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Fluor Finds Growth in Sustainability Sector

Reports that Irving, Texas-based Fluor Corp. is looking to downsize its Aliso Viejo operations don’t add up with growth signs for the local unit of Orange County’s largest engineering company, with 70 employees hired year-to-date.

Fluor (NYSE: FLR), which got its start in Santa Ana in 1912 and once counted nearly 1,500 employees here, now employs roughly 400 in Aliso Viejo, where it operates out of a 170,000-square-foot base across two buildings at 2 and 3 Polaris Way.

It’s looking to hire an additional 30 employees by the end of the year as the firm ramps up its sustainability-focused engineering work across Southern California, company officials tell the Business Journal.

Brokers have previously said Fluor is looking to sublease roughly 81,000 square feet of space of its space at 3 Polaris Way.

That’s news to Bill Parente, who has worked at Fluor for nearly four decades and currently serves as the firm’s general manager in Southern California. Fluor also counts an office in Long Beach, near the city’s airport.

“My goal is to fill both of these buildings [in Aliso Viejo] as we continue to hire and expand,” Parente told the Business Journal.

Energy Projects

Fluor once owned 2 and 3 Polaris Way, before selling the buildings totaling 200,000 square feet in 2016 to Dallas-based Invesco Real Estate, for $84.3 million.

Fluor’s historic footprint in Orange County was much greater; the company, which was OC’s first Fortune 500 firm, previously occupied 600,000 square feet at Irvine’s Park Place office campus before it built the Aliso Viejo offices to serve as its new local base.

It moved its headquarters from Aliso Viejo to Irving, Texas in 2006, when it counted some 1,475 local employees and was the county’s second-largest public company by annual sales, with $13 billion in revenue that year.

Annual sales for the firm neared $14 billion in 2022, with second-quarter revenue surging 20% to $3.9 billion, in part due to growth of the energy solutions segment.

New projects brought in $3.7 billion for the firm in the three months ending June 30, ahead of the $3.6 billion received during the same period last year.

The company’s Orange County offices have seen a boost in demand from clients looking to transition their facilities—such as oil refineries—into more energy-efficient and eco-friendly ones following a push from the state to cut harmful gas emissions.

Fluor handles five different types of energy transition projects: carbon capture, renewable fuels, hydrogen, gasification and electrification.

The company’s top local executives include Parente; Projects Operations Leader Jay Ferguson; Vice President of Office of Technology Curt Graham; Manager of Engineering Mike Bower; and Southern California Sales Director Sarah McKay.

World Energy

Among the more notable energy-focused projects handled by the OC office is the World Energy Renewables project in Paramount, in which transportation fuels producer World Energy spent roughly $400 million to convert its oil refinery into one of the cleanest in the world.

Fluor is in the process of enabling World Energy to produce 25,000 barrels of renewable energy per year, making it the only commercial scale sustainable aviation fuel producer in North America.

“Gov. Gavin Newsom visited the facility a few months ago, which speaks to the magnitude of this project for the state’s goals,” Parente said.

In Downey, Fluor’s Aliso Viejo employees are behind the country’s first green hydrogen home that integrates solar panels, a battery, an electrolyzer—which converts solar energy to hydrogen—and a hydrogen fuel cell to supply electricity to the home.

Hydrogen is also blended with natural gas to run home appliances, from the stove to the water heater.

The project, created with SoCalGas, has the potential to power more than 100 homes for as much as seven days.

Fluor’s main clients in the sustainability sector are oil refineries, though it has seen increasing interest from developers looking to utilize energy technologies to create economical and environmentally friendly products, according to Parente.

Other projects not relating to sustainability include ongoing renovation projects for longstanding clients, like oil refineries and industrial plants. The business segment is called sustaining capital work and is headed by Fluor’s multi-projects group.

“Sustainability has always been part of Fluor, but it has grown a lot recently as part of efforts to reduce greenhouse gases in California,” Parente said.

Hiring Push

That demand has prompted Fluor’s hiring push to “strengthen our office to fuel future opportunities.”

The company had a goal of hiring 100 employees in 2023; it hired 70 of those individuals by last month, according to Parente.

Recruitment efforts include a career expo held in June, tapping colleges and trade schools for talent and job postings that often bring over employees from engineering competitors.

Fluor has added a more flexible office work policy to aid in those recruitment efforts. It also touts an internal training program that helps with career development.

OC History

Fluor, long the largest engineering firm with operations in Orange County (see list, page 31), was based in Orange County for roughly a century before moving its headquarters to Texas.

The company relocated to the Aliso Viejo buildings in 1999 after being based in Irvine for more than two decades.

It now sports a nearly $4.8 billion valuation.

Fluor is part of a joint venture with Aecom—OC’s second-largest engineering firm—to provide engineering services for the controversial California high-speed rail, which is currently under construction along 119 miles in the Central Valley.

Fluor’s local office is not involved in the project, which aims to connect Anaheim to San Francisco in an all-electric, high-speed train spanning 422 miles with top speeds reported to be about 220 miles per hour.

The project has faced notable delays since kicking off construction nearly a decade ago.

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