On the Road in Detroit

Federal-Mogul Corporation

In my advance material sent to Federal-Mogul Corporation (1993 revenues $1.6 billion, net income $40 million) I gave a weeks time frame when I'd be in the area. CEO Dennis Gormley left word with the staff to interrupt him in whatever he's doing when I arrive. So, it sure makes me feel important when Gormley immediately exits a meeting he's attending to greet me in the lobby.

Corporate offices for this distributor and manufacturer of components for automobiles, trucks, construction and farm equipment is a four-story, 335,000 square foot building on a 10-acre plot in suburban Southfield. Located 11 miles northwest of Detroit, Southfield has become home to quite a few corporations with much of the credit going to Federal-Mogul. Back in 1966, Federal-Mogul was first major company to move into the area.

What's Federal-Mogul doing with an extensive Indian artifacts collection on display throughout the building? I tell Gormley I'm surprised because I'd expect to find something like this visiting a company in the western United States. First he tells me I shouldn't be surprised because Michigan is or was home to quite a few Indian tribes and then, he tells the story of how the company began its collection. Quite a few years ago a former CEO was exchanging gifts with a Japanese counterpart. The former CEO's gift was a statue of a hawk. The Japanese CEO held up the statue and noted the "made in Sweden" sticker on the underside of the hawk. Embarrassed, the former CEO vowed to make sure this "made in another country" snafu wouldn't happen again. Needless to say, native Indian artifacts (some dating back to the 17th century) soon made an appearance at Federal-Mogul's headquarters. The items range from a skull crusher to traditional blankets.

Federal-Mogul's art collection isn't entirely comprised of Indian artifacts because hanging in the company's Education Center are ten silk screens of endangered species by Andy Warhol.

Gormley's fourth floor corner office contains several unusual items: a large boat propeller and a bulky antique divers helmet-both of which were gifts.

The name "Federal-Mogul" represents a merger of its predecessors Federal Bearing and Bushing Company and the Muzzy-Lyon Company whose major brand was "Mogul Metal". The post office box, which serves as the company’s mailing address represents the year the Southfield headquarters, was built---1966.

Detroit Diesel Corporation

I'm 20 miles west of Detroit at an entrance to one of Detroit Diesel Corporation's plants. The plant has been here since 1938 and it's HUGE- encompassing over two and a half million square feet on a 131-acre site. This is where Detroit Diesel (1993 revenues $1.6 billion, net income $21 million) manufactures heavy duty diesel engines. I'm trying to talk the security guards into letting me ride through the property in order to get to the administrative building located on the other side. No go, so it's around the perimeter I go.

A giant parking lot as well as a security guard in a booth greets me upon reaching the other side. Also greeting me is another security guard that had been discretely tailing me in a truck since I left the other entrance. Calls are made and I'm soon cleared to ride up to the Administrative building with the guard in the truck in tow behind me. Before being allowed in the building the guard asks to search my backpack. "Why am I being treated like I was a terrorist?", I ask. The guard says, "we've had problems". "What kind of problems?", I nosily ask. "Problems" he answers, along with a look telling me not to push it further.

Though the two-story, 136,000 square foot building was built in 1938, I knew it would be very clean. Why? Several articles I've read on CEO Roger Penske mention him being a clean fanatic-which I can relate to because people say that about me. I mention this to Beth Socall, Manager-Public Affairs and she says it's true. Though the huge plant has been here since 1938 and making heavy duty diesel engines is a very dirty and messy business-she says the plant is amazingly clean.

Over 3,600 employees work in the plant and administrative building. The huge parking lot does other things besides holding cars. A carnival in the parking lot is being disassembled after operating here over the weekend to help a local church raise money. Once a year Detroit Diesel hosts a large Gus Macker 3 on 3 basketball tournament in the parking lot.

The company operates its own on-site rehabilitation center for employees injured on the job.

CEO Roger Penske occupies a small, windowless, middle office on the first floor. As expected, race car memorabilia is found. Penske builds and owns cars to run in the Indianapolis 500 and his cars have come in first-something like a dozen times. Behind his desk is a large framed picture of drivers Rick Mears and Emerson Fittipaldi standing beside one of his race cars (co-sponsored by Marlboro cigarettes). On one side of the room sits a two-foot high model Indy car. I note the plant (which is fake), the hockey trophy won by his son and, the large 10x20 foot map of the world lining one wall. Penske's desk is completely clear of anything-no phone, pens, paper weights, family pictures or reading material and Socall says that's the way he keeps it when he leaves at the end of each day.

I spend a few minutes talking with Ludvik Koci, President, in his first floor office that is twice as big as Penske's AND has windows with a boring view of the parking lot. "Why all the eagle statues in your office?", I ask. "My wife gave me one a few years ago and since then people have been giving them to me because they think I collect them", is his answer.

Ford Motor Company

Before riding up to the headquarters of Ford Motor Company (1993 revenues $109 billion, net income $2,5 billion), the world's third largest industrial corporation, I make my way through several large employee parking lots. What's the verdict? I'd estimate 98% of the employee cars are Fords. I do note the brand new, bright red Chevrolet Corvette sitting by itself in the corner of a lot looking as if it's been ostracized.

Vaughn Bishop, Supervisor-Executive Services Unit, says over 2,900 employees work on the 92-acre site, landscaped with a variety of native Michigan trees. I guesstimate the blue/green reflective glass, 12-story, 652,000 square foot main tower and connecting 297,000 square foot structure were built in 1960. Vaughn says 1953. I wasn't too far off. Escalators in the lobby, which were big in the late 1950's and early 1960's, date the building.

I count 11 various 1994 models of Ford vehicles on display in the lobby area. The most expensive being the Continental Mark VIII with a sticker price tag of $41,000. Visitors sit in (16) brown leather chairs while waiting. The food in the cafeteria is pretty good though the seating area could use some brightening up.

For "security reasons" I can't see CEO Alexander Trotman's office but, Vaughn does the next best thing. We go up to the 12th floor and I get to look out a window several offices down from Trotman's office to see what kind of view he has. Trotman can see downtown Detroit about 10 miles away and has a bird's eye view of Ford's road testing facility about a quarter mile away. The testing grounds encompass quite a bit of prime real estate and with new developments surrounding the area around it I can just picture developers drooling over the prospects of Ford one day selling the site.

The boardroom table, which can seats 28, is V-shaped and Vaughn laughs at my suggestion the shape has something to do with the V-8 engine.

K-Mart Corporation

In the early 1970's Kmart (1994 revenues $34.1, net loss $974 million) joined many companies in fleeing downtown Detroit for the safety of the suburbs. When Kmart plopped down in Troy back in 1972 the area was undeveloped farmland. Nowadays, this community located 25 miles northwest of Detroit, boasts an impressive collection of modern office buildings in the downtown area as well as along I-75, which snakes its way through Troy.

You think Kmart's headquarters is going to look like one of its stores? It's not even close. The three-story, 910,000 square foot structure is an assembly of self-contained units organized around a spine corridor system. There are 22 modules of office space plus the lobby and 30 towers that serve as service "core" units containing elevators, stairways, restrooms, vending machines and building utility equipment. The exterior is weathering steel and bronze glass. The steel requires no painting and has acquired a permanent, deep brown surface coating-similar to USX's massive high-rise headquarters in Pittsburgh.

It's 1/4 mile across the longest dimension of the building and Teresa Fearon, Media Specialist, says over 4,600 employees work in the place. With that many people it's no wonder there're two cafeterias.

Visiting Kmart six years ago I'll never forget being taken to the company's product testing lab. Before any product gets placed on Kmart's shelves it has to past muster with the testing people. It was around noon and diapers were being tested. I don't know what was in the yellow gunk on the diapers but it sure made me lose my appetite. All is quiet today as we walk by because the testers are on a break.

The mailroom in the basement is about the size of a football field! With headquarters constantly sending mail to each of the thousands of individual stores you can imagine the size of place.

Also in the basement is the company's sample sales store. Vendors give Kmart samples of products and the extras end up in the store. About the size of a 7/11 convenience store and open only a few hours a day, it's loaded with clothes, durable goods etc.. and the prices are dirt cheap. I do some price checking to see if employees really do get good deals and it's true. I use Mennen anti-perspirant deodorant stick (fresh scent) and it's $1.00 cheaper here than anyplace I've seen.

The Kresge Foundation

How many of you would guess the offices for The Kresge Foundation, one of the largest foundations in the US, would be in downtown Troy on a dairy farm in a farmhouse built in 1852? Once a thriving 300-acre dairy farm, the Brooks family farmstead was reduced to its present three acres when the family sold the rest of the property in the mid-sixties to commercial developers. The farmhouse, listed in The National Register of Historic Places, is constructed of split-faced stone in the Greek Revival architectural style. Also on-site behind a white picket fence and slew of grand old trees is a large red barn and two original windmills-one which continues to pump water for site irrigation. The Foundation acquired and relocated to the farm in 1984.

What's amazing or better yet-bizarre about the set-up is the location. First, right across the street is Kmart's massive chocolate-colored headquarters. Second, surrounding the farm on both sides and the rear is a complex of modern glass office buildings and third, the main thoroughfare in Troy runs right by the place.

This is one of those instances where I just happen to be riding by, notice the place, and walk in and ask if someone will meet with me. Phyllis Johnson, Executive Secretary, is more than accommodating.

Not noticeable from the street and connected to the farmhouse is a well-masked, two-story modern office addition-which is where most of the 24 employees work.

Believe or not, the old two-story farmhouse contains a modern elevator-though you wouldn't be able to find it on your own. Why? In order to preserve the building's historic integrity, it's hidden behind a closet door. Walking though the closet to reach the elevator I feel like I'm on an old Get Smart television episode.

The farmhouse contains two conference rooms. One is called the Mustard room and the other the Beige room because it's the color of the walls. Victorian-style furnishings fill the rooms and I guarantee meetings don't last long here. The wood-back chairs are tiny-like as if they were meant for little kids and, look very uncomfortable. "Why are the chairs so dinky", I ask Phyllis. "You have to remember this farmhouse dates back to the 1850's and back then-people were much smaller", she answers.

A small perk: when the apples on the over 50 apple trees on the property ripen--employees get to pick 'em.

In 1899, Sebastian S. Kresge, started the S.S. Kresge Company which is now Kmart Corporation. Kresge established the Kresge Foundation with an initial gift of $1.3 million in 1924. His instructions to the incorporating trustees were set forth in brief terms; the Foundation's income was to be used "to promote the well-being of mankind". Since its establishment, The Kresge Foundation has awarded a cumulative total of 6,474 grants for $960 million. Current assets are over $1.4 billion.

I find it interesting that Kmart has nothing what-so-ever to do with running or influencing the foundation. I'm also told it's just coincidence the two are located across the street from each other.

 

Handleman Company

As with its profile, the corporate offices of Handleman Company-the nation's largest music, video and software distributor, is low-key. On a side street, a coin toss away from I-75, sits the two-story, company-owned, 128,000 square foot structure.

Roger Apple, VP-Human Resources and Jim Stark, Manager-Employee Training, give me an enthusiastic welcome and deluxe tour of Handleman Company's facility (1993 revenues $1.1 billion, net income $44 million).

Why is the company based in Troy? Apple says it's to be close to the company's biggest customer-Kmart. The largest portion of Handleman Company's revenues comes from stocking the entertainment departments (music, videos & books) of discount retailers like Kmart, Wal-Mart and Hills Department Stores.

As we walk around, I'm told 500 employees work in the place.

Where do these employees hang up their coats and jackets upon arriving to work in the morning? In clothes closets of course. But, the company does something unusual here: one large closet is marked "smoking" and the other "non-smoking". Non-smoking employees were complaining of their clothes reeking of cigarettes and management did something about it.

CEO Steven Strome occupies a no-frills, middle office on the second floor. I do note the two cacti in his office as well as the M&M's candies. The boardroom table is shaped like a square donut.

Standard Federal Bank

It isn't very often I find a bank headquartered in a suburban town (Troy) but that's the case with Standard Federal Bank. With $10.9 billion in assets, Standard is the 7th largest publicly-traded thrift in the country.

The company occupies 85% of a good-looking, company-owned, six-story, building known as Standard Federal Financial Center. Built in 1989, the 450,000 square foot structure with a 6-story atrium is home to over 1,00 employees and the company's operations center.

William Yaw, Jr., Senior Vice President, points out some of the company's art collection as we stroll the corridors. Primarily consisting of contemporary art, I pass works by Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol, Frank Stella and Ellsworth Kelly.

The gray granite table in the boardroom matches the building's granite exterior and CEO Thomas Ricketts' granite desk in his corner office.

Michigan National Corporation

The next town over from Troy is Farmington Hills and believe it or not, here's another bank located in the burbs. However, unlike at Standard Federal, I get the bum's rush at Michigan National (assets $10 billion, 1993 revenues $935 million, net income $24 million).

It's a great looking, three-story, red brick, Tudor-style building fronting I-696. Matter of fact, it looks more like a fancy conference center hotel than the headquarters for a bank.

I like the wooden Shaker-style chairs in the reception area but I don't get to sit down for very long because the super nice receptionist calls up Margie Fitts, secretary to CEO Robert Mylod. The message is relayed to me "nobody has time for you". I get on the phone with Fitts and after explaining to her what I'm doing she curtly says again "nobody has time for you".

General Motors Corporation

When opened in 1920, General Motors Corporation's (1993 revenues $138 billion, net income $2.5 billion) headquarters was the world's biggest office complex. The massive 15-story, Alfred Kahn-designed structure contains over 1.3 million square feet of space and originally included two swimming pools, a ballroom/auditorium, 19 bowling alleys, 20 billiard tables, hotel suites for visiting GM executives and a day hospital for employees. Things are different now as I can tell by the security camera mounted inside the elevator as it accompanies me up to meet with Ronald Theis, Director-Corporate Philanthropy & Community Relations.

Located three miles from downtown Detroit, over 5,200 employees work in the General Motors Building, designated a National Historic Landmark in 1985. If you like neoclassical style, this building is a must see. The lobby and corridors as well as the floors, are faced with three types of marble. The 500 foot long main lobby corridor is a sight to behold with its brightly-colored, vaulted ceilings with gold leaf. New GM cars line the main corridor and if I were to walk down all the corridors-I'd have walked 4.25 miles. I'm told the boardroom and CEO's office are off limits to me.

The Stroh Brewery Company

Privately-held Stroh Brewery, the nation's fourth largest brewery (over $1 billion in revenues) and second largest exporter of beer, has done a terrific job in taking a run-down, river-front, former manufacturing facility for druggist Parke-Davis and turning it into a spiffy-looking office complex known as River Place.

Located a mile from downtown Detroit, Stroh occupies about 50% of the company-owned, six-story, 511,000 square foot, red brick structure. Lacey Alexis Logan, Director-Corporate Communication & Public Relations, says about 350 employees work in the place.

I can't see CEO Peter Stroh's office because he's a "private person" but, I do get a tour of the small brewery on the premises used primarily for brewing up potential new beers. The boardroom contains several antique beer steins.

Little Caesar Enterprises

The Big 3 pizza chains each have their own claim to fame: Privately-held Domino's Pizza is the world's largest pizza delivery chain, Pizza Hut (owned by PepsiCo) operates the world's largest chain of sit-down pizza restaurants and, privately-held Little Caesar Enterprises is the world's largest carry-out pizza chain with over 5,000 outlets.

I spend several hours visiting Little Caesar Enterprises corporate offices near downtown Detroit and it's a lot of fun. It might have something to do with the fact Alexander Sebastian, Director-Media Relations, is a super nice guy and, that the corporate offices sit atop and include the 5,000 seat Fox Theater, the largest movie theater in the country.

Built in 1927, Little Caesars founder Michael Ilitch purchased the badly deteriorated Fox Theater and adjoining 10-story office building in 1987 and proceeded to do a multi-million dollar renovation. The sumptuous interior is described as "Siamese-Byzantine" which is a conglomeration of Far Eastern, Egyptian, Babylonian and Indian themes from various eras. The highlights of the interior besides being embellished in gold leaf includes, the second largest Wurlitzer organ ever made, a 13 foot in diameter, two-ton chandelier, velvet throne chairs, hand stenciled walls, with the lobby floor made of terrazzo and trimmed in brass-bearing a star-burst pattern in the center. Trust me, you can't help but say "wow" when seeing the inside for the first time.

Over 600 employees work in the adjoining building. Walls on several floors are adorned with scenes from some of the company's hilarious and award-winning advertising campaigns. Highlighting an atrium on the upper floor is a large, colorful collage of hand-blown glass by the well-known Dale Chihuly. Sebastian walks me by the company's large child-care center called "Fox Tots" and proceeds to introduce me as his "show and tell" guest to about a dozen five year old kids being read a story. I spend a few minutes fielding their questions such as: Do you have a horn on your bike? and Do you get scared?

Free parking for all employees in an eight-story parking structure located across the street is a nice perk but then again, it's almost a necessity. Why? Located in the theater district about a half mile from the downtown, it's isn't exactly the safest looking area even during the day.

Sebastian says revenues were over $2.1 billion in 1993. What has Ilitch done with some of the millions he's made? Let's see, he owns the Detroit Tigers baseball team, Detroit Red Wings hockey team, Detroit Rockers soccer team. Plus, next door to the Fox Theater he built and owns the new The Second City-Detroit Comedy Theater-which includes a 350-seat theater, a 350-seat restaurant and a 50-seat bar.