in the two-story, 33,000 square foot company-owned building located in the rear of an office park.
(For more information: SFE)
As headquarters go, Teleflex's (1992 revenues $570 million) is your ho-hum basic office space in an office park. The company occupies half of the fourth floor of a four-story structure in Plymouth Meeting, a suburb about 18 miles north of Philadelphia. I am however, impressed by the enthusiastic reception I receive from the company.
Stepping off the elevator the receptionist immediately says she knows who I am because they've been eagerly awaiting my visit. Boy, I'd like to hear that!
Janine Dusossolt, Vice President-Investor Relations gives me the deluxe tour. "What's with all the orchids in the lobby, hallways and offices?" I ask. Seems CEO Black likes orchids. I count over a dozen pots of orchids.
Why is this manufacturer of aerospace, automotive, marine, industrial and medical proprietary products headquartered here? Teleflex was founded in nearby Limerick. With over 25% of its revenues derived from outside the US and with 50 operating units worldwide, it explains the company's corporate aircraft-a Citation.
Walking into CEO Black's office I spot a stereo system and surprisingly only one orchid. His black bookcases and black desk leads me to believe there's a correlation to his name being Black and his fondness for black furniture. (For more information: TFX)
U.S. Healthcare, Inc.
Seeing as how a red apple is the corporate logo for this HMO then I guess I shouldn't be surprised to find a basket of red apples on the reception desk at U.S. Healthcare (1992 revenues $2.2 billion, net income $200 million). Matter of fact, the bright red apple logo is all over the building.
Corporate offices are in a complex of three buildings a hop, skip and a jump away from the Pennsylvania Turnpike in Blue Bell, about 20 miles of Philadelphia.
Todd Keitz and Lori Bookbinder from Corporate Communications answer questions and walk me around. Over 2,000 employees work in the buildings, with the executives in the 4-story, 185,000 main building. Only the CEO and CFO get reserved parking spots.
The atrium reception area is very modernistic and bright. I count 10 blue chairs and four small tables-each with an orchid in the center. From the chairs you can watch a rear projection screen continuously projecting a large 6x6 image of various company properties on a wall. Also on a wall is a large, visually enchanting series of 10 holokinetic panels by Nemtzow (no first name on purpose) titled "In The Beginning".
It goes without saying this healthcare company has a fitness center (and a nice one at that) and employees like to walk the grounds which believe it or not used to be an apple orchard (apple trees are still on the grounds). There's not one but, two cafeterias.
CEO Leonard Abramson, who also founded the company twenty years ago, has a corner office not too far from the lobby. I can't see his office because he isn't in which is usually to my advantage because by seeing his office when he isn't in means I won't disturb him. I tell Keitz and Bookbinder of my disappointment because Abramson has been getting a lot of publicity lately for being one of the highest compensated CEO's in the country. Just as well, it probably would have been full of ceramic, plastic, wood and brass apples. (For more information: USHC)
Diagonal across the street from U.S. Healthcare are roughly 10 buildings belonging to Unisys Corporation (1992 revenues $8.4 billion). I don't call the computer maker's headquarters complex a campus because to meet my definition of a campus there can't be a public street running through the place like there is here.
I visited Unisys six years ago when downtown Detroit carried the torch as the company's home. Now I'll find out if a suburban setting has changed things.
Stopping at the Administration building, the unhelpful security guard/receptionist sends me to another building where this time a helpful security guard spends 20 minutes trying to track down who's my contact person.
Talking to Mark Lipscomb via the security guard's phone, Lipscomb says my letter of introduction sent several weeks earlier ended up with his boss who's Vice President of Investor Relations and, who's out of town until next week. Lipscomb, who when asked his title says "spokesman", spends the next 15 minutes giving vague excuses why he or no one else could meet with me. A savvy "spokesman" would have gotten of his duff and at least walked to the lobby and shook hands. (For more information: UIS)
Henkels & McCoy, Inc.
Right across the street from U.S. Healthcare and Unisys is Henkels & McCoy, the largest independently owned communications engineering, management, construction and maintenance firm in the US. Boy, having three companies on my list next door to each other in the suburbs is something which doesn't happen very often.
Walking into the four-story building it definitely has the 1960's look to it-inside and out. Which is my polite way of saying the furniture hasn't been replaced since 1960.
Talking to Vincent Benedict is worth the visit for no other reason then getting one of his business cards which identifies him as Senior Director-People Department. In most companies that would be equivalent to Senior Vice President-Human Resources.
About 400 employees work in this dull-looking, blah building which definitely needs a facelift. Founded in 1923, the lobby contains paintings of Mr. Henkels and Mr. McCoy. Part of the company-owned site is leased to a local law enforcement agency which has built a gun shooting range.
Asplundh Tree Expert Company
Boy, I wonder if visiting Asplundh Tree Expert Company will be as fun as my visit to their competitor privately-held Davey Tree Expert Company in Kent, Ohio.
First, let me tell you about my Davey Tree Expert Company visit. Many companies have welcome signs near the reception area listing names of guests visiting the facility on that particular day. In my case, I gave Davey Tree a two-week time frame when I'd be stopping by their suburban Kent headquarters. I end up dropping by on the last day of the two-week period. I walk into the lobby and the receptionist gives me a real enthusiastic welcome and is making a big ruckus over my arrival. Two executives walk by and overhear her mention my name. One walks up to me and says, "so you're Paul Wolsfeld. We've been walking by that Welcome Paul Wolsfeld sign for two weeks now and we've been wondering who the heck is this guy".
Though everyone from the security guards up to the CEO gave me a warm welcome at Davey Tree, they weren't happy about the timing of my arrival. Why? Brown spots. You see, Davey Tree is one of the largest (if not THE largest) lawn maintenance company in the country. Being in the business, one would expect the grounds at their headquarters to be, well, lush, manicured and well maintained. The grounds (which includes a large pond) are all of the above except, for those large embarrassing brown spots on the front lawn for which everyone kept apologizing.
Highlighting my visit to Davey Tree was a tour of their "hospital". Actually it's a horticulture lab, where samples of fungus, diseased trees and plants are sent for analysis. Let's say you live in Portland, Oregon and the local Davey Tree man can't figure out why your oak tree is dying. A piece is flown here for tests.
Does Davey Tree have a sense of humor or what? Though the company has the typical formal boardroom, the centerpiece on boardroom table isn't typical--it's a crystal ball.
BACK to the Asplundh.
Riding up the driveway past the black iron fence I note the well-kept grounds and the pruned trees making way to the three-story headquarters building in Willow Grove, about 20 miles north of Philadelphia.
Trees are an important part of privately held Asplundh's business. The company specializes in line clearance for the utility industry. Matter of fact, they're the world's largest and you've probably seen their familiar bright orange trucks alongside roads trimming trees near transmission, railroad and telephone lines.
Asplundh's niche in contracting with utility companies to clear their lines explains the company's unusual lobby. Lining the lobby walls are literally hundreds of colorful license plate-size logo's of utility companies around the country. Paul John, Manager-Office Administration, says a company's logo is put on the wall if Asplundh receives a contract over $100,000.
I'm not surprised to learn Asplundh is a family-run business founded in 1928 by three Swedish brothers; Griffith, Lester and Carl Asplundh, Sr.. I mean, did you actually think someone would make up a name like that for a business?
Situated on a 13-acre site, the 3-story, 91,000 square foot building was built in 1974 and is home to 300 employees. Any special reason why the company is located in Willow Grove? Asplundh was founded within a few miles of its current headquarters.
Have to reserve a conference room at Asplundh? No problem, just remember all the rooms are named after trees. Hogging the limelight on the first floor sits one of the company's first trucks. Built in the 1920's, the restored bright orange vehicle looks more like a milk truck than a tree trimming truck.
I ask John if his company has been hurt by the recession. "Trees are always around and always need trimming". John also says nasty tornadoes, hurricanes and violent storms are a great source for business. After Hurricane Andrew hit southern Florida and Louisiana in late 1992, Asplundh sent 575 crews from around the country down to help clear the power lines which were down.
Atlantic Dairy Cooperative
Heading about 20 miles northwest of Philadelphia finds me in Southampton, a middle class suburb which unlike its well-to-do counterpart on Long Island, New York, has no posted street signs mandating a dress code. On a frontage road near Interstate 276 is the ordinary-looking two-story headquarters of Atlantic Dairy Cooperative, a regional dairy co-op representing 3,500 dairy farmers in a seven-state region.
Having visited quite a few dairy-co-ops I'm used to seeing lots of milk paraphernalia. Not here, although I do see a bird feeder shaped like a cow's head. The cigarette-smoking receptionist has me sit on a black bench while she finds Laura England, Public Relations Manager.
England answers questions while sitting in the boardroom at the U-shaped boardroom table which seats 23. Income in 1992 was $582 million with a net margin after expenses of $8 million.
Betz Laboratories Inc.
A large water tower with Betz Laboratories name on it can be seen from several miles away and it helps me find the place. I'm in Trevose, about 15 miles northwest of Philadelphia. Situated on 93-acres of former farmland, the headquarters and research complex is comprised of nine buildings, with the first structure having been built in 1967. Total square footage for the buildings is 330,000 square feet, with 770 employees working on the site.
Founded in 1925 by three Betz brothers, Betz Laboratories (1992 revenues $707 million, net income $82 million) a chemical company which specializes in the chemical treatment of water, wastewater and process systems. In other words, Betz treats the water in boilers, cooling towers, heat exchangers, paper and petroleum process streams for companies in the steel, petroleum refining, paper, automotive, electrical utility and chemical industries.
Nice guy Edward Ross, Vice President-Administration, gives me a thorough tour of the place. I tell Ross the lobby area with several sofas and four chairs is comfortable but, all the fake plants and trees have to go. I count three fake trees (one eight feet tall) and seven planters filled with silk plants.
A tour of the research center is fascinating. Remember all the fuss made in 1988 by the arrival of the zebra mussel in the Great Lakes and how it's now clogging water systems? Glass jars and fish tanks filled with the pesky mussels line one room as researchers experiment on ways to eradicate them.
Nothing fancy about the offices, including CEO McCaughan's on the first floor. Although, he does have a picture of himself with Mike Schmidt (the former Phillie baseball player) and one of him with Jimmy Carter. (For more information: BTL)
Union Pacific Corporation
What a fantastic 60 mile bike ride from Philadelphia to Bethlehem (population 70,000)! The road follows along the Delaware River and the old Delaware Canal, a system of locks built in the early 1800's. The tree-lined, two-lane road takes you past the point where George Washington made his famous winter crossing of the Delaware. Definitely makes my top ten list of favorite daylong rides.
When visiting Union Pacific six years ago they were headquartered in New York City. Now they're in downtown Bethlehem. Why the move? I ask Gary Schuster, Vice President-Corporate Relations. He says, when Union Pacific (1992 revenues $7.3 billion, net income $728 million) was based in NYC they kept their extensive corporate air fleet in White Plains, NY, which to the company's dismay turned into an hour and a half commute from the Big Apple. Current CEO Drew Lewis, a former Secretary of Transportation, remembered flying into Allentown/Bethlehem and how it was about the same commute into NYC as it was from White Plains. When Bethlehem Steel found out Union Pacific was thinking of relocating its corporate fleet, its CEO called Lewis and said, why not move your corporate offices here also. As it turns out, in 1988 Union Pacific ends up leasing the 14th, 15th and 16th floor of the 21-story Martin Tower, headquarters for Bethlehem Steel. Though the story of the company's relocation makes sense I tell Schuster I heard the company is located here because Lewis has a big farm nearby. Schuster acknowledges there might be a grain of truth to it.
As the easy-going Schuster takes me up the elevator for a look-see I mention being in this building six years ago when visiting Bethlehem Steel. The massive steel structure sits on the fringe of Bethlehem's historic and well-kept downtown. With the next tallest structure being about five-stories, you can image how this tower sticks out.
The offices are elegantly furnished with the executive floor highlighted by a 1797 Grandfather clock. I'm somewhat disappointed in not seeing any paintings, pictures or models of trains. Then again, besides railroads Union Pacific has interests in natural resources, trucking and hazardous waste management.
Before leaving I tell Schuster I knew they had a large fleet of corporate aircraft (including a Gulfstream 4, a Canadair and a Bell helicopter). How? A few years ago when the Super Bowl was in San Diego, I spent the whole day at the airport watching all the corporate aircraft fly in for the game. Guess which company had the most planes. I'll give you a hint; the initials are UP.
(For more information: UNP)
Air Products and Chemicals, Inc.
Visiting Air Products and Chemicals (1992 revenues $3.2 billion, net income $277 million) six years ago I left in disgust after getting the runaround and I'm back to see if things are different at this supplier of industrial gases and specialty chemicals.
Though the company has an Allentown address, it's actually about 10 miles away in Trexlertown. About a dozen buildings occupy the 600-acre site. Much of the land is still undeveloped with a large portion leased out to farmers for growing corn.
Getting on the fenced-in property means passing muster with the guards at the guard gate. After a 20-minute wait I'm waved on through to the Administration building. The area surrounding Air Products, except for several new shopping centers across the street, is still farmland. The company has been on this site since the 1950's and if it's still out in the boondocks now-imagine what it was like in the 1950's.
Mary-Jo Egervary, Community Relations Representative, streaks into the lobby and says she has only 10 minutes to spend with me because she's due at a meeting. So, in a somewhat frantic manner we set off for a quick tour of the boardroom, CEO's office, fitness center and cafeteria.
Over 4,600 employees work on-site which explains the two large cafeterias. One of the jogging trails on the grounds meanders through a cornfield. With a dozen buildings on a campus-style setting, the company has a shuttle system between buildings. How extensive is this shuttle system? They even have express buses, which make only one or two stops instead of at every building. My whirlwind visit ends up taking 13 minutes, not bad when you consider we visited three buildings and wasted three of those minutes waiting for the express bus. (For more information: APD)
Meridian Bancorp, Inc.
Riding into downtown Reading (population 75,000) I'm heading for the tallest building. Why? Having visited dozens and dozens of banks, it usually goes without saying banks occupy the tallest buildings in town. Imagine my surprise finding Meridian Bancorp, a bank holding company (1992 revenues $853 million, net income $115 million, assets $12 billion) headquartered in the main branch of Meridian Bank, a puny five-story structure.
Talking to Wayne Huey, Jr., Executive Vice President, on the second floor (where the executives roost) I let him know my displeasure in their messing up my theory on banks being in the tallest buildings. Huey laughs and credits their low profile offices to CEO Samuel McCullough not having the big ego.
About 200 employees work in the company-owned building located next door to the federal courthouse. (For more information: MRDN)
Seeing as how Exide Corporation is the world's oldest battery manufacturer and introduced the first automotive battery in 1903, I guess finding 60 batteries and battery chargers on display in the boardroom shouldn't surprise me.
Headquarters for Exide a five-story, company-owned structure in downtown Reading built in 1979. Richard Kimball, Director-Human Resources, says roughly 300 employees work in the place and acknowledges privately held Exide having revenues over $600 million.
Looking out the window in CEO Arthur Hawkins's office all I can see is a parking lot. Looking at that all day would drive me battery oops batty.
Lancaster County, Pennsylvania
From Reading to York it's an 80-mile bike ride but halfway between the two cities lies Lancaster (population 55,000) and the picturesque farmlands of Lancaster County. Known for its Amish and Mennonite population, the countryside is great biking. I pass several Amish or Mennonite men on bikes and notice everyone wearing long pants with suspenders and a straw-like hat. So? Well, it's almost 100 degrees out, 99% humidity and these guys are riding bikes wearing long pants!
During the Revolutionary War, did you know Lancaster was the largest inland city in the Thirteen Colonies? Lancaster also was the capital of the nation for one day, September 27, 1777, when Congress stopped here as it fled Philadelphia after the Battle of Brandywine.
Dentsply Holdings, Inc.
In a combination residential/industrial area about a mile from downtown York (population 45,000) finds me at the four-story red brick offices of Dentsply Holdings, the largest manufacturer of artificial teeth and consumable dental products in the world.
Built in the mid-1960's, the outside looks more like a school building than a corporate headquarters. Walking into the lobby, you can't help but notice the large 6x10 oil painting hanging on a wall. It's called, "The Traveling Dentist" by R. Plut. It's from the 1800's and shows a dentist pulling a tooth out of a man as the man's family looks on in horror. I don't know if it was intentionally painted to be funny but, it is.
Robert Brennan, Vice President/General Manager-Dentsply International, runs through my questions. According to Brennan, revenues were over $600 million last year. Combine "dental" and "supply" and you have Dentsply.
The CEO's office and boardroom, both located on the third floor, with CEO Burton Borgelt having a middle office and an unexciting view of the parking lot.
York International Corporation
Located less than a quarter mile from Dentsply amongst a sprawling manufacturing facility sits the blah-looking four-story headquarters building of York International Corporation (1992 revenues $1.9 billion, net income $51 million). Founded in 1874 in York, they're the largest independent supplier of heating, ventilating, air conditioning and refrigeration equipment in the US. York International was taken private in a 1988 leveraged buyout and returned to the public marketplace with an IPO in October 1991.
In a corner of the lobby sits a room air conditioner from the 1950's. It looks more like a fancy old-time stereo record player than an air conditioner because it's in a beautiful mahogany veneer cabinet. Definitely a collectors piece.
The insides and outside of the place, built in the 1950's, looks like a hospital. Even Michael Reed, Director of Corporate Marketing, agrees with my assessment. Matter of fact, stepping off the elevator onto the executive floor (5th floor) I mention the ugliness of the old green carpet and ask what color green he would call it. Reed answers, "puke green".
CEO Robert Pokelwad's plainly furnished corner office contains four plants, no computer and tickets on the wall from the last winter Olympics. The walls in Reed's office are filled with York International posters and ads plugging the winter Olympics. Reed says York International is a major sponsor. Why? I ask. Guess who's the world's largest builder of snowmaking equipment?, he replies.
Doing a little name-dropping Reed says York International provides the air conditioning in the Kremlin, the British Houses of Parliament, the U.S. Capitol Complex and, with 6.6 million square feet of floor space-the Pentagon.
York International recently received an urgent request for several large-tonnage air conditioning chillers. Why? To replace the ones damaged in the bombing of the World Trade Center. With a total cooling capacity of 49,000 tons of refrigeration, the facility at the World Trade Center is the world's largest central chilled water plant. (For more information: YRK)
Why was the state capital moved from Philadelphia to Harrisburg in 1810? People in the western part of the state and rural areas made a big stink about it's less-than-central location in the City of Brotherly Love.
Harrisburg, a city of 55,000 located on the banks of the Susquehanna River, has a lot going for it. This, according to Napolean Saunders, Business Administrator-City of Harrisburg.
"We're a transportation center, with interstates I-78 and I-276 running through the area plus, this is a station stop for Amtrak". Saunders brags Harrisburg's police department, is one of only 135 police agencies out of 15,000 to earn National Police Accreditation.
As the seat of state government, it (meaning the state) must be a great source of steady revenue for the city, considering the number of state office buildings and workers in the downtown area. To my surprise, Saunders throws out this piece of information: 47% of downtown Harrisburg real estate (churches, state, city and county buildings) is tax exempt.
I tell Saunders I rode through here six years ago and was disappointed to find a run-down, dumpy-looking city. Though this was the state capital there wasn't even a decent downtown hotel. Now, six years later, a couple of spiffy-looking new buildings dot the downtown skyline, the historic Amtrak station has been renovated and a classy Hilton Hotel has been added.
What brought Saunders to Harrisburg? About 10 miles from downtown Harrisburg is the infamous Three Mile Island nuclear power plant. After its near melt down, the city suffered an exodus of people. To many, they saw problems. To Saunders, he saw opportunities.
Headquarters for Harsco, a diversified manufacturer with interests in steel-mill services, engineered products and defense systems, sits on a ridge above the Susquehanna River about a mile from downtown Harrisburg.
Jane Ortenzi, secretary to CEO Malcolm Gambill, gives me a warm welcome. Answering questions in Gambill's office (who's down the hall in a meeting) Ortenzi says the backside of three-story, 45,000 square foot, black reflective glass building with yellow trim is all that's left of a mansion which occupied the 13-acre site. That would explain the swimming pool, two tennis courts and even the helipad on the grounds. Actually, Harsco (1992 revenues $1.6 billion) put in the helipad but doesn't use it.
Was there a Mr. Harsco? I ask. No, the company's name comes from one of its predecessor companies; Harrisburg Coal Company.
Besides Gambill having a computer and three plants in his office, there's a woodcarving of an eagle. The map of England and Ireland on his wall is unusual, especially since it lists invasions which have taken place in those two countries over the past 1,000 years. Don't know who it refers to but, in Gambill's office there's a plaque with General Joe Stilwell's famous quote, "Don't let the bastards grind you down".
(For more information: HSC)