Honeywell Chairman and CEO David Cote formally opened the company’s new global headquarters in Morris Plains on Monday morning by talking about the future.
The 40-acre campus and 475,000-square-foot building, he said, will give Honeywell the space it needs to continue as one of New Jersey’s most important corporations.
“We’ve moved into a truly awesome building, one that more than accommodates our New Jersey employee base, allows for future growth and provides amenities that create a productive work environment for our employees,” he said.
“I’m very proud of our new headquarters and we’re pleased to continue to call New Jersey our home.”
He then went on to detail how closely the company came to leaving.
The event, in a packed auditorium filled with dozens of local and state politicians, business leaders and dignitaries, was in many ways a reminder of when Gov. Chris Christie was riding high in the state.
The deal to keep Honeywell — which came in the form of a $40 million Grow New Jersey incentive first granted in 2012 — was one Cote didn’t think was going to happen.
After quickly reviewing the company’s 13-year quest to improve its headquarters by reading from his prepared text, Cote broke from his speech.
“Let me tell you what actually happened,” he said, detailing how he and Honeywell general counsel Kate Adams began the process with the state.
“I got this call from the governor saying, ‘Hey, is it true that you guys are planning on moving out of the state?’ I said, ‘Actually, it is. Because we can’t seem to get anybody’s attention.’
“He said, ‘I’d like you to meet with me.’
“I went down and met with him with Kate and he said, ‘You’ve got to give me some time. Give me a week and I’ll get back to you.’ And as we walked out I turned to Kate and said, ‘I haven’t been around this game very long, but to me that sounds like political speak for ‘it ain’t gonna happen.’ Back up the moving trucks, nothing’s going to happen.”
Christie had the same recollection.
“I think I had been governor for probably less than a month and I heard through the grapevine that Honeywell was thinking about moving out of the state. And I said, I don’t know exactly how to start as governor, but starting with one of your major corporations leaving probably isn’t the right way to go,” he said.
“As we got to the end of that meeting, I saw come over his face this enormous sense of empathy. I could tell as he looked at me, Dave was thinking, ‘No shot, but he seems like a nice enough guy so we’ll give him a week.’ ”
Within days, the governor’s office gave Honeywell a plan. Soon after, the state Legislature provided the resources to make it happen — for which Christie made sure to thank state Sen. President Steve Sweeney and then-Assembly Leader Sheila Oliver.
And when talks with Morris Township officials continued to break down, longtime Morris Plains Mayor Frank Druetzler stepped in and convinced Honeywell to move just a few short miles.
“When local politics in Morris Township slowed our plans considerably to remain here, Mayor Druetzler stepped in, and, I have to say, very aggressively and very opportunistically and very tirelessly,” Cote said. “He worked with our real estate to help figure out if moving to Morris Plains would be a good fit for Honeywell. He helped us quickly come to terms on this building.”
The campus, which once served as the world headquarters for Warner Lambert, was most recently owned by Johnson & Johnson, which never completed the new building, allowing Honeywell to finish the inside to its specifications.
“At this site, Honeywell can equip its employees with the latest technologies and accommodations,” Cote said. “The buildings retrofits include the latest Honeywell Technologies that allow for greater energy efficiency and enable our headquarters to be a showcase for the company’s building technology capabilities.
“More than 50 percent of our portfolio is dedicated to energy efficiency. The site’s open design fosters collaboration and productivity. The site features a fitness center, auditorium, cafeteria and coffee bar.”
Adams agreed, detailing how the new site will help the company grow.
“We were able to build a state-of-the-art workplace,” she said. “This is the kind of environment that will enable us to attract millennials where we work differently in a modern contemporary way. There’s great technology. This is a completely wireless environment.”
One Honeywell got to create.
“It was a shell,” Adams said. “It never really got built out. So everything inside of this, is us. It’s brand new. All the fittings, the office layouts, the conference centers, everything is brand new, designed to our specifications. We really were able to rethink how we wanted to work.”
Cote said the company is eager to show it off.
“Our new learning center will host many meetings that will bring Honeywell employees from all over the world to Morris Plains, all of which is good for local and state economies,” Cote said.
Morris Plains council member Sue McCluskey said the community already is feeling the impact of a move.
“When you have a global headquarters here, that puts Morris Plains on the map,” she said. “Years ago, when Warner Lambert owned Listerine, Frank would say you can go into any drug store in the world and pick up a bottle of Listerine and it will say, Morris Plains, New Jersey.
“Now, it will say Morris Plains, New Jersey, on anything made by Honeywell.”
Druetzler, the mayor in Morris Plains the past 29 years, calls the day one of the greatest in the borough’s history.
“This is huge for us,” he said. “It’s 1,100 jobs at a time when businesses are moving out of the state. For them to stay here in Morris County and come to a tiny little town like Morris Plains is just amazing.”