Specialty chemical maker Albemarle Corp. is moving its headquarters and some operations from Baton Rouge to Charlotte, North Carolina, because that city is easier to fly to and is closer to other facilities the company has acquired.
In addition to its headquarters, Albemarle is moving its performance chemicals business to Charlotte and will shift the Baton Rouge employees in its refining solutions business to its existing Clear Lake, Texas, office.
The moves will involve about 120 of the company’s employees overall, with almost all of those workers moving to Charlotte. About 60 to 80 of the total will be Baton Rouge employees, which will leave Albemarle with about 500 workers here.
The majority of the moves are expected to take place in June.
Baton Rouge has served as Albemarle’s corporate headquarters since 2008, following a move from Richmond, Virginia, in exchange for an estimated $7.9 million in state and local incentives.
Charlotte is about 35 miles from Albemarle’s largest lithium facility, located in Kings Mountain. The facility was part of Albemarle’s $5.7 billion acquisition of lithium giant New Jersey-based Rockwood Holdings Inc., completed in January. The deal nearly doubled Albemarle in size and transformed the company, prompting the need for a new corporate headquarters location.
“As we look at the ever-increasing demands for communication, collaboration and mobility for our employees and our customers, Charlotte is the best strategic location to base the new Albemarle,” said Luke Kissam, Albemarle’s president and chief executive officer.
Kissam informed employees of the move early Tuesday before issuing a public statement.
Baton Rouge will continue to be home to the company’s research and development and manufacturing operations at its Process Development Center and have several functional and support operations at its downtown office.
Charlotte had a number of factors in its favor.
“It obviously has that big-city feel. The airport has direct flights to Frankfurt (Germany), which is wonderful for our team,” said spokeswoman Ashley Mendoza. “Since the Rockwood acquisition, we have a large presence in Frankfurt. Charlotte just has a lot to offer, and it’s basically the best place, we felt, for the new company.”
Frankfurt is home to the German headquarters of Albemarle’s Rockwood Lithium and Chemetall business units. Chemetall provides specialty chemicals used in the surface treatment of metals and plastics.
Albemarle employs approximately 6,900 people, serving customers in about 100 countries.
Since 2009, 28 companies have moved or announced plans to move their corporate or U.S. headquarters to Charlotte, bringing a total of 5,578 announced jobs, according to the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce. The metro area is home to seven Fortune 500 headquarters and 17 members of the Fortune 1,000. In addition, 291 of the Fortune 500 companies have one or more of their facilities in the metro area.
Meanwhile, Albemarle said the refining solutions move will place the entire team in the Houston area, a major refining hub.
“Houston is the center of the refining universe, and so it makes sense for that business to be located right amidst their customers,” Mendoza said.
“Albemarle has enjoyed several successful years in Baton Rouge, and we are grateful for the partnership we share,” Kissam said. “Through the Albemarle Foundation, our employees have donated over $11 million and countless hours toward enhancing the community, and we look forward to continuing this work well into the future.”
Company officials had hinted that a move might be in the works in June. Albemarle had been considering that possibility through the year since announcing the Rockwood deal. Albemarle said it was evaluating all of its sites, including the ones picked up with Rockwood. At the time, Albemarle said its Baton Rouge headquarters employed about 300 people: a mix of top executives, those in back-office operations and administration support workers.
Louisiana Economic Development Secretary Steven Grissom said the agency and its economic development partners tried to convince Albemarle to keep its headquarters in Baton Rouge.
The discussions included proposals to strengthen air transportation and education options, Grissom said. But those offers and reminders of the area’s favorable cost of living and low business costs proved unfruitful.
Baton Rouge Area Chamber President and CEO Adam Knapp said Tuesday’s announcement was not a surprise.
Albemarle has been candid about evaluating its headquarters and continues to be a good corporate citizen, Knapp said. The company will remain a significant local presence, with 500 jobs.
Grissom said he was encouraged that Albemarle recognizes the contributions of its employees and values its relationship with the Baton Rouge community.
Knapp said the Baton Rouge area remains a viable market for company headquarters.
Earlier this summer, Brown and Root announced it was moving its headquarters to Baton Rouge, beginning with its top executives, he said. In addition, the area’s economy continues to lead the state’s in nonfarm job growth, adding 1,400 jobs so far this year.
When Albemarle moved its headquarters to Baton Rouge in 2008, Louisiana paid $3.2 million and the city-parish $1 million for relocation costs. Albemarle was also to receive $3.7 million in payroll tax credits over a 10-year period.
An LSU economic impact report estimated the move would create 161 new jobs and $10.7 million in new earnings in Louisiana.
Albemarle is the second publicly traded firm this year to relocate its headquarters from Baton Rouge.
Last month, home health power Amedisys Inc. announced it was moving 33 top execs to Nashville, Tennessee. Amedisys said Nashville would make it easier to recruit management — more than 110,000 people in the area work in the health care industry — and had a good airport.
The Nashville area is home to 16 publicly traded health care companies, including HCA, the world’s largest operator of for-profit medical facilities, and LifePoint Health, which operates community hospitals and regional health systems in 20 states, including Louisiana.
Follow Ted Griggs on Twitter, @tedgriggsbr.