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Private Cos. Set Pace on Jobs

The biggest private companies based in Orange County have been big on building the local workforce over the past year, adding jobs at a faster pace than the county’s overall economy.

A tally of employees among the 111 entries on this week’s Business Journal list—the centerpiece of our annual Special Report on the largest private companies with headquarters in OC—came to a cumulative growth of 4.5% over the past year for a total of 52,646.

The pace of hiring compared with the overall job growth in OC of 3.4% during the 12-month period through April, according to California Employment Development. It also compared with year-over-year growth rates of 2.9% in California and about 2.1% in the U.S., according to data from the EDD and the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The list also indicates greater percentage growth when compared against itself—our 2014 list showed the crop of the biggest private companies at the time increased their local workforce by 2.3%.

The employee totals, while a key component of the list, does not affect the rankings.

The list ranks the companies by revenue, with a threshold of $100 million.

The entries combined for $80.2 billion in revenue last year, or the latest fiscal year for the handful with year-end dates that don’t match the calendar year. That was up 13.1% over 2013, when listed companies had $70.9 billion in revenue.

More than a third of the list—46 companies—said they had stronger revenue last year; seven had revenue drops; and two experienced no change. Figures for the 56 others were flat based on Business Journal estimates.

• Pacific Life Insurance Co., the perennial No. 1, had $7.7 billion in 2014 revenue, up nearly 3% year-over-year. It has 2,067 employees in Orange County, up about 2%. It has more than 3,100 employees overall.

Newport Beach-based Pac Life had record assets and equity levels last year, $137 billion and $8.6 billion, respectively, as the company continues a push to diversify its product offerings and target markets (see related story, page 1).

• Irvine-based Golden State Foods Corp. kept its place at No. 2, with $6.9 billion in revenue, up 8%. Its Orange County workforce grew 77% over the past year to 108. The companywide total grew 5% to 4,499.

• Irvine-based First Team Real Estate slipped two spots to No. 5 as revenue fell 6% to $4.7 billion. It has 249 employees in OC, up by 4% year-over-year.

First Team had the highest revenue-per-employee figure on the list, at $18 million.

Newport Beach-based commercial real estate investor KBS’ revenue increased 10% last year to $988.4 million. The firm, No. 15, focuses on office investments throughout the U.S. and is among the largest U.S. sponsors of nonlisted real estate investment trusts.

“Last year KBS had a solid fund raising year, which allowed us to acquire over $2 billion in commercial real estate investments on behalf of our investors,” said KBS Chief Executive Chuck Schreiber Jr., who cofounded the company in 1992 with Peter Bren. “We also sold just under $2 billion of existing investments, allowing us to return invested capital and gain to our investors.”

KBS has 160 employees in OC, up about 8% year-over-year, and 195 companywide, up about 3%.

“We have been growing our firm,” Schreiber said. “I do not foresee a spike in hiring, however. As we increase our portfolio of assets under management, our staffing levels will increase accordingly to handle the related asset management and property-level accounting functions. We are very selective in hiring the best talent. Attracting talented professionals has been a key to the success of our firm.”

KBS recently moved into 800 Newport Center, the former headquarters of Pacific Investment Management Co.

“I have certainly had numerous opportunities to move our offices to other locations, many of which are less expensive,” Schreiber said. “However, we would be hard pressed to find a better work environment than what Newport Center offers. This location has been a big factor in allowing us to attract and retain the kind of talent we have.”

• The biggest employee increase over the past year came at Largo Concrete Inc., a Tustin-based general contractor that specializes in structural concrete. It added 495 workers in OC, up 57%, to 1,370.

The family-owned business handles projects in various sectors, including hospitality, healthcare and retail. Its local projects include the Fountain Valley headquarters of Hyundai Motors America and Segerstrom Concert Hall in Costa Mesa.

Largo is one of 13 newcomers on this year’s list. It landed at No. 68 with $217 million in 2014 revenue, up 3% year-over-year.

The biggest among the newcomers by revenue was No. 17, UST Global Inc., an Aliso Viejo-based information technology services provider. It had $800 million in 2014 revenue, up from an estimated $580 million a year earlier.

The company has told the Business Journal that it projects 2015 revenue to grow another 23%.

UST has about 100 employees in Orange County and about 15,000 overall, including about 8,000 in India and about 1,000 each in Mexico and Costa Rica.

• Irvine-based Passco Cos. debuted at No. 51 with $309 million in revenue, a 43% increase. The commercial real estate investment firm specializes in acquiring, developing and managing multifamily and commercial properties. Passco has 47 local employees, up by four over the past year.

Among companies that cut their local workforces was Santa Ana-based Freedom Communications Inc., No. 79, which said it has 810 employees here, down from 1,100 a year earlier. The parent company of the Orange County Register and the Press-Enterprise in Riverside had a companywide employee total of 1,040, down about 26%. It had an estimated $180 million in revenue.

• Lake Forest-based No. 14 Apria Healthcare Group Inc. cut its local employee base by 6% to 511. Its companywide total also fell about 6% to 7,789. Apria’s revenue dropped 56% to $1.1 billion.

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