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Storage Tek’s Happy birthday

By Tony Kindelspire
The Daily Times-Call

LOUISVILLE — From its founding by four ex-IBMers 35 years ago, Storage Technology Corp. has blossomed into a 7,000-person, worldwide company.

On Wednesday, the company marked its anniversary by throwing a party for employees and a few high-powered guests.

“I remember 1969 very well — I was getting almost ready to graduate from the University of Colorado,” said Arvada-based U.S. Rep. Bob Beauprez, a Republican representing the 7th Congressional District. Beauprez grew up near what is now Rock Creek.

“For so long, what these mining towns had around here was Rocky Flats,” Beauprez said.

Job opportunities in the area changed, however, in 1970, the year after Jesse Aweida, Juan Rodriguez, Thomas Kavanagh and Zoltan Herger left their engineering jobs at Big Blue to form their own data-storage company. They bought 85 acres of what was then lonesome farmland on which to build their new company’s campus headquarters.

Today, about 3,000 of StorageTek’s 7,000 employees work at the Louisville campus.

President and CEO Pat Martin, who took the helm of the company four years ago, told a large crowd of employees Wednesday that more than 75 people have three decades of service with the company, a testament to the quality of the work environment there. For the past three years, StorageTek has been named one of the “most admired” companies by Fortune magazine.

“I just met a new employee who just started today, and I told him — I won’t be around — but I told him I wanted to see him here in 35 years, because the company will still be around,” Martin said.

From its very first data-storage unit, which used 101/2-inch tape reels that had to be loaded by hand, Martin touted the company’s product innovation and customer service as cornerstones of its success.

While StorageTek’s earliest units had a capacity of less than 100 megabytes, one of its latest disk systems, the D280, can be scaled up to 32 terabytes — a terabyte being equal to 1,000 gigabytes, or a million million bytes.

According to Robert Kocol, StorageTek’s chief financial officer, the state of the company at this time is “extremely healthy,” as is the state of the data-storage industry itself.

“It’s a great industry and it’s growing, and it’s one a lot of companies are trying to get into,” Kocol said. “That’s one of the advantages of StorageTek — all we’ve been doing for 35 years is data storage.”

Lt. Gov. Jane Norton showed up to declare “StorageTek Day” in Colorado on behalf of Gov. Bill Owens.

“When you think about it, StorageTek has been critical in the development of the high-tech-magnet state that Colorado has become,” Norton said.

Indeed, Martin noted that no less than 50 companies have spun out of StorageTek, created by former employees.

“You have to be my age to remember, but (General Electric) used to be in the computer business, but they got out,” Martin said. “It’s a tough, tough business.”

Martin lauded his employees for being “the third leg of the triangle” in the company’s success, along with product innovation and “maniacal” customer service.

It wasn’t all smooth sailing for StorageTek. In 1984, the company was forced to file Chapter 11 bankruptcy, but it emerged just three years later, celebrating its reorganization with one of the largest fireworks displays Boulder County has ever seen.

Since then, the company’s growth has been steady. In 1994, the company broke the $1 billion mark for annual revenues; it doubled that mark just two years later. Last year, StorageTek’s revenue was $2.18 billion.

Beauprez praised the company for providing careers, not just jobs, and for all of the other jobs that were created in the area thanks to StorageTek.

“All of us share in the wealth that you collectively create,” Beauprez said.

And Norton paid tribute to the StorageTek Foundation, which has helped raise money for community causes for more than a decade.

“Since 1991, StorageTek’s foundation has contributed more than $10 million to worthy causes,” she said.