Leaving Corning, New York on Friday, July 3rd, I pedal 75 miles south to Williamsport, Pennsylvania. The weather has turned hot and the recent rains make it extremely muggy. The section of road from Corning to Williamsport (Route 15), should be renamed, "Slaughter Alley" for all of the dead animals alongside the road. I count at least ten dead deer and over 100 dead skunks and possums. I canít help but notice the animals because, riding along, the stench from the exposed carcasses lying in the hot sun make me just about gag. It gets to the point where I find myself paying more attention to spotting an upcoming carcass (so I could hold my breath as I ride by), than I do to automobile traffic.
Spend a night in Williamsport (population 33,000). Did you know it has another claim to fame besides hosting the Little League Baseball World Series?--Williamsport is home base for Grit Publishing Company. When I was a kid, the only periodicals I subscribed to were, the "Sporting News" and "Boys Life" but, sometimes I would pick-up "Grit." Grit Publishing is a subsidiary of Stauffer Communications, Inc., a Topeka, Kansas-based company with interests in newspapers, radio stations and television stations.
I leave Williamsport early in the morning and head due south about 40 miles to Sunbury, a town of 12,000 and home to Weis Markets, a supermarket chain. Since itís Saturday and a holiday weekend (4th of July), nobody is at the corporate headquarters. A sign out front of the plain, functional headquarters building says, "General Offices." On the property is a big truck terminal and distribution center. Weis's headquarters sure aren't worth hanging around town until Monday for so, I leave Sunbury around noon and head 50 miles south to Harrisburg. Itís a nice ride from Sunbury to Harrisburg because Route 15 parallels the Susquehanna River. Iím anxious to get to Harrisburg because I have to spend the 4th of July weekend SOMEWHERE and the State Capital of Pennsylvania sounds like an interesting place.
Boy, downtown Harrisburg is very disappointing. What a dumpy place. I always try to stay downtown so as to get "a feel" for the city but, Harrisburg (population 55,000) doesn't have a decent downtown hotel. I walk into the lobby of the Holiday Inn, which supposedly is the nicest place to stay in the downtown area, and walk out after seeing itís one of those built in the 1960's. A few blocks from downtown lies the riverfront area where a 4th of July carnival is in full swing. I end up staying in a Sheraton Inn about six miles from downtown in the suburb of New Cumberland. One would think a city that houses the State Capital and is visited by various powers and powers to be, would have a hotel with first-class accommodations.
I get up Sunday morning and make a dry run to the headquarters of Rite Aid and AMP, two companies on my list located in Harrisburg. Rite Aid, primarily a drug store chain, anchors an industrial area near Camp Hill, a suburb about 10 miles west of downtown Harrisburg. Headquarters building looks very plain. Peering through the glass doors into the lobby area of the main entrance, I eye very sparse furnishings. Reminds me of the no-frills office that supermarket chains usually have.
AMP, an electronics company, lies about six miles southeast of downtown Harrisburg next to a huge shopping center in a complex of four buildings. The headquarters building looks to be three stories with the tallest building in the complex about six stories. Iím surprised NOT to see security cameras on top the various buildings because itís become the norm to see them at the various headquarters. Buzzing the buzzer at the building housing the executive offices summons two security guards, who, give me an annual report. I leave a questionnaire for public relations to fill out and mail to me because I decide Rite Aid and AMP headquarters aren't interesting enough to warrant coming back to on Monday morning. I assume I would have received a nice welcome at AMP because their address is 470 Friendship Road. **NOTE: AMP never returns my questionnaire.
Monday morning I head for Hershey, Pennsylvania, (Hershey Foods). I don't know how the heck I end up riding on a freeway-type road which, is narrow and very, very busy. Anyway, Hershey, a town of 9000, lies about 10 miles east of Harrisburg and is a classic "company town." As you come into downtown Hershey on Route 422, the name changes to Chocolate Avenue, the tops of streetlight poles look like chocolate Hershey Kisses and there's the definite smell of chocolate in the air. Right on Route 422 (Chocolate Avenue), stands the big Hershey chocolate plant and about a chip shot away on a rise overlooking the factory is the Hershey Mansion housing the executive offices. I ride my bike to the front door where Iím given the once over by a security guard. Going inside, I explain to the nice receptionist what Iím doing and she says to take a seat as she tries to track down who ended up with the postcard sent to the CEO. A big bowl filled with various candies sits on the counter for visitors to munch on, including 5th Avenue candy bars which theyíve recently acquired in their acquisition of Luden's, Incorporated. I go into the men's room to change into long pants and couldn't help but notice the various news clippings, birthday announcements and humorous daily sayings posted ABOVE the men's urinals. I could see this stuff being posted near the wash basins or by a mirror but, ABOVE the urinals? Well, I guess it makes sense. It's a neat, old mansion with elegant furnishings and, after waiting around about ten minutes, I get directed to the Administrative Building four blocks away. I always hate going to another building to ask questions about a building I was just in. I meet with Susan Karli, Public Relations Assistant, who says the three-story, 22-room Hershey Mansion was built in 1909 and was the home of Milton Hershey, the company's founder. The mansion does have an elevator and there is an executive dining room. A golf course surrounds the mansion. The nearest airport lies 20 miles away and Karli isn't sure how many corporate aircraft, if any, they have. I do see the boardroom which, is located in the Administrative Building and not the Hershey Mansion. Iím given a Hershey hat as a memento and am impressed with the friendliness and helpfulness of the various receptionists I dealt with. On each floor of the Administration Building are coffee break areas and next to the coffee machines are bowls kept full of various Hershey candies such as Hershey Kisses and Mr. Goodbars. Karli scores 10 points on my 1-10 scale.
The 30-mile ride from Hershey to Lancaster on Route 117 and Route 17 takes me through gorgeous Dutch farming country. Without a doubt, this peaceful fertile area, which makes you feel you're in another era, is the most beautiful countryside I've ever ridden through! To any of you reading this who are cyclists-DEFINITELY plan to visit this area.
Armstrong World Industries
Lancaster, with over 50,000 people, is where Armstrong World Industries, a manufacturer and marketer of interior furnishings, is located. I find corporate headquarters about a mile from downtown in a long, 3-story, company-owned, red brick building built in 1929. It kind of looks like a building you might find on a college campus. Nothing fancy about the entrance to their "World Headquarters"; there's a U.S. mailbox outside the front door. I talk to Frank Simpson, Director, Public Relations and Public Affairs. Over 1800 employees work at corporate headquarters and EVERYONE eats in the cafeteria. Vice Presidents on up, get reserved parking. Corporate aircraft consists of a Sabreliner and a Citation with the airport a 20-minute drive away. I see the boardroom and the CEO's office. The view from the CEO's office is of another wall. The security guard in the lobby area is very helpful and says ordinarily there's a cute receptionist manning the front desk. Coming into town, I passed a big Armstrong manufacturing plant and the smell of rubber was in the air. Must be where they make floor covering. At the main receptionist desk, I was given a little brochure put out by Armstrong, which has a map of various Armstrong facilities in the Lancaster area, locations of various hotels and motels and points of interest to see in Lancaster County. These kinds of brochures are invaluable to visiting businessmen and company employees and I'm surprised more companies don't do it. Simpson scores 10 points on my 1-10 scale.
Leaving Lancaster after about an hour's visit, I head 25 miles northeast to Reading, a city of about 80,000. For some reason, there are hundreds of dead woodchucks and squirrels along the roads. Remember I told you about the dead frogs and dead snakes in the Midwest and dead deer and possums near Williamsport, Pennsylvania, and now it changes to squirrels and woodchucks. Can't figure it out. Iíve read, seen, or heard about Reading being the clothing outlet capital and it's true. I go to one outlet center located in a huge partly renovated, former clothing factory which does such a land-mine business, a McDonalds opened across the street. I always pick up the local newspapers when visiting a town and am impressed with Reading's. I can't find anything in the paper to tell me if it's part of a chain or locally owned.
Corporate offices for VF (Vanity Fair), the world's largest publicly owned apparel company, stands about two miles from downtown Reading in the suburb of Wyomissing. Headquarters is in an old-looking, company-owned, 2-story building built 1963. A sign out near the road reads, "Executive-Offices, VF Corporation." No security guards or closed-circuit cameras on the nicely landscaped premises. I meet with Norman Cochran, Vice President. About 90 people work in the 50,000-square foot building which has no cafeteria but, vending machines. Pepsi, not Coke, are in the vending machines. I see the CEO's office, which was very functional, and learn the boardroom stands in New York City. Cochran, who by the way is a super nice guy, tells me he can arrange for me to see the boardroom when I'm in New York City. Corporate officers get reserved parking spots. The airport is three miles away. Cochran scores 10 points on my 1-10 scale.
Riding from Reading to Allentown, a most unusual thing happens; I actually see both halves of a pair of discarded shoes along the road. For some unexplainable reason, no matter what part of the country Iím in, I always come across a shoe along the road and the matching half would never be around. Never mind that the matching shoe I found was a mile down the road from the first one, it was still a milestone for me because I had spent many hours riding down various highways contemplating the fate of missing halves.
Going through Trexlertown, a suburb about ten miles southwest of Allentown, I accidentally come across the headquarters of Air Products. Iím on Route 222, when I see what looks to be a manufacturing plant for Air Products because thereís a sign by the side of the road which, reads, "Air Products". The sign says nothing about being the executive offices, corporate offices, world headquarters, general offices, etc., and, luckily, I'm a nosy person so I ride up to the guard at the gate-guarded entrance and ask what goes on here. Here's a classic example of a company using a mailing address; Air Products and Chemicals, Inc., P.O. box 538, Allentown, PA 18195, and not being located in that town or city. If Air Products hadn't been on the main drag, I would have kept going to Allentown and would have had to backtrack the ten miles.
Air Products occupies a huge complex, which could easily pass for a college campus. Iím directed by a security guard to what appears to be a 2 or 3-story building. Two receptionists wearing matching uniforms man the main reception area. This is the first company visited where the receptionists wear uniforms, except, places where security guards double as receptionists. Iím told the lady in charge of Public Relations is on vacation and, the other woman the receptionist tries to contact is out to lunch. The two receptionists sure don't go out of their way to help me and one of them hands me an annual report, under the assumption it would satisfy the information Iím gathering. With no way of knowing when, and if the lady would return from lunch, I leave one of my questionnaires with the receptionist. As Iím leaving the building, I pick up a brochure that talks about a Developmental Cycling Program at the Lehigh County Velodrome and how itís funded by Air Products. It figures, I've been getting lousy receptions at companies having anything to do with biking: the Southland Corporation (7/11), Kimberly-Clark (Spenco) and RJR Nabisco (Wheat Thin Racing series). *NOTE My questionnaire was returned with company literature and a note from Ellen O'Connor, Community Relations Representative, who regretted being unable to personally meet with me and said they hadn't received the postcard and weren't expecting me that day. Remember when I told you the place was huge? The company-owned, campus-like complex sits on 521 acres and over 3500 employees work at the facility. There are two cafeterias (one in each administration building) and the Baum School of Art regularly provides artwork for display. There are over 3500 parking spaces and the only reserved spots are for medical personnel, handicapped and visitors. Thereís a separate building housing a fitness center, which has among other equipment; whirlpool, sauna, rowing, stationary bicycles, treadmills, cross-country ski simulator and Keiser pneumatic equipment. There's a 1.5 mile outdoor running track which winds through surrounding cornfields.
Leaving Air Products, I pull out my map and spot the town of Emmaus (population 11,000) a few miles away. It then hits me, Emmaus is home to Bicycling Magazine, published by Rodale Press. I decide to drop by their place and see what their offices look like. Big error, as I mentioned about a page earlier, I always get lousy receptions at companies having anything to do with bicycles. I find the offices for Bicycling magazine and go inside and tell the receptionist a little bit about my project and wonder if I could get a tour of their offices. The surly receptionist says I have to go to the offices of Rodale Press if I want to see anything. It takes me a while to find the offices of Rodale Press because that jerk of a receptionist at Bicycling magazine gives me poor directions. Walking into the lobby area of Rodale Press, I tell the receptionist Iím riding my bike around the country visiting the headquarters of the 600 largest companies in the country and, since Iím in the area and have been a long time reader of Bicycling magazine, I was just wondering what your offices look like. She look at me and gave me one of those "So what?" looks. I turn around and walk out. I do pick up a small brochure on Rodale Press, which talks about some of the magazines they publish; "Bicycling" being the #1 bicycling magazine, "Prevention" being the #1 health magazine and "Organic Gardening" being the #1 gardening magazine. One side of the brochure says in big letters, "Our Commitment to Service." Isn't receiving and helping visitors part of service?
About two miles from downtown Allentown, Pennsylvania stands the corporate headquarters of Mack Truck. Thereís no doubt in my mind that Iím at the right place. What makes me so sure? (1). A large sign saying, "World Headquarters, Mack Trucks, Inc., the Greatest Name in Trucks" (2). on the front, near the top of the 6-story building, stands a huge, 2-story tall picture of a bulldog (their famous logo) (3). underneath the flagpoles near the front entrance thereís a six-foot tall, gold-plated statue of a bulldog and a brand new Mack Truck on display (4). the street out front of the building is named Mack Boulevard.
The lobby area befits a company that builds large trucksóitís massive! Receptionist Pat Hutchins gives me a friendly hello and immediately pins a bulldog pin on my shirt. After telling her the purpose of my visit, she says to sit down, relax and grab a cup of coffee while she tracks down who Iím suppose to speak with. Besides getting coffee from a little room to the side of the lobby, you can get your shoes shined with the shoe buffer located near the coffee machine. Some walls of the lobby area have pictures of various Mack Truck plants around the country. I wait in the lobby area about twenty minutes and during that period, I watch Hutchins, the receptionist, in action. All sorts of people enter the front entrance; businessmen in three-piece suits, salesmen, employees from other parts of the country, and several truckers dressed in dirty jeans, wearing cowboy hats. I watch Hutchins deal with all the various visitors and you know what? She makes everyone of them feel like a VIP. She treats the truckers the same way as the businessmen in the three-piece suits. She has a way of looking you in the eye and making you feel sheís happy to see you and glad youíre here. I finally go up to Hutchins and say, "I usually walk into the lobby area of a company's headquarters and the receptionist normally has to work the switchboard, greet and sign in guests, type papers and play security guard and sometimes it shows-by the less than friendly/professional manner in which I'm received. I've been watching you and you do an excellent job with visitors." Hutchins thanks me and says her job is to not answer phones or type but, to receive guests and make them feel comfortable. Debbie Morgan, Manager, Communications, comes down to the lobby and answers questions and gives me a tour. There are bulldogs EVERYWHERE! Getting into the elevator, even the carpeting in the elevator has pictures of bulldogs in it. The company-owned, 262,000-square foot building, built in 1970, sits on a 30-acre site and has a heliport atop the building. A helicopter pilot doesn't have to worry about landing on the wrong building because atop the roof, next to the heliport in large letters are the words, "Mack Trucks." Company has two planes and is located ten miles from the Allentown-Bethlehem airport. Over 1000 employees work at corporate headquarters. There's a cafeteria and executive dining room. I see the boardroom, the CEO's office and get whisked down to see Bulldog Alley, a walkway filled with pictures of various bulldogs. Iím taken into the company gift shop and am amazed at the large selection of paraphernalia; watches, Frisbees, T-shirts, etc., and of course, all the goodies have the bulldog logo. Iím told I can have anything in the store and so I pick out two T-shirts. Mack Trucks gives me an information map which is similar to the one Armstrong World Industries gave me in Lancaster in that it has a map of all the locations of the various Mack facilities in Allentown, shows where motels/hotels are located, points of interest and list useful phone numbers. Morgan scores 10 points on my 1-10 scale and Hutchins scores 5 stars on my 1-5 scale for receptionists.
I arrive at the black, 21-story headquarters building of Bethlehem Steel around 4:30 p.m. and proceed to tell the three security guards/receptionists the reason for my visit. I knew it was a company-owned building because I had read several articles about the structure being for sale. There are no signs outside identifying the place or building as the headquarters for Bethlehem Steel. The security guard hands me the phone and I don't catch the lady's name as she informs me sheís in another building in another part of town and suggests we do the questionnaire over the phone. I agree for several reasons. (1). Iím actually IN the headquarters building asking the questions as opposed to being in another building in another part of town and having to ask questions about a building I can't see (2). Itís late in the day (4:30 p.m.) and I want to see if I can still get to Pennsylvania Power & Light before 5:00 p.m. The 21-story structure, built in 1972, (called the "Martin Tower") contains 640,547-square feet, with another 254,453-square feet in the annex building. The complex sits on 55 acres, with the tower being the tallest in the Lehigh Valley. Thereís no art collection, no corporate aircraft, no recreational facilities. There is a cafeteria and executive dining room and, the 1500 employees have 2500 parking spots to park in, with upper level management getting to park in the parking garage. Thereís a company flag flying out front of the building along with a sculpture which I believe is supposed to be an "I", which is the company logo. The CEO's office is on the top floor and I guess I don't have to tell you I never got past the lobby area.
Pennsylvania Power & Light
Leaving Bethlehem and Bethlehem Steel, I hightail it to downtown Allentown and arrive at Pennsylvania Power & Light at 5:15 p.m., only to find everyone has gone home for the day. The security guard/receptionist makes several calls but, is unable to find anyone in the building who can help me. The brownish headquarters building looks to be about 20 stories high and built in the 1930's. It looks like your typical boring, functional utility company headquarters.
On July 8, 1987, I fly from Allentown to Pittsburgh, a distance of about 300 miles. Downtown Pittsburgh lies about fifteen miles from the airport and one of the first things you notice about the downtown area besides the impressive skyline, is the number of bridges; downtown Pittsburgh is where the Monogahela and Allegheny Rivers meet to form the Ohio River.
H.J. Heinz Company, occupies the 59th and 60th floors of the monstrous 64-story USX Building. I meet with Thomas McIntosh, Vice President-Corporate Public Relations. McIntosh is a super guy who makes me feel welcome, at ease, and shows a genuine interest in my project. Heinz has leased space in the building since 1980 (building was built in 1970) and the square footage of the two floors is 64,278-square feet. There is a pretty extensive modern art collection scattered throughout and as Iím given a tour of the CEO's office, the boardroom and offices of some of the senior executives, I notice the furnishings are nice but, not plush. The company has two Gulfstream aircraft, there's an executive dining room and senior management (about fifteen people) get reserved parking spaces. The view from the 60th floor on each side of the building is spectacular. McIntosh, soon to be retiring, gives me a small travel alarm clock with the Heinz logo on it, a Heinz sweatshirt, and several small pins shaped like pickles. McIntosh scores 10 points on my 1-10 scale.
If you were to ask me what's the best looking modern building in Pittsburgh, the 53-story Mellon Bank Center Building wins hands down. Built in 1982, the building has over 2,135,000-square feet of space. I meet with Ro Moschella, Marketing Officer, who doesn't know the answers to a lot of my questions but, says sheíll mail me the answers along with an annual report and information about the history of the company. There's a cafeteria and two formal dining rooms and there's one company jet. Moschella, scores 7 points on my 1-10 scale. *NOTE I never do receive anything in the mail from Mellon Bank.
My next stop Koppers, a chemical and materials company, occupies a splendid Art Deco structure built in 1929 called the "Koppers Building." As you should know by now, I go crazy over Art Deco and this building is a real jewel. In 1973, the structure was designated a historic landmark by the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation. I meet with Bud Harris, who because he never gives me a business card, all I know is he's in the communication department. The company owns the building and there are security guards in the lobby area. Thereíre other tenants in the building and Kopper's 500 employees eat in a public cafeteria, with there being no executive dining rooms. The company has two corporate aircraft and there is no reserved parking. Harris says he doesn't have the authority to show me the CEO's office or boardroom. Iím disappointed Harris doesn't show some initiative and find out who does have the authority because Iím curious to see if Art Deco made it to the CEO's office and boardroom. Harris scores 7 points on my 1-10 scale.
Westinghouse Electric occupies a black, 23-story riverfront building called, the "Westinghouse Building." Paul Jones, Director, Corporate Public Relations give me a warm welcome and tour. I see the CEO's office, boardroom and executive dining area. My most important question is answered getting in the elevator as I check to make sure the elevators are Westinghouse elevators. They were. Matter of fact, Iím told the building had the first "talking" elevators. I also notice there isn't a marked 13th floor which, Iím finding isnít unusual in the superstitious business world. There's a modern art collection which, is periodically rotated and the company has five corporate aircraft. Iím given a drink coaster which reads, "Westinghouse Centennial 1886-1986" and a T-shirt. Jones scores 10 points on my 1-10 scale.
I've been in Pittsburgh for two days and I really like the place, even though the weather is hot and EXTREMELY muggy. Downtown Pittsburgh is clean, the people are reasonably friendly and it's compact. I have fourteen companies to visit in Pittsburgh and thirteen of them are in the downtown area. I've spent the last couple of noon hours checking out the various plaza areas near the office high-rises to find out the best places to people watch, catch a few rays of sun, eat a take-out lunch or just "hang out." THE favorite spot seems to be the plaza area behind the Westin William Penn Hotel.
PNC Financial Corporation
PNC Financial Corporation calls a company-owned, 30-story building its home. Built in 1971, 900 employees work in the building and the man I meet with, Douglas Chambers, Vice President, Corporate Affairs, says he will send me an annual report, plus, let me know answers to questions he didn't know at the time such as square footage. I do get to see the boardroom but, not the CEO's office. There's a cafeteria and executive dining rooms. Art collection is composed of antique graphics of Pittsburgh, Senior Vice Presidents on up get reserved parking and, there are two corporate aircraft. Chambers scores 10 points on my 1-10 scale. *NOTE I never do receive any material in the mail as requested.
I go back to the USX Building and up to the 50th floor to visit Rockwell International. I explain to the receptionist what Iím doing and show her a postcard, like the one sent to the CEO. She informs me the CEO has two offices, one in Pittsburgh and one in El Segundo, California and he spends most of his time in the California office. She says if I want answers to my questions-go to the El Segundo office. I ask her several times if sheís positive about my having to get my answers from the El Segundo office because, even though I still have to visit the Los Angeles area where El Segundo is located, I donít want to find out I should have spoken to someone in the Pittsburgh office. The receptionist says sheís positive.
On my third visit to USX Corporation, Iím finally able to get someone to meet with me. The 64-story USX building is definitely a landmark structure. The triangle-shaped structure is a showcase for steel products from a company that used to be called, "U.S. Steel." What makes the structure so unusual are the exposed steel columns, which change color as they age which explains why the exterior for the building is a blackish-brownish-red color. I talk with William Keslar, Manager, Public Affairs, Media Relations. Times have changed since the monster-sized building was built in 1970 as somewhat of a monument to the steel industry and now, USX only leases space. The company has three corporate aircraft and a helicopter, which can land on the heliport atop the structure. Keslar says it isnít possible to see the CEO's office or boardroom. The CEO hangs his hat on the 61st floor and over 1200 employees work in the building. There are no recreational facilities and the top half dozen officers in the company get reserved parking. There's a 600-car parking garage underground. Keslar scores 8 points on my 1-10 scale.
This is my second visit to the elegant 19th floor reception area of the Hillman Company. The building looks to be about 30 stories high and was probably built in the 1920's and 1930's. The Hillman Company, is a privately held company with interests primarily in real estate, which makes me wonder if they own the building. The receptionist is the same one I saw the day before and has been told to tell me, "the company does not want to participate in your project." Henry Hillman, the CEO, is on Forbes magazine's list of the 400 wealthiest people in America and read about him being a very private person. A month before my visit, I had written a letter to Hillman about sponsoring/funding my trek because the various articles I read about him always made mention of his being a venture capitalist and thought maybe he might make an investment in me. My letter to him never did get an acknowledgement which could mean several things: (1) Mr. Hillman never received my letter due to poor mail service (2) Mr. Hillman received my letter but, gets so many letters like mine he doesn't acknowledge any (3) Mr. Hillman received my letter and answered it but, I never received it due to poor mail service. I wasn't too disappointed when leaving the building but, my mind wondered as I thought about what would I say or how would I act IF Henry Hillman HIMSELF had invited me into his office to answer my questions. Hmm, I would probably be nervous and intimidated at first but, I'm a quick study and my sizing him up would probably start with his handshake. Is his handshake firm? Is it meek? Does he have clammy hands? Does he look you in the eye? I'd give the office the quick once over with my eyes as he tells me to have a seat, looking for signs of his interests or hobbies. Does he have a massive "power" desk? Is his desk neat? Piled high with papers? Any live plants? Any family pictures? Is the seat I'm sitting in comfortable or is it one of those seats that are uncomfortable on purpose? Would I, should I, put him on the defensive right away by asking him how come he never acknowledged my letter--asking if he would be interested in sponsoring/funding my project? Naw, but then again, that's the kind of guy I am. What if he HAD received my letter and said he didn't respond because he wasn't interested? Would I tell him to his face that his failure to at LEAST acknowledge my letter shows a lack of class? Naw. My "what IF" daydream ends as I cross the street headed to National Intergroup.
National Intergroup, (formerly National Steel), a drug distribution, oil transportation and aluminum and steel fabricating company, leases space in a white, 20-story riverfront building next to the Westinghouse Building. As I walk up to the main receptionist's desk, I say "Hi" to the receptionist and she says nothing. I ask her if she says "hi" to anyone and she answers, "nope." Sheís a real bitch. I tell her I'd been to about 200 companies and sheís the first one to not say "hi" back to me. It doesn't faze her at all. Is the company aware of her unpleasant personality? I come back later in the day and meet with Edward Klein, Director-Corporate Public Relations. The gum-chewing Klein answers some of my questions, shows me the CEO's office and boardroom but, seems insincere and me feel like Iím a "pain." The company has been in the building since 1987, there is a cafeteria for the 95 employees and there's one corporate aircraft. Klein scores 8 points on my 1-10 scale.
PPG Industries, a glass, paint and chemical company, is headquartered in a company-owned, $200 million dollar complex called, "PPG Place." The unusual, all-glass complex is on a 5.5-acre site and consists of six buildings, with PPG Industries being headquartered in the 40-story tower, with four, 6-story buildings and another building being 14 stories. What makes the complex so unusual looking besides being all glass, is the thicket of 231 spires crowning the complex, the largest of them 82 feet tall. The place definitely looks like a church cathedral. I speak with John Ruch, Supervisor, Media Relations, Corporate Communications. Ruch makes it clear he only has a few minutes to talk and is very abrupt. We talk for all of three minutes. PPG occupies about half the space in the 40-story tower and about 1500 employees work in the complex which, was built in 1983. Of course, my request to see the CEO's office and boardroom ware declined. Ruch says the company has "2 or 3" corporate aircraft. As the years go by, PPG Place, with its distinctive church spires, will probably become a landmark and I'll always think of the poor reception received from Ruch. The architectural firm headed by Phillip Johnson and John Burgee designed this place. Ruch scores 5 points on my 1-10 scale.
Of all the companies I have to visit in Pittsburgh, Cyclops Corporation, a producer of steel products, is the only company not located in the downtown area. Except for the downtown area, Pittsburgh is very hilly. Late in the afternoon, I ride to the suburb of Mt. Lebanon, about six hilly miles from downtown Pittsburgh and find Cyclops's headquarters. I arrive around 6:00 p.m. and wasn't too impressed with what I see. A sculpture out front says the building (called the "Cyclops Building") was dedicated in 1966 and the dumpy-looking, 7-story structure looked its age. I walk into the building and find no one around, although I do see a directory telling me there are other tenants in the building. I sure wasn't expecting to find the headquarters in such a plain area, with mom and pop stores located next door and across the street. The only reason I could come up with as to why the company is located in such an unassuming neighborhood is because the founder must live or had lived close by. Either way, it isn't worth riding my bike back the next day to find out.
Try as I could, I can't seem to find any "bad areas" in Pittsburgh. The suburbs are clean and well-kept. I ride around the University of Pittsburgh and adjacent Carnegie-Mellon campuses. When I ride around college campuses, I always try to get into the football stadiums to take pictures of the stadium from the highest seat in the stands. Got a couple of good shots of a security guard chasing my bike and I out of the yellow and blue interior of Pitt Stadium. Another enjoyable feature about downtown Pittsburgh is the apparent community-wide support in preserving old buildings and churches. There's a nice combination of old and new. I was able to take my bike on the Duquesne Incline (run by the local historical society), which transports commuters and visitors to the top of Mt. Washington, which gives you a terrific view of the city.
Friday finds me going to Aluminum Company of America (Alcoa) for the third time. I to talk to a man via the lobby phone who says heĎs getting ready to go into a meeting. I practically beg him to give me a few minutes. He tells me to take the elevator up to the 16th floor in the 31-story building. He greets me near the elevator and our conversation lasts about two minutes. Beats me why I pleaded with the guy to talk to me because he couldn't have cared less. Makes me feel like I don't exist. About the only information I get out of him is that the building is company-owned and the 31-story building was built in 1953. He says thereís a modern art collection but, won't elaborate. The exterior of the building seems to be sheathed in some kind of aluminum. *NOTE I do receive an annual report in the mail as requested but, the man fails to include his business card as requested. The unknown man scores a low 3 points on my 1-10 scale.
Allegheny International leases space in a building called, "2 Oliver Plaza." I visit on three separate occasions and give up after dealing with incompetent receptionists who have a "couldnít care less" attitude. The hired help reminds me of the people working the corporate headquarters of Payless Cashway in Kansas City in that they dressed and acted like they got paid minimum wage. On one visit I was sent to three different floors.
Consolidated Natural Gas
My visit to Consolidated Natural Gas proved to be fruitless, in that on both occasions I have to deal with a rude, unhelpful receptionist. Consolidated Natural Gas leases space in a building called, "4 Gateway Center." The building looks to be about 20-years old.
About twelve miles northwest of Pittsburgh lies Fox Chapel, one of the 70 most affluent suburbs in the country. It's a heavily wooded area with lots of horse trails where most of the homes are hidden from the road and if you can see 'em, they're mostly Tudor-style. There's no commercial activity in Fox Chapel. The two clubs to belong to are: the Fox Chapel Golf Club and the Pittsburgh Field Club. Definitely, one of the nicest areas I've seen on my trip.
An interesting side note to my visit in Pittsburgh is my being interviewed by the Wall Street Journal newspaper. After leaving Westinghouse Electric, Paul Jones, the Director of Corporate Public Relations, called up the Wall Street Journal office and told them about what I was doing. Jones then tracked me down as I was visiting another company and told me to stop by the "Journal's" offices on the 27th floor of the Mellon Bank Building. I end up being interviewed by reporter Clare Ansberry. As Iím leaving the office, Ansberry says she'd like to see my bike and tell her itís downstairs outside the main entrance. As we take the elevator down, I tell her about the incident in Houston, where I left my bike outside the First City Tower building and coming back later to find it gone and how I just about had a cow until I found out the security people had moved it. I no sooner finish telling her the story, when we step outside to find my bike gone! After a few heart-thumping minutes, I find out the security people had removed my bike from the entrance area to a storage room. Whew! With all of my gear, the bike probably weighs about 70 pounds which is why I feel reasonably safe in locking it outside a building.