Clorox Co. will be moving at least 500 workers out of its Oakland headquarters in a move to consolidate its research operations in Pleasanton.
Company officials say they intend to keep the Clorox headquarters in downtown Oakland, but the loss of hundreds of jobs is viewed as a blow to the East Bay's largest city.
"It's very disappointing," said Joseph Haraburda, president of the Oakland Chamber of Commerce, when told Tuesday about the pending shift of jobs. "Clorox is a strong advocate for Oakland. It is a long-term corporate resident of Oakland. Clorox is very highly valued by the community."
The company struck a deal to move its research-and-development operations and other units into a large Pleasanton campus that once was occupied by Washington Mutual. About 900 to 1,100 Clorox jobs would be at the complex, near the corner of Johnson and Franklin drives.
As many as 700 jobs would shift from Oakland to the new Pleasanton campus, including 500 Clorox employees and as many as 200 contract employees. About 370 to 400 jobs would move from the existing Clorox research-and-development center in Pleasanton, less than a mile away.
"We are strongly committed to Oakland," Clorox Chief Executive Officer Donald Knauss said in an interview this week. "About 55 to 60 percent of our people in Oakland will stay here. All the business leadership will stay here. We have no intention of moving our headquarters out of Oakland."
Clorox would retain 800 to 1,000 workers in the Oakland office tower.
The loss of 500 to 700 jobs could ripple through Oakland, said Jon Haveman, an economist and co-owner of Beacon Economics.
"Lunch traffic, dinner traffic, shopping, other purchases, those will all go down when you lose that many jobs," Haveman said. "There will be deleterious effects."
Clorox cited several reasons for the Pleasanton moves.
"We are going to drive growth, we are getting together people who do similar work in an engaging environment, and we are going to avoid tens of millions of dollars in costs for our shareholders," Knauss said.
An upgrade of the existing Pleasanton Technical Center would have been costly and disruptive to Clorox researchers. The renovation would have required a prohibitively costly seismic retrofit of the outmoded complex.
Clorox has also spent $25 million to renovate its Oakland offices, a 24-story icon of the downtown skyline. This week, the tower was awarded Platinum LEED status as a benchmark for environmental sustainability.
The maker of household products such as bleach and trash bags will occupy the top 12 floors of the downtown Oakland skyscraper, which Clorox owns. Clorox would seek tenants for the bottom 12 floors, Knauss said.
"It should be a real draw for tenants," Knauss said of the Oakland offices. "The LEED status, the $25 million we put into it, it's right over the BART station."
Clorox plans to sell its Pleasanton Technical Center, Knauss said. That complex was built in the 1970s.
"Pleasanton would be a high-value commercial property," Knauss said.
The 288,000-square-foot Pleasanton Washington Mutual campus the company plans to occupy now has five buildings, but city planners on Sept. 15 approved a plan by property owner LBA Realty to add a sixth building of 65,000 square feet. The campus would expand to 353,000 square feet. The Pleasanton City Council must review the plan.
The new campus will allow Clorox scientists to collaborate in a setting that evokes images of the IBM Research Center in south San Jose or open spaces at the national laboratories in Livermore, Knauss said.
"We want to create an environment that is highly engaging to people," Knauss said. "Being in that location will be a significant upgrade for our folks."
The employees who would move from Oakland work closely with Clorox researchers. They include support functions, technology services workers, finance, and back office employees.
"We have groups who commercialize the products and turn them into mass production," Knauss said. "They would collaborate with the R&D people."
The shift of the employees to the new Pleasanton campus is scheduled to be complete by the end of 2011, Knauss said.
"Some support companies could follow this large company to Pleasanton," said Marcy Place, a commercial realty broker with Cornish & Carey.
Patelco Credit Union, Xradia and Callidus Software all recently announced or completed relocations to Pleasanton from other cities.
"There has been a flurry of companies that have moved out to Pleasanton lately," said Jeff Birnbaum, a broker with commercial realty firm CB Richard Ellis.
Oakland and Pleasanton can be backup offices in case of a natural disaster, Knauss said. Two sites can bolster business continuity.
"We will have two world-class facilities in the East Bay," Knauss said. "It's pretty much a home run for everybody."
Contact George Avalos at 925-977-8477.