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Big business settles down in south Placer

Back Article Apr 30, 2011 By Linda DuBois

South Placer County has long been considered a good place to settle down and raise a family. Likewise, some companies are finding it to be a great place to settle down and raise a business.

Within the past few years, several companies have either moved their corporate headquarters to the area or targeted Rocklin or Roseville for ambitious expansion plans.

According to some recent corporate residents off the Highway 65 corridor, South Placer is appealing for its balance of business-â?¨friendly infrastructure and metropolitan services, with a hometown feel that attracts high-quality, long-term employees.

Meanwhile, the region reciprocates with companies providing stable jobs and generous sponsorships for community events.

While Roseville is a thriving regional retail center, attracting corporate headquarters is also vital, says Karen L. Garner, an analyst with Roseville’s Office of Economic Development.

“When you’re talking headquarters, whether it’s technology, insurance, banking or something else, they’re usually going to bring mid- to high-level professional jobs that are a lot better paying than retail,” Garner says.

These companies tend to be more involved in their communities, she adds. “You’ll see them as chamber members, supporting the nonprofit events throughout the year and developing good relationships with city staff,” she says. “They’re invested. They’ve put their headquarters here, so that’s a statement that they plan to be here for the long haul.”

One of those companies is the Dutch financial services giant Rabobank Group, which relocated its U.S.-based community bank headquarters from the Imperial County city of El Centro to Highland Pointe Drive in Roseville last year.

Rabobank puts a big emphasis on community involvement. A favorite annual event is the Amgen Tour of California. This May will be Rabobank’s third year as official bank sponsor of the race, and it also has its own professional cycling team.

Rabobank Group has about 58,400 full-time employees, who serve about 10 million clients in 48 countries. The United States has several divisions, including agriculture lending offices outside of California and a wholesale services operation, which has offices as close as San Francisco.

When Rabobank was considering opening a general community banking division in early 2000, it chose California partly to coincide with its expertise in agricultural lending.

El Centro, a city of about 40,000 residents near the Mexican border, served fine for its headquarters for a few years, but wouldn’t do for the long term if it were to grow into a significant competitor in the California banking world.

“Right now we’re a $7 billion bank, but if we grow to become a $30 billion bank, we’re going to need to be where we can draw from a large talent pool,” says Sean Dowdall, executive director of marketing for Rabobank, National Association.

Rabobank CEO Ronald Blok was familiar with Placer County and thought it would be the ideal region to find that talent. Indeed, since the company left a regional president, administration and servicing units in El Centro, most of the Roseville headquarters’ current 140 employees already lived in the Sacramento area. The company plans to grow both locally and throughout California, Dowdall says.

Rabobank is just the type of business Roseville aims to attract, Garner says:

“They’re a great company. They’ve been involved in the community, supporting our nonprofits, so we’re very excited to have that.”

The benefit of drawing a company of such international caliber also has a snowball effect, Garner says. Once a company with a recognizable name moves in, the city can use that for business attraction purposes.

“The fact that we’ve had (Hewlett Packard) here — although it’s not a headquarters, it’s certainly a large campus — we’ve been able to leverage that for years now to attract other businesses,” she says. “It just sort of puts us on the map.”

Plus, satisfied Roseville business leaders can serve as advocates for the city. Garner notes that Mike Ziegler, president and CEO of Pride Industries, headquartered in Roseville since 1969, has written letters of reference for the city to corporate recruits. “That’s going to mean a lot more to another CEO than city officials saying how great we are,” Garner says.

Meanwhile, Roseville is seeing some business expansions. Another addition to the Highway 65 corridor is Mechanics Bank, which moved its Sacramento Region Corporate and Private Banking offices from 2251 Douglas Blvd. to a larger 8,000-square-foot space at 925 Highland Pointe Drive in October.

The lending office will house the bank’s senior lenders and focus on commercial real estate, working capital lines of credit and construction loans. The bank also will move its current Roseville branch office into a former Wachovia site at 721 Pleasant Grove Blvd. in conjunction with the lending group’s relocation.

“Mechanics Bank feels that Roseville will lead the recovery in the Sacramento Valley area and has expanded its presence to capitalize on the anticipated growth in the region,” says Hatti Hamlin, public relations consultant for Mechanics Bank.

Roseville’s closest neighbor also recently nabbed a coveted company. In March, Sleep Train Mattress Centers moved its corporate offices into a 22,000-square-foot site at 2205 Plaza Drive near Sunset Boulevard and Stanford Ranch Road in Rocklin.

One of the top bedding specialists in the nation, Sleep Train is in expansion mode, planning to add about 10 locations this year. It also recently started an employee stock ownership plan.

Founded in 1985 by CEO Dale Carlsen, the company — with revenue of about $300 million and more than 230 stores on the West Coast — started in a North Highlands warehouse, where it still has a distribution center. When it outgrew that corporate office, it moved to 12,000 square feet in Citrus Heights, where it stayed for about eight years.

The Rocklin site will provide enough space for now and in the near future, Carlsen says. “And there are other buildings in the complex we’re in, so if we need to grow even further, the opportunity’s there,” he adds.

Carlsen says he plans to keep the company in Rocklin for the long term.

It’s an excellent building in a great area,” he says. “There’s lots of housing around, so employees can live close to the office in a nice community, so that’s a definite plus. The community has restaurants, shopping, everything you could want right there.”

He has equally good things to say about the city government. “They were very helpful and speedy in getting permits issued and made it easy to want to move there,” he says.

While the Sleep Train moved 58 employees into the new Rocklin building, it can accommodate up to 75 workers. Carlsen says more people could be hired soon.

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