From Basel I follow the Rhine River about 10 miles to the small town of Muttenz. Near the riverfront is a massive manufacturing complex with a wide assortment of buildings and structures bearing the names Clariant, Novartis and Ciba. I'm here to visit Clariant, a specialty chemicals company with over 29,000 employees. Clariant was spun off from Sandoz (which is now Novartis) in 1995.
I stop at the gated
entry and identify myself to the guards. A few minutes later
Werner Flukiger, Manager Corporate Conference, Congresses and
Special Affairs, walks out and greets me. It seems he hasn't
a clue who I am or what I'm doing. I ask, "How did you end
up being the one to meet with me? Flukiger says he received a
call from a higher-up telling him to take care of the guy on
a bike. It turns out there's a large specialty chemicals convention
going on in town and most of the executives and all of corporate
communications people are there. I tell Flukiger I'm acutely
aware of the big convention because there are no hotel rooms
to be had even in the outlying areas of the city. Matter of fact,
at the end of this day I have to hop on a train with my bike
to Mulhouse, France (35 miles away) to try and find a room!
About 1,300 employees work on this site, which is shared with Novartis. Plenty of free parking for employees and I notice lots of covered parking for bicycles. Though there's no fitness center there are showers for those who jog. "Any perks for employees", I ask. "Free mineral water", Flukiger answers. I give him a "so what" look and he says it's an unusual perk in Switzerland.
Nice guy Flukiger
has a great sense of humor and speaks five languages: German,
English, French, Spanish and Italian. Me, I barely speak English.