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Tom Iannotti
Tom Iannotti leads Hewlett-Packard's Americas operations, based in Marlborough. (Essdras M. Suarez/Globe Staff)
Globe 100

Digital's legacy

The famed maker of minicomputers may be gone, but its heirs continue on in the Bay State

Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By Thomas C. Palmer Jr.
Globe Staff / May 20, 2008

Starbucks, Wal-Mart, Target, CVS, Hewlett-Packard — they're household names to Bay Staters, but they sell products and services for companies with headquarters in distant ZIP codes.

As major industries such as technology and financial services have grown, consolidated, and gone global, more of the economic activity in Massachusetts has taken place at firms based out of state. Of the 200 largest employers in Massachusetts, 69 are public companies headquartered elsewhere, according to the state Department of Workforce Development.

Consumer chains, of course, need outlets here to reach customers.

Giants such as Bank of America Corp., Procter & Gamble Co., and Manulife Financial Corp. arrived via merger with local stalwarts FleetBoston Corp., Gillette Co., and John Hancock Financial Services.

Technology and life sciences firms such as Cisco Systems, Intel Corp., and Wyeth have built a strong presence here to gain access to skilled researchers and workers.

This year, computer maker Hewlett-Packard Co., of Palo Alto, Calif. — which traces its local roots back to Digital Equipment Corp. — leads the Globe 100 list of top national performers with a significant Massachusetts presence.

Hewlett-Packard's headquarters for its Americas region — including Canada through Latin America — is located in Marlborough.

The company conducts research and development for hardware and software products at multiple locations in Massachusetts, and it refurbishes servers and other items here. It also maintains a call center.

Tom Iannotti, senior vice president and managing director for the Americas region, has his office here.

Chief executive Mark Hurd, who attended the company's shareholder meeting held in Boston this year, has guided a transformation at the company, says Engelina Jaspers, vice president for corporate marketing.

Hurd took over from Carly Fiorina at Hewlett-Packard in April 2005 and has been streamlining operations and reducing the worldwide workforce since.

"He's really instilled a lot of rigor around investing in key initiatives while trimming costs in areas that don't bring as much value to the business," she said.

For example, the company saved money by disposing of unused office space and consolidated its data centers worldwide into six from about 80 - both economizing and creating a model for customers.

"We're still very much committed to Massachusetts and the New England area - it's important heritage to our company," Jaspers said.

"We expect to see continued success in Marlborough. We have significant product development there."

The origin of Hewlett-Packard in Massachusetts, of course, is Digital Equipment Corp., the former technology titan that was crippled by the switch from minicomputers to PCs in the 1980s.

Digital was acquired by Compaq Computer Corp. in 1998 for $6.8 billion, which in turn was acquired by Hewlett-Packard in 2002 for $17.6 billion.

Hewlett-Packard rose from number seven last year, replacing IBM Corp., which dropped this year to number three.

Another prominent high-tech company, Cisco Systems Inc., of San Jose, Calif., ranked number two this year.

Cisco, with 63,000 employees worldwide, has more than 1,700 employees on its Boxborough campus. It posted an 18 percent increase in revenue for 2007 after successfully digesting its $5.2 billion acquisition of Scientific-Atlanta Inc., best known as the maker of cable set-top boxes.

Thomas C. Palmer Jr. can be reached at tpalmer@globe.com.

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