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Emhart Name Might Regain Prominence In Connecticut With Stanley-Black & Decker Merger


November 09, 2009

From its pre- World War I origins in Hartford, Emhart Corp. grew into an international hardware enterprise with 32,000 employees.

Its sale to Black & Decker Corp. in 1989 led quickly to fragmentation, and a conglomerate decades in the making began to fade from view.

Within months, Maryland-based Black & Decker, a maker of power tools, shut down Emhart's corporate headquarters in Farmington. Soon it began selling off many of the company's divisions.

"That's when the company kind of disappears from the landscape," said John Rathgeber, president of the Connecticut Business and Industry Association, whose father, Adam, served as Emhart's chief financial officer in the 1970s.

With The Stanley Works now in the process of buying Black & Decker for $4.5 billion in stock, the Emhart name seems likely to regain some of its former prominence in Connecticut. One old Emhart division, still part of Black & Decker, is in Shelton.

The combination with Black & Decker which will more than double Stanley's size offers a shot of industrial self-esteem for Greater Hartford, and a rare opportunity for the tough-luck manufacturing city of New Britain to expand the headquarters of the firm that has defined it for 166 years.

"Think about what that means to a community like New Britain, where you don't have a large number of any corporate employers of their size," said Rathgeber, who grew up in New Britain and remains active in civic affairs there. "You lose your one Fortune 500 company, then that's not just psychologically devastating."

But New Britain isn't losing Stanley. Assuming the deal passes muster with shareholders and regulators, it gains the more powerful headquarters of Stanley Black & Decker. With that comes added clout in the economic life of the region including control of some of the old Emhart empire.

"Everywhere you go you see Stanley, and Stanley has always meant quality. When you're overseas trying to attract a company from Germany or Malaysia or Brazil and you say, 'Stanley has their headquarters here,' that says something," said Ed Stockton, a former chief economist for United Technologies Corp. who also served as commissioner of the state Department of Economic Development under Gov. Ella T. Grasso. "It's very fortunate that Stanley essentially bought Black & Decker."

Pieces Of The Empire

In a conference call with investment analysts Tuesday, Stanley and Black & Decker executives referred several times to Emhart Teknologies, a Shelton-based division of Black & Decker that makes fasteners. James Loree, Stanley's chief operating officer, said that Stanley is "very much looking forward to bringing that into the portfolio."

The Emhart name also survives in a separate way in Greater Hartford: Emhart Glass, a former Emhart Corp. unit sold by Black & Decker to a Swiss firm in 1998, employs about 50 people at a research facility in Windsor.

The name was derived from Hartford-Empire, a predecessor company of Emhart Glass, according to Steven Pinkerton, Emhart Glass' global vice president for research and development. He started with that company in the mid-1980s, when it was still owned by Emhart Corp.

"That's what Emhart means Hartford-Empire, just backward," he said.

Hartford-Empire made machinery for making glass bottles, as Emhart Glass does today.

Emhart Glass never shortens its name to Emhart in official communications, Pinkerton said, because Black & Decker owns that name. Soon, Stanley will.

Emhart Teknologies, a $600 million business that makes fasteners used in automobiles and a wide variety of other machines, has a manufacturing operation in Danbury in addition to its Shelton headquarters.

Other companies that once were part of Emhart Corp. also continue to operate in Connecticut under different names and owners. Some, like the old American Hardware, a New Britain company that helped form Emhart Corp. with a merger, are gone.

A Heftier Client

The Stanley-Black & Decker merger has been received with far greater enthusiasm in Connecticut than in Maryland, with good reason. As the intended home of the new enterprise, Connecticut will host a dramatically expanded Fortune 500 company.

"It would appear to guarantee that Stanley will keep their headquarters here, which has always been a concern to me," Stockton said. "It does pretty well solidify that fact."

Given the brand recognition of Stanley [not to mention Black & Decker, which is bigger by sales and workforce], having the expanded headquarters here could prove an even more valuable selling point for other companies considering new operations here, Stockton said.

As Stanley digests Black & Decker, about 10 percent of the combined workforce will be laid off, or about 4,000 people, executives have said. Some of those could be Stanley employees in Connecticut.

But if the fact that Stanley Chief Executive John F. Lundgren and several of his top lieutenants will be keeping their current jobs after the merger suggests a trend, consolidation might be more painful for Black & Decker.

To the extent that its employees are transferred to New Britain, and Stanley's headquarters operation expands to meet the needs of a larger corporation, Greater Hartford benefits. Local advertising agencies, accounting and law firms and real estate agents potentially have a heftier client, while local nonprofit groups, from art museums to the United Way, have an enhanced benefactor. Stanley, despite its decades-long downsizing in Connecticut, has been an active corporate citizen.

Said Rathgeber: "If they had gone the other way and the headquarters wasn't going to be here, what's the likelihood of that continuing?"

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
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