VA Technolgie AG

I show up at VA Technologie's headquarters in an industrial park near the outskirts of Linz, Austria's third largest city, only to learn that it's merely the company's registered office. Head honchos such as Erich Becker, Chairman-Management Board (CEO), works out of the Vienna office. It's lucky for me that I've yet to pass through Vienna.

I'm now on the outskirts of Vienna and am surprised to find Austria's largest engineering concern tucked away in a plain, mostly residential area. VA Technolgie, with revenues of $3.5 billion and 18,000 employees, constructs hydropower plants, supplies electrical power transmission and distribution systems and, provides drinking water and wastewater treatment systems. Formerly state-owned, it's still 24% owned by the Austrian government.

Though it's a big nine-story building built in the 1960's I cycle past the building twice. Why? It's setback from the street, which is lined with old somewhat rundown storefront shops and apartments, making it easy to miss the entryway.

Much of the staff is on vacation but I'm in luck as the delightful Marion Sensenberger, secretary to CEO Becker, agrees to answer questions and show me around. It isn't possible to come up with the number of people working here due to most in the building working for a company subsidiary. Smoking is allowed in offices, there's a company cafeteria, management dines in executive dining rooms, it's 30-minutes by car to Vienna's city center, 10 minutes to nearest freeway and 45 minutes to Vienna Airport. There's no formal corporate art collection, no corporate aircraft and two tennis courts on the grounds.

CEO Becker's corner office on the ninth floor (top floor) contains a desktop computer, three real plants and 27 tombstones. Why so many tombstones? He's a former CFO. The view? Not bad, he can see the grounds of nearby Schoenbrunn Palace; former summer home of emperors and Austria's most visited tourist attraction.