But the country club, located on a hilltop within sight of Firestone's main plant, is the shiniest apple in this recreational orchard. Of its 600 members, about 125 are "clock-work" employees from the company's six Akron plants. The rest are white-collar workers, ranking from clerks to President Firestone. But when the pressure for memberships became heavy, it was the executives who moved out to ease the crush. Most of them joined Akron's Portage Country Club (initiation fee $3,150, monthly dues $48) or Fairlawn ($2,160 and $43). Neither of these clubs has a golf course to match Firestone's.
Just like landlord and tenant
The relationship between parent company and country club is similar to that of landlord and tenant, except in this case the landlord takes a loss. Firestone pays all taxes, insurance, renovation costs and expansion expenses. The club itself is responsible for the day-to-day costs of service and maintenance. Because membership dues are low, and because the members spend very little money in the bar or dining room—usually a country club's chief source of income—the club runs pretty deeply in the red. To cut into this deficit, its manager, Hugh Laughlin, books group luncheons, dinners, dances and golf outings that bring in up to 5,000 people a month, many of them Firestone employees who are not club members. There are, accordingly, an astounding number of rounds of golf played each year, a fact which sometimes proves a source of vexation to members who are forced off the course on such days. It is not vexatious to the Firestone company, however, because it helps to underwrite the club's deficit.
"The club does the best it can to break even," says Bill Marshall, head of Firestone's employee services division.
Has the club ever made it?
"I would rather not divulge that," says Marshall.
Because some of your stuffier stockholders might object to the lavishing of such large sums on what they would claim is frivolity? he was asked.
"I would rather not divulge that either," he says.
Cash deficits aside, the company seems to get quite a bit for its sporting investment. "Only about 50 members could afford to join another club," reports the course's ex officio president George Jackson, who is employed in Firestone's tire distribution department. "I can name, just offhand, several cases where employees came to me when they were about to switch to another company, but stayed with Firestone when I told them they'd lose their membership at the club."
Firestone personnel's Sam Filer is in a position to see another of the club's major advantages. He visits some 20 to 25 colleges each year, trying to recruit for Firestone always hard-to-hire technical personnel. "Most potential employees will ask about the club," he says, "but if they don't I make it a point to tell them."