Weyerhaeuser to move headquarters from Federal Way to Seattle

Weyerhaeuser announced today the company will be moving to Seattle in 2016. - file photo
Weyerhaeuser announced today the company will be moving to Seattle in 2016.
— image credit: file photo

Federal Way-based timber giant Weyerhaeuser will move its corporate headquarters to Seattle,  company officials announced on Tuesday.

Doyle Simons, president and chief executive officer, wrote in an email to employees that the company has been evaluating options for the best place to locate its headquarters. The company’s board of directors approved the decision to move its headquarters from Federal Way to 200 Occidental Avenue in Seattle in mid-to-late 2016, Simons wrote.

He noted there are two main drivers behind their decision to relocate.

The size of its current campus is too large for the company’s needs.

“The capacity in our current buildings is more than triple what we need, even in anticipation of future growth for our company,” Simons wrote, adding operating this 430-acre campus is costly. “We evaluated a wide range of possible solutions, including retrofitting our technology center and moving into existing buildings at other locations. Ultimately, we decided to remain in Washington state and that occupying this new building in Seattle was the best option to serve our current and future needs.”

He said the company also hopes to position themselves for future success.

“A critical goal for our long-term success is to continue to attract and retain top talent, especially given the number of retirements we anticipate in the next several years,” he wrote, noting Seattle is one of the country’s fastest-growing cities that offers a “larger pool of talent” than any other location in the region. “It also has the power to draw talent from across the country and internationally. Choosing a location that positions us for the best possible recruiting and retention success is the right strategic direction for our company, and is consistent with our focus on people development.”

Weyerhaeuser will lease the new 200,000-square-foot, seven-story office building — that has yet to break ground — adjacent to Occidental Park in the center of Seattle’s historic Pioneer Square neighborhood, said Anthony Chavez, a company spokesperson. Simons noted the building will be constructed to meet the company’s needs and is large enough to accommodate growth. All of the company’s Federal Way-based employees, approximately 800 people, will move to the new building when it is complete in 2016.

The company will divest the land and buildings at their current campus and Weyerhaeuser’s research and technology teams — 120 employees — will continue to occupy a port of the Weyerhaeuser Technology Center through a contractual agreement with the new owners.

Brian Wilson, the city's chief of staff, said the property valuation for the campus in 2004 was $145 million. In 2013, the property was valued at $77.8 million.

“Weyerhaeuser has a long history in Federal Way and this campus has served us very well over the years,” Simons wrote. The company first came to Federal Way in 1971. “Moving to Seattle is an important step forward for Weyerhaeuser and I’m personally excited about the opportunities it will bring to our company and employees as we continue on our journey to truly great.”

Federal Way Mayor Jim Ferrell said he was not surprised about the company’s decision to relocate.

“We’ve been hearing rumors for quite some time,” he said. “We’re disappointed in what presents movement of quite a number of jobs.”

Ferrell said he heard “secondhand” about six weeks ago that the company was looking to relocate.

“I had actually sent a letter to the CEO about a week-and-a-half ago requesting to sit down with him and have a discussion about this,” he said. “I felt this was strongly imminent and I felt before their decision was made that we would take a proactive step to see what we could do to work together.”

However, he did not hear a response back, he said.

“I’m going to be sitting down in the next week with their folks and talking about that transition and what the sale of this property looks like and how that progresses,” Ferrell added.

Anticipating Weyerhaeuser’s move, he said he has also spoken with his staff, including the city’s new Economic Development Director Tim Johnson, about “what it would look like if this were to occur. I’ve been asking him about what kind of ideas he has.”

He said he’s “certainly put some thought” into his own ideas for the campus.

“It’s a beautiful space and ultimately it would be up to Weyerhaeuser to who they sell it to. I’ve got some preliminary ideas. I think the sky would be the limit in regard to what you could put there. I’ve heard some ideas banging around but it’s still too premature to put that out there.”

He said the campus is well located and “could be a centerpiece right off the freeway. This would provide an opportunity to showcase a major organization, whether private or public, and we’re going to look for ways to make this an opportunity for our city.”

Ferrell said the city wishes Weyerhaeuser well.

“While this is not necessarily good news for our city, this is about moving forward and making sure we make the best possible use of this space and doing anything we can to help with this transition,” he said. “It does provide an opportunity in which we can really, especially with a new economic development director, be proactive.”

King County Councilman Pete von Reichbauer said he’s had conversations with Congressman Adam Smith and Ferrell about preserving the 430-acre “community asset.” He said they are going to meet in the next seven days to discuss how the federal, county and city governments can do this.

“We want to make lemonade out of lemons,” said von Reichbauer.

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