Alexander & Baldwin, Inc.



I bet when Hawaiians go to the store they never think about who's responsible for hauling the goods over from the mainland. Matson Navigation, the ocean transportation subsidiary of Alexander & Baldwin, carries much of the freight. Matter of fact, 81% of A&B's $1.5 billion in revenues is derived from shipping containers, 11% comes from real estate development and 8% from sugar and coffee.

Headquarters for A&B is an absolutely gorgeous four-story, company-owned building in downtown Honolulu located less than a block from the waterfront. Built in 1929, the structure features Italian Renaissance, Chinese, Buddhist, Tibetan, Japanese and Hawaiian elements and ornamentation.

Before entering the building I note the US and Hawaiian flags flapping in the breeze out front. The receptionist sits behind a desk with planters nearby filled with beautiful red and white orchids. The inlaid floor of black Belgian marble lets visitors know this isn't your everyday office building. Off to the side of the receptionist's desk there's a scale model of a tanker and shipping container encased in a glass display.

I meet with Linda Howe, Manager-Community Relations, but it gets off to a confusing start as Howe had been mistakenly told I'm here to request a donation. However, once the miscommunication gets cleared up Howe does a great job answering my questions.

About 100 people work here with senior management and commuting bicyclists enjoying reserved parking in the basement parking garage. There're no executive dining rooms or cafeteria but, there is a break room with microwave. Smoking isn't allowed in the building, there's no formal dress code with "Aloha" wear being appropriate and, no onsite recreational facilities. There's no corporate aircraft, it's a quarter mile to the nearest freeway and it's four miles to the airport. Any unusual employee perks? Free coffee.

So, what's the coolest thing I see? The building was built in 1929 but in 1959 the original lobby and its 39-foot ceiling (with five bronze chandeliers removed) gave way to a floating mezzanine and a new second floor suite of offices. What did this do? It lessened the impact of the two massive and spectacular tile pictorial murals (each 10 by 33 feet) on opposite sides that used to greet visitors to the original first floor public room. Now, the huge mural of Maui's Kahului harbor lines a wall in the lunch break room (by the way, I check the brand of coffee being used in the break room to make sure it's the company's own brand-it is). The second mural, now covering a wall in the boardroom, depicts the sailing ship John Ena at Port Allen, Kauai.

On my initial visit I couldn't see CEO Allen Doanne's top floor office or the boardroom due to board meetings going on. However, returning a few days later John Kelley, Vice President & an avid cyclist, shows me around the boardroom. The sailing ship mural is impressive and so is the tiled ceiling. The elongated boardroom table seats 16. One wall is lined with bookshelves containing annual reports. Founded as a partnership in 1870, the company was incorporated in 1900. The furnishings in the boardroom look like they haven't been changed since the room was finished in 1959-that includes a globe with a 1950's look to it. On one wall hang framed pictures of four men (no names under the pictures). Kelley identifies one as Samuel T. Alexander and another as Henry P. Baldwin, company co-founders. I'm again out of luck in seeing CEO Doanne's top floor office (with balcony) as he's "busy".

Company website: www.alexanderbaldwin.com