On the road in San Diego, California
It was getting near the end of my trek so, I decided it was time to visit the companies located in my hometown of San Diego. Even though San Diego is the 7th largest city in the country, only three companies qualified for my original list: The Price Company, San Diego Gas & Electric and The Henley Group. I added on Home Federal Savings and Great American First Savings Bank because I was curious as to how they would stack up against the multitude of other financial institutions already visited.
Great American First Savings Bank
Great American First Savings Bank, leases space in a 24-story building in downtown San Diego. Built in 1974, they owned the building until selling it to a Japanese firm in 1985. Entering the building, a security guard sits behind a console giving directions and off to the one side is the entrance to the bank's main branch. I met with Lloyd Plummer, Senior Vice President, who guesstimate 200 employees work in the building. The company has no corporate aircraft, Vice President's on up get reserved parking spots and, there's a cafeteria. I spent a few minutes talking to CEO Gordon Luce who has his office on the mezzanine level overlooking the first floor lobby of the bank. His office has quite a few tombstones, a large collection of various hats and, several pictures of himself with Ronald Reagan. When Reagan was Governor of California, Luce was a member of his cabinet. The boardroom was a little unusual in that the shape of the boardroom table was of a hexagon (8-sided). Plummer scored 10 points on my scale of 1-10.
San Diego Gas & Electric
Located several blocks from Great American Savings Bank is the 21-story headquarters building of San Diego Gas & Electric. Built in 1968, the company leases the 200,000 square foot building and is the only tenant. Entering the building, I checked in with a receptionist standing behind a counter and, without being given an I.D. badge or seeing any security guards or close-circuit security cameras, I was sent up to meet Karen Duncan, Senior Media Communications Representative. During my visit with Duncan, she would have to interrupt our conversation periodically to receive or place a phone call because a construction crew had ripped open a gas line in the downtown area and she was in charge of dealing with the various media people wanting information.
About 1,350 employees work in the building, which has a cafeteria, formal dining and locker rooms, with showers for those employees who ride a bike to work or jog. CEO Thomas Page has a great view of San Diego bay from his top floor, corner office. Besides a telescope, I also noted a Dr. Seuss book. Page's secretary says that Page likes to use excerpts from Dr. Seuss's books in his speeches and I was shown several personal letters from Dr. Seuss to Page. The boardroom was pretty functional and the company has 1 helicopter. Duncan scored 10 points on my 1-10 scale.
Home Federal Savings
Home Federal Savings is headquartered in what looks to be about a 15-story structure built in the 1920's. I entered the lobby area and was greeted by a security guard. I told him what I was doing and he called up the secretary to CEO Kim Fletcher. The secretary told the security guard to tell me that they had sent me a letter. I told the security guard I hadn't received any letter and asked if I could talk to Fletcher's secretary myself. The security guard told me the secretary didn't want to talk to me. Hmmm. What kind of reception is that from a hometown company? *NOTE I never received any so-called, "letter".
The Price Club
The Price Company, a cash and carry membership-only merchandising business, is headquartered about 10 miles north of downtown San Diego in a plain, 1-story 25,000 square foot building located in a small business park. The company's first store called Price Club is located about a block up the street. A tiny plaque/sign outside the main entrance door reads, "The Price Company, Corporate Office".
Seeing as how I was from San Diego, I had read quite a few articles over the years on the Price Company and was well aware of it's reputation for being a no-frills kind of company. The small lobby/reception area was furnished in a style I would describe as the "functional leftover look". I counted two live plants and two fake plants in the reception area along with five chairs, three of which were on rollers. Scattered around were several Price Club Journals (a newspaper put out by the company for its members, of which by the way, I belong), Parent magazine, Frontier Business Journal and a magazine called, Best of Business. A counter separates the reception area from a work area and I noticed all the employees were wearing company identification badges. I met with Brent Knudsen, Vice President, who told me the company leases space and has been headquartered in the building since 1978. There's a no smoking in the building policy, no corporate art collection, three corporate aircraft and Pepsi/Coke are served in the vending machine area. The dress code is very casual and as a matter of fact, I didn't see a single person wearing a suit during my visit. CEO Robert Price has an office that keeps up with the company's "no-frills" image; it's small and sparsely furnished. If you were to go to the hardware store and buy some cement blocks and corkboard, then you too can have shelves similar to the ones found in Price's office. Price's view from his small first story office window parallels the view Sam Walton, the CEO of Wal-Mart had from his first story office window; a view of whatever car or truck is parked in the parking spot a few FEET from the window. I wasn't able to see the boardroom because it was being used but I was told it's used more as a conference room. Knudsen scored 10 points on my 1-10 scale.
The Henley Group
The Henley Group, a holding company with interests in chemicals, medical supplies, real estate, manufacturing and refuse disposal to name a few, is headquartered in a 85,000 square foot, 2-story Spanish-style building about 15 miles north of downtown San Diego in the well-to-do community of La Jolla. The beautiful red tiled roof structure sits across the street from Torrey Pines Municipal golf course (which overlooks the Pacific Ocean) and Torrey Pines State Reserve, a state park who's primary inhabitant is the extremely rare Torrey Pine.
A fairly large low slung sign out near the roadway reads, "The Henley Group, Inc., Fisher Scientific Group, Inc.", the later being a company spun off by The Henley Group. The lobby/reception area is large and is beautifully furnished. The Spanish tile floor makes the place seem more like the home of a wealthy cattle baron and the plentiful arrangements of fresh flowers and live plants gives the place a formal, yet casual atmosphere. I was impressed with the receptionist who, was very smartly dressed, friendly and had a air of professionalism about her. After explaining to her what I was doing she had me take a seat while she made a few phone calls. The reading material in the waiting area consisted of an issue of Time magazine and an issue of U.S. News & World Report magazine. The receptionist informed me the person I was to talk to was Norm Ritter, company spokesman, whose office is in Hampton, New Hampshire. Jeez, it figures, there had been several articles in newspapers which had mentioned The Henley Group had established "dual" headquarters in La Jolla, California and Hampton, New Hampshire. It was suppose to have something to do with wanting to be closer to the "money center" (New York City) and, the company had quite a few of their plants and facilities on the East coast.
As I was about to leave, a woman was walking by the reception desk and the receptionist called her over and gave her the postcard I send to the CEO's. The woman's name is Betty Filkins and she told me she worked in the public relations department of Fisher Scientific (which was spun off from Henley Group) and she ended up giving me a quick tour of the building.
We took a walk out to the back of the building where she showed me two tennis courts, a swimming pool, a Jacuzzi, and a 4,500 square foot clubhouse set-up in a way to make any resort hotel envious. CEO Michael Dingman has a large corner office on the first floor with a view towards the recreation area. Not too far from the tennis courts is a helipad and I didn't have to ask if the company has any corporate aircraft because I've seen them on occasion flying in and out of San Diego's Lindbergh Field airport, which is about 15 miles away. I never did call Ritter.
On the road in Denver, Colorado
On Saturday August 13, 1988 my bike and I flew into Denver, Colorado. I had been to Denver before with my bike so I pretty much knew the lay of the land. I spent Saturday and Sunday playing tourist and stayed in a spiffy Compri Hotel in the suburb of Lakewood.
Early Monday morning I was on my bike riding to Golden, a town located in the foothills about 14 miles west of Denver with a population of about 15,000. Adolph Coors' corporate headquarters is on a 3,500-acre site located one block from the main drag running through Golden. With over 9,000 employees at their corporate headquarter/brewery complex I think it would be a safe bet to call Golden, a company town. The town's main street has a huge sign stretched across it, which reads, "Welcome to Golden". Adolph Coor's headquarters/brewery complex is HUGE but, I guess it shouldn't have surprised me because I had read somewhere, where this is the largest single brewery in the world. I rode around the outside perimeter of the complex and notice they even have their own railroad cars and trains hauling materials between various buildings.
I entered the grounds through the main entrance gate and didn't see anyone manning the little guard booth so; I rode around the various buildings until an employee directed me to the main reception area. The main reception/lobby area is very large; the reason for that being it's also the place where tours of the brewery begin. There's a large parking lot for visitors about a block from the main entrance gate where visitors park and are then shuttled via Coors shuttle buses to the reception area. After explaining to one of the reception/guides what I was doing, I was directed to take the elevator up to the 3rd floor of the 6-story concrete and glass office building which butts up to and connects to the brewery complex. Coming off the elevator I was greeted by a receptionist and behind her I noticed a plaque near the door which read, "Marvin D. "Swede" Johnson" and the sight of that name struck a cord. I had gone to the University of Arizona in the early 1970's and remembered an assistant chancellor or assistant to the president by that name. I asked the receptionist if it was the same man and was told it sure was. Johnson happened to walk by the reception area as the receptionist and I were talking about him and before you know it, I was in his office talking to him about life at the University of Arizona in the early 1970's. He had left the University of Arizona, worked in a similar capacity at the University of New Mexico and for several years now has been Vice President, Corporate Affairs for Adolph Coors Company. After grilling me and finding I hadn't been one of those radical students that had given him trouble at the University of Arizona, he turned to task of taking care of my visit. He made a phone call and I was told to hurry down to the lobby area to get a "VIP" tour of the brewery that was just starting.
At first I was doubtful as to whether I was actually getting a "V.I.P" tour because at many companies every visitor is called a "VIP". However, the guide told me the tour I was on lasted about twice as long as the "regular" tour and it took in more of the plant. I would rank the tour of the Coors brewery as one of the most fascinating and informative tours I've had on my whole trek. Believe it or not, at 9 o'clock in the morning I was tasting Coors beer as it came through the pipes.
After the tour I went back up to Johnson's office where we went through my questionnaire. The company has two corporate aircraft and there's no smoking in the building. There's no corporate art collection though, in the reception/waiting area on the 3rd floor I did see: a replica of a Japanese Shogun helmet, a bronze statue of a rodeo rider on a horse and, two model airplanes made out of beer cans (Coors cans of course). Also in the 3rd floor lobby were several live plants, paintings of ducks and mountain landscapes as well as an issue of Virginia Business magazine (I had read somewhere where Coors was going to be opening a brewery in Virginia, which would explain the magazine). Flying outside the building is the prestigious C-flag, which I hadn't seen since the one at Dow Chemical. Pepsi and Coke are served in the cafeterias and there's a nearby "wellness" center which has an indoor track, Nautilus equipment and a softball complex. I asked if I could see the CEO's office and was taken down to the end of the hall on the 3rd floor and given a glimpse of the side by side offices of the Coors clan. The offices were small, functionally furnished and separated by glass, which enabled everyone to see what everyone else was doing. Johnson then took me down to the company store and told me to pick out whatever items of clothing I wanted and he would mail them to me. I picked out a visor and long-sleeved T-shirt and this was after I told him Budweiser was my favorite beer! Johnson scored 10 points on my 1-10 scale. Even without my University of Arizona connection, I imagine Johnson would have given me a enthusiastic welcome. Do you realize this is the first time I've been well received at a company that has something to do with bicycles? (Coors sponsors the Coors Classic). See RJR Nabisco, Kimberly-Clark, Southland Corporation, Air Products.
As I entered the Coors headquarters/brewery complex I had noticed a liquor store across the street from the entrance and on the marquee it read, "No fresher Coors sold anywhere". So, during my tour of the brewery I had mentioned to the guide about how I had this vision of the owner walking across the street every morning with a wheelbarrow to load up on freshly brewed beer. The guide laughed and said the liquor storeowner got his Coors beer from a wholesaler in town just like all the other stores.
On the side of a hill overlooking the brewery is a dead end road so, I followed it up the hill to a white electronically controlled gate, equipped with close-circuit security cameras. Behind the gate I could see a tennis court and a large house. I figured it must be home to one of the Coors and so I got off my bike and took a few pictures. I was right on the money because a private security guard drove out the gate and asked me what I was doing and in the course of our conversation I was able to confirm my suspicion.
Several miles from the Coors complex is one of the most fascinating museums I've visited on my trek; The Colorado Railroad Museum. Scattered around the property are a fascinating array of old locomotives and rail cars along with a building housing a large collection of railroad memorabilia.
Back in downtown Denver, I entered the first floor lobby of Manville Plaza and checked in with the receptionist. I was soon sitting in the office of Robert Boardman, Vice President and Secretary. The 29-story building used to be called the Petro-Lewis Building until Manville moved its corporate headquarters into the building about a month earlier. Manville has 700 employees, occupies 12 floors of the building and uses 240,000 square feet of space. La Salle Partners are the owners of the building.
Manville, which manufactures fiber glass products, forest products, pipe products and roofing products to name a few, has been in Chapter 11 since 1982 and from what I understand is due to "come out" soon. Until the company's recent move into Manville Plaza, Boardman told me the company's corporate headquarters had been on a spectacular 10,000-acre ranch in the foothills above Denver. I told Boardman I had seen pictures of the place in business magazines and was disappointed I hadn't been able to see it in person before they moved out. The company has two Hawker-Siddley aircraft, and a fitness center that contains a locker room and treadmills. There's a cafeteria where everyone eats and I got to see the CEO William Stephens corner office located on the 5th floor because that's where the CEO of Petro-Lewis had his office. The corporate art collection called the Heritage collection, is western and had been scattered about the company's old headquarters. Boardman scored 10 points on my 1-10 scale.
Anshultz Corporation, a privately held holding company with interests in mining, railroads, oil & gas and real estate, is headquartered in the company-owned 37-story glassed Anaconda Tower, which was built in 1977. I went up to the 24th floor where upon coming off the elevator I had to be buzzed in through glass doors to get to the receptionist. The rich antique furnishings in the lobby reminded me of Castle & Cook's headquarters in Los Angeles except there was a definite western flavor about it. A secretary, who told me she was an assistant to Sandy Althaus, secretary to Phillip Anshultz, Chairman of the Board, CEO and President met with me in a side conference room. Before going into the conference room I did note a large western painting by Hiram H. Green entitled, "The Long Trek" gracing the small lobby area as well as real plants mixed in with fake flower arrangements. Magazines scattered about included Natural History, ABA Journal and Smithsonian.
The company has about 150 employees working on the 23rd and 24th floors. Smoking is allowed anywhere, with the CEO being a non-smoker. In the conference room is a Remington sculpture and I was told it was an original which led to the secretary telling me Anshultz has the largest private western art collection in the world. There's no boardroom; the company has one corporate aircraft with Stapleton Airport being 20 minutes away. There're no recreational facilities, no cafeteria but Pepsi is served in the vending machines. My request to see some of the art collection and the CEO's office was denied, though I was told Anshultz has a corner office with a view of the foothills. From various stories I had read about the company and its low-profile owner, I guess I was lucky just to get buzzed in the front door. The unknown assistant scored 7 points on my 1-10 scale.
Public Service Company of Colorado
Public Service Company of Colorado, a utility company, is headquartered in downtown Denver in a plain company-owned, 12-story structure built in 1962. Walking into the building I was surprised to find such lax security. There was a lackadaisical security guard sitting in a chair and no information or receptionist desk to direct you. I ended up meeting with Marilyn Pollard, Assistant to the Chairman and President, who gave me an enthusiastic welcome and was keenly interested in my trek.
There's a cafeteria with Pepsi & Coke being served, no recreational facilities, no corporate art, smoking is optional with the CEO being a non-smoker. The company has one airplane; a King Air, the boardroom is very functional and the CEO has a top floor corner office. I did get to spend a few minutes talking to CEO Richard Walker in his office along with Delwin Hock, President, and I entertained them with stories about my visits to other utility companies. I was impressed with both men as well as Pollard. Pollard scored 10 points on my 1-10 scale.
Tuesday morning I rode 15 miles south of Denver to Englewood, a suburb of 30,000 people and home to US West, one of the "Baby Bells". About a month before I left for Denver, I received a letter/ad in the mail from US WEST Cellular Of California, one of US West's subsidiaries located in San Diego. The letter/ad talked about how cheap it would be to have a phone put in your car and bingo! it gave me an idea. I wrote a letter to US WEST Cellular of California and told them of my bicycle trek around the country and, how I was in the near future going to be visiting their parent company in Denver. My letter went on to say what a novel public relations ploy it would be for the company (the subsidiary) to have me riding up to the corporate headquarters on my bike equipped with a cellular phone. Well, my idea didn't go over with them and I received a rejection notice saying it wasn't feasible.
Headquarters for US West is in a 4-story office building located near Interstate 25. Coming into the lobby area I was greeted by a not too friendly security guard\receptionist, who directed me up to the second floor where I encountered another not too friendly receptionist. After a wait of about 20 minutes, I met with Nancy Neff, Manager-Media Relations, who told me the building was built in 1984 but wasn't sure if they owned it (through one of their real estate subsidiaries) or leased space. There are no signs visible from the street identifying the place as the corporate headquarters of a company with almost $9 billion in revenues and there is at least, one other tenant in the building; a bank.
About 325 employees work in the building, which has showers for employees who jog. Although there's no company cafeteria, many of the executives eat at the Metropolitan Club, a private dining establishment nearby. Officers on up get reserved underground parking spots, Coke & Pepsi are served in the vending machines, they have two corporate aircraft and the company has a collection of art, which is western. I did get to see CEO Jack MacAllister's second floor corner office, which includes an outside terrace. MacAllister has quite a bit of western memorabilia along real plants, lots of books and quite a few pictures of his family. The office is furnished in a western/traditional/modern manner. I wasn't able to see the boardroom because a meeting was going on. Many of the executives weren't in today because they were on a golf course several miles away helping host a PGA tournament in which the company was a sponsor. Neff scored 8 points on my 1-10 scale. *NOTE Neff never followed through on sending me an annual report or sending me answers to questions.
Still in the same area as US West, but several miles closer to town, I found the headquarters of Tele-Communications, a cable operator. This area where US West and Tele-Communications is located is also known as the Denver Tech Center; a booming area of gleaming new shining office buildings which line both sides of Interstate 25. Tele-Communications wasn't on my original list of companies to visit but, it had come out of nowhere to be a billion-dollar company so I added them on.
Corporate headquarters for Tele-Communications is on the 4th, 5th and 6th floors of one of those new gleaming office buildings I just mentioned. The building looks to be about 15-stories and is located across the street from a Hyatt Hotel. On the side of the building-near the bottom, and visible from the street is the name; Tele-Communication, Inc. Muzak was playing in the small reception/lobby area as I checked in with the receptionist. It was 12 noon and I was told the woman I would need to talk with wouldn't be back until 1:30 PM.. I said I would wait but, after sitting around for about 20 minutes, I decided the place looked like your typical office space and opt to head back into Denver. The lobby area did have several copies of a publication called; Cabletime lying around that looks similar to TV Guide. Also in the lobby and hallway areas were several REAL cactus, I know because I touched them to make sure.
Gates Corporation, a privately held company with about $1 billion in revenues, is the world's largest non-tire rubber company. Corporate headquarters is on an 80-acre campus-like setting about two miles from downtown Denver. Gates' red brick buildings stretch for quite a ways on both sides of a busy street. On the side of the 4-story headquarters building in big letters is the name; "Gates", in a white circle followed by "Corporate Headquarters 900 S. Broadway". I locked my bike and walked into the 4-story headquarters building just as it started pouring rain outside. After checking in with the receptionist and making note of the fake plants, I met with Mary Burch, Public Relations Specialist, Corporate Public Relations.
The company has been headquartered on the site since 1911 and at one time Ford Motor Company owned the property. Besides company headquarters, a large plant is located on the site. About 3,000 employees work in the complex, with everyone getting assigned lots to park in and upper division management gets reserved parking spots. The company has a gym for executives only, which includes an indoor jogging track, there're four cafeterias with Pepsi & Coke being served and smoking is optional (the main receptionist was smoking-very tacky looking). I did get to see the boardroom, which had a U-shaped table with all the walls being blank. Next to the boardroom is an executive dining room and I noted there was a men's room off to the side but, no woman's room. I was told I couldn't see the CEO's office (which is a corner office) because he was in his office. There's a heliport atop the building and the company has a helicopter and two corporate aircraft. Scattered throughout the building were quite a few bronze sculptures with a western motif. Burch scored 10 points on my 1-10 scale.
My favorite part of Denver was the area around Denver Country Club, located a few miles from downtown, which has an abundance of large stately mansion-type homes and mature trees and vegetation. My original list of companies to visit included Monfort of Colorado Inc., a meat processing company headquartered about 50 miles north of Denver in the town of Greeley but, ConAgra, the Omaha-based Goliath had swallowed them up.
Wednesday morning I rode to Denver's Stapleton Airport and caught a flight to Boise, Idaho. Out of all my years of flying on airplanes, the last 10 minutes of the flight into Boise was the worst I've ever been on. As the pilot informed the passengers to prepare for our approach into Boise, the plane started to shake severely. I've been on planes many a time when wind turbulence caused similar problems but, never so severely and at such a low attitude. Looking out the windows I could see the city below and calm beautiful blue skies. One of the passengers told me this was a normal occurrence coming into Boise and acted as if it were no big deal, me; I was about a second away from barfing into one of those airline bags. I'm not kidding you I had a severe headache and was dizzy the rest of the day.
Boise, with a population of over 100,000, is the capital and largest city in Idaho. It was a quick four-mile bike ride from the airport to downtown Boise, which is nice and compact.
J.R. Simplot Company
J.R. Simplot Company, a privately held company with about $1.2 billion in revenues is named after the founder and Chairman of the Board. According to Forbes magazine, Mr. Simplot, who is 80 years old, is worth about $400 million. The company manufactures and distributes frozen potato and vegetable products, as well as fertilizer and agricultural chemicals. The J.R. Simplot Company was responsible for introducing the world's first microwaveable French fry in 1984.
Corporate headquarters takes up three and a half floors in the 14-story One Capital Center building in downtown Boise. The main receptionist is located on the (lucky) 13th floor, which is the top floor because the 14th is for mechanical equipment. Built in 1973, the owner of the building is US West, who's corporate headquarters I had visited just yesterday in Denver. The reception/lobby area is plain and has real plants as well as a portrait of Mr. Simplot on a horse with his dog. I met with Connie Shields, Executive Assistant, who also doubles as Public Relations. About 120 employees work in One Capital Center building and a nearby building. Managers and directors get reserved parking spots, there's no corporate art collection, no recreational facilities, the company has 1 helicopter and three corporate aircraft, and Coke & Pepsi are available in vending machines in the small lunch room, where employees can bring their lunch and heat it up in the microwave . I was shown the boardroom, which had another portrait of Simplot on the wall and, I was also taken into a room known as the Trophy room, which was filled with hundreds of trophies, pictures and plaques Simplot had received over the years.
Simplot's corner office on the 13th floor has a view of his large home on the distant foothills, along with the gigantic U.S. flag he flies 24 hours a day on his front yard. I remember when his giant flag made national attention a few years ago because the noise from the constant flapping of the huge flag annoyed the neighbors. Simplot's simply furnished office had several stuffed birds, a picture of one of his company's plants, several real plants (the green kind) and a sign which reads, "Nothing will ever be attempted if all possible objections must be first overcome". Shield scored 10 points on my 1-10 scale. *NOTE Besides sending me a brochure on the company, Shields sent me a first; a 20 minute videocassette on the J.R. Simplot Company.
Albertsons, a supermarket chain, is located in a brown, 2-story, 130,000 square foot building about 2 miles from downtown. A sign out front of the building near the street reads, "Albertsons, General Offices". The surrounding area is a combination office/restaurant/hotel/park, with the Compri Hotel (which is where I'm staying) about a block away and across the street from Albertsons is a small lake/pond park-like area. Next door to Albertsons is a building housing the offices of Ore-Ida, a subsidiary of H.J. Heinz Company.
I checked in with the friendly receptionist and as I was waiting I took note of the sign as you enter the building which reads, "no smoking in the building". The lobby/reception area contained an oil painting of the founder (Mr. J.A. Albertson), a picture of the company's first store (which was located in Boise 1939), a picture of the company's management committee, fake plants, an original brick from the 1st supermarket and, a jar a free candy on the receptionist's desk. As I waiting, an elderly man walked by the reception desk on his way out the front doors and the receptionist waved good-bye to him and said, "so long Mr. Albertson". I stood there for a split-second after the man walked out the door and it all of a sudden dawned on me, as I turned to the receptionist and asked, "was that elderly man who just walked out the door THE Mr. Albertson, the founder?". She no sooner said, "yes", then I was out the door and approached Mr. Albertson (81 years old) as he was getting in his car (a Mercedes if you must know). With a look of befuddlement on his face I introduced myself and in about 15 seconds or less; explained to him what I was doing and how I just wanted to shake his hand. We shook hands and back into the building I went. I know it was hokey what I did but, he had opened his first store almost 50 years ago and there were now 465 stores, with revenues of over $5 billion. Forbes magazine had ranked as one of the 400 richest people in America with a worth of $370 million. I met with Dave Connolly, Vice President, Treasurer, who told me the company owns the headquarters building and 21-acre site it sits on. Built in 1978, 575 employees work in the place, which has a cafeteria (including an outside patio area), and shower facilities to use after playing basketball or volleyball on the grounds. Along the rear of the property is a paved bike path that follows along the Boise River. The company has no corporate art collection, no security guards and 3 corporate aircraft. Connolly scored 7 points on my 1-10 scale.
Morrison Knudsen, a residential & commercial construction company, is headquartered in a large complex of company-owned, company-built buildings connected to each other by a covered walkway. The various structures were built in stages; with the 6-story building housing the CEO's office being built in 1971 and the last structure built in 1983. I met with Vickie Sherman, Manager of Community Relations, who told me about 1,200 employees work in the complex which is a mile from downtown Boise. Walking in the main lobby entrance, you can't help but notice the giant 1,700-pound copper globe suspended from the ceiling by cable. Also in the atrium lobby are two fountains, a stereo system and, an interesting display showing the history of the company coinciding with stamps, coins and currency. Harry W. Morrison and Morris H. Knudsen founded the company in 1912. The security/guard receptionist is a nice guy, smoking is optional, there's one corporate aircraft, senior officers get reserved parking and there's a cafeteria and a formal dining room. I wasn't able to see the CEO's office and, the company has a collection of watercolors along with oil paintings of U.S. astronauts. Sherman scored 7 points on my 8 points on my 1-10 scale.
Morrison-Knudsen had recently named a new CEO, William Agee. The man will probably always be remembered because of the Bendix/Martin Marietta fiasco. As CEO of Bendix Agee tried to take over the much larger Martin Marietta, which in turned decided to swallow up the smaller Bendix (dubbed the Pac-Man defense) and in the end, Allied Corporation ended up devouring Bendix. When the announcement of Agee's appointment as the new CEO was made, I remember reading several articles questioning whether Agee would be happy in the hinterland of Boise. Well, I gotta tell ya, I've been impressed with Boise; the people are friendly, the neighborhoods are well kept, downtown is clean and there are lots of parks. Boise State University, which is located close to downtown, has a nice campus and brings to the area all the cultural enrichment opportunities associated with a university.
Wednesday afternoon I went back to the airport to meet my good friend, Andrea Simmons, who was flying into Boise along with her bike to accompany me on the ride from Boise to Salt Lake City, Utah (about 400 miles). After having listened to me tell tales of my bike trek for over two years, Andrea decided she wanted a different kind of vacation and asked if she could tag along. For Andrea, a stockbroker with Shearson Lehman Hutton, this was her first ever bike trip.
On Thursday morning Andrea and I headed to 5-story headquarters building of Boise Cascade in downtown Boise but, not before I had to fix 2 flat tires on Andrea's bike. What had happened was this: after Andrea's plane arrived, we ended up riding our bikes around the area doing a little sight-seeing and rode out to the edge of town to see the Old Idaho Penitentiary Museum (which by the way was closed for the day). Well, the area around the old prison is very desert-like and since Andrea had a brand-new mountain bike, she figured she didn't have to stay on the paved road. So, that explains how she managed to get a flat on both tires at the same time.
Boise Cascade's company-owned, beige-colored, corporate headquarter building occupies a whole city block. Walking inside the 330,000 square foot structure you are greeted by a huge atrium. The atrium includes a running brook and four little islands of live trees (I guess it would look bad for a for a paper/lumber company to have fake trees). After checking in with the receptionist I was told to take one of the four cylinder-shaped elevators to a basement floor in the bowels of the structure where I met with Thomas McIntyre, Manager, Facilities Management. According to McIntyre's guesstimate about 1,000 employees work in the building. The company has three corporate aircraft, a cafeteria (serving both Pepsi & Coke), formal dining, and showers for those who jog. I did notice close-circuit security cameras and there was a company flag flying out front. Andrea and I were given an extensive tour of the place that included seeing the average-looking boardroom, the CEO's office and the helipad on the roof of the building. McIntyre scored 10 points on my 1-10 scale.
Well, that took care of the four companies on my list located in Boise but, before leaving town mention has to be made of the Broadway Center Laundry (located by Boise State University). One of the disadvantages of doing this trek via bicycle has been the necessity of my having to do laundry every four or five days. The clothing I had along with me which needed washing consisted of: six 100% cotton shirts, four pairs of 100% cotton rugby-type shorts, a pair of 100% cotton sweat pants, several pairs of socks and two "dress" pants for wearing during my visits to companies. According to my estimations, I've probably been to over 150 different coin-operated laundries around the country and as you can probably imagine; I've seen the good, bad and the disgusting. I would have to rank the Broadway Center Laundry in Boise (near the university campus) as the best facility I've come across during my travels (barring an upset winner along the way on my final destination point-Salt Lake City). What makes the place so special? Maybe it was the new high-tech washers & dryers in which to start them up, you have to put coins in a machine which dispenses microchip-like squares which are in turn inserted into the machines. Maybe it was the carpeting or maybe it was the little cubicles set up so you could study or read or maybe it was the attendant on duty during hours of operation or maybe it was the, "no smoking" signs. Smoking being allowed in laundries always get me upset because I don't understand how people can expect to get their clothes clean when idiots are puffing away-stinking up the place. In case you're wondering, my second favorite laundry was a few blocks from Virginia Commonwealth University, which is located close to downtown Richmond, Virginia.
The ride from Boise to Salt Lake City was pretty uneventful except for going through Ogden, Utah (population 65,000) and visiting the historic Union Station, which housed the Browning Firearms Museum, The Browning Kimball Car Collection, the Railroad Museum as well as being used as a civic center/convention-exhibition hall and working railroad depot.
The corporate headquarters for American Stores, a holding company with over $14 billion in revenues, was a little tricky to find. When I showed up at the address I had for their headquarters all I found was an empty two-story red brick office building with a sign out front saying the property was for sale. I walked around the front, sides and back of the good-looking building, which couldn't be more than six or seven years old, peering into windows hoping to get some clue as to where they had moved. The building is located about a mile from downtown in a combination business/residential area so, I went across the street to some of the small retail shops and asked if anyone knew where American Stores had moved their offices. I finally met a storeowner who said they had some offices several blocks away so, off I went. The two-story light-colored brick building I found several blocks away looked like it was built in the late 1950's or early 1960's. Over the entrance doors in small letters was the name, "American Stores Company". As I walked in the front door a receptionist in a small waiting area greeted me. She called up J. Michael Holt, Vice President, Investor/Government Relations, who came to the reception desk after seeing off a visitor. Holt, in a curt manner, told me it had been a long, hard day for him and for me to drop by tomorrow morning and he would meet with me.
The next day I showed up and Holt was a completely different person from the visibly tired, curt person I had met the day before. The first thing Holt told me was that American Stores had recently moved its corporate headquarters to Irvine, California. I asked why and was told it was a more central location. American Stores (Alpha Beta Supermarkets, Osco Drug Stores, Jewel Food Stores) had recently bought Lucky Stores Inc., a Dublin, California-based supermarket chain. Holt went on to tell me most of the corporate staff had already relocated to their new offices in Irvine (they lease space in an office building) and he was still in Salt Lake City to take care of the odds and ends. Not that it mattered to him but, I mentioned to Holt how I had earlier in my trip visited the headquarters of Lucky Stores in Dublin (near San Francisco) and had been given a lousy reception and was glad to see them taken over. Holt scored 7 points on my 1-10 scale.
Utah Power & Light Company
Utah Power & Light Company is located about two miles from downtown Salt Lake City in a nice-looking (as far as headquarters for utility companies go) company-owned, three-story red brick building built in the 1970's. A large sign out front reads, "Utah Power & Light Company". I got a real lackadaisical welcome from David Mead, Manager, Public Relations. About 800 employees work in the building, which has a cafeteria, no corporate art and no recreational facilities. I never got past Mead's office, who never said a word about the announced merger of Utah Light & Power with Pacificorp, a utility company out of Portland, Oregon (which I had visited at the beginning of trek more than two years earlier). Mead scored 5 points on my 1-10.
Salt Lake City, with it's wide streets, is a clean, quiet city of about 700,000. I took a picture of the Triad Center (huge glass office complex built by the Arab billionaire? Khassoggi(?), which went into bankruptcy) and checked out the serene University of Utah campus. The local newspapers are very disappointing for a city of its size but, the Union Pacific Railroad station is worth a look because of the beautiful murals on the walls. As Andrea and I rode to the airport for the flight back to San Diego many thoughts went through my mind. I thought about the cities, towns and villages visited, the various people I'd met along the way, the various headquarters visited, the weather conditions I had to deal with but, most of all I thought about the diverse and beautiful country I was lucky enough to spend time traveling around and how, when everything is said and done-NOBODY can take away those thoughts and memories.