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By George Avalos
Copart Inc. will move its headquarters out of Fairfield and shift its head offices to Texas, the company said Thursday, a departure that jolts California’s already wobbly economy.
The company, one of the Bay Area’s largest public companies, employs an estimated 334 workers at its Fairfield facility. Copart will exit the current headquarters as soon as late 2012.
Ranked by revenue, Copart is one of the 80 largest public companies in the nine-county region. Its market value on Thursday was $2.79 billion.
“We will relocate our corporate headquarters to Dallas,” said Vinnie Mitz, Copart’s president. “The relocation will be carried out in phases beginning early in the summer of 2011 and will continue over the next two years.”
On Jan. 3, Copart sold its 100,000-square-foot headquarters building to Partnership HealthPlan of California. Partnership HealthPlan paid $16.5 million for the building and agreed to lease the complex to Copart for the time being, said Dave McCallum, manager of the market department with Partnership HealthPlan.
Partnership HealthPlan hopes it can move into the building in December 2012, McCallum said.
“It’s unfortunate that California is losing these kinds of companies,” said Brooks Pedder, managing partner with Colliers International, a commercial realty firm. “Copart’s departure is all about the cost of doing business here.”
Copart has become a stalwart in the Bay Area corporate landscape. Over the 12 months that ended in October, the company reaped $800 million in sales and $154 million in profits.
The company has managed to marry the old-school business of vehicle salvage with the Internet’s vast reach. The offspring of this union are online auctions for vehicles that have been wrecked or stolen. Copart has parlayed the digital bazaar into an unbroken string of annual profits that stretch back to at least 1992.
“The decision to realign our business and corporate operations is in part due to the dynamic growth opportunities that exist in our changing marketplace,” Mitz said.
Copart will keep three administrative units and certain other operations at what will become a divisional hub in Fairfield. The company will transplant all other corporate functions to new divisional hubs in Grand Prairie, Tex.; Hartford, Conn.; and the new Dallas headquarters.
The company hopes to be able to better connect its field operations with its customers and potential clients.
“Diversifying our office locations allows Copart to be closer geographically to our customers and clients, resulting in greater operational efficiencies and improved customer service,” Mitz said.
Copart executives decided to move its headquarters out of Fairfield in the wake of the state government election results in California in November, said people familiar with Copart’s exit strategy.
“The state’s regulatory environment is as uncertain as ever,” said Gino DiCaro, executive director of the California Manufacturers & Technology Association. “The tax burden for a company to operate a business in California is 13 to 14 percent higher than the rest of the country.”
In December, DiCaro wrote in a blog that the eyes of Texas are on California’s manufacturing jobs. He noted that in 2010, Texas added 1,100 manufacturing jobs for every 1 million residents of that state, while California lost 32 factory jobs for every 1 million Golden State residents.
DiCaro said he thinks the California business climate and the state’s economy face twin foes.
“It’s not just the movement out of California, it’s the new growth that is not occurring here,” he said.
Part of our series of articles on investing in Dallas