Heraeus Holding GmbH



The 15-mile ride from Frankfurt to Hanau is a piece of cake because I just follow the scenic bike trail along the Main River. Hanau, a working class town of maybe 50,000 people, is home to Heraeus Holding, one of the world's largest producers and processors of precious metals. Revenues in 1998 were 8 billion-DM with over 9,500 employees.
I show up at high noon and the four guards manning the gated entrance to what's obviously a large plant don't speak a word of English. I'm directed to a nearby building where I stand outside and talk into a box. A woman's voice tells me to return after lunch.

Downtown is a mile away so I check out the city center and grab a burger at the same time. It's now 1:30 PM and I'm back at the guard gate. Achim Kuhlewey, Corporate Communications Manager, walks over and greets me. He hasn't a clue as to what I'm doing and says they hadn't received my advance material sent a month ago to CEO Juergen Heraeus. He's a nice guy and agrees to answers my questions. Where does this take place? Standing in the guardroom. I ask, "You mean I'm not getting invited inside?" "No", he answers. He goes on to say I was lucky to have earlier walked to the nearby building because they don't let anyone escorted or unescorted into the buildings. I reply, "Oh come on, I don't believe it, I think you're just saying that because I've showed up here on a bicycle"

About 2,600 workers work here. The 150-year old company was founded in Hanau and has been on this site since 1904. Kuhlewey guesstimates there's about 60 buildings here. From what I can see, many of the current buildings look like they're holdovers from early 1900's. CEO Heraeus' great, great grandfather founded the company. Any employee perks? Discounts on gasoline.

One of the goals from my treks is to be able to say I physically visited the head office of a company. Sometimes it isn't possible to physically enter a building so the next best thing is to actually see it with my own two eyes. Here, the head honchos work in a seven-story building but there's a big hitch-it's hidden behind other buildings and not visible from the entrance. I tell Kuhlewey of my dilemma and ask if it's possible to grab a glimpse of it by riding around the public streets outside perimeter of the site. He says it might be possible and tells me where to look. Riding off I find myself wondering why Kuhlewey couldn't humor me and show a little public relations by taking me for a stroll by the building. I'm also thinking the "security" issue is just a lame ploy the company uses and would bet even money that my letter had been received.