On the road in Colorado

Colorado Springs

I don't have any companies to visit in Colorado Springs, the 55th largest city in the US, but I'm curious as to why 400,000 people live here. The answer in two words: Pikes Peak. The majestic 14,100 foot high mountain overlooks the city.

Occupying a spot up in the foothills is the grand and historic Broadmoor Hotel & Resort. It's worth a visit if for nothing else than to see the stuffed and mounted bison and antelope heads hanging over the registration area and the collection of photos from its turn-of-the-century early years.

Colorado Springs is home to the US Olympic Committee and the US Olympic Training Center, which I'm surprised to find located about a mile from downtown on an old Air Force base. Nearby is the 7/11 Velodrome, one of 25 in the US and the only one with a Class A rating. Thinking it might be kind of fun to ride my pannier-laden bike around the track I ask permission. It's no dice because I don't have a USCF license and I'm "not a registered guest at the Olympic Training Center". Roller skaters also use the Velodrome and the infield contains the only Banked Speed Roller Skating Track in the US.

Utah's number #1 attraction is in Colorado Springs; US Air Force Academy. The Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum in the old downtown El Paso County Courthouse (built in 1903) is worth a visit.

US West, Inc

It's 50 miles from Colorado Springs to Denver and I make great time because I use Interstate 25. It's legal to ride bicycles on the interstates in Colorado.

Englewood (population 30,000), twelve miles south of Denver, is THE suburban business address. Coming through six years ago this area was just starting to blossom and now, it's a miniature high-rise city with gleaming new office buildings lining the freeways.

This is a return visit to US West (1992 revenues $10.2 billion, net income $1.1 billion). I'm curious if having a new CEO means a different reception. My first visit was a good one.

Though Blair Johnson, Director-International and Financial Communications, is pressed for time, he gives a quick tour of the low-key, company-owned, four-story, 144,000 square foot brick building. I've visited the other "Baby bells" and they all have high-profile headquarters with their names prominently displayed on the building. Not here, if it wasn't for the small sign above the front door you wouldn't know this has been home for US West and 500 employees since 1983.

Walking into CEO Richard McCormick's corner office I meet Cathy Hubbard, McCormick's assistant (actually her business card reads; Manager-Office of the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer). Hubbard remembers my visit six years ago (she says the shorts give me away). There's definitely a western touch to his second floor office. On a table is a bronze bust of a Indian chief. The most prominent item is the large ceremonial buffalo robe that at first glance looks like a small teepee. McCormick can step outside onto a balcony that overlooks a pool-like body of water.

Western art is in evidence throughout the building. John Meyer's western landscape oil painting "Cedar Break Sentinel" looks out over the small circular boardroom table while pictures of the current Board of Directors line another wall in the boardroom.

Tele-Communications, Inc.

I figure finding Tele-Communications' (1992 revenues $3.6 billion, net income $-19 million) offices in Englewood will be easy; just look for a tall building with lots of satellite dishes out front. After all, Tele-Communications is the nation's largest cable television operator.

The company-owned, 11-story, glass and white-stoned headquarters building sits a spit away from I-25 and a sign on the grounds (not satellite dishes) lets me know I'm at the right place.

The modernistic-looking lobby features four televisions going at once and 12 comfortable black leather sofas.

Lela Cocoros, Director of Corporate Communications, says 800 employees work in the place. The first floor cafeteria called Tele-Cattessen treats employees to a small perk; free popcorn.

CEO John Malone isn't in as the hospitable Cocoros walks me into his top floor corner office with a great view of the not-so-far-away Rocky Mountains. I make note of Malone's U-shaped marble desk, the leather armadillo, the scale model sailboat and eight plants-including several (real) cacti. What's unusual about his office though is the off-white cotton padding covering his walls. The padding is held in place by, and I'm not kidding you, black strands of coaxial cable-the kind of cable used by cable companies to hook up our televisions.

A small waiting room next to Malone's office contains a cut glass polar bear on a coffee table and a large navigation map of Maine on a wall. Malone's a sailor and matter of fact, he's currently in Maine doing what sailors do in the summer.

When asked, how's business? Cocoros replies, "fabulous!".

Life Partners Group

Life Partners Group, an insurance holding company (1992 revenues $443 million, net income $41 million), leases nine floors of a blah-looking 11-story building in Englewood.

Winnie Ard, Executive Secretary to CFO Gregory Palmquist, isn't able to locate her boss in the building and does an admirable job answering my questions in Palmquist's absence.

About 500 employees work in the building. After hearing tales of trivia picked up at other insurance companies Ard is disappointed in her company's plain offices. Ard does tell me the story of a few years ago when the Denver Broncos football team was making one of its usual winless trips to the Super Bowl. Evidently the company got all caught up in the hoopla and mounted a huge Bronco flag atop the building. Only problem was-mounting the flag atop the building was illegal.

Cyprus Minerals Company

I could see the four-story, 144,000 square foot headquarters of Cyprus Mineral Company from about a mile away and knew it was the place because of the building's copper color. Cyprus Mineral is the second largest producer of copper in the US, as well as the free world's largest lithium producer, molybdenum producer and one of the top 20 US coal producers.

Located in Englewood and built in 1988, the personable and enthusiastic Michael Rounds, Manager-Media Relations, gives me the deluxe tour of Cyprus Mineral Company's (1992 revenues $1.6 billion, net income $-246 million) good-looking headquarters.

The lobby/reception area features four large glass display cases filled with all kinds of items and artifacts having to do with mining and Cyprus Minerals. These include several old safety helmets, lanterns, various kinds of colorful rocks (over 20) found in their mines and, an unusual piece of copper impregnated mine timber from the Isle of Cyprus-380 B.C. One display contains the covers of every company annual report. This doesn't take up much room since the company was spun-off from Amoco in 1985.

The company, named after the Mediterranean island of Cyprus, where copper has been mined since as early as 3000 B.C. remembers its roots. That explains the beautiful clay amphora vase from the Isle of Cyprus in the lobby and dated 10 B.C.

The most prominent items in the lobby are the three impressive large-than-life bronze statues of Cyprus workers in the field. Done by Gary Prazen, each one is mounted on a pedestal. One is a woman, titled "In Control" representing a growing number of women in the mining industry. The other two are titled "The Sentinel" and "High Grade".

About 150 employees work here and are on even keel with executives on several important matters: there're no executive dining rooms and no executive washrooms.

CEO Milton Ward has a drop-dead view of the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains (only 20 miles away) from his corner office. Ward isn't in so I can't ask him about the old seismograph machine and old surveying equipment sitting on a shelf. I do note his office as well as the others have copper switch covers-you know the covers which go over the switches for turning lights on and off.

This 13-acre site is located in a 172-acre business park. As recently as 1952 the land was a working farm complete with wheat fields and Angus cattle. Matter of fact, Louise Larrick, who's family has owned the land for years, still lives on a portion of the land and raises llamas.

Vicorp Restaurants, Inc.

Six miles from downtown Denver in a light industrial area where Interstate 70 and Interstate 25 intersect I find the three-story headquarters of Vicorp Restaurants (1992 revenues $418 million, net income $16 million), which operates and franchises 408 mid-scale restaurants under the names Bakers Square and Village Inn.

The company-owned, 60,000 square foot building is 20 years old and looks it. Directly in front of headquarters is one of their Village Inn restaurants. Hanging from a banister in the small lobby is a 6x12 American flag and the only reading material available on the coffee table are several issues of Restaurant & Institutional Magazine.

From James Strohan, Senior Vice President-Administration and Penny McCoy, Director-Corporate Human Resources & Administration, I learn the name Vicorp is derived from Village Inn Corporation and the reason the company is located in Denver is because it was founded here in 1958.

CEO Charles Frederickson isn't in his office when I initially go in and start looking around. On a shelf is some kind of a trophy with the rear end of a small silver horse mounted on it. I start to ask Strohan about it when Frederickson walks in. Frederickson sees me eyeing the trophy and rolls his eyes. He gives Strohan the okay to tell the story. Seems the company has a volleyball tournament and Frederickson's team came in dead last. Employees presented the good-natured Frederickson with the trophy to acknowledge his prowlness (or rather lack of prowlness) on the court.

Here's a nice perk: everyday all 225 employees get a free lunch at the next door Village Inn. Aware of my fondness for sweets, McCoy walks me to the Village Inn so I can try one of their desserts. The verdict: the French Silk pie is marvelous. Jeez, how would you like to be the manager of the restaurant and have the "big cheeses" eating at your place every day?

Next door is a 10-story hotel. McCoy says several years ago they looked out their windows and saw a nun in full garb standing on a 9th floor ledge as if she's was going to jump. Vicorp called the police but, they weren't needed. Seems they were only shooting scenes for the television show; Father Dowling, which was filmed in the Denver area.

The Gates Corporation

Five miles west of downtown on an 85-acre site sits the four-story brick headquarters of privately-held The Gates Corporation, which with revenues of $1.45 billion, is one of the world's largest non-tire rubber companies.

I visited Gates six years ago and though well received, I never got to see the CEO's office. I do remember being shown the boardroom by a woman who pointed out a nearby men's bathroom and the lack of a woman's bathroom. I'm back to try again.

Directly across the street from headquarters is a large Gates manufacturing plant. The company invented the V-belt for automotive and industrial drives and the sealed-lead battery. In fact, the headquarters building used to be a Ford Model-T assembly plant in the 1920's.

Showing up on a Wednesday morning, the secretary to CEO Charles Gates says Gates left her a note saying he was interested in meeting with me. Unfortunately for me, Gates just entered a meeting and is booked up the rest of the day.

Coming back Friday I learn from Lewis Keim, Vice President-Corporate Public Relations, this is the worst day to show up. Why? Final papers are being signed as we speak completing Eveready Battery's purchase of the nickel-based rechargeable battery business of Gates. Since a company brochure says the Gates batteries business did sales of $182 million in 1990-we're talking quite a bit of pocket change.

The company has a helipad on the grounds and owns two corporate aircraft; a Learjet 35 and a Learjet 55. Gates used to own Learjet.

Newmont Mining Corporation

I don't strike gold at Newmont Mining Corporation (1993 revenues $613 million, net income $91 million). The nicely-furnished reception area on the 28th floor of a 50-story downtown Denver high-rise gives no inkling you're in the headquarters of the largest producer of gold in North America. There's no mining or mineral paraphernalia. Jeez, even a piece of Fools Gold would liven things up here.

Pat Kisley, secretary to CEO Gordon Parker, walks out to the lobby and says to contact Jim Hill, Vice President-Corporation Relations. Hill's secretary makes short work of me over the phone. According to her, Hill is "too busy" and "isn't interested" in meeting with me even if I came back another day.

Storage Technology Corporation

Riding 20 miles north of Denver brings me to Louisville (population 13,000), home to Storage Technology Corporation (1992 revenues $1.5 billion, net income $15 million).

U.S. Highway 36 is a controlled access highway similar to a freeway. Looking over to the right from the road I can see a big complex of buildings on several hills set back about a quarter mile from Highway 36. Surrounding the structures is a large, vast expanse of barren brown hilly land, the kind with little use except for cattle grazing. Stopping along the road to snap a picture of StorageTek's complex and land holdings I get the feeling I'm being watched. Taking a closer look of the surroundings it turns out I'm right. Literally hundreds of prairie dogs are peering out of their dirt burrows checking me out.

Entering the property a sign says visitor's must check-in at the visitor's center which is a mobile home-like structure. Walking in I find two receptionists manning the phones and a close-circuit camera keeping its eye on me. Calling several people, the receptionists come up empty-handed. Lucky for me the receptionists read newspapers and are persistent. Earlier in the week I had a write-up in the Denver Post and the receptionists read it so they're familiar with what I do. Thanks to them, David Reid, Manager-Public Relations and Arlyce Lewis, Manager-Community Relations walk over to the trailer oops visitor's center and meet with me.

Teaching an elephant to square dance would be easier than getting information out of Reid and Lewis. "How many acres do you have here? It must be hundreds and hundreds," I ask. "Don't know", Reid responds. "Any chance you could find out for me?", I ask. "No", Reid answers.

Over 5,000 employees work in the 10 buildings scattered about-all that look to have been built over 20 years ago.

I'm told the recreational facilities include two racquetball courts, a lap pool and an indoor basketball court. Usually I like to physically take a look at the recreational facilities but as with all my other requests it's denied.

I was going to ask if prairie dog soup was on the menu at the two cafeterias but Reid and Lewis's distaste of having to meet with me is obvious so I skip the attempt at humor.

The company's mission statement reads: "At Storage Technology Corporation, our mission is to be the preferred provider of information storage and retrieval solutions to mainframe, mid-range and large network marketplaces worldwide." When asked who they consider the competition, Reid and Lewis both reply, IBM. From my guarded reception at StorageTek it looks like their mission should be not to imitate IBM's "fortress" mentality.

Boulder, Colorado

Located 25 miles north of Denver at the foot of the Rocky Mountains lies Boulder (population 84,000), probably the most bicycle-friendly city in the US. If there's a road-it's more likely than not-there's a bike path, bike trail or bike lane alongside it. The beautiful University of Colorado makes my Top Ten List of Best Campuses in the US. Boulder makes my Top Five list of favorite cities visited with a population under 100,000. Other on the list include Burlington, VT, Ithaca, NY, Greenwich, CT and Santa Barbara, CA.

Boulder has a very restrictive building code. The tallest building is probably six stories. Downtown Boulder, unlike most in America, has a vibrant and thriving pedestrian mall filled with a wide array of restaurants, shops, entertainment and galleries. People are friendly and very outdoorsy, with biking, hiking and skiing being big. Who's the largest private-sector employer? High-technology is top dog. Storage Technology Corporation with almost 5,000 in nearby Louisville is #1 and then IBM with 2,900 employees.

Celestial Seasonings Inc.

With revenues of only $54 million, net income $520 thousand, Celestial Seasonings doesn't exactly fall between the $300 million to $1.5 billion in revenues parameters set up but, I have this feeling it'd be a fun company to visit.

Riding four miles east of Boulder leads me to Celestial Seasoning's 155,800 square foot headquarters and manufacturing facility. Built in 1990 and located on a 42-acre site, the two-story facility uses 45,000 square feet for office space and 110,800 square feet for manufacturing. Between Celestial's headquarters and a nearby residential development is a vacant undeveloped lot about the size of two football fields. Actually I should correct myself, the vacant lot IS developed: hundreds of prairie dogs have made the lot their home.

Before walking into the lobby I make note of the extensive herb garden growing outside the front doors. Since Celestial is the largest manufacturer and marketer of herb teas in the US I guess it makes sense to give visitors a glimpse of its products origins.

The lobby is VERY unusual. In a corner a life-sized teddy bear wearing a red sleeping cap, pajamas and a contented expression sits in a stuffed chair next to a fireplace with fake flames aglow. Nearby is a 1940's style radio and a fake cat curled up on a rug. What the heck? The receptionist laughs and says, "You don't drink our tea do you?" "No", I reply. Celestial markets 42 tea flavors with each having its own distinctive cover on its boxes. The most popular is Sleepytime-who's cover is of a sleepy bear in a chair, wearing a red cap and pajamas sitting next to a fireplace with a cat curled up on a rug. That explains the company's address: 4600 Sleepytime Drive.

The lobby area contains metal water buckets filled with bright yellow fake sunflowers. Real rosemary, red pepper, lemon balm and lavender plants sit along one wall while lining shelves in a large hutch are over 30 jars containing a variety of spices. Up high on a wall behind the receptionist are two large oil portraits of the two men who founded the company.

On the coffee table are several books including: "Complete Book of Herb & Spices", "Save Our Planet", "The Complete Tea Book" and "Taking Tea Book". Magazines include Country Living and Travel & Leisure.

Renee Tilton, Public Relation Manager, greets me in the lobby and we're off on a fun-filled, informative, six hour tour of the place. First stop, a tour of the manufacturing facility and warehouse. The highlight? Peppermint because its smell is so overwhelming, has to be stored in its own separate area away from the others. Walking into the room my eyes water because the smell is so strong. In the winter employees visit the peppermint room to clear sinus and unplug stuffed-up noses.

Walking through the corporate office I spot something unusual: Celestial has recreated the actual tea displays found in store shelves in three supermarkets around the country. One is of a Lucky store in San Francisco, the second is a Ralphs in Los Angeles and the third, a Stop & Shop in Boston. The displays allows Celestial to see how their packaging and shelf space compares to the competition. Tilton says Lipton, Nestea and Bigelow are its three main competitors.

Mo Siegel, the 43-year old CEO and co-founder, has a middle office on the second floor. Walking into his office a painting of Abraham Lincoln greets you. I ask Siegel, "Why the Lincoln painting?" Siegel answers, "He's my hero". There's a treadmill in his office along with a stereo system, two live plants, family pictures, a television, a little refrigerator, boxes of Celestial teas scattered about and a gym bag containing workout clothes and Rollerblades. Lunchtime sometimes finds Siegel zipping around the parking lot on his Rollerblades. I count over 100 books-mostly business related filling the book cases behind his desk. Out his window the nearby Rocky Mountains are visible as are the company's basketball and two volleyball courts on the grounds.

Tired of handing out the same old business card? At Celestial your box of business cards contains a variety of different cards each containing one of the colorful designs used on the packaging of the company's 42 flavors of tea.

The company cafeteria (Celestial Cafe) has great food although I pass on trying a "veggie" burger. Of course it goes without saying Celestial teas in the cafeteria are free to the 210 employees-who by the way have no dress code.

I do however have bad news for Tilton. This summer I became hooked on Snapple's Raspberry Iced Tea. Lipton's Raspberry and Nestea's Raspberry are a distant second and third. Celestial Seasonings has entered the bottled iced tea market and have come out with Raspberry Zinger. I give it a try and its awful-not enough punch to it.

Chinook Medical Gear, Inc.

Coming out a supermarket in Boulder I find Carl Darnell admiring my bicycle. He's curious as to what kind of first aid kit I carry. "One of those Johnson & Johnson kits most people carry in the glove compartment of their cars", I reply.

Turns out Darnell is President of Chinook Medical Gear and invites me to drop by their corporate offices to check out their version of a first aid kit.

The address he gives me is 2805 Wilderness Place. I have visions of headquarters being located out in the boonies next to a stream. Imagine my disappointment when I ride up and find it's in a small office park about a mile from downtown Boulder.

Chinook Medical Gear puts out an impressive 60-page catalog filled with medical necessities you would need on just about any type of outdoor or travel experience. Going mountain climbing in Nepal? Chinook sells the Gamow Bag, a portable hyperbaric chamber for $2,395.00. Going snorkeling, sailing or sea-kayaking? Chinook has a marine medical kit. Going backpacking? Chinook has a kit for hiking in the backcountry.

What kind of a kit do they have for a cross-country biker who doesn't have much room? I'm given a Pro-Light Cyclist kit which contains about a zillion more items than the Johnson & Johnson kit yet, they're about the same size. Why is it given to me? Guilt. I let Darnell ride my pannier-laden bicycle around the parking lot and he ends up getting a flat tire.

I check out Darnell's office. Pretty barren except the walls are lined with pictures sent in by customers taken from exotic locales showing Chinook's products being used.

Wouldn't you know it, I haven't had to use a first aid kit in over a year. Yet, several days after visiting Chinook it turns out I need it. My finger gets scrapped in a closing door-causing one of those pesky cuts where it won't stop bleeding. I search the kit for the Band-Aids and put one on. Hmmm, the Band-Aid is covered with pictures of a red, white and blue fellow wearing a stocking cap. Hey wait a minute! it's a Where's Waldo Band-Aid!! So I end up having to visit several companies wearing the distinctive Band-Aid. Of course I have to endure teasing. One company official, a woman, said, "it's almost as cute as the dinosaur Band-Aids my son wears".

For a free Chinook Medical Gear catalog call 800-766-1365. P.S. If you order anything that comes with Band-Aids--ASK who or what are on them.