Sunday, October 24, 1999


Boycotter gets results - head of firm calls

        Consumer James Copens was going to boycott the Mt. Olive Co., a canner based in Mount Olive, N.C., until the company improved conditions for workers. No Mt. Olive product would be in the Copens' refrigerator in Hyde Park until there were changes.

        His e-mail announcing the boycott was sent to the company Oct. 15. That afternoon, Mr. Copens' telephone rang. Mt. Olive President Bill Bryan wanted to tell Mr. Copens that his company was doing what it could to improve working conditions for employees of contract growers and to protect the environment. Mr. Copens was shocked.

        “I can't believe the guy called me — at my desk that very afternoon,” Mr. Copens said. The conversation lasted 30 minutes. “I got multiple sides of the story. What I learned was that maybe it's a good idea to boycott, but maybe people instigating the boycott are not playing very fair — maybe they're exploiting the company.”

        Mr. Bryan, who heads an 800-employee company, said he calls boycotters to tell them his side, saying it's a small price to pay.

        “We think we have been wrongly targeted,” he said.

        Mr. Copens said he won't end his boycott until he gets more information about growers and pesticides. He is open to change, though, particularly when the top guy calls to make his case.

        “I'm tired of boycotting every company I disagree with,” he said. “It's getting tough to shop for food and clothing.” -John Eckberg

5/3 buys Ind. branches
        When it comes to bank acquisitions, “big” is often a matter of perspective. It all depends on the buyer and seller.

        Evidence of that came last week when Fifth Third Bank bought three branches in Indianapolis — not customers or accounts — from Bank One Corp., expanding its presence in the Hoosier State.

        Fifth Third was the winning bidder for the vacant branch space Bank One sold as the Chicago-based banking giant trimmed its Indiana operations. Bank One quipped earlier this year it would rather have a hot dog stand or dry cleaner in the buildingsthan a rival.

        But Fifth Third passed the mustard.

        The aggressive Fifth Third promptly issued a release about the deal. With its recent acquisition of CNB Bancshares and Peoples Bank Corp., Fifth Third will soon have assets of $7.5 billion and 148 branches in Indiana.

        But Bank One execs were not as enthused. “Normally, these type of things are done pretty quietly, but they must've thought it was a big deal,” Bank One spokesman Tom Kelly said.

        — Jeff McKinney

Cintas courts frosh

        The keen competition to hire new college graduates has prompted Cintas Corp. to reach into the ranks of college freshmen for new management recruits.

        Next spring, the Mason uniform supply company will launch a pilot program to recruit 250 college freshmen from about a dozen U.S. colleges who will start out working summers in low-level jobs at Cintas plants.

        Chairman Richard Farmer said as the student progress through school they'll be given the opportunity for jobs with greater responsibility.

        “They'll have academic classes two or three times during the summer to learn about our business and culture. We'll stay in touch with them during the school year — send them snack packs at exam time to make they feel like they belong,” he said.

        “When they graduate we'll be able to pay them more because they'll already have the grass roots values we make sure all of our young people have. I'm excited about that.” — Mike Boyer

        Items for Tipsheet are gathered by Enquirer business reporters and compiled by Lisa Biank Fasig of the business staff.


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