SANTA CLARITA VALLEY BUSINESS JOURNAL October 2013
120-year-old cooperative is billion-dollar-a-year organization
By Jana Adkins, SCVBJ Writer
SANTA CLARITA – Sunkist Growers, the oldest operating citrus cooperative in the country, announced Wednesday it is moving its headquarters from Sherman Oaks to the Santa Clarita Valley.
The 120-year-old cooperative, which is owned by thousands of citrus growers, acquired a building in Valencia Aug. 23 “to serve as the company’s future headquarters along with Sunkist’s sister cooperative, Fruit Growers Supply Company,” the company said in response to an inquiry by The Signal.
Sunkist’s future headquarters sits off the Interstate 5 at Magic Mountain Parkway and is located at 27770 N. Entertainment Drive in Valencia, the company confirmed.
“The building is located nearer to Sunkist’s multiple growing areas and will allow the company to keep its current employee group intact,” said a spokesman for the company.
Sunkist is a leading international supplier of fresh fruit.
“We were involved in the deal,” said Holly Schroeder, the newly hired president and CEO of the Santa Clarita Valley Economic Development Corporation.
“My predecessor had discussions with Sunkist going back two to two-and-a-half years, so this has been a long time in the making, and it’s very good news for the (Santa Clarita) Valley to bring a company of that caliber here,” Schroeder said.
A few years back, SCV Economic Development Corporation executive committee member Rosalind Wayman, who also represents the area as the senior deputy for Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich, identified Sunkist Growers to the EDC as a company that might benefit from relocating to the SCV, Schroeder said. The new headquarters is closer to Sunkist’s member growers.
Although the EDC first called on the company a few years back, nothing happened until about six months ago, said Jim Brown, manager of business attraction for the EDC.
“We identified four properties for them to look at,” Brown said, “and we introduced the city and county to the broker. It was a team effort and each group played their own role. We had a seamless relationship with the broker.”
In the end, Sunkist acquired one of the properties the EDC located for it, he said.
“This became their area of choice. It’s great that an international company would choose the SCV as their new corporate location,” Brown said. The move also represents another 50,000 square feet of positive absorption in office space, further reducing the valley’s vacancy rate, said Ryan House, vice president with commercial real estate and investment management firm Jones Lang Lasalle. House was not involved with the transaction but specializes in the local office market.
Office vacancies in the region had remained high during the recession. Twelve months ago, according to JLL statistics, Santa Clarita Valley office space was about 24 percent vacant, House said.
But several large transactions in the past year have brought the vacancy rate down some 10 percent, he said.
Although Sunkist is a not-for-profit company, it is a billion-dollar-a-year organization, according to a statement it released in February. Total payments to members totaled $840 million in 2012 compared to $803 million in 2011.
The re-location of Sunkist’s corporate offices, with the high-paying professional jobs they bring to the community, is a high priority of the Santa Clarita City Council, said City Manager Ken Striplin.
Attracting higher-end jobs is a goal that the city works to achieve with with Los Angeles County and the EDC, he said.
“We are thrilled that Sunkist, a well-known, highly respected, international business is locating executive offices in the Santa Clarita Valley,” Striplin said.