Coleman CEO: ‘Coleman’s headquarters is in the United States of America’

WICHITA — Robert Marcovitch, the new president and CEO of the Coleman Co., doesn’t characterize the relocation of 25 key executives from Wichita to the Denver area as moving the company’s headquarters.

“Well, I think Coleman’s headquarters is in the United States of America if you ask me. I think on the global scale.”

That’s not how Wichitans are taking the news, though.

At a 3 p.m. news conference, city leaders expressed surprise and dismay at the move.

“I’m not happy,” Mayor Carl Brewer said. “I’m not happy any time we lose jobs in Wichita.”

Coleman notified the city this morning around the same time it told employees of the news.

“I had a nice conversation with the mayor,” Marcovitch said. “Of course, I think it’s very appropriate that he be made aware of it.”

In the brief conversation, Marcovitch said, “I didn’t talk about headquarters, and I know some people have characterized it that way.”

He said, “We’re moving a number of offices and decentralizing some of our offices to Colorado.”

That includes sales, marketing and creative services such as graphic design work. It also includes financial support.

However, accounting, technology and human resources will remain in Wichita.

The majority of Coleman’s 800 Wichita workers won’t be affected.

Coleman has more than 1,000 workers in Kansas out of about 3,000 worldwide.

Coleman, which was founded in Wichita in 1901, has manufacturing, distribution, marketing and sales operations in 20 countries.

In an initial release to The Eagle today, Coleman said the company also is investing in its Wichita and New Braunfels, Texas, facilities with a multimillion dollar capital initiative.

That won’t be in the form of additions or expansions, though.

“Really, it’s along the lines of product development,” Marcovitch said.

He said, “What I’m doing is doing things . . . to help ensure that we’re going to continue to fill the parking lot here. I feel that’s our responsibility.”

Brewer said the city works “extremely hard with our businesses to able to recruit them and keep them in our community. And that is part of the partnership. We will have to work through this and hopefully the millions they are actually discussing they will invest in our community, that those dollars will multiply and that the 800 jobs they have here will become 1,800 in a couple of years.”

The city has given Coleman tax incentives in the past and is now investigating whether any of those incentives will be affected with the move of top executives.

Allen Bell, the city’s director of urban development, says those incentives mostly are tied to capital investments.

Marcovitch doesn’t feel like Wichita gives the company as much of an ability to recruit top executives as Colorado does.

“The opportunities to attract people to these specific positions are greater and to retain them are greater,” he said.

“I strongly believe that this decision to move these select offices will enhance our growth opportunities.”

Marcovitch said a good analogy is the old saying that the best place to open a restaurant is next to another restaurant. Marcovitch said much of Coleman’s competition is in Colorado.

“We’ll be in a position to address the outdoor market far better than we are here in Wichita.”

He added that the company still sees Wichita “as certainly a center of excellence for engineering.”

In 1995, well before global products supplier Jarden Corp. purchased Coleman, previous Coleman owners moved the company’s headquarters to Golden, Colo.

A new CEO moved the company back two years later.

Marcovitch, an avid skier, says he’ll have offices in Colorado and Wichita.

“As my work history would show, most of my time my feet are on the street visiting customers and suppliers.”

Marcovitch won’t address exactly where in the Denver metropolitan area Coleman will locate.

“There’s a number of things we need to finalize,” he said.

Marcovitch can’t say if these 25 employees will be all who move, though he says that’s all that’s planned for now.

“Time will tell,” he said.

“We’re not looking to do this in chunks,” Marcovitch said. However, he said, “That’s difficult to say and to ever suggest, oh, we will or we won’t.”

Marcovitch doesn’t think there’s cause for Wichitans to feel disappointed about Coleman’s decision today.

“I think they should also be very pleased to know (Coleman) is more than just a Wichita company. It’s America’s camping company.”