Suppose 10 years ago Charlotte had the choice of attracting the headquarters of General Electric or Honeywell. Conventional wisdom would have been to favor the iconic GE, known for its manufacturing prowess, massive financial-services arm and reputation for management excellence.
A decade later, Wake Forest University trustee and GE CEO Larry Culp is breaking up the fabled conglomerate into three parts, hoping that the sum of the parts exceeds the company’s fading $100 billion market value. (It peaked at about $600 billion in 2000.) While GE lost a third of its value over the last decade, Honeywell quadrupled in value to about $140 billion.
Meanwhile, Honeywell moved to Charlotte in 2018 because CEO Darius Adamczyk viewed North Carolina as a better perch than its previous base in a New Jersey suburb of New York City. At the company’s official opening ceremony in December, Adamczyk said North Carolina and Charlotte had exceeded his expectations. (The pandemic postponed previous opening plans.)
“We hope to fill up this headquarters and hopefully build another building to house more employees,” he said in an interview at the company’s downtown Charlotte offices. “That is our objective. We’ll continue to create jobs here.”
He discounted the notion that Honeywell should be split up along the lines of GE. “We aren’t a company to do something just because other companies are doing it.”
Honeywell “isn’t necessarily a conglomerate,” he said, because each of its businesses relates to automation and control systems. “Whether it’s controlling aircraft, industrial equipment, facilities and other buildings, there is that theme.”
“No. 2, we’ve been a successful company and we’ve done well. No. 3 and most important, we add value at the center whether it’s Honeywell Connected Enterprises, which is our software, or our technology centers throughout the world or our management expertise.
“It is a model that has worked to create shareholder value and a model that customers respect.”
The Poland native joined Honeywell when it bought a company he was leading in 2008. He became CEO in 2017. The company now has about 1,000 employees in Charlotte, most of whom work three days a week at the office and two days remotely. Asked how Charlotte differs from Honeywell’s previous locale, Adamczyk said, “It is pragmatic. It understands the world of business, community and society. It really does a great job balancing those things.”
He also cited the ability of North Carolina’s partisan politicians to come together on business issues as a key factor in attracting Honeywell. The state offered about $42.5 million in incentives while Mecklenburg County and the city of Charlotte provided an additional $46 million.
“It’s a purple state that somehow figures out how to work together. We found that appealing,” Adamczyk said. “Whether you are blue, purple or red, you find out how to get things done to create a thriving city and thriving state.”
“We want to do what is right for business, the community and society. If people remember what team they are on whether it’s city, state or country, I think we will be better off.” ■