When Mobil Corp. held a luncheon recently to introduce a local program that encourages motorists to bring their used motor oil to Mobil dealers for recycling, it invited community leaders, state environmental officials and the press. And just to give its guests an extra incentive to show up, the company also brought along some local celebrities -- a half dozen Washington Redskins.
Mobil is learning the ways of Washington in record time.
A few months after moving out of New York and officially making Fairfax its headquarters, Mobil is quickly integrating itself and its 4,000-plus headquarters employees into the local community. The company has become a major force in local philanthropy, is beginning to make itself heard on local and state political issues, and is supporting a variety of community programs. It also has taken a prominent marketing position at Redskins games and other local events.
At the same time, Mobil officials say, they are aware that the company's sheer size -- $56.2 billion in 1989 revenue, larger than the rest of the area's top 100 public companies combined -- makes Mobil the 800-pound gorilla around the Beltway, and they say they are trying not to over-exploit their size.
Mobil is not trying to "make a splash," said Peter A. Spina, the company's general manager for corporate public and government relations. However, he said, "Now is the time to let the community know what kind of company we are."
Mobil certainly is making its presence felt in its new home, particularly in lobbying efforts at the state legislature in Richmond. Corporate executives were regular visitors to the state capital, and the company set new records for spending on lobbying in the most recent legislative session. Its principal target was legislation that would have greatly limited the amount of control oil companies can have over stations bearing their brand; Mobil succeeded in getting the toughest parts of the proposed law tabled.
The heavy involvement in the Virginia legislative process reflects, in part, a distinct philosophy that Mobil executives voice about their new headquarters location: Mobil, they say forcefully, is based in Northern Virginia, not Washington.
"I think it would be less than forthright to say we're a Washington company, because we're not," Chairman and President Allen E. Murray said. "We chose Virginia to be our locale. We would not have chosen Virginia without Washington. But we didn't choose Washington."
The reasons the company is so adamant on this point are not altogether clear. One factor, however, is that Mobil, long a generous giver to charities, does not want to be seen as an easy target for every good cause in the Washington area, and wants to concentrate on Virginia -- although it also is donating money in the District of Columbia.
The Mobil Foundation, the only one of Mobil's many contribution arms that reports its activities publicly, has more than doubled its giving in the Washington area to more than $2 million this year, and corporate contributions in the area are up one third. Most of the increase has come in Virginia, although the foundation also doubled its donations to District-based causes last year, according to the figures.