Has Los Angeles County lost its engineering mojo?
The Feb. 28 announcement by Parsons Corp. that it moved its headquarters from Pasadena to Centreville in Northern Virginia means that in just three years, two of Los Angeles County’s three engineering firms with multibillion-dollar annual billings have left the region.
In 2016, Jacobs Engineering Group Inc. moved its headquarters from Pasadena to Dallas. Only Century City-based AECOM still calls L.A. County home.
The circumstances around each company’s headquarters departure and the immediate impact are different.
Jacobs, the larger of the two companies with $15 billion in revenue last year and 77,000 global employees, decided on Dallas as a cost-saving move after a nationwide site selection process. Many of the 300 employees at the Pasadena headquarters, including C-suite executives, made the move. At the time, Jacobs Chief Executive Steven Demetriou said the company would keep roughly 1,500 employees in the Southern California region.
Parsons, which posted $3.6 billion in revenue last year and has 16,000 global employees, had planned to move its headquarters to the greater Washington, D.C., area to be closer to its largest concentrations of both employees and clients. For the time being, however, Parsons is keeping its 500 Pasadena employees in place − at least until the lease on that building, its now former headquarters, runs out in seven years.
Once the lease runs out and Parsons’ current projects in the Los Angeles area wind down, it’s uncertain whether Parsons will maintain its level of commitment to the local market. The company is currently working on designs for the Metro Purple Line subway extension and program management for the $5.5 billion plan to improve rail and vehicular access to Los Angeles International Airport.
Still, Los Angeles County remains a major talent center for engineers. It’s home to the largest number of engineering graduates in the nation − 70,000 according to a 2013 report − and three of the nation’s top engineering schools: Caltech, USC’s Viterbi School of Engineering and the Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science at UCLA.
That talent pool that should offset most of the negative impacts from businesses leaving the region, said Yannis Yortsos, Viterbi School’s dean. And for engineering graduates, the influx of startup technology firms into Los Angeles has expanded opportunities.
“There’s such a diverse array of opportunities now with all the tech companies coming here that the moves should have minimal impact,” Yortsos said.
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