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 user 2009-11-10 at 10:53:13 am Views: 64
  • #22901
    50 years ago, a California technology company moved to Loveland, changing the region forever.Monday marks the 50th anniversary of the announcement that Hewlett-Packard would build a manufacturing plant in Loveland. Several residents who were here at the beginning share their remembrances.Loveland resident and business owner Bill Beierwaltes remembers in the 1950s watching the weathermen (they were all male) on TV give their reports wearing cowboy hats.“A lot of farmers depended on the weather to make a living,” Beierwaltes said.More than 50 years later, many of the dirt roads and farms in Beierwaltes’ hometown are gone.So is computer manufacturing giant Hewlett-Packard, which was the impetus that changed.Loveland from an agricultural community to one with a technology and manufacturing focus.“HP has been a huge, huge influence on this region and the entire state,” Beierwaltes said.

    The move of Hewlett-Packard to Loveland in 1960 — announced 50 years ago Monday — provided the city with a manufacturing base, though there is little manufacturing here today, said Loveland author and historian Kenneth Jessen, a former Hewlett-Packard employee.At the time, Hewlett-Packard wasn’t a household name, but the designer and manufacturer of electronic test equipment brought technology not only to Loveland, but to the area and the state, Beierwaltes said.“When HP first set up, there was no IBM in Boulder, no technology in Northern Colorado,” Beierwaltes said.

    After Hewlett-Packard came to Loveland, it built plants in Fort Collins, Greeley and Colorado Springs, and IBM located in Boulder, Beierwaltes said.Hewlett-Packard also spawned several other companies through the years, led to cottage industries that supplied the company, brought in an educated work force and raised the quality of life throughout the state, Beierwaltes and Jessen said.Hewlett-Packard brought in an industry with high wages and good benefits, said Walt Skowron, a retiring member of the Loveland City Council and former Hewlett-Packard employee.“In actuality, it converted a primarily agriculture state to a high-technology state,” Skowron said. “Most of the technology was in California in what we call Silicon Valley and in Massachusetts,” Skowron said.Skowron was the 24th employee hired by Hewlett-Packard, which is headquartered in Palo Alto, Calif. He started in 1961 as a technical writer and held 18 different positions during the 37 years he worked for the company.“I miss the old HP,” Skowron said. “The old HP valued their employees as the most important asset. The new HP is about the bottom line.”

    In the old days, he said, the company would respond to a slowdown in business by temporarily reducing the salaries of everyone in the company, from the CEO on down. Now, Skowron said, HP lays off its workers — a fate suffered by many in Loveland.In its early years, Hewlett-Packard encouraged employees to volunteer and get involved in city and county government by serving on boards, commissions and the City Council, Jessen said.Jessen, who volunteered with the United Way and served on several city boards, started with Hewlett-Packard in the mid-1960s and worked there for 33 years in a variety of engineering and management positions, then for three years as a contract engineer.“Their involvement with the community was their biggest contribution,” Jessen said.

    At one time, the company and the former Bell Labs alternated being ranked the best employer in the country with the best employee policies and work environment, said Beierwaltes, who started at Hewlett-Packard in the mid-1960s as an intern and became a full-time employee in 1966.He managed the marketing activities for one of the company’s products, leaving in 1974 to become an entrepreneur.Beierwaltes helped found Colorado Memory Systems, which sold tape drives in the 1980s and 1990s to the personal computer market, and sold it to Hewlett-Packard in 1992. Most recently in 2002, he found Colorado vNet.“Loveland was blessed by having recruited probably one of the two finest companies in the world,” Beierwaltes said

    How HP came to choose city
    Hewlett-Packard announced on Nov. 9, 1959, its plans to locate its first domestic plant outside the San Francisco Bay area in Loveland.Stan Selby, who became the first division manager of Hewlett-Packard’s Loveland plant, scouted Colorado to locate the new plant, according to Loveland author Kenneth Jessen’s “How It All Began: Hewlett-Packard’s Loveland Facility,” published in 1999.

    Selby went to the state where company co-founder Dave Packard was born.
    Packard and Bill Hewlett, Stanford University classmates who founded Hewlett-Packard in 1939, were interested in Boulder, where there was a major university and close proximity to the Denver airport, Jessen said in his book.Paul Rice, president of Loveland’s First National Bank, and appliance dealer Bob Hipps, organizers of the Loveland Development Fund, learned of Selby’s plans and encouraged children in Loveland to write letters to Hewlett-Packard, said Walt Skowron, a retiring member of the Loveland City Council and a former Hewlett-Packard employee.“Please come to Loveland because our dads can’t find jobs,” the children wrote, according to Skowron.Hewlett-Packard sent a team of managers unannounced to Loveland and interviewed people on the street to find out about the community and learn about its work ethic, Skowron said.

    After the visit, Hewlett and Packard decided to build a plant in Loveland. They bought 7 acres of land and almost immediately started building a 12,800-square-foot interim plant at Lincoln Avenue and Southeast Third Street, Jessen said in his book.Crews broke ground Feb. 15, 1960. Hewlett-Packard began producing voltmeters and power supplies in that plant July 5, 1960, with 28 employees on staff, Jessen said.

    A year later, Hewlett-Packard broke ground on a 140,000-square-foot facility at Taft Avenue and Southwest 14th Street, Jessen said.During the fall of 1961, construction began on Building A, the first of the company’s current buildings, Jessen said. Move-in was in mid-July 1962, he said. Four additional buildings were constructed on the campus.Buildings A through D occupied 800,000 square feet on the 323-acre campus, according to Reporter-Herald archives.

    HP employed 3,700 people at its peak in the mid-1980s.
    “Those jobs are gone,” Skowron said. “I know a lot of engineers in Loveland who can’t find work. They used to work for HP.”In 1999, Hewlett-Packard split its test and measurement division into Agilent Technologies and retained its computing and imaging business.In 2006, Agilent downsized into Building E, the fifth building on campus, and moved its 650 employees there. Buildings A through D still are for sale.Hewlett-Packard has moved all of its operations to other sites.“The closing of HP is a loss for Loveland,” said former Hewlett-Packard employee Bill Beierwaltes