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Diversity In Action

At Philip Morris USA, techies support production

Engineers work in its manufacturing facilities and there�s a sizable cadre of IT folks. Diversity is very welcome and enthusiastically supported


The company's HQ building in Richmond, VA houses the Philip Morris IT group.

Philip Morris USA is owned by Altria Group (New York, NY), which also owns Kraft and Philip Morris International. Philip Morris USA manufactures, markets and distributes cigarette brands like Marlboro, Virginia Slims, Benson & Hedges, Parliament, Basic and more in the U.S.

According to spokesperson Bill Phelps, technical pros fill positions in project management, design and engineering, operating and upgrading manufacturing ops for maximum efficiency. Product conceptualization and packaging development and design are other areas where techies work, and facility and environmental engineers are also essential parts of the workforce.

The jobs are based in Philip Morris USA's manufacturing facilities in Richmond, VA and Cabarrus County, NC, near Charlotte. The two plants do all the company's U.S. cigarette manufacturing.

An IT group in the company's Richmond, VA HQ works in areas like application development, technical infrastructure maintenance and vendor management. In all, there are about 700 engineering and IT folks on board at the company. "We're a large company, and we hire for all these positions as needed," Phelps notes.

Philip Morris USA supports a culture of inclusion with employees and suppliers, says Phelps. "We believe that a wide array of experiences with diverse perspectives is a powerful competitive advantage. Our execs are committed to that position." Phelps notes that some 30 percent of employees at Philip Morris USA are people of color and one-third are women. In upper management, 20 percent are people of color and 30 percent are women. The company recruits at diversity-oriented conferences put on by groups like SHPE, NSBE, NBMBAA and NSHMBA.

"We feel that our company is a place for employees to grow as leaders," says Phelps. For example, director-level employees attend a week-long executive leadership forum run by CEO Mike Szymanczyk. In the forum, he identifies four key tasks for leaders: providing direction, allocating resources, understanding the situation and building individual organizational capabilities. "It's something people can understand and apply to what they do," Phelps explains.

Philip Morris USA promotes work/life balance for its employees. "Many of our facilities have fitness centers with personal trainers, and health services departments with onsite doctors. We even offer concierge services in many of our facilities to help with booking travel or getting tickets to cultural events, usually at discounted rates."

The company also has an agreement with an outside provider that offers drop-in childcare services with onsite nurses. Dependents of Philip Morris USA employees are eligible to apply for a scholarship program operated by Altria, the parent company.

Phelps notes that an excellent example of community outreach is Philip Morris USA's employee community fund, which helps in areas like hunger relief, senior services and domestic violence prevention. The program, Phelps adds, "is entirely employee-run, with the company picking up administrative costs."

Last year employees in the Richmond area donated three million dollars, and the North Carolina facility contributed another million to the fund.

The company itself makes an important contribution to technical education in the Richmond area. Phelps notes that about a million dollars has been committed over four years to support the "math-science investigators," a University of Richmond program. The university is working with city schools to prepare talented middle school students for advanced high school courses in math and science.


Phillip Morris USA
Philip Morris USA

Headquarters: Richmond, VA
Employees: 12,000
Revenues: (for parent company) $89.6 billion in 2004
Business: Cigarette manufacture, sales and distribution


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