On the road in Cleveland


It's plush up here on the 55th floor of the 57-story Society Tower in downtown Cleveland and we're definitely high up. At 948 feet, it's the tallest building between Chicago and New York. Two banks, Key Bank (Albany, NY) and Society Bank (Cleveland) recently merged to form the 11th largest bank holding company in the US with over $60 billion in assets. Though KeyCorp won out as the surviving name, headquarters for the merged companies stays in Cleveland in the impressive looking two-year old Society Tower.

The 55th floor houses the executive dining rooms and the reception area for visitors meeting with top executives and it's furnished accordingly. In one corner of the large reception room sits a Yamaha baby grand piano. Fourteen state flags line up along one wall, signifying states in which the company does business. "The Legend Lives", a bronze of a cowboy by Peter Fillerup occupies another part of the room. A staircase leads up to the senior executive offices on the 56th floor.

KeyCorp occupies floors 2-21 and 54-56 or roughly 625,000 square feet of the 1.2 million square feet in the place. This I find out from John Fuller, Director-Corporate Communications and Lucas Del Valle, Media Relations.

The two banks merging also meant combining the two distinctly different corporate art collections which explains rounding one corner to find a pair of Japanese 17th Century painted screens, only to turn another corner and find a 15 foot totem pole or, "No. 5 York Factory" an oil on canvas by Frank Stella.

Many companies have relaxation lounge areas where employees can watch television, read, play ping pong or just snooze. I like the set-up here: Eight shaker rocking chairs lined up in a row along a big picture window overlooking downtown. It's quite relaxing rocking back and forth watching the hustle and bustle of people below.

Walking into CFO James Wert's corner office on the 56th floor I note the telescope and then peer through it to see where it's pointed. Holy cow, he's got an unobstructed view of home plate in the new Cleveland Indians baseball field half a dozen blocks away. The new ballpark is named Jacobs Field after owner Richard Jacobs. Where does developer Jacobs have his office? Turns out it's on the top floor (57th) of this tower.

The mahogany boardroom table is big (seats 26), with the room highlighted by "Champagne D'Allauche", an oil painting of a French countryside by Paul Camille Guigou (1834-1871).

National City Corp.

National City Corp, with $31 billion in assets, is the 26th largest bank holding company in the country. Though its headquarters is a 35-story structure called National City Center, it only leases space.

Half the size of KeyCorp, its nearby rival, Marianne Wascak, Communications Officer, seems to get a certain amount of satisfaction by telling me National City Bank is the OLDEST bank in Cleveland-founded 149 years ago.

Built in 1980, it's home to 1,000 employees and has a helipad atop its roof.

How did the bank get its name? In the beginning it was City Bank. In 1865, City Bank was granted a charter under the National Bank Act of 1863. All banks with a national charter were required to have "national" appear somewhere in their legal name. The directors of City Bank decided to put it in the front.

Eaton Corporation

Nothing out of the ordinary to report at Eaton Corporation's headquarters. This manufacturer of vehicles components, electrical and electronic controls and defense systems, leases 10 floors in a 28-story building called Eaton Center.

John Hushen, Vice President-Corporate Affairs, says there was a Mr. Eaton who founded Eaton Corporation (1993 revenues $4.4 billion, net income $207 million) back in 1911.

CEO William Butler occupies a middle office on the 26th floor and I note the basketball by his desk signed by players on the 1991-1992 Cleveland Cavaliers team.

Parker-Hannifin Corporation

No wonder the 4-story headquarters of Parker-Hannifin (1993 revenues $2.5 billion, net income $65 million) is so long. Constructed in 1919, it originally assembled cars here for Chandler Motor Car Company and later, the Hupp Motor Car Corporation. Arthur Parker, who founded Parker-Hannifin in 1918, purchased the building in 1935. A large water tower with the company's name on it and looking as old as the building, keeps watch over the site.

Located 10 miles east of downtown Cleveland, over 600 employees work here. The 550,000 square foot structure is long. How long? Long enough, says Jodi Bennett, Public Relations Specialist, to have a 1/4 mile indoor walking trail.

The small reception area contains a display showing some of the company's many products. Parker-Hannifin manufacturers a wide variety of motion-control components and systems for three business segments: automotive, industrial, and aviation/space/marine.

Lubrizol Corporation

Where does Lubrizol, the world's largest additive producer, call home? In a seven building, administrative/research complex about 15 miles east of downtown Cleveland. Lubrizol (1993 revenues $1.5 billion, net income $46 million) supplies specialty additive systems for oils used in gasoline and diesel engines, automatic transmission fluids, gear oils and, marine & tractor lubricants.

Lubrizol's 70-acre site hasn't much depth but, is very long--over a half-dozen blocks long. Reason: train tracks in the rear, with the front of the property being hemmed in by a passing freeway.

Though Kenneth Iwashita, Director-Public Affairs, calls it a campus, I disagree. A new building is nearing completion but, it's on the OTHER side of the busy railroad tracks with no way of directly walking over.

Over 1,600 employees work on the premises. The two cafeterias are run by the Cleveland Society for the Blind.

The tallest building is four stories, with 730,000 being the total square footage of the various structures. Nothing fancy about CEO L.E. Coleman's first floor corner office. His view? A fence and the walking trail which passes by.

Progressive Corporation

Three years ago when visiting this insurance company's headquarters I came face to face with one of the most unusual pieces of art ever encountered in a reception area. Greeting people walking into Progressive's lobby was a made-out-of-metal, life-size and life-like, naked Geisha woman sitting in a hot tub giving herself a bath. I don't know what surprised me the most: the fact her big breasts were exposed or the fact I'm at the headquarters of an INSURANCE company-a supposedly bastion of conservatism.

Turned out Progressive Corporation, the ninth largest private passenger auto insurer in the country, has a very extensive contemporary art collection and I was told CEO Peter Lewis enjoyed shocking visitors and employees alike with unusual works in the workplace. I also remember walking into the boardroom and finding serigraphs by Andy Warhol of Mr. Capitalism himself: Chairman Mao Tse Tung.

I'm back again because I read Progressive Corporation (1993 revenues $2.0 billion, net income $267 million) moved out of their rented quarters into new digs.

The new home is a 42-acre heavily wooded plot of land in Mayfield Heights, 20 miles southeast of Cleveland. Hey wait a minute!, this isn't a brand spanking new headquarters complex. I see a twenty-year old office building, a brand new building and another new building which isn't even finished. I ask Greg Dolence, Corporate Facilities Manager, "What's the story on this place?"

Seems the company had employees spread out in buildings all over the Cleveland area and was looking to consolidate everyone at one location. Since Progressive already had a building on the site AND, owned the land, it made sense economically. It also might have something to do with CEO Lewis living close by.

The newest building should be completed in October of this year and that'll be where Lewis will hang his hat. He's temporarily ensconced in the "old" building on the property.

Over 1,800 work on the property with parking not being a problem with 2,100 parking spaces available. Conference rooms are named after cities with professional football teams.

Dolence says some of the company's art collection (including the Geisha woman) is in storage until the new building is complete. Which means I'll have to check back later in the year to see if Geisha woman returns as the company's unofficial greeter.

TRW Inc.

Having visited over 1,400 headquarters one tends to make lists. Nicest companies, worst companies, best looking receptionists, best and worst looking facilities etc. My listing of companies with the Best Looking Grounds would definitely include TRW in the top five. Revenues for TRW in 1993 were $7.9 billion, net income $195 million.

Headquarters is on a 146-acre former estate about 15 miles southeast of Cleveland. I visited six years and the beauty of the place has always stuck in my mind so I'm back for another visit.

The perimeter of the property is fenced in with security guards patrolling the grounds and visitors having to pass muster with the guard at the gated entry. My contact person Al Singer, Director-Community Relations, isn't available to meet with me but then again, I just want to ride around the grounds. After 30 minutes of phone calls, I finally get the okay for Dallas Young, a security guard, to follow behind me in a truck as I ride through the property taking in the sights.

Every tree on the heavily-wooded estate is numbered and tagged. A three mile jogging trail meanders through the hilly property passing dozens of geese and crossing several creeks.

Set way back of the property is the low-key, green reflective glass headquarters building. Close by is the original 13-room mansion, which has been made into guest quarters for visitors. Wondering out loud to the guard I say, "I wonder how come I wasn't invited to stay here?".

Near the front entrance is a sculpture, which is essentially a huge piece of metal girder. Turns out the metal was left over from when the headquarters was built so rather than toss it--the piece was twisted and shazzam-you've got art.