Workers enter Verizon zone

By MIKE BENBOW

Herald Writer

For most of us, it hasn’t sunk in yet.

It’ll be another month or more before the Verizon Communications logo starts appearing on our phone bills and in front of what’s been GTE’s Northwest headquarters in Everett for the past 36 years.

But for the 2,000 or so people who work out of Everett, Thursday was D-Day. They joined 260,000 employees nationwide in celebrating the merger of GTE and Bell Atlantic that became final last Friday. The company started trading Monday on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol VZ.

The merger, two years in the making, creates the largest communications company and puts Verizon among the nation’s Top 10 employers.

Locally, employees marked the occasion by placing a Verizon sticker over the GTE symbol on their ID cards, donning Verizon T-shirts and sunglasses, watching officials cut a ceremonial cake and listening to them talk about the future.

In Everett, Evertt "Ev" Williams, a vice president for business development based in Dallas, told the assembled workers that Thursday was an important day, one they’d look back on as the day it all started.

"I really think today is Chuck Lee’s finest hour," he said of the GTE executive who will serve as chairman and co-chief executive of the new company. "To take GTE into this Verizon opportunity is the best thing he could have done."

Williams said in the past some companies were leery about partnerships with GTE because they questioned whether it had what it took to be a global player in the communications market.

Now, he added, Verizon is a major company in local and long-distance service and is twice as big in wireless communications as the next largest competitor.

"We’re in the driver’s seat," he said. "We’re really positioned well going into this new world."

Noting he’d already stopped by Microsoft’s headquarters during his visit to explore future possibilities, Williams added, "They’re more excited (about the merger’s possibilities) than we are."

His comments brought cheers from the crowd and even some confetti. But with the celebration over, the real work begins.

Company officials say it will take some 18 months to convert everything to the new logo, including 57,000 vehicles, 250,000 public phones, 3,000 buildings and a host of recorded greetings and announcements.

You can call Herald Writer Mike Benbow at 425-339-3459or send e-mail to

benbow@heraldnet.com.

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