To paraphrase the late comedian George Carlin, a corporate headquarters is just a pile of stuff with a cover on it.
When you’ve been in one place for a long time, you accumulate a lot of stuff. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., for example, has been in Akron for more than 100 years now, with its current — and very old — headquarters off East Market Street.
That means stuff has piled up over the decades in myriad offices, closets, nooks, crannies and storerooms.
And when the game plan is to move a couple thousand people in early 2013 to a spiffy headquarters being built just a quick drive away next to the company’s Innovation Center, you want fresh, shiny stuff, not that old stuff, in the new place.
Take patent shoes, for instance.
No, patent shoes are not shiny leather footwear. They are special metal file cabinets used to store patents — one patent, on paper, per drawer. And Goodyear has acquired a lot of patents over the years — nearly 7,000 since 1951. But Goodyear stopped updating its patent shoes about 12 years ago once patents were filed online. The no-longer-needed cabinets were placed in a large storage area used by Goodyear’s legal department.
Now, the patent shoes gotta go.
As do other long forgotten and long-unused file cabinets and book cases. Promotional and trade show items, posters, lamps, desks, tables — even large and small safes — are getting the heave-ho.
That’s given Goodyear employees the opportunity to buy or bid on the functional and decorative memorabilia. (The clean-out also guarantees that developer Stu Lichter, who bought most of Goodyear’s property as part of the headquarters building project, will have empty space to work with when he begins redeveloping the old headquarters and other buildings.)
The company decided to sort and sell off as many of its unneeded things as it can at deep discounts, with employee-only sales taking place about once a month in the huge gymnasium in Goodyear Hall across the street from the current headquarters.
“We had a lot of associate inquiries about some of the furniture, what were we going to do. This is all surplus,” said Pete Buchanan, Goodyear’s director of human resources, Akron operations.
“The first sale was the very end of July,” said Kristi Price, facilities services coordinator with Viox Services, a facilities management and maintenance company, who with her team coordinated most of the clean-up effort and subsequent sales for Goodyear. Most of the items have been pulled from two large, unfinished storage areas in a part of the headquarters building that decades ago had been used for tire manufacturing.
Art expert hired
Goodyear has had people carefully look over the stored items, including enlisting an art expert who sorted through myriad framed posters, photographs, wall hangings and more to make sure that nothing valuable and historic slipped through. The company will be donating some of the unneeded items, including film reels and videos, to the University of Akron.
Nothing particularly extraordinary was discovered in the months-long process of looking through and cleaning out the massive headquarters building, Buchanan and Price said.
What they have found, though, has given employees the opportunity to buy or bid on nice items, including old desks, they said.
“We had a wood [furniture] sale that seemed to go pretty well,” Price said.
Some Goodyear employees have said they’ve been thrilled with their purchases, particularly the desks, Buchanan said.
“They bought a very nice wooden desk at a deep discount, below any consignment shop,” he said. “And for them, it’s a piece of their legacy, their working career they’ll look at forever.”
Goodyear employees will start to move to the new headquarters as soon as mid-February, with many expected to keep working in the old buildings probably through March, Buchanan said. “The better stuff is still in use.”
That, too, Goodyear plans to get rid of, he said. “Everything in the new headquarters will be new furnishings and equipment,” he said.
The stuff that Goodyear can’t sell may be turned over to specialists such as liquidators, Buchanan said. Charities may receive some of the nicer surplus items.
There’s more to the moving-out process than the surplus sales.
Employees also are filling recycling and waste bins, including lots of paper files that have been digitized or are no longer needed. The unneeded paper records are being shredded.
“Right after Labor Day we started a very intensive cleaning-out process,” Buchanan said. “We’re asking everybody to skinny down. We’re moving into a new environment, a new culture, the new way of doing business. It involves a lot less paper.”
Teams working on a schedule go through each department one office and one floor at a time, he said.
“We’re not just throwing everything out. We’re doing it very strategically,” Buchanan said. “We started it well in advance so we could do it with patience and planning.”
The process means looking carefully at everything to make sure items are disposed of properly.
“We had our environmental health and safety people design the strategy and the process,” he said. “We’re being very conscious of the environment. By doing this, it keeps so much stuff out of landfills, out of scrapyards. One person’s trash is another person’s treasure. You hear stories about people wanting file cabinets just to put their tools in their garage. It’s going to good use.”
Including the Goodyear law department’s long unused patent shoes.
“There was nothing in them for many years,” Price said. “The law department called when they had them all cleaned out. A lot of times people will buy these things and put tools in. People are excited about putting screws, washers and little knickknacks in them.”
October marked the fourth sale since the clean-out started.
“I think we’ll probably idle for a while,” Buchanan said. “We’ve gotten rid of the biggest majority of the stuff that’s been in surplus now. So this may be the last one at least through the end of this year. But we never know. As the renovations continue at the Innovation Center, what it might produce, you can’t tell.”
Architects are working with Goodyear’s executive leadership to determine what historical and valuable artifacts the company will keep, Buchanan said. The retained items will be spread throughout the new building but “won’t be things of size,” he said.
Still, he said, “part of the design of the new building is to ensure that we carry our rich culture with us.”
Jim Mackinnon can be reached at 330-996-3544 or firstname.lastname@example.org