by Carolyn Jentzen Taylor Renninger, Ed '64, small-town factory owner
1. Take it seriously. When your congressman asks if you'd like to host a visit by President Bush next week, do not assume he is joking. Fortunately, in February of last year I said that we'd be honored and privileged. After all, how many times does a small company have such an opportunity?
2. Be willing to make a few changes. Be open to things such as truckloads of sand being dumped in your storage area to deflect any bombs, machinery being moved around to make space for visitors, 60 extra telephone lines being installed for the press and putting everyone through a security check.
3. Prepare to become secure. When the Secret Service, press corps, CNN and NBC all drove in, I was on my cell phone with the White House. They were circling our parking lot, just like in the movies. We had guard dogs sniffing for bombs, high-powered rifles on the roof, no working phone lines and shrouded ground-level windows. Our road was closed, as well as a nearby section of the Ohio River. All 360 visitors had to go through security, and once they came in, they could not leave.
4. Don't worry about details. The White House will be in constant contact. Everything will be "staged" for you. We were told how to greet the president at the door, and they even marked on the floor where we were to stand. It was handled very professionally.
5. Enjoy yourself. Basically, I was asked to tell how the company was formed. I was very nervous. I didn't want to embarrass the president or myself. He is such a gentleman. As we went up to the podium, he grabbed my hand, and that really put me at ease. And he kissed me on the cheek, so that didn't hurt, either.
6. Be willing to return the visit. You may be invited to the White House. We were treated royally at a big Christmas reception. We had our picture taken with the president in front of a tall tree decorated with ornaments from all the states, enjoyed music by the Marine Band and feasted on absolutely wonderful hors d'oeuvres and desserts. Among the guests we recognized were Tom Daschle and Jerry Falwell.
Renninger is CEO of Control Concepts, a small manufacturer of control devices in Beaver, Pa. The UC grad and her son Geoff Taylor, company president, took over the business after her husband's death in 1996. In 2000, Control Concepts was one of three Pennsylvania recipients of the Ben Franklin Entrepreneur Award. The prize money was donated to a foundation to promote reading in area schools.