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May the Christmas spirit be with you … and your company December 19, 2010

Posted by Bob Cook in Corporate HQ.
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My first experience with corporate real estate was when I was a child growing up in Pittsburgh.  Of course, I didn’t at the time think of it as having to do with corporate real estate, but in retrospect, I realize it was.

Every Christmas season my parents would take me downtown to see the Christmas decorations. My favorite displays were the animated scenes of Santa’s workshop in the windows at Horne’s Department Store.   I also, though, loved seeing decorations at all the big company headquarters.  I remember vividly a large Christmas tree in the big glass lobby of the Alcoa Building and a giant Christmas wreath over the gothic entrance of the Gulf Building.

I don’t get back to Pittsburgh at Christmas anymore so I don’t know if the Alcoa tree and the Gulf wreath are still traditions kept there, but I certainly hope so (… even though, I know, Gulf’s HQ isn’t in Pittsburgh anymore).  Those holiday displays were a way for the companies to give a present to the community each Christmas season.  It couldn’t have cost much, and it brought much wonderment.

I fear, though, that many, maybe most, companies have lost the Christmas spirit.  Few, today, contribute to holiday festiveness the way companies did in the past.   There are many reasons for this: multiculturalism, shareholder activism, bottom-line focus, suburbanization, globalization.   In this environment, it takes courage for a corporate real estate executive or any type of executive to authorize Christmas displays.   Those who do should be applauded.

I take heart in knowing that, in Pittsburgh, the Christmas spirit still seems to be alive.  This year, the community celebrated the 50th installment of Light-Up Night which kicks off the holiday season in “the ‘burgh”.  It’s now a two-day festival.  Downtown buildings keep all their lights on all night long, and yes, corporations participate: a 60-foot tree rises lit on PPG Plaza and the Pittsbugh Creche (a religious display, no less) sits prominently on U.S. Steel Plaza.

I hope the Christmas spirit is alive in your community …. and, if you have some authority, you do what you can to keep it alive in your company.   May the spirit be with you and yours.