Goodyear's new Ohio HQs: huddle rooms and more


AKRON, Ohio — Goodyear’s brand-spanking-new, state-of-the-art headquarters has “huddle rooms.”

Don’t confuse those with numerous other conference and training rooms sprinkled around the 639,000-square-foot, seven-story structure. Atriums contribute mightily to vast amounts of open space. Carpeting subtly hints of tires and motion.

The main lobby pays homage to Charles Goodyear and his discovery of vulcanization with its sulfur-colored wall space.

Look closely at the ground-floor exterior glass and you’ll see tiny glazed Wingfoots — Goodyear’s historic symbol — that provide a bit of privacy while reflecting sunlight and helping maintain the interior temperature.

All of these things — and more — were displayed in the $160 million building at ceremonies in early May that officially marked the opening of the building.

Officials said it signifies that Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. is staying put in the city in which it was founded more than 100 years ago. And it shows the company largely is looking forward while respecting its history.

“It represents our commitment to Akron and Northeast Ohio,” Richard Kramer, Goodyear chairman and chief executive officer, said during an invitation-only ribbon cutting and dedication.

“Not just to the Akron of old, but to a revitalized, and progressive Akron that continues to evolve and prosper in groundbreaking ways.”

Other amenities include a wood-fired pizza oven at the 665-seat cafeteria and other food stations that offer such things as made-to-order burgers plus much healthier fare.

And a walking trail outside and a fitness center inside to burn off excess calories.

The company’s overall design concept, including low-wall, two-person cubicle work spaces, aims to foster collaborative work.

Kramer noted that the project was first announced about five years ago.

But the Great Recession disrupted the public-private financing plans and delayed construction by a couple of years.

Ground finally broke on the project in April 2011, with about 2,000 Goodyear employees moving in by the end of March.

Mayor Don Plusquellic noted that the project demonstrated a successful public and private collaboration.

Marco Sommerville, Akron’s planning director and former City Council president, noted after the ceremony the impact Goodyear has had on his family.

“It’s a great day for the city. I’m just reminiscing,” he said.

“I used to work here. My great-grandfather worked here and they told all his brothers about jobs up here and they all came up. Mother worked here, Father worked here. . They paid so well back then and I’m just grateful to this company. Clearly, my family wouldn’t be where we’re at today, without Goodyear. They really made my life what it is, to be truthful.”

Stuart Lichter, founder and head of Industrial Realty Group who spearheaded the Goodyear headquarters project, said he is grateful and proud.

“I took this on. The worst thing to me is to not deliver on your promise,” he said. “So, I’m delighted they’re so happy with it.”

Lichter will be redeveloping Goodyear’s old campus and former headquarters into new office, retail, residential and recreational space.

Ground will break this summer on a new, as-yet-unnamed hotel, he said.

Work also will begin to convert part of Goodyear Hall into residential space, he said.

“We’ll have shovels in the ground shortly,” Lichter said.

Donzell Taylor, president and chief executive officer of Welty Building Co., said this was the largest project ever handled by the Fairlawn-based contractor and was a true bipartisan and collaborative effort.

He called the new building “high performance workspace.” Keeping Goodyear here was important, he said. “This is unbelievably positive for Akron,” he said.

Laura Thompson, the Goodyear executive who oversaw the project, said the building has exceeded expectations.

“It’s a noticeable difference in how people work,” said Thompson, vice president of finance for the North American Tire division.

Gary VanderLind, vice president in human resources, said the new building design is intended to be a physical example of Goodyear culture: openness, collaboration, innovation and teamwork.

Goodyear’s global corporate offices take up the first of the building’s three “towers” with the North American Tire division taking the remaining space.

The old headquarters physical space was 60 percent individual or private and 40 percent “shared” space, VanderLind said.

Those percentages are reversed in the new building so that people interact with each other much more often, he said.

“We are an innovative company and we want the building to reflect that,” he said.

And that includes the “huddle rooms.”

Because of the open work areas, employees sometimes need private space, VanderLind and others said.

The building’s 173 high-tech conference rooms typically are booked in advance.

But the smaller huddle rooms — eight to 10 per floor — are first come, first serve.

Employees can pop in to make a private phone call or to conduct other work privately.

“I actually have used one of them,” Goodyear CEO Kramer said