Construction and engineering giant Fluor Corp., which grew up with Southern California, said Tuesday that it would move its headquarters from Aliso Viejo to the Dallas area next year to be closer to its global client base.
Fluor, founded in a garage in Santa Ana in 1912 as a general contracting firm, is the largest publicly traded construction services company in the nation, with 35,000 employees worldwide and revenue of $9.4 billion last year.
Fluor's departure continues an exodus of large companies, many of which have been bought as part of corporate mergers in recent years. After it leaves, there will be five Fortune 500 companies headquartered in Orange County and 25 in all of Southern California. Among those that no longer have headquarters here are Arco, Lockheed and Times Mirror.
The company's move "makes economic sense, but it is sad for Southern California," said Esmael Adibi, a business professor at Chapman University in Orange.
"These are high-value jobs, and when you lose them and a corporate headquarters, it leaves a negative stigma," Adibi said.
About 100 Fluor employees will be laid off in the move, but nearly 1,000 will remain in Southern California at Fluor's West Coast engineering offices in Aliso Viejo and Long Beach, said Chief Executive Alan J. Boeckmann. Its current headquarters building will be sold.
Boeckmann insisted that California's business climate and transportation conditions had nothing to do with the decision to start looking for a headquarters facility in Texas.
Fluor won't save much money in the move and did not seek relocation incentives from Texas authorities, Boeckmann said, but it will benefit by being close to Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport.
About 80% of Fluor's domestic customer base is in Texas or on the East Coast, and 60% of its contract backlog is with overseas clients that can better be served from a Texas location. "We gain two hours with the time zone change and three hours in flight time" by moving, Boeckmann said.
Voters in Orange County have rejected bids to enlarge John Wayne Airport, a regional facility, and to build an international airport on the site of the former Marine Corps Air Station at El Toro.
The company has long been an active player in Southern California's philanthropic, economic and political scene.
Bob Fluor, great-grandson of the company's founder and the only family member still directly employed by Fluor, said he would remain in Orange County to continue overseeing the foundation. Fluor is president of the foundation and vice president of public affairs for the company.
Although its philanthropic Fluor Foundation will keep its headquarters in Aliso Viejo, "it will be harder for local charities and arts to get funding because" the company will "now also have to support things in Texas," Adibi said.
The company traces its roots in the U.S. to 1896, when three Swiss immigrants -- brothers Robert, Joseph and John Simon Fluor -- began a lumber business in Wisconsin.
John Simon Fluor, who preferred to be called J. Simon Fluor, later moved to California and in 1912 began his construction company. He began working for Southern California Gas Co., and his construction business grew along with the region's rapidly developing gas and oil industries. Fluor relocated his firm to Los Angeles in 1940 as he increased his ties with Southern California Gas and oil refiners in the Long Beach and Torrance areas.
By the late 1960s, concerned about the high cost of housing and the increasingly snarled traffic in Los Angeles, Fluor Corp. became one of the first major corporations to recognize suburban Orange County as a promising corporate locale.
In 1972, Fluor acquired a 100-acre parcel of land in Irvine and built a 1.8-million-square-foot headquarters complex that showcased what then were cutting-edge communications, climate control and energy management systems.
The company moved its international headquarters and almost 5,000 employees into the 10-story, mirrored-glass-clad complex in 1976. The futuristiclooking building along the 405 Freeway has been used in various films including "Defending Your Life" and "Demolition Man."
Fluor quickly immersed itself in Orange County by supporting a growing arts and theater culture, lobbying for improvements to the countywide traffic system and supporting candidates who embodied its pro-business, pro-growth philosophies.
Then in 1999, as part of a downsizing, Fluor moved into its 100,000-square-foot corporate headquarters site in Aliso Viejo.
Fluor's stock fell 14 cents to $58.16 on Wednesday on the New York Stock Exchange.
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Fluor Corp.'s major projects have included:
* Rebuilding Iraq: It was awarded a $1.1-billion venture with British project management specialist AMEC to help rebuild water, power and civic infrastructure in 2004.
* Atomic energy: Fluor has been managing the shutdown and cleanup of the Fernald uranium processing plant in Ohio since 1992 and the cleanup of the Hanford plutonium production plant in Oregon since 1996. Both are worth more than $8 billion so far.
* Hotels: It landed a $1.4-billion contract in 1998 to build the new Aladdin Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, completed in 2001.
* Mining: It was awarded a $1-billion-plus project in 1998 to develop the huge Batu Hijau gold and copper mine in Indonesia.
Source: Times Research