Leading companies find new home in the Lone Star State

HMS Holdings, a healthcare services company, completed the final stage of its main headquarters move from Manhattan with the purchase of a 225,000- square-foot building in Irving, TX, several months ago.

HMS Holdings, a healthcare services company, completed the final stage of its main headquarters move from Manhattan with the purchase of a 225,000- square-foot building in Irving, TX, several months ago.

Over the years, large corporations have been transitioning their headquarters or expanding operations westward, particularly in Texas, away from traditional metro areas such as New York and Chicago. Texas is currently tied with California as the state with the most Fortune 500 headquarters at 57, including AT&T, Valero Energy, and JCPenney.

Many reasons to move

"Moving our HQ to the pro-business state of Texas was a really good idea," says HMS' VP of marketing and communications Francesca Marraro. "A lot of corporations are moving here. Texas really advocates for growing organizations like ours. It's also a good location from which to draw a talent pool and it has a manageable cost of living."

The national company first landed in a small Dallas office in 2004 with 20 people and has grown to 800 people in Irving. Meanwhile, HMS continues to maintain a New York City presence with about 200 staffers.

"We've been able to centralize all of our operations for customers and it allows us to operate more efficiently and effectively," she adds. "We have professional staff at all of our operations in Texas. We have continued migrating operations here over the past few years and continue to do so. It's really the focus of the company right now."

Six Texas cities were among the top 20 strongest-performing metro areas based on the time the recession began in each metro area until Q3 2010, which ended in September, according to Metro- Monitor, a quarterly report from Brookings Institute's Metropolitan Policy Program, which tracks employment rates, gross metropolitan product, housing prices, and real estate-owned properties.

The attraction for corporates, says Jody Venturoni, president of Weber Shandwick Southwest, based in Dallas, is Texas' central location, giving businesses greater international access to Mexico and Latin America, as well as to a huge transportation hub. American Airlines, Southwest, and recently merged United Continental, are based in the state.

"By the time you get out of bed in California, half the trading day is gone," agrees Keith Stephens, senior director of global media relations at Fluor, a fellow Fortune 500 company now based in Irving. "We wanted to better serve our clients, improve our operational efficiencies as far as being in their time zones to serve Europe, Asia, and the rest of the globe, and be closer to those government and financial centers with whom we needed to be involved."

Fluor, which executes large-scale capital infrastructure projects worldwide, relocated its global HQ from California to Irving in 2006.

Texas' burgeoning corporate landscape is creating a need for more PR and corporate communications for a vast field of industries, including energy, healthcare, tech, transportation, and consumer. A diverse business climate and mega events such as the Super Bowl have also brought greater exposure, says Venturoni.

Benefits of exposure

"Things like that bring additional visibility to Texas," she adds. "People can see it's not necessarily a land of horseback riding and tumbleweeds, but there's actually a vibrant business environment. It lends itself well to the PR industry. As more companies are discovering the great opportunities in this market, you see a few more firms opening shops here."

This past February, Brunswick Group opened a Dallas office, led by managing partner Jim Wilkinson and partner Mark Palmer.

"Texas has been an international business destination for decades, but we're starting to see this tipping point and a little more recognition from maybe the more traditional media markets," says Palmer, former VP of corporate communications and organizational effectiveness at Sysco.

An increasing need of support is being seen in the energy sector. ExxonMobil and Shell, along with other natural gas and home energy providers, are based in Texas.

"The energy sector is one of those where some of the larger companies have had agencies for a while, but some of the more midsize and smaller companies are dabbling in it a bit more," Venturoni says. "As the marketing channels get more diverse and sophisticated, they've got more channels to cover through digital and other things."

Corporate moves to Dallas-fort worth 2010

HMS Holdings (HQ)

Med Fusion (office)

Samsung (distribution center)

Solera (office)

Tribune Corporation (shared services)

MoneyGram International (HQ)

Whirlpool (distribution center)

2009

Advanced H20 (manufacturing)

GKN Aerostructures (corporate HQ)

Hostess Brands formerly Interstate Bakeries (corporate HQ)

Q-Edge (HQ)

United Natural Foods (logistics)

Cisco (data center)

2008

AT&T (HQ)

Blue Cross Blue Shield (data center)

Bombardier (manufacturing)

Cigna (office)

Deloitte (office)

Niagara Bottling (manufacturing)

Research in Motion (HQ)

Unilever (distribution center)

Source: Dallas Chamber of Commerce

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