On the road in Louisiana
I catch a plane from Raleigh, NC to New Orleans, LA. Riding to the Raleigh airport my bike gets a flat and I almost miss my flight. After arriving in New Orleans, I get two blocks from the airport and have another flat. Having no spare tubes, I walk three miles to the nearest bike shop. For some strange reason, I seem to have trouble with my bike near airports: Atlanta, Charlotte, Raleigh and now New Orleans.
Middle South Utilities
My main reason for coming to New Orleans is to visit Middle South Utilities but, I also want to see why 600,000 people live here. No wonder the city is popular with conventioneers, it's a fun town. I spend a complimentary night in the spiffy Westin at Canal Place Hotel. Great location; close to the French Quarter and overlooking the Mississippi River. French Quarter looks much better at night than it does during the day. Streets reek of urine and booze.
My vision of the headquarters of Middle South Utilities being in a dumpy office building downtown is right on the money. It looks to be about a 30-story structure built in the 1950's or early 1960's. I was told to talk to a Pat Sweeney in Corporate Communications and was then advised he would be busy the WHOLE day writing a speech and for me to come back the next day.
I never go back to Middle South Utilities the next day because I leave town. The NCAA Basketball Final Four Tournament is being held in New Orleans and it starts in two days. The Westin is only able to accommodate me the one night and every place else in town is over booked. I do ride down beautiful St. Charles Avenue, check out the University of New Orleans, and the mammoth Superdome. The downtown buildings and skyline aren't very impressive.
Fly into Dallas's Love Field on March 26, 1987. Love Field (the old main airport), lies a couple miles from downtown as opposed to the new, massive DFW Regional Airport being about 20 miles from downtown.
Dallas is one of my big stops with 20 companies to visit. I was already familiar with the downtown skyline because I occasionally watched the television show, Dallas.
Texas Utilities occupies floors 16-20 in the 40-story Bryan Tower building, built in 1972. Texas Utilities leases space from Trammell Crow. I talk to R.L. Ramsey, Director of Communications. About 500 people work at corporate headquarters and thereís no company cafeteria but, vending areas. Having found utility companies to be very security conscious and seemingly suspicious of me, Iím surprised to be allowed access to the CEO's office and boardroom. Ramsey scores 7 points on my 1-10 scale.
The LTV Corporation
I was expecting to find the corporate headquarters of The LTV Corporation to be functional and plain considering they had recently filed for reorganization under Chapter 11. Not at all. LTV leases space from Trammell Crow in a spiffy, 51-story high-rise built in 1985. I talk to Brent Berryman, Manager, Public Affairs, who says 180 employees occupy floors 40-44. No cafeteria but, vending machines. Vice Presidents on up get reserved parking spaces. Berryman scores 7 points on my 1-10 scale.
Central & South West
Went up to the 42nd floor of the 46-story San Jacinto Tower building to the main reception area of Central & South West, a utility holding company. The first time I show up, the receptionist says everyone is out to lunch. I come back later and am told by the receptionist that Gerald Huster, Director of Communications, doesnít want to answer my questions. I ask the receptionist if I could speak to Huster myself and am told he doesnít want to talk to me. How's that for being cold and to the point? As I leave, I say to myself, "that kind of attitude and lack of communication will come back to haunt them."
Trammel Crow Company
Leaving Central & South West on the 42nd floor, I take the elevator down to the 35th floor and step off to the corporate headquarters of Trammel Crow Company. The receptionist makes a call to someone and tells me to wait a few minutes. About 30 minutes later a lady walks out and says she's got a meeting to go to and hands me a Trammell Crow Company fact sheet and walks off. Talk about getting the brush-off. Never got any of my questions answered but, I would assume Trammell Crow being one of the largest real estate firms in the country would own the building they're headquartered in. According to the fact sheet I received, Trammell Crow develops, leases and manages more than 200 MILLION square feet of commercial property. The company also develops and/or manages 65,000 apartment units and develops and manages 26 hotels, 10 medical facilities, 10 million square feet of public distribution facilities and over 5 million square feet of market centers and other businesses.
Republic Bank is headquartered in the 35-story Republic Bank building, which was built in 1955. I talk to Michael McKay, Vice President, Public Relations, who just go through the motions and shows no interest in my project. Iím told the corporate art collection is definitely--Western. Thereís a cafeteria and an executive dining room. Executive Vice Presidents, on up, get reserved parking spots. Over 4000 employees work in the building. Was not given any kind of a tour. McKay scores 7 points.
Dresser Industries leases space in a 32-story building built in 1968. Herbert Ryan, Director of Investor Relations, answers my questions and shows me the boardroom. Dresser Industries supplies equipment and technical services to energy and natural resource industries. The company leases 100,000 square feet and 400 employees work in headquarters. There is no cafeteria or executive dining room. They have two corporate aircraft. Ryan scores 7 points on my 1-10 scale.
Sammon Enterprises is headquartered in an old, above ground parking garage/office building a few blocks from the core of downtown. The security guard in the lobby area doesnít say anything as I read the building directory in the small lobby. The directory shows Sammons Enterprises as being on the seventh floor and off I go. Exiting the elevator, I donít notice any kind of reception area and end up walking into an office and asking a man if he could refer me to someone. I give the man one of the postcards I send to the CEO's. He reads it and says, "We're a private company and we don't talk to anyone. Anyway, I'll get fired if I talk to you." I ask the man if there was someone I could talk to who could tell me if CEO James Keay received my postcard. He points to the next office and so I walk in and start to tell the receptionist my reason for being there. As Iím talking to the receptionist, the man who I had talked to a minute earlier walks in and orders me to leave saying Iím not even suppose to be in the building. Itís a pretty nasty scene on his part. I ask for his name and he gruffly answers, "Gil Brown". Brown is extremely rude, treats me in a threatening manner and shows an absolute lack of professionalism. Iím dumbfounded when leaving the building. What went wrong? I'm a clean-cut looking guy, I'm not pushy or intimidating. What was the problem? I call up the company later to find out Gil Brown's title and learn heís the company controller. Was my treatment by Brown the norm? I hope not. Sammons Enterprises is a privately-held company with estimated revenues of over a $1 billion dollars and interests in communication services, insurance, and industrial equipment machinery. Brown scores MINUS 10 points on my 1-10 scale.
I go to the Diamond Shamrock building twice, and both times get told no one at Diamond Shamrock is available to talk to me. Headquarters looks to be a brand new building about 40-stories tall. Definitely given the runaround here. The CEO, William Bricker, has recently resigned. I get a clue of something being amiss when using the restroom to change into long pants: opening a door on one of the toilet stalls I encounter a sign reading "Pull" (as in pull to open) and underneath the "Pull" sign, someone had written, "For Diamond Shamrock."
Going to the 45-story Lincoln Plaza building was a treat because three of the companies on my list are headquartered here: National Gypsum, Halliburton and Lincoln Property.
National Gypsum was on my original list of publicly held companies to visit. Soon after starting my project, National Gypsum was taken private by Aancor Holdings, Inc. National Gypsum leases the top two floors in the 45-story building. I talk to Allen Cecil, Director-Corporate Public Relations. Iím able to see the boardroom and the CEO's office. About 100 employees work at corporate headquarters and there is no corporate art collection. Company has two corporate aircraft. Cecil scores 8 points on my 1-10 scale.
After leaving National Gypsum, I go to Halliburton on the 36th floor. According to the receptionist, no one was available to talk to me.
I zip down to the 33rd floor and talk to the receptionist for Lincoln Property. She says no one is available to talk to me. Hmmm. Lincoln Property is a privately-held company primarily involved in real estate development and management. Revenues have been estimated to be over $2 billion. With the name of the building, "Lincoln Plaza", I would assume Lincoln Property built and owns the building.
I seem to be having trouble with companies in Dallas. Where is the so-called, "Texas hospitality" I've heard so much about? I'm finding companies in Dallas to be aloof, inflexible and not very hospitable.
InterFirst Corporation, a bank holding company, calls home the very impressive looking, 72-story InterFirst Building. Built in 1985, InterFirst owns the building in an equity partnership with Prudential. I meet with Patricia Dillingham, owner of Dillingham Public Relations. Dillingham says InterFirst and Republic Bank are merging and she was hired by InterFirst to help out. Michael McKay, Vice President, Public Relations at Republic Bank, never mentioned a word about the merger when visiting him earlier. Over 3200 employees work in the building (the tallest in Dallas) and there's a company cafeteria and executive dining rooms. I get to see the CEO's office and boardroom. What a view from the top floor! Dillingham scores 9 points on my 1-10 scale.
Hunt Oil Company
I was originally going to visit Hunt Oil Company but, seeing as how they recently filed for bankruptcy and the privately held company is already well-known for being secretive, I figure not to bother.
Enserch, a diversified company dealing mostly in natural gas, petroleum and oil field services occupies a complex of four buildings in downtown Dallas. Buildings were built in different stages with the first going up in 1923. Several of the buildings have the Art Deco look. Show up several times before finally talking to Paul Baker, Director, Community Affairs, Long Star Gas--one of Enserch's subsidiaries. Baker doesnít know the answers to many of my questions and makes no effort to find them. My request to see the CEO's office and boardroom is denied. There is a company cafeteria and executive dining room. There's no corporate art collection and company has no corporate aircraft. Baker scores 7 points on my 1-10 scale.
MCorp, a bank holding company, resides in a 31-story Art Deco-type building built in the 1950's. George McCane, Vice President, says a new 60-story headquarters building is being built about a block away. MCorp has dual headquarters in Houston and Dallas. MCorp is the result of the merger of Mercantile Bank (Dallas) and Southwest Bancshares (Houston). Corporate art collection is mostly western. Senior Vice Presidents on up get reserved parking. Corporate logo is the letter, "m", which stands for "momentum." New headquarters will be known as "Momentum Place." MCorp doesn't own their current headquarters. McCane scores 7 points on my 1-10 scale.
A couple of miles from downtown lies Highland Park, one of the 70 most affluent suburbs in the country. Beautiful homes, grounds, golf courses. Highland Park area is THE place to live in Dallas. Itís amazing to find such a well-to-do suburb so close to the downtown of a major city.
Centex, a general construction and home building company, occupies the 11th and 12th floors of a 12-story glass structure in the Turtle Creek area. Turtle Creek is a well-to-do area between downtown and Highland Park. The main lobby receptionist relays a message to me from Sheila Gallagher in Corporate Communications; I was told in effect, no one would talk to me and the company did not want to participate in my project. Wasn't too impressed by Gallagher having an underling relay the message. Why did they not want to talk to me? Act more like a privately held company than a public one.
I spend the weekend checking out the sights and sounds of downtown and the suburbs. I stay a night in the Westin Hotel at the Galleria, a huge, upscale, indoor shopping mall. I also spend four days at the Registry Hotel about 16 miles from downtown. On Saturday, I ride by the headquarters of American Petrofina and find the 20-story, goldish-glass building to look much better from far away. The inside of the building looks old and worn. The Central Expressway runs right by the building and a big sign out front of the building reads, "Fina Plaza" and atop the sign is a strange looking sculpture of three circles connected together. Almost next door is another similar goldish-glass building housing a Doubletree Hotel. I go inside the American Petrofina building and am told by the security guard that the company occupies the 19th and 20th floors. I decide the company's headquarters didn't look interesting enough for me to come back on Monday. American Petrofina is located about six miles north of downtown Dallas. I did go into the Doubletree Hotel next door and buy a tin of their delicious chocolate chip cookies.
Ride through the campus of Southern Methodist University and, about a half mile from there come across the headquarters of Dr. Pepper. The huge building has an Art Deco-look about it and besides being corporate offices, I could tell it was a bottling facility because thereís a definite smell of Dr. Pepper syrup in the air. I have a fantastic hot fudge sundae at Steve's Ice Cream, a store about a block from the SMU campus. The line of people waiting to be served extends all the way to the outside of the building and I wait in line for 45 minutes but, itís worth it. They make their own ice cream, hot fudge and whipped cream. Found out Steve's Ice Cream is a small chain out of Boston.
Ride by the home of Mary Kay Ash, founder of Mary Kay Cosmetics. Why do I mention it? Generally, most of the homes of Dallas's well-to-do are low-key and donít bring much attention to themselves. On the other hand, the PINK, mansion-like home of Mary Kay Ash with the security guard stationed at the gated entrance catches my attention.
Itís a real surprise looking out my hotel room window Sunday morning and seeing it snowing. I didn't know it snowed in Dallas. The last couple of mornings have set record lows. When I was in Seattle, they were having record high temperatures, when in the Midwest, they were having record amounts of rainfall and now, this.
Remember a while back when I said the best looking girls I've seen on my trip were at Duke University? The best looking women I've seen are in Dallas. Lunchtime usually found me in different parks and plazas around the downtown area--people watching. It's hard to explain but, the women in Dallas are well-dressed, classy and make it a pleasure to open doors for them. I know it sounds hokey, but they are definitely different.
Texas Instruments is headquartered about 15 miles north of downtown Dallas on a company-owned, 200-acre site. The campus-like complex houses a whole slew of buildings, some dating back to 1957. I talk to Bob Bledsoe, Media Relations, Corporate Staff, in the lobby area and that's as far as I got. On the property is a jogging track, baseball diamond, basketball gym and weight room. There is a helicopter pad and cafeteria, with no executive dining rooms. Department managers, on up, get reserved parking spots. The building housing the CEO's office is two stories. The lobby area has a phone equipped with a modem in case a visitor needs to hook-up his computer. Bledsoe scores 7 points on my 1-10 scale.
Southland Corporation, parent of 7-11 convenience stores, is headquartered about a mile from downtown Dallas in a complex of three buildings, the tallest being 11 stories. The receptionist in the art-filled lobby area directs me to Sean Petty, Program Director, Southland Sports Marketing. Southland is well-known for sponsoring 7-11 cycling teams and biking in general. I assume I was directed to Petty because I was on a bike. Petty shows absolutely no interest in my project, never asks a thing about my bike or trek. One would think he would have at the least have made some small talk. Across the street a new 42-story corporate headquarters for Southland is being built. Over 2500 employees work in the Dallas area. Along with the American flag, the Southland flag flies. Company has five corporate aircraft. The Chairman's office is on the first floor. Wasn't given any kind of tour. Petty says the world's smallest 7-11 store is on the premises but, Iím not allowed to see it. Why? Maybe heís afraid Iíll notice the prices are reasonable (unlike their overpriced stores).
Was disappointed by the lackadaisical reception. Petty scores 6 points on my 1-10 scale.
About fifteen miles northwest of downtown Dallas lies a high-rise office development called, "Las Colinas." The area is filled with new buildings and it looks like a whole new city being built. Kimberly-Clark, the paper and consumer products company, is headquartered on the 13th, 14th and 15th floors of what looks to be about a 20-story building. Small sign out front reads, "Texas Commerce Tower." The unhelpful receptionist tells me, I have to have an appointment. The receptionist gives me a number to call and says I have to go down to the basement to use a PUBLIC phone. I get hold of a lady in the public relations department who says, "No one has time to talk to you." Talk about being treated coldly and indifferent. Kimberly-Clark was one of the companies I wrote to about funding/sponsoring my trek. I had sent a letter to CEO D.E. Smith, and later received a small box from John Sumners, Jr., President, Spenco Medical Corporation, a subsidiary of Kimberly-Clark which, sells various biking accessories. Sumner's letter said my letter to Smith had been referred to him, (Sumner), and he wished my trip well and went on to say Spenco wasn't in a position to give me sponsorship money but, was enclosing one of their new bicycle saddle pads and several biking gloves.
Ft. Worth, Texas is another one of those "second banana" cities. I had already visited Tacoma, Washington, which lives in the shadow of Seattle, I had visited St. Paul, Minnesota, which is second banana to Minneapolis and I had visited Kansas City, Kansas, which plays second fiddle to Kansas City, Missouri. Downtown Ft. Worth area doesn't have much character. Ride my bike around River Oaks, a suburb about six miles northwest of downtown Ft. Worth and THE place to live.
Tandy Corporation, which owns Radio Shack-the largest chain of consumer electronics specialty stores in the world, is headquartered in downtown Ft. Worth in a complex known as "Tandy Center." The company-owned complex is comprised of a 19-story tower and a 20-story tower and between the two is an enclosed shopping mall with an indoor ice skating rink on the first floor. Yes, I do check to make sure one of the stores in the mall is a Radio Shack store. I take the elevator up to the reception area and am surprised to find myself on the top floor. No security, closed-circuit cameras or having to be buzzed through a door. Lou Ann Blaylock, Manager, Corporate Relations, is the person answering my questions. Blaylock, a no-nonsense type of person, acts kind of snobby, as if she didn't have time to talk to someone like me. Tandy is the first company I've visited to have their own subway shuttle; there's a huge parking lot several blocks away in which employees park their cars and then take an underground shuttle to Tandy Center. Over 2500 employees work in the complex, which was built in 1976. Thereís a public cafeteria and no executive dining rooms. Company has one corporate plane, a fitness center and officers of the company get reserved parking. CEO John Roach has a nice view of the surrounding area from his 20th floor office. Iím not able to see the boardroom. There's an unusual escalator that takes you from the 19th to 20th floors: When someone steps on the first step, the escalator is activated and then stops when you get off. When you take the same escalator down from the 20th floor to the 19th floor, it reverses itself automatically and after taking you down, it stops when not in use. The height from the floor to the ceiling on the 20th floor was enormous. After leaving the building, I go across the street and look up and evidently, the 20th floor is two regular floors combined.
I was going to visit Ken Davis Industries, a privately held company with interests in petroleum refining, transportation equipment, oil well drilling, rubber products, manufacturing of air conditioning components and many other businesses, with estimated revenues of $900 million. I decide against it after reading about Davis having all kinds of financial troubles and figure I wouldn't be too well-received.
I also try to visit Garvey Elevators, Inc., a privately held company in the agriculture and warehousing business, with estimated revenues of $1.8 billion. The address I had for them was in a downtown office building on 7th Street but, when arriving at the building a security guard said he had never heard of the company. *NOTE: After I left Ft. Worth, I was to later find Garvey Elevators had moved from that address SEVERAL years earlier to a location a few miles away. The directory I had used to obtain the 7th Street address, "The Trinet Directory of Leading U.S. Companies, The Top 1500 Private", by Control Data Corporation, evidently hadn't updated their information.
Bass Brothers Enterprises
Bass Brothers Enterprises has their headquarters on the top two floors of a 32-story, blue-glassed building called, "City Center 1." Entering the building Iím greeted by a security guard and use his phone to call Bass Brothers Enterprises. After being transferred four times, Iím finally told to come back later in the day--which wasn't agreeable with me and my tight schedule. As Iím leaving the building, I see the name, "Idanta Partners" on the building directory and it made me remember David Dunn.
One of the first people I wrote to about possibly funding/sponsoring my project was David Dunn, a partner in a La Jolla-based venture capital firm called, "Idanta Partners." I had typed up this one-page proposal letter and when I went to hand deliver the letter to his office in La Jolla (my hometown), I was told Idanta Partners had moved to Ft. Worth. I then read an article in a newspaper about Dunn also being Chairman of the Board of a Natick, MA, based company called, "Prime Computer", which had revenues of almost $1 billion dollars. I tried hand delivering my letter to his La Jolla home and was told by his maid that Dunnís primary residence was Ft. Worth. I mailed the letter off and about two weeks later, I received an envelope from Idanta Partners. Upon opening it, I found my letter I had sent to Mr. Dunn and scribbled across the top of the letter was this: "Paul, Thanks for thinking of us but, neither Prime nor I are interested in supporting your trip. Good luck. Dave Dunn." Why am I telling you this whole spiel? Well, the return address on the envelope I had received from Idanta Partners was 201 Main Street, Suite 3200, Ft. Worth, Texas, and guess what, that's the same address as Bass Brothers Enterprises. So, instead of walking out the lobby of the building, I told the security guard I was going up to the 32nd floor to see Dunn. Stepping off of the elevator, Iím greeted by locked glass doors and a security guard standing on the other side of the glass. A receptionist, also on the other side of the glass, asks if she could help me. I ask if I could see Mr. Dunn and after she says he isn't in, I ask if I could leave Dunn one of my cards. She buzzes me in and, as I walk to her desk, I took a gander at the surroundings; see mostly glass cubicle offices. Itís then that I realize Dunn shares the same office space with Bass Brothers Enterprises! How come I had never read about the relationship in any newspapers or publications? Hmmm.
Leaving downtown Ft. Worth, I make my way back towards the Dallas-Ft. Worth Airport where AMR (American Airlines) is headquartered. Let me correct what I just said. The address I had was AMR, P.O. Box 619616, DFW Airport, Texas 75261. One would intelligently assume headquarters would be close to the airport right? Wrong. AMR is eight miles from the airport via having to cross over freeways where there is no place for bikes or pedestrians to cross over freeways. I mistakenly take the American Airlines Reservation Center complex as the corporate headquarters. I enter the building and find no receptionist or security guard to greet me and so, I spend several minutes wandering around. There's a huge cafeteria on the first floor and there must be hundreds of people (mostly women) having lunch. I decide this place was as good as any to have lunch and join the masses going through the cafeteria lines. After lunch I find someone who directs me to corporate headquarters. Me thinks the security at the reservation center is definitely not up to snuff.
A spiffy red, white and blue sign that reads, "AMR Corporate Headquarters" lets you know you found the place. The corporate headquarters building is a five-story, 140,000-square foot structure built in 1982 and designed to look like an airplane hanger. AMR leases the 440-acre complex, which besides the headquarters building includes; the reservation center, flight training center, and a flight simulator center. Entering the main lobby area there is no receptionist-just a directory. It's kind of like a self-service operation. Joe Stroop, Manager, Corporate Communications, answers questions and gives me a tour of the place. Over 3000 employees work in the complex and there are jogging trails, softball and a fishing pond on the grounds. Smoking is optional and it might have something to do with Mr. Crandall, the CEO, being a chain-smoker. Assistant Vice Presidents on up get reserved parking spots. Flags from various countries around the world hang from the ceiling as you walk down the hallway corridors. See quite a bit of modern art lining various hallway walls but, no plaques identifying or explaining the works. There's a company cafeteria and an executive dining area. IĎm able to see the boardroom but not the CEO's office. Does AMR have any corporate aircraft? Yep, according to Stroop the 330 company planes of American Airlines. Technically, both DFW Airport and AMR headquarters are closer to Ft. Worth than to Dallas. Stroop receives 9 points on my 1-10 scale.
After leaving AMR, my bike and I go to DFW Airport, hop on a plane and fly to Hobby Airport in Houston, saving a couple of days of traveling and 250 miles of riding.