News

Remembering Wilshire

:: Tuesday, July 19, 2022

Almost 50 years ago we made one of the most important moves in U.S. Borax history: Relocating headquarters to Los Angeles’s storied Wilshire Boulevard.

In the 1960s, arguably no street held as much prestige as Wilshire. Walking down it, you’d likely see the top movie stars of the day. The boulevard housed the nation’s first suburban department store, Bullocks Wilshire. And the famous Ambassador Hotel called the block home. Securing a spot on the boulevard screamed success.

But the Wilshire period was about more than occupying a building in an illustrious epicenter; Wilshire embodied a place of connection. For the nearly three decades we resided there, we built lasting relationships and priceless memories.

Location, location, location

U.S. Borax headquarters on Wilshire Boulevard

Before moving to 3075 Wilshire Boulevard, our office personnel were spread across six separate locations, including a four-story building on Shatto Place in Los Angeles. Bringing our people under one roof not only made collaboration easier, but also strengthened and shaped our distinct company culture. And the nine-story building on Wilshire provided ample space to accommodate growth.

The new company headquarters on Wilshire officially opened on April 19, 1963. An illuminated “U.S. Borax” sign fixed to the side proclaimed our spot on an historic corner.

According to an article in the company magazine, The Pioneer, “the move was the height of progress.” Employee Ann Pimbell said, “I felt like I was on Park Avenue in New York.”


 

A look inside the building also revealed it was the pinnacle of technology in operations. Computers filled an entire room, creating new opportunities to enhance efficiency.

Computer room in the basement of the Wilshire headquarters

Relocating headquarters came at a significant turning point for the company. In 1960, we enjoyed our most profitable year to date, and demand for refined borate products showed no signs of abating. With the conversion of the underground mine to open-pit operations fully complete, we held an unparalleled position atop the industry.

Connecting with the community

Once moved, it didn’t take long for us to become intimately involved in the Wilshire community. Several employees volunteered at the Wilshire Chamber of Commerce. Building manager Betty Peters even served as the Chamber’s president in 1990—the same year she was named their “Citizen of the Year.”

Of course, it wasn’t all business. To support the Muscular Dystrophy Association, we hosted bed races, where participating teams raced down Wilshire Boulevard with bedframes on wheels. Our team brought a pep band, clown, and decorated bed, which helped us win trophies for most spirited team and most money raised.

It’s this deep neighborhood involvement, paired with U.S. Borax’s financial contributions, that left a lasting impact on the Wilshire community.

A bittersweet goodbye

Unfortunately, as the years went by, conditions in the surrounding neighborhoods soured. Wilshire experienced increased crime, and more car traffic made the office commute difficult for our employees. Company leadership made the hard decision to let Wilshire go.

In 1991, we announced plans to develop a 125,000 square foot facility in Valencia where office operations could join with research and development.

If you look at our company’s office sites today, you’ll see we’ve adjusted to better match our global footprint. In 2018, we moved several teams including North American sales, customer service, global logistics, and marketing to our current, centrally based, Chicago office. And, just a year later we moved European headquarters to Frankfurt, Germany, which has always been a major export market for us.

Over the past 150 years, we’ve grown in many ways and adjusted to substantial business changes. But the community spirit we created at our Wilshire office has left a lasting impact on our company culture.

 

Resources

U.S. Borax, part of Rio Tinto, is a global leader in the supply and science of borates—naturally-occurring minerals containing boron and other elements. We are 1,000 people serving 500 customers with more than 1,700 delivery locations globally. We supply 30% of the world’s need for refined borates from our world-class mine in Boron, California, about 100 miles northeast of Los Angeles.  Learn more about Rio Tinto.

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