Hartford, Connecticut, a city of 140,000, is located 30 miles due south of Springfield, Massachusetts and is home to five companies on my list. I arrived in Hartford on a cold, rainy Sunday and was originally going to stay in the downtown Sheraton Hartford Hotel but, some of the employees were on strike and were picketing the hotel. It was a pretty nasty scene; police were on hand because there had evidently been violence or threats of violence. I was jeered as I pulled up to the hotel entrance on my bike and was told by the angry picketers not to cross the picket line. What's a guy to do? Well, my bid for a complimentary room at the Sheraton failed because it was Sunday and the General Manager wasn't in and he's the only one with the authority to give me a freebie. I tried the Hilton Hotel, the Summit Hotel and finally (thanks to the Front Desk Manager) got a room at a Holiday Inn, which was old but, it was free.
It was Monday morning and being a holiday (Columbus Day), I figured to make a trial run to each of the companies on my list in Hartford. Imagine my surprise when I found most of the companies open and doing business!
United Technologies, a diversified manufacturer, leases space in a downtown 26-story, gold-colored glass structure. Built in 1970, the company at one time owned the building but now, about 500 employees work on the nine floors. I went to the main reception area on the 24th floor and coming off the elevator you're greeted by a security guard and a closed-circuit camera. I checked in with the ho-hum receptionist and after a wait of a few minutes, Franklin Parisi, Corporate Director of Public Relations, came out and sat down with me in the lobby. According to Parisi, corporate headquarters will be moving to an undecided new location in the next five years. One of the first things I told Parisi, who by the way is a nice guy, is that I check to make sure a company uses their own products; the elevators in the building WERE Otis Elevators (a subsidiary of United Technologies). Parisi said the air conditioning system in the building is by Carrier (also owned by United Technologies). The employees are on their own as far as finding food because there's no cafeteria but, there's a formal dining room which seats 15. Department heads get reserved parking, there's a fitness center and, no corporate art collection. I never got past the lobby area and was told seeing the CEO's office and boardroom wasn't possible because they were both in use. From what I could see, to get to the big shots offices on the 25th and 26th floors you switch elevators on the 24th floor. The company has 12 corporate aircraft and uses their OWN airport, which is near Bradley International Airport, about 15 miles north of Hartford. There's also a helipad atop their corporate headquarters building, which is known as the United Technologies Building.
I did mention to Parisi about how United Technologies was in a way, responsible for me undertaking this trek of mine. Starting in 1979 and ending in 1975, United Technologies ran a series of 75 untraditional messages in the Wall Street Journal. Several really struck a chord with me and I even wrote to the company for reprints. Two in particular really stand out:
AIM SO HIGH YOU"LL NEVER BE BORED
The greatest waste
If you think
If you think
like a new
for things that
can't be done
and doing them.
GET OUT OF THAT RUT
Oscar Wilde said,
the last refuge of
So stop getting up
Get up at 5:06.
Walk a mile at dawn.
Find a new way
to drive to work.
Switch chores with
Buy a wok.
Stay up alone all night.
Read to the blind.
Subscribe to an
Canoe at midnight.
Don't write to your
take a whole scout
troop to see him.
Learn to speak
Teach some kid
the thing you do best.
Listen to two hours of
Take up aerobic dancing.
Leap out of that rut.
Remember, we only
pass this way once.
Parisi scored 10 points on my 1-10 scale. *NOTE Besides sending an annual report as requested, I was sent a book called, "Gray Matter", which contained a reprint of all 75 "messages". Harry Gray was the Chairman of United Technologies Corporation during the time period the "messages" were published.
The Travelers Corporation
The Travelers Corporation, an insurance company with the well-known umbrella as its logo, is headquartered almost across the street from United Technologies. It's a complex of buildings, highlighted by The Tower Building, which was completed in 1919 and at the time of its completion was the 7th tallest building in America at 527 feet. (The Woolworth, Singer, Bankers Trust, Metropolitan and Municipal buildings in New York City and the City Hall in Philadelphia were all taller). There's a big plaza out front of the Tower and before you can enter the building, you go into a small rotunda area which connects to the Tower via an enclosed walkway. Well, I never got to see the insides of the Tower because the receptionist in the rotunda made a call and was told to send me to a nearby building housing their Public Relations department. As I've mentioned several times, I hate going to a building to ask questions about a nearby building. I met with Alan Fletcher, Administrator, Public Relations, in his office cubicle. Over 11,000 employees work in Traveler's headquarters complex, which is spread over quite a few buildings.
I never got past Fletcher's office but was told the company has quite an extensive Currier & Ives collection of calendars. The CEO's office is located in the middle of the 27-story Tower Building and, the company has a cafeteria, vending machines and formal dining. Van and car-pooling are big at Travelers and bus tickets for commuters are subsidized. A fitness center on the premises includes a pool and an indoor track. I asked Fletcher why Hartford became home to so many insurance companies and was told it had to do with Hartford being on a river and a center of commerce (several hundred years ago) midway between New York City and Boston. The company has two corporate aircraft and a helicopter. Fletcher scored 10 points on my 1-10 scale. *NOTE I was sent an annual report along with a historical brochure on the Tower. According to the brochure, above the cupola or structure atop the roof (on the 36th floor level) is a beacon which omits a bluish light.
Emhart, a manufacturer of industrial parts, has a Hartford post office box as an address but, is actually located in Farmington about 10 miles west of downtown Hartford. I arrived at the 3-story headquarters building to find nobody around. Isn't it funny how some companies consider Columbus Day a holiday and some don't? The building is set back from the main road and is surrounded by trees which were displaying their fall colors. A sign near the entrance says, "Emhart World Headquarters". I saw several cars parked in a parking lot under the building, yet, my banging on the front doors failed to attract the attention of anyone inside. I was hoping to leave my questionnaire with someone. The rear of the property backs up to Interstate 84.
The Stanley Works
The Stanley Works, a manufacturer of tools and hardware, is headquartered about two miles down the road from Emhart, in New Britain, a city of 75,000. To get to the entrance you have to drive through a residential area until you come to a sign near the street which reads; STANLEY
The Stanley Works
The headquarters building is set way back from the street about a quarter of a mile. The company's next door neighbor is a church and on the other side it's residential. The backside of the well landscaped, 56-acre site backs up to Interstate 84. The company-owned, 4-story, 109,300 square foot headquarters building was built in 1984.
For some strange reason I was expecting corporate headquarters to be in a lousy part of town, in a no-frills kind of building so, you can imagine my surprise when I encountered a PIANO in the lobby area. I met with Peter Kilduff, Manager, Corporate Communications, who after initially acting guarded and skeptical, seem to let down his guard. The piano is played during lunchtime for the 175 employees, with ragtime music being one of the piano player's favorite. There are no restrictions on smoking, there's a cafeteria, vending machines and no formal or executive dining rooms. The corporate art collection consists of a few sculptures and, there's a nice fitness center which has the usual Nautilus equipment along with stationary bikes and treadmills. It was pointed out to me by Mr. Kilduff that all the hinges in the building are Stanley hinges. Kilduff says Stanley pretty much has the market cornered on automatic doors (the kind which open up when you walk in front of them). Stanley is also big in garage door openers. Downtown New Britain is about a mile and a half away and the company has one corporate aircraft, with Bradley Airport being a 40-minute drive away. I did get to see the CEO's office, which wasn't a corner office and he has a view of the grounds and freeway. The boardroom was typical; having pictures of past Chairmen on the walls. Kilduff scored 10 points on my 1-10 scale. *NOTE I never received the annual report I requested.
Aetna Life & Casualty
It was still Monday as I made my way back to Hartford and the corporate offices of Aetna Life & Casualty. A sign out front reads, "Aetna Corporate Headquarters". After waiting in the lobby area for quite a while, I ended up talking to Jason Wright, Manager, Corporate Public Relations. My meeting with Wright in the lobby area near the reception desk lasted about four minutes. Mr. Wright was very indifferent and acted like he could care less. I should have known I'd get a lousy reception because I had been expecting a good one. Why? Before starting this trek I didn't have any health insurance. I decided traveling around the country for over two years on a two wheel bicycle might be risky and insurance was a good idea so, I coughed up a lot of money and signed up with Aetna. According to what little information Wright told me, Aetna's 8-story headquarters building is the world's largest Colonial-style structure. The company-owned, red brick building was built in the 1930's and over 8,500 employees work in the main structure along with several neighboring buildings, which total 1.6 million square feet. The lobby\reception area has very high ceilings, along with a sign on the wall near the receptionist's desk which reads, "no smoking in elevators, lobbies, stairwells, rest rooms, meeting rooms, designated areas in cafeteria and dining rooms".
The tallest building in the corporate headquarters complex stands eight-stories, there're 10,000 parking spots, with officers getting reserved spots. The company is named after Mt. Aetna and, the company's art collection consists of local artists. According to Wright, downtown Hartford is a five-minute walk away, there's a cafeteria, along with vending machines and formal dining rooms. There are not one, but two fitness centers, along with 6 squash courts and a bowling alley. I did see security guards and closed-circuit cameras, along with a company flag flying outside. Bradley Airport is 30 minutes away and the company has 2 corporate aircraft. Wright scored 5 points on my 1-10 scale. *NOTE As expected, my request for material on the history of the company and an annual report was never followed through on.
Connecticut Mutual Life Insurance Company
After leaving Aetna, I went across the street and mistakenly went into Hartford Insurance's big black corporate office building, which is a subsidiary of ITT. After realizing my boo-boo, I walked out and went about a block to the headquarters of Connecticut Mutual Life Insurance Company. The main lobby\reception area is in a very impressive-looking rotunda, the kind usually found in state capital buildings. After the receptionist made a phone call, Astrida Olds, Corporate Responsibility, came to the lobby and said they hadn't received my postcard. After explaining my project to her she agreed to answer my questions. She didn't know the answers to many of the questions asked but, told me she would find them and send them along with an annual report. About 2,000 people work in the massive 4-story, company-owned, red brick building, which isn't in the nicest part of town. There's a cafeteria, vending machines and no formal dining rooms. There's a fitness center, which includes a bowling alley and squash courts (just like over at Aetna) and she wasn't sure about the number of bowling lanes or squash courts. The company has no corporate aircraft and my request to see the CEO's office and boardroom was met by a "no way" because it's a "secured area". Olds was pretty nice but she seem to just go through the motions. Olds scored 5 points on my 1-10 scale. *NOTE I did receive an annual report in the mail but, the answers to my unanswered questions were not enclosed.
Hartford National, a bank holding company, is headquartered in the main office building of one of its subsidiaries; Connecticut National Bank. Follow this: I walked into the building lobby area where, I was sent up to the 14th floor, then was sent to the 22nd floor, whereupon I was sent to the 13th, where they sent me to the 14th and THEN, I was sent back down to the 13th. The building by the way has a 13th floor but, no 9th floor. I ended up talking to Carl Mueller, Assistant Vice President, Corporate Communications, who went through the motions and showed little interest. About the only answers Mueller knew, was the square footage (320,000 square feet) of the building and the number of floors (26). There's a cafeteria, and formal dining rooms and no corporate art collection. Officers get reserved parking and smoking is allowed anywhere. I was taken up to the 26th floor to see the boardroom and CEO's office but, they were both in use. I did find one of my rules of thumb was right on the money: The rule is; the higher you go in a building, the nicer the bathrooms. I had changed into my long pants using one of the bathrooms on the lower floors and, when I was ready to leave, used one of the bathrooms on the upper floors and it was like night and day. Mueller scored 6 points on my 1-10 scale.
For a city of 140,000, Hartford has an impressive skyline. It also has a lot of clout: Aetna with its $20 billion in revenue, Travelers over $12 billion and United Technologies with over $15 billion makes them a force to be reckoned with. The state capital building located near the downtown area is very regal-looking. One memory of Hartford I won't forget is the sight of two huge rats taking a leisurely stroll across a downtown street in broad DAYLIGHT. I've never seen rats that big and nobody else seem to give them a second look. Hmm.
Ames Department Stores
Ames Department Stores is headquartered in Rocky Hill, a town of 15,000, located about 10 miles south of Hartford. The corporate offices are in a large 1-story paneled building, which looks more like a warehouse. I noticed closed-circuit cameras atop the building and security guards in the parking lot as I entered the small, plain lobby. The place reeked of cigarettes, which probably stems from the vendors smoking in the waiting area in the lobby. From what I saw of the people working and passing through the lobby area, the help seem to dress and act like people who work at a Woolworth or K-Mart. The receptionist connected me to the CEO's secretary, who told me the CEO was out of town and "no one is available to talk to you". I spent several futile minutes with the CEO's secretary trying to explain to her that I DID NOT want to talk to the CEO but, merely wanted to know where my postcard ended up. I have never been to an Ames Department Store but, just by seeing their corporate headquarters I could tell they are on the lower end of the department store tier.
Northeast Utilities, which has a Hartford post office box address, is not located in Hartford, but in Berlin, a town of 2,000, about 20 miles south of Hartford. I made the mistake of stopping in a convenience store and asking the person behind the counter if he knew how to get to the corporate headquarters of Northeast Utilities and ended up going to offices of Northeast Utilities all right but, not the corporate headquarters offices.
The corporate offices sit up on a knoll overlooking a heavily wooded area. Over the entrance to the building is a large white tower. I checked in with the not too friendly security guard/receptionist in the lobby area, which reeked of cigarettes. Down the hallway from the reception area, construction was going on and the noise from a jackhammer blasting away was deafening. On display in the lobby was the actual first electric generator used in Hartford. The receptionist wasn't sure who to contact so I asked if I could speak to the CEO's secretary. The CEO's secretary ended up contacting someone from one of their other buildings about five miles away and told me the fellow would be over to talk with me in about 20 minutes. He was no doubt coming from the building the convenience store clerk had misdirected me to earlier. I thanked the CEO's secretary and waited. I got the worst headache sitting in the smoke-filled lobby with the jackhammer going full blast and decided waiting wasn't worth it. I left my questionnaire and told the security guard I was on a tight schedule and couldn't wait any longer. *NOTE I did receive a letter, my questionnaire-which was completed and, an annual report from Richard Hart, Director-Facilities Management. The 300,000 square foot headquarters building was built in 1953 and sits on a 500-acre site. Northeast Utilities leases their headquarters from Rocky River Realty Company, which is one of their subsidiaries. Officers get reserved parking, there's a cafeteria and no corporate aircraft.
Providence, Rhode Island, with a population of 160,000, is the state's largest city and capital. I arrived late in the day and spent the night in the fabulous Omni Biltmore Hotel, an old downtown hotel which has been recently renovated and brought back to its former grandeur. I like downtown Providence, its got a lot of character, history and for its size; a pretty impressive skyline. Much of the downtown area was torn up due to new construction. The state capital building looms nearby and so does the old closed-up Union Station. I was up early the next morning and checked out Brown University, which is located up on an area overlooking downtown Providence.
Textron, a diversified company with interests in aerospace technology, commercial products and financial services is headquartered in a downtown office building. I went up to the main reception area on the top floor (23rd) and checked in with the receptionist/switchboard operator. I was told the fellow in Corporate Communications was on the phone so, I waited in the lobby for about 30 minutes. I got tired of waiting and told the receptionist I'd check back later in the day.
I checked back around 2 p.m. and waited in the lobby area again for over 30 minutes. The receptionist kept telling me everyone was tied up but, I kind of got the feeling I was getting the runaround. The coffee table in the small lobby had annual reports but, you can read one of those for only so long. As I was reading an annual report though, I came up with a possible reason why no one would see me: The beginning of Textron's annual report like most others, begins with a message to the shareholders from the CEO. At the end of the message is (usually) a picture of the CEO, along with his name. In this case it was signed; B.F. Doland. Well, several weeks earlier when filling out my postcard to send to the CEO of Textron, the name I had for the CEO was Beverly Dolan. Not knowing if Beverly Dolan was a he or a she, I remember addressing it to Ms. Beverly Dolan instead of Mr.. I mean, the CEO of New England Electric System was a woman so, I assumed (wrongly) the CEO of Textron was a woman. Now I understand why so many CEO's never go by their first names. I finally got up and said I couldn't wait any longer and left one of my questionnaires and requested it be sent to me along with an annual report. I don't think Textron owns he building because there're quite a few other tenants in the building. The building looked like it was built in the 1970's and also noticed the building had no 13th floor. How diversified is Textron? Did you know they make Bell helicopters, Homelite chain saws, E-Z-Go golf carts, Sheaffer fountain pens, Speidel watchbands and owns Avco Financial Services? *NOTE I did receive an annual report in the mail along with a brochure on the history of Textron but, no enclosed note or my filled out questionnaire.
Fleet Financial Group
Fleet Financial Group, is a bank holding company, which takes up three floors in a spiffy new 26-story building (1985) in downtown Providence, in which it has part ownership. I met with Bruce Crooks, Assistant Vice President, Public Affairs Department, Fleet National Bank. Fleet National Bank is a subsidiary of Fleet Financial Group and is headquartered in a large, old Art Deco building next door. The Art Deco building, which was built in 1929, is still the tallest structure in Rhode Island.
Crooks took me up to the boardroom on the 26th floor and what a sight! We (Crooks and I) guesstimate the gold leaf trimmed ceiling to be almost 60 feet high. A large arched window as tall as the ceiling, allows for a spectacular view of the state capital building in the distance. This boardroom definitely takes the prize (so far) for having the tallest boardroom ceiling. Until seeing this, DuPont and Penn Mutual were number one. The CEO's office is down the hall from the boardroom and he has a corner office, which also has a view of the state capitol building.
Rose-colored marble had been used on the inside and outside of the good-looking structure, which kind of comes to a point at the top. Crooks wasn't sure as to the number of employees working on the three floors but, between the two buildings there are about 2,000 employees working for Fleet National Bank and Fleet Financial Group. There's an antique brass collection which is scattered throughout the executive offices. CEO J. Terrence Murray, smokes cigars, (remember what I said about CEO's not using their first names) which probably explains why there're no restrictions on smoking. Senior officers get reserved parking spots. Crooks showed me several pictures taken after hurricanes hit Providence in the 1930's and one in the 1950's, which devastated the city and even flooded the vaults in the Art Deco building. Crooks scored 10 points on my 1-10 scale.
Gilbrane Building Company
Gilbrane Building Company, one of the largest commercial construction companies in the United States, is a privately held company with headquarters in a 4-story red brick building on the edge of the central downtown area. I went up to the third floor of the building, which couldn't be more than a few years old, and explained to the receptionist the reason for my visit. The receptionist (who was very nice), made a few calls, including calling the President's secretary and found no one had received the postcard and no one was in who could talk to me. I gave her the old "it's a one shot deal for me" routine but, to no avail. I did notice a spiral staircase going from the third floor up to the 4th floor. I also remember seeing other buildings in town which had signs saying they were managed by Gilbrane. The company is also part owner of the new 26-story office building housing Fleet Financial Group, which I had just come from before visiting Gilbrane.
While in Providence, I visited the offices of Rhode Gear, the company which makes the panniers (saddlebags) I was using on my trek. The offices are a few miles from downtown in an area filled with warehouse buildings, railroad tracks and large trucks. I have two saddlebags on the front and two on the rear and was having problems with two of them and wanted to see about getting them repaired. From what I was told and sensed, they really don't like people physically dropping by to have saddlebags repaired. They agreed to replace my saddlebags with new ones WITHOUT even seeing the old ones. I was impressed.
Pawtucket, a city of 71,000, is located about 6 miles north of Providence. Hasbro Inc., the toy manufacturer, is headquartered in an old red brick, 2-story structure built in the 1920's. The neighborhood surrounding the building is blue collar. The lobby is very tiny and the furniture looked like it hadn't been changed since the 1950's. I signed in, got a visitor's pass and used the rest room to change into my long pants. The rest rooms are disgusting. Diane Belmore came to the lobby and talked with me for a few minutes. She didn't know the answers to many of my questions. About 1,500 work in corporate headquarters, which includes a big plant on the site. There's a cafeteria, senior management gets reserved parking and a conference room is used as the boardroom. The company has one corporate aircraft, I spotted security guards on the premises and there are restrictions on smoking. Belmore, whose title is unknown, scored 6 points on my 1-10 scale. *NOTE I did receive an annual report in the mail but, answers to my unanswered questions were not enclosed.
Wyatt Inc., a privately-held petroleum wholesaler, is located in a 13-story office building in downtown New Haven, Connecticut, which looked like it was built in the 1960's. After reading the building directory, which contained a slew of other tenants, I took the elevator up to the 11th floor and entered through a door which said, "Wyatt Fuel". I explained to the receptionist in the small cubicle-like lobby area what I was doing and she made a phone call to George Blanchard's (Chairman) secretary, who told the receptionist to tell me everyone was busy and for me to come back in the afternoon. The offices looked to be plainly furnished and I decided it wasn't worth coming back to.
Southern New England Telecommunications
Down the street a couple blocks from Wyatt, is the 15-story, 207,000 square foot, Art Deco-style headquarters building of Southern New England Telecommunications. I met with William Seekamp, News Manager, who told me the company-owned structure was built in 1938. The lobby area, which is manned by a security guard/receptionist, reminds me of Niagara Mohawk's building in Syracuse, New York. I did get to see the boardroom but, not the CEO's office because a meeting was going on. There's a cafeteria, no restrictions on smoking, officers & division managers get reserved parking spots and the company has no corporate aircraft. Seekamp guessimated there to be about 300 employees in the building. Seekamp scored 7 points on my 1-10 scale.
New Haven, a city of 130,000, seem to have the blahs. I rode around Yale University and wasn't impressed with the campus at all.
General Electric is headquartered in Fairfield (population 55,000) on a 70-acre company-owned site. Before I was allowed on the property I had to be cleared by the security guards at the gated-entrance. A low-slung sign near the gate says, "General Electric". As I surveyed the lobby/reception area, I saw orangish-red carpet with like-colored chairs and some of the magazines/newspapers lying on the coffee tables included Fortune, Money, Insight and the Wall Street Journal. On the wall behind the receptionist's desk, who by the way was smoking, is a large silk-screen by Sol Lewitt. The silk-screen is made up of 75, 22 by 22-inch squares. I met with Bruce Bunch, Corporate Public Information, who told me the headquarters site use to be a quarry pit. About 600 people work in 2 buildings, built in 1973, with 510,000 square feet of space. The main building looks to be only 3-stories but, is actually 5-stories because 2 are below ground.
Company officers get reserved parking spots, there're no restrictions on smoking and CEO John Welch Jr., doesn't smoke. The company's art collection consists of contemporary art and each piece has a 3 by 5 card next to it, which lets you know the name, who did it and when. There's a cafeteria and formal dining rooms and downtown Fairfield is about 3 miles away. Bunch was very open and forthcoming with all my questions except for when I asked him about the number of corporate aircraft General Electric has. Bunch said, "we don't give out that kind of information". There's a fitness center and a jogging trail which goes around the heavily wooded grounds. I did get to see the boardroom, which looked more like a conference room, and I was walked by the CEO's office, who has a corner office but who's door was closed. I did see a helipad on the grounds as I was leaving. Bunch scored 10 points on my 1-10 scale.
The Perkin-Elmer Corporation
The Perkin-Elmer Corporation, which manufactures among other things; analytical instruments, semiconductor processing equipment, optical systems and surface technology systems, is headquartered on a 35-acre site in a 2-story colonial-style building built in 1951. The 375,000 square foot, company-owned structure is located on Route 7, a very busy 2-lane road. I checked in with the receptionist, who after making several phone calls, directed me to the corporate communications department, located about a half mile down the road. I was given a warm and enthusiastic welcome by Donald Mahon, Manager, Employee Communications. About 500 employees work in the headquarters building which at one time was farmland. According to Mahon, in mid-1988 the corporate offices will be moving to space in the same building in which I'm meeting with Mahon. Directors on up get reserved parking spots, there's no restriction on smoking and CEO Horace McDonnell, doesn't smoke. There's a cafeteria, no corporate art collection, no corporate aircraft and it's a mile to downtown Norwalk, a city of 77,000. Perkin-Elmer was founded in 1937 by Charles Elmer, who was 64 years old at the time and by Richard Perkin, who was 30 years old. Mahon scored 10 points on my 1-10 scale.
Danbury, which has a population of 60,000 and is about 30 miles north of Norwalk on Route 7, is home to Union Carbide. I was really looking forward to my visit to Union Carbide because I had read seen several photos and read several articles about their headquarters, which is suppose to be a long (a quarter-mile) and large (1.3 million square feet) office building in heavily-wooded terrain. I had been receiving good receptions at chemical companies (Dow Chemical, American Cyanamid, Cabot) and I figured I would receive an especially nice one at Union Carbide, since they would probably be trying to "shore up" there image after the disastrous poison gas incident in Bhopal, India in 1984.
About an eighth of a mile up the driveway leading to Union Carbide, I came upon a security guard booth and several security guards. I told them what I was doing and the one guard said, "there's no way you're going to get in here, before I retired I worked for Union Carbide and there's no way you're going to get in here wearing shorts and riding a bike." The guard went into his booth and made a phone call and at the same time, he told me to pull over to the side, where there're are several parking spots. I waited about 15 minutes as cars constantly kept stopping at the gate and then zooming by me. The guard comes over to me and says, "a fella is going to come out here and talk to you". I said, "how far is the headquarters building from here?" and I was told it was about a mile up the road. A few minutes later, Harvey Cobert, Manager, Media Relations, Corporate Communications Department, pulls up in his car, gets out and walks over to me. Believe it or not, we ending up going through my questionnaire standing on the side of the road as a steady stream of cars went by. I asked Cobert why I wasn't allowed on the property and he said, "that's just the way it works".
About 2,500 employees work in the 4-story building, which was built in 1981 and sits on a 650-acre site. The company recently sold the building and now leases space. There're two cafeterias, formal dining rooms, a fitness center, baseball fields and a fitness/jogging trail. The company has 2 corporate aircraft, is about 6 miles from downtown Danbury, 60 miles from New York City and has no restrictions on smoking. I asked if I could see the main lobby, the CEO's office and boardroom and I was told, "no way". I couldn't believe the fortress-mentality of Union Carbide. Cobert scored 5 points on my 1-10 scale.
Leaving the front entrance to Union Carbide, I figured there must be another way into the grounds and proceeded to ride my bike around the perimeter of the site. It really is a beautiful setting, with rolling hills and the trees in their fall plumage, surrounded by mostly residential areas. I found another entrance in the rear (about 3 miles from the front entrance) manned by a guard in a booth and I still couldn't get a glimpse of the building. Rats! All I wanted was to at least be able to say I physically SAW the headquarters building.
Heading back toward Norwalk, I stopped in Georgetown, a town of 1,600 and visited the offices of Cannondale, the maker of the bicycle I was using on my trek. I had sent them the same post card I had sent to the billion dollar corporations I was visiting. Cannondale, is a privately held company with sales of something like $6 million. When I had been traveling through the Midwest, I ran into a Cannondale salesman in a bicycle shop and after hearing what I was doing, he told me I should drop in and visit Cannondale's offices in Connecticut.
Cannondale's offices are in located in a house, which is off the beaten path. The house looks like it had been added on to, expanded and added on to. As you walk in, a Cannondale bike, which belongs to Connie Carpenter (a well-known woman cyclist) is on display. Stephen Cuomo, Public Relations Manager, greeted me and walked me around the place. Many of the employees ride their bikes to work AND keep their bikes next to their desks. I did point out to the public relations guy that several of the bikes WEREN'T Cannondales. I was walked through the accounting department, research department, graphics department, the design department, the storage facility where some employees lock up their bikes. Cannondale is named after a town located up the road a few miles. If you think Georgetown is small with 1,600 people, the town of Cannondale, with 1,300 is smaller. The dress at Cannondale's offices is casual and the President's office is sparsely furnished. As I was walked through the work areas and introduced to various employees, NOBODY, not one person asked me about my project. One would think they might ask; How's the bike holding up? or how's your trip going? or how does our headquarters compare to the headquarters of the billion dollar companies you've been visiting? Nope.
Down the road a few miles from the town of Cannondale, is the town of Wilton, (population 6,500) which is home base for U.S. Plywood. According to Forbes magazine, U.S. Plywood, a privately held lumber company, had revenues of $950 million in 1986. Headquarters for U.S. Plywood is in a 2-story office building located right on Route 7. A small sign visible from the street says, "U.S. Plywood". Other tenants are in the building so I assume U.S. Plywood leases space as I check-in with the main receptionist on the second floor. The receptionist tells me the President and the President's secretary are both out of the office, with the secretary due back soon. I said I'll wait. After waiting for 30 minutes, the President's secretary walks in and says, "oh, well we've been trying to get a hold of you, Georgia-Pacific bought us back in June and we will no longer be in existence". Good grief, why didn't the receptionist tell me that? Why didn't I remember reading that in the papers? Just how hard did they try to get hold of me? I mean, I send a postcard to the top guy explaining what I'm doing and on the bottom of the postcard I have my name, California address and my phone number, which is an answering service-who I check-in with almost daily. Did you call that number and leave a message? Not to my knowledge.
I finally arrived in Stamford on a late Thursday afternoon. I was here to find out why 11 companies on my list were located in Stamford, a city of 105,000 and 5 were located in neighboring Greenwich, population 60,000.
My visit to Singer was a little on the strange side. I found Singer's headquarters building in downtown Stamford and the it looked to be a brand new building about 12-stories. A small sign visible from the street read, "Singer". I walked into the lobby area and explained to the receptionist who I was and what I was doing. After waiting a few minutes, Randee Stypulkowski, Manager, Community Relations, came out to the lobby and talked with me for a few minutes. The first thing she told was that Singer's corporate headquarters were recently moved to Montvale, New Jersey. I asked her why and she said she couldn't tell me. Hmmm. Something political or having to do with tax breaks were the first two reasons I could come up with for the company to move VERY suddenly to another state. She went on to tell me there're about 180 employees in the New Jersey office, which is in a 2-story building and the company has 2 corporate aircraft. Figuring the CEO probably had dual offices (Stamford & Montvale), I asked if I could see the CEO's office and the boardroom. Well little old me, the guy who prides himself on being well-read blew it, she told me CEO Joseph Flavin, had died last week and it wouldn't be possible to see his office but, she did take me up to the boardroom, which is a U-shaped table. Stypulkowski scored 8 points on my 1-10 scale. *NOTE I found out later from newspaper articles that the company had moved corporate offices to Montvale, New Jersey as a defense from a possible takeover.
GTE is located down the street from Singer, in a 13-story structure which looks like up upside down pyramid. GTE's building looked old next to all the spiffy new buildings in downtown Stamford and it's because they were the first to start the exodus from New York City in the 1970's. I entered the lobby area and as I was explaining what I was doing to a receptionist, she pointed to a man who just walked in and said, "he might be able to help you". It turned out the man was Dick Jones, Director, Community Affairs, and he said he had just got back from a trip, hadn't slept in two days and said they hadn't received my card. He said he would give me "10 minutes". We sat in the lobby area and Jones acted like he could care less about me or my questions and he DID look like he hadn't slept in two days. There's about 900 employees in the building, which was built in 1974 and has a fitness center, cafeteria and formal dining. Senior Vice Presidents on up get reserved parking spots, there's a corporate art collection and he had no idea of the square footage of the building. My request to see the CEO's office and boardroom was denied and so, I never got past the lobby area. What a disappointment! GTE with revenues of over $14 billion is a biggie and all I got was a brush-off. Jones scored 5 points on my 1-10 scale. *NOTE As I expected, Jones never followed through on sending material.
About a mile from downtown Stamford on a 45-acre site, sits the 3-story, 300,000 square foot headquarters of Olin Corporation, a diversified chemical company. Right outside the main entrance to the lobby, is a bust of Mr. Olin, the founder. I checked in with the receptionist and noticed a security guard along with close-circuit cameras in the large lobby area.
It was 4:30 p.m. on a Friday afternoon and more than likely, most of the staff had taken off for home, yet, I was told Carolyn Beverly, Corporate Public Relations would see me. I commented to Ms. Beverly on the beautiful well-landscaped grounds and was told before Olin moved here in 1967, the place was the site of a sanitarium. Ms. Beverly went on to tell me Olin had taken great care in preserving a wide variety of the trees on the property, some of which are over 100 years old. Included are: 3 rare Japanese split-leaf maples, Chinese dogwoods, blue atlas cedars, weeping European beeches, fern-leaf maples, multistemmed star magnolias and sugar maples.
About 900 people work at Olin's headquarters, which is right across the street from a Lord & Taylor department store. I thought GTE had been the trendsetter in relocating from New York City in 1974 but, Olin had moved their headquarters from New York City to their current, company-owned site in 1967. There's a cafeteria, formal dining, no restrictions on smoking, no fitness center but the grounds are great for walking and senior officers get reserved parking spots. The company has one or two (Beverly wasn't sure) corporate aircraft and Westchester Airport is about 20 miles away. Beverly scored 8 points on my 1-10 scale.
Over the weekend I had a great time exploring the area. Greenwich, Connecticut definitely ranks right up near the top on my list of favorite towns/cities I've visited. New Canaan (population 17,000)and Darien (population 19,000), which are both a few miles from Stamford, are listed in Rand McNally's book, "The Places Rated Almanac" as been two of the 74 most affluent suburbs in the country. Darien and New Canaan both, are situated in heavily wooded areas, with rolling hills and a country-style of living. I don't understand how Greenwich with it's slew of big estates didn't make the list.
I spent Thursday, Friday at the plush Stamford Sheraton Hotel and Saturday, Sunday at the equally as plush Westin Stamford. I was amazed to find Stamford, with a population of only 105,000 to have such a large ghetto/slum area. To go from downtown Stamford to Old Greenwich/Greenwich, a distance of a couple miles, you go through some real bad areas.
Monday morning, October 19, 1987, I arrived at the 4-story concrete and glass headquarters of Xerox Corporation, which is located about 3 miles north of downtown Stamford. A sign out near the main road reads, "Xerox" as I rode up the steep driveway to the building, which sits on a small ridge. The front grounds of the property were full of trees showing off their fall colors. I walked into the lobby area and was greeted by a woman receptionist, who must have been in her 50's or 60's, who peered over her glasses (the way schoolteachers do) and asked me if she could help me. I explained to her what I was doing and after making a phone call, Ford Park, Manager, Internal Publications, appeared in the lobby. We sat down in the lobby and Park told me he knew nothing about my postcard. As we were going through my questionnaire, he several times told me he didn't want to be quoted and trying my best to not act annoyed, I asked him, "why don't you find someone who I CAN quote?". According to him, he wasn't a company spokesman and he was talking with me to "just help you out". Hmmm. The 4-story atrium lobby was heavy on the gray color; rugs were gray, parts of the walls were gray and the furniture was gray. The only magazines I saw on tables in the lobby were all Forbes magazines. There's a big exhibit in the lobby area called, "10,000 Years of Communication", which takes you from BC (rock tablets) to 1987 (Xerox products). I never got past the lobby area and when I asked if I could see the CEO's office and boardroom, I was told, "no, they're busy people". I can't tell you anymore information about the headquarters because I might get Ford in trouble. Park scored 5 points on my 1-10 scale. *NOTE I called up Xerox after getting back home and talked to Tom Abbott, Manager, Public Relations. Xerox's headquarters building was built in 1978, sits on a 25-acre site and has 255,000 square feet of space. There's a cafeteria, no formal dining and a fitness center, with a jogging trail on the grounds. Officers on up get reserved parking and the company has either 4 or 5 corporate aircraft, with Westchester Airport being 15 miles away.
Combustion Engineering is located right next door to Xerox in two 3-story structures, one of which was built in 1977 and the other in 1982. The two buildings are connected to each other by an underground walkway. Walking into the main reception area, I thought I was checking into a hotel because the receptionist was behind a tall counter/desk. After the receptionist called up Building Services, then Public Relations, I was sent over to the other building and after a 20-minute wait, I met with Mark Baxter, Director, Public Affairs. The magazines in the lobby waiting area included; Forbes, Fortune and Time. About 300 employees work at the 34-acre site, which has a cafeteria, but no executive dining, a fitness center, a jogging trail, and a stationary art collection. Officers get reserved parking spots, there're restrictions on smoking, the company has 3 corporate aircraft and I noticed close-circuit cameras and security guards. Baxter said he wasn't sure about my request to see the CEO's office and boardroom, so, I didn't pursue it. Baxter scored 7 points on my 1-10 scale.
General Signal, which manufacture electrical, process and transportation control systems, leases space in a corporate office park located about 5 miles north of downtown Stamford. The 3-story circular, dome-shaped building was originally built for a clock company called, General Time. The structure was built in 1966 and General Signal has occupied the building since 1976. According to Nino Fernandez, Vice President, Investor Relations, the lease is up in 1988 and they may move. About 100 employees work in the corporate offices which have one elevator, open parking, no corporate art collection, no security, no recreational facilities and a cafeteria. There's no smoking in the building except in designated areas and I was told by the receptionist that the designated smoking areas are glass-enclosed room, which means you can see the smokers puffing away. The magazines scattered around the lobby area included New Yorker, Connecticut and the Greenwich Review. As Fernandez and I were talking in his office, CEO David Kimball walked in. Kimball said he had read my postcard and wanted to meet me. Kimball, who is a super nice man, and I talked for 15-20 minutes. Kimball's office has a view of another building and of a small pond. The boardroom has several Audubon prints, which I was told were originals. Fernandez scored 10 points on my 1-10 scale.
American Brands owns such well-known consumer brands as Jim Beam bourbon, Hydrox cookies, Jergens Lotion, Pall Mall and Lucky Strike cigarettes. As well as Titleist golf products, Master Lock locks and Swingline staplers, has a beautiful corporate headquarters in Old Greenwich, which is a located next door to the spiffy Hyatt Greenwich hotel. I walked into the lobby area and was greeted by a security guard reception. He made a phone call and then told me to wait. The wood-paneled, three-story atrium lobby has a good-sized glass display area showing samples of the companies various products. Since one of the company's subsidiaries is The American Tobacco Company, I assumed smoking would be allowed anywhere in the building. WRONG: The security guard sits behind a big desk/console, which has quite a few monitors showing pictures from the various close-circuit cameras scattered around the building and parking lot. Being the nosy guy I am, I asked him if he wouldn't mind me coming behind the desk and taking a peek at the monitors. Well, imagine my surprise when I took a look and spotted a handmade sign taped near a monitor which said there was to be NO SMOKING at the desk. I asked the guard the reason for the sign and he said he was told, "smoking was causing the security monitors to malfunction". Hmmm. I had been waiting in the lobby for about 40 minutes, when I told the guard I was going to run next door and see about getting a room at the Hyatt Greenwich for the evening.
I went to the Hyatt, got a complimentary room for two nights, ran back to American Brands and ended up waiting 20 more minutes. Finally, a secretary (I'm not sure what her title or name is) came to the lobby and proceeded to give me a tour of the place. It's furnished in Early American, with a taste of the South. Very traditional. Lots of tobacco paintings, such as the harvesting of tobacco. The boardroom besides having pictures of past Chairmen on the walls, has an original Norman Rockwell painting and the woman showing me around said if I were to touch it, an alarm would go off. I also found out I had sent my postcard to a dead man. I had addressed my postcard to CEO Edward Whittemore and was told by the lady showing me around that he had passed away a month ago and now William Alley was the CEO.
I did check to make sure the security guards being used at headquarters were from Pinkerton security, which is owned by American Brands. (They were) The 5-story, 180,000 square foot building, with 240 employees was built in 1986 and is leased. I did hear Muzak playing in the building. I was also shown a private elevator, in which a key is needed and is for the exclusive use of executives on the executive floor, which takes them down to the parking garage. The little people such as receptionists and secretaries are not allowed to use it. I was shown the fitness center, along with the cafeteria, which serves Coke and Pepsi. There's also a nice plush executive dining area.
After my tour, I waited another 15 minutes before getting a two minute "audience" with Daniel Conforti, Public Information Director, who told me I caught him on a very busy day and he only had a minute. Well, I went through my questionnaire very quickly with him and it was awkward because he definitely made me feel like I was taking up his time. As I was leaving, I was given a grab bag of goodies (about the size of a beach bag) by the lady who had shown me around. It was filled with samples of some of the company's products such as: a carton of cigarettes (if they only knew how much I was anti-cigarettes), a Master lock, bottle of liquor, Titleist golf ball, a Swingline stapler, a telephone and address book, a ruler with the name, Southland Life on it, which is a subsidiary. I don't know how the heck they expected me to pack all that on an already overloaded bicycle. I asked her if it could be mailed to me and was told it would be done. Conforti scored 3 points on my 1-10 scale. *NOTE I did receive my bag of goodies in the mail sans the liquor.
Louis Dreyfus Corporation
Louis Dreyfus Corporation is a privately held company, who according to Forbes Magazine's 1986 list of the 400 largest private companies in the United States ranks #11 with revenues of $4 billion. I went to their corporate offices, which are located on the edge of downtown Stamford, twice. On my first visit, I entered the tiny lobby of the 9-story, brownish-concrete, fortress-like structure around noontime and was told by the security guard-receptionist to come back later. I arrived back around 2 p.m. and waited in the spartanly furnished lobby. I found out the receptionist, Frank Pellegrino, who by the way is a nice guy, is also a Stamford police officer and does this on the side. On a wall in the no-frills lobby is a portrait of the founder; Louis Dreyfus, who from what I was told died 50-60 years ago. After waiting about 15 minutes I was sent up to the 8th floor and met with Thomas Scheuer, General Counsel. I had asked if I could use a rest room to change from my shorts to long pants but the security guard/receptionist said there was no need to because it's "real casual" around here. My visit with Scheuer didn't last very long because he was very guarded in his answers. I couldn't tell if he was impressed with what I was doing or leery of me. About the only things I found out about their corporate offices was that they own the building, which was built in 1976, they have 200 employees and they serve Pepsi in the cafeteria. There's no corporate art collection, no corporate aircraft and there's "some" reserved parking. I asked Scheuer if he could give me any literature about the company and I was told there wasn't any. As I was leaving the building, I asked the Frank Pellegrino, the receptionist, if he had any material I could have on the company and I was given a 10-page booklet. The booklet mentioned Louis Dreyfus Corporation being a member of the Louis Dreyfus Group, who's parent is S.A. Louis Dreyfus et Cie, which is headquartered in Paris, France. So, the offices in Stamford are just the North American offices, which means Louis Dreyfus isn't eligible to be on my list of companies because it's a foreign-based, foreign-owned company. Scheuer scored 5 points on my 1-10 scale. *NOTE I've noticed Forbes magazine has not included Louis Dreyfus on their Forbes 400 list since 1986. Hmmm.
It was late in the afternoon on Monday, as I found the good-looking, pink and gray granite, 9-story, I.M. Pei & Partners designed, 422,445 square foot corporate headquarters complex of Pitney Bowes. Built in 1986, it's located several miles from downtown Stamford overlooking Stamford Harbor. The area around the place is blighted with old worn-out houses and buildings and isn't the kind of place you would want to grow strolling, although, on the backside of Pitney Bowes' headquarters is Kosciuszko Park, a small city park. I entered the huge lobby, checked in with the security guard/receptionist and used a lobby phone to call up the CEO's secretary to find out where my postcard had trickled down. Mr. Harvey's (CEO) secretary told me the postcard had been sent to Corporate Communications and she would arrange for someone to see me.
I had been waiting in the lobby for about 30 minutes, when John O'Maloney, Manager, Public Affairs walked up and introduced himself. He apologized for my having to wait but, he said the stock market was going crazy and was plummeting. As we talked, he walked me past a 5-story skylight lobby atrium which separates the building's east and west wings. After walking up a flight of stairs, we came upon another atrium, this one running the length of the structure (300 feet). I must admit, O'Mahoney is a smooth talker because before I knew it, he was shaking my hand and sending me on my way. About 1,100 employees work at the company-owned headquarters structure. I wasn't able to see the CEO's office or boardroom because O'Mahoney said, "we have to plan something like that". I was disappointed in not getting more of a tour because it's definitely a first class facility. I did find a bathroom scale in the restroom. O'Mahoney scored 5 points on my 1-10 scale. *NOTE The day I visited, October 19, 1987, was the infamous BLACK MONDAY; the day the stock market lost 500 points.
Early Tuesday morning found me trying to find Primerica's corporate headquarters in Greenwich. The address I had was a post office box number and so I ended up asking quite a few people for directions. Most people had a blank look on their faces when I asked them if they knew how to get to American Can/Primerica. After two and a half-hours of riding, I found Primerica's corporate headquarters about 15 miles north of downtown Greenwich and about a mile from Westchester County Airport. I rode through beautiful residential areas to get to Primerica but, It was frustrating because I kept getting lost. Anyway, I found headquarters and walked into the lobby, where I explained to the security guard/receptionist the reason for my visit. The guard told me I was in the wrong building and sent me to the Executive building, which was located behind the building I was in. I got on my bike and rode over to the Executive building. The front doors were locked and I hear a voice through a speaker box say, "can I help you?". Now, I gotta tell ya, I HATE having to speak into one of those boxes, especially when you can't see who you are talking to and/or they can see you through a security camera and you can't see them. I'm talking to her through the box, when two security guards drive up, jump out of their vehicles and act as if I'm some kind of a terrorist. The two security guards want to know what I'm doing at this building and I explained to them how the security guard in the other building had sent me over. They tell me to follow them back to the other building, where the security guard/receptionist was given a not-so-private reprimand for sending me to the other building. After waiting in the lobby for about 20 minutes, I met with Jim Brown, Publications Manager, Corporate Communications, who told me Primerica had recently sold the corporate headquarters complex and now, leases space. Built in 1968, the 5-story Skidmore, Owings & Merrill designed main building looks like a concrete bunker house. There's a state flag, U.S. flag and company flag flying out front on the 181-acre site, which has a Par course on the tree covered grounds. Construction was in progress on renovations and remodeling of the offices to rent out unneeded space. About 270 employees work in the corporate offices, with the total square footage of the huge complex being over 600,000 square feet. I noticed no magazines in the lobby area and the company's art collection is modern, with primarily American artists. Smoking is restricted, there a cafeteria and I saw quite a few close-circuit cameras. CEO Gerald Tsai Jr. occupies a corner office furnished very simple and modern, with an emphasis on the color white. I was told his favorite color is white. Westchester County Airport is a few minutes away and the company has 4 corporate aircraft. Brown scored 6 points on my 1-10 scale. As I was leaving the grounds, I did notice the guesthouse across the road, which according to what I was told, is reserved for VIPs visiting Primerica.
United Parcel Service, better known as UPS, is headquartered in an office park known as, Greenwich Office Park 5. The privately held company with over $9 BILLION in revenues leases space in two connecting 4-story buildings. I met with Joseph Tranfo, Vice President, who told me it was just coincidence that the two brick building just happen to be a light brown color. We all know the company has a fixation with the color brown; how many times have you seen one of those UPS drivers wearing a brown uniform double park the always clean brown truck? Anyway, the main lobby/reception area is pretty plainly furnished, with Newsweek being the only magazine lying around. As Tranfo walked me back to his office, we passed a replica of a 1913 delivery truck in the executive lobby. As we sat down in his office, Tranfo asked me if I minded if he smoked. I said, "no". What was I suppose to say? I mean here I am visiting this PRIVATELY held company, trying to get information from him about his headquarters and do you think for one second I would in anyway antagonize him? About 500 employees work at the corporate offices which have been located in the heavily wooded corporate park since 1976. I did get to see the boardroom, which is a conference room and I did get to see the CEO's office, which is a corner office, brown and functional. Tranfo did mention how the executives answer their own phones and have no personal secretaries. There's no restrictions on smoking and CEO John Rogers smokes cigars.
I did hear Muzak in the building, there's a cafeteria, no recreational facilities and downtown Greenwich is 2 miles away. The company's well-known logo is a shield, with the letters UPS on it, but, if you look closely you'll see something unusual: the top of the shield looks like a package wrap in string and if you've mailed anything with UPS lately-they don't accept packages with string wrapped around. Tranfo is a real friendly guy and he scored 10 points on my 1-10 scale.
Penn Central Corporation
Across the street from UPS, I saw the corporate offices of the Penn Central Corporation, a company which was on my original list of companies to visit. I didn't stop in because I had read in the paper where Carl Lindner, the Cincinnati financier, had taken over the company and was moving the corporate offices to Cincinnati. Also down the street about a mile I passed the corporate offices of Chesebrough-Pond, another company on my original list, which had been taken over by Unilever, a Netherlands based-company.
Finevest Services, a privately-held company with over $1 billion in revenues, is located in a 2-story, red brick Colonial-style building with black trim about a block from the hustle and bustle of downtown Greenwich. The building is unmarked except for the street address and looks like it could be a lawyers office. I walked up a few steps, opened the front door and found the receptionist's desk within 2 feet (I measured) of the front door. Very tiny, cramped reception area. I met with Denise McLellan, Office Manager, who told me 22 employees work in the building, which has been home to Finevest Services since 1986. "What does Finevest do?", I asked. I was told the company is primarily a dairy processor, among other things. All the employees get reserved parking (there's a lot behind the building), there's no corporate art collection, no cafeteria-although there's a kitchen area and there is an elevator in the building. I never got past the first floor area and the company has 3 corporate aircraft. McLellan scored 8 points on my 1-10 scale.
Amax, a supplier of minerals and energy, leases space in an office building located in downtown Greenwich almost across the street from the train station. After checking in with the security guard/receptionist, I met with Penelope Pappas, Manager, Financial Communications. About 350 employees work in the blah-looking building, which has a cafeteria and covered parking for senior officers. The company has been headquartered in the building since 1974 and there're no restrictions on smoking, with CEO Allen Born smoking cigarettes. Penelope Pappas scored 9 points on my 1-10 scale.
The company-owned headquarters building of Champion International, a paper/lumber company, is an impressive-looking 15-story structure in downtown Stamford. Built in 1979, there's a branch of the Whitney Museum on the first entrance to the building. After waiting a while in the lobby area, I was given a not too friendly welcome by John Ruser, Director-Stamford Facilities, who made me feel like I was an unimportant pest. The building has a total of 460,000 square feet of space, with Champion International taking up 300,000 square feet. About 850 employees work in the structure which, has a greenhouse on the third floor. My request to see the greenhouse was denied, along with seeing the CEO's office and boardroom. I never did get past the reception area. There's a cafeteria, a fitness center-with an outside jogging track and the company has 3 corporate aircraft. According to Ruser, there is a corporate art collection, which is rotated around the building. Ruser scored 5 points on my 1-10 scale.
General Re, an insurance holding company, is headquartered a couple blocks from Champion International in downtown Stamford in a massive, company-owned, 6-story, bluish-green glassed building. Built in 1984 it has 600,000 square feet of office space, of which 450,000 square feet is used by General Re and the rest is leased out to other tenants. After checking in with the security guard/receptionist, I met with Chris Newman, secretary to Edmond Rondepierre, Vice President, General Counsel and Secretary. If you were walking down the street and passed the building, you would find you have to go up quite a few steps to get to the first floor. I somehow got the idea it was done that way to discourage people passing from walking in (read between the lines-street people). A clock sits atop the building and there's a good-looking courtyard in the rear of the structure. About 1,500 employees work in the building, which has a large underground parking garage, a cafeteria and formal dining rooms. There's no corporate art collection, no recreational facilities and no corporate aircraft. Newman scored 10 points on my 1-10 scale.
Great Northern Nekoosa Corporation
I had the worst time trying to find the corporate offices of Great Northern Nekoosa Corporation, a paper and corrugated box manufacturer and distributor. Why? Because the brownish-yellow brick 3-story headquarters building sits smack between two brownish high-rise apartment buildings and I passed the building about six times because I thought it was the entranceway to the apartments. Located several blocks from downtown Stamford, I finally found the entrance because of a mall sign out front which reads, "Great Northern Nekoosa Corporation". I checked in with the receptionist in the small, plainly furnished reception area and was soon given a warm greeting by Mary Doherty, Corporate Communications Administrator. About 100 employees work in the building, whose furnishings and offices could be described in one word; functional. Corporate headquarters since 1971, the building has a cafeteria, with no executive dining rooms, no restrictions on smoking-even though CEO William Laidig doesn't smoke, no corporate art collection, no recreational facilities and five corporate aircraft. Doherty scored 10 points on my 1-10 scale.
After visiting the companies on my list in Greenwich and Stamford, CT., I flew home to San Diego. Winter was close at hand and January would be a good time to visit Los Angeles.