BLOOMFIELD HILLS (WWJ) - A top official at PulteGroup, one of the nation’s largest home builders, confirmed that the company is moving its headquarters from Bloomfield Hills to Atlanta, Georgia.
PulteGroup spokesman James Zeumer confirmed to WWJ Newsradio 950 that the company’s board of directors approved the move and they are now looking for office space in the Atlanta area.
“This was a very, very hard decision for us,” Zeumer told WWJ’s Mike Campbell. “Bill Pulte started this company in Michigan in 1950, so you’re looking at more than six decades of history. We certainly appreciate that, but what really has to be noted here is that over a third of our business now, of our closings in 2012 took place in the southeast.”
Zeumer said they are leaving their Bloomfield Hills headquarters, which employs roughly 370 people, but the Michigan division operations will stay in the state. He said their decision to move had nothing to do with local politics.
“This was about an opportunity for us to get a little bit closer to our customers and where our investments are being made, and that was really the focus and the genesis for the decision,” he said.
Zeumer said the move, which isn’t expected to take place until 2014, also has nothing to do with the current CEO of PulteGroup, Richard Dugas Jr., having a history in Atlanta.
Citing an “individual with knowledge of the matter,” the Atlanta Journal-Constitution said PulteGroup is likely moving to an undetermined office building in Buckhead, on Atlanta’s north side.
The news isn’t sitting well with Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson, who said in a written statement he’s “disappointed that Pulte has chosen to leave Michigan.”
“However, we respect any company’s right to determine its future. Oakland County continues to attract thousands of sustainable, high-paying jobs in the knowledge-based economy through our Emerging Sectors, Medical Main Street and Automation Alley initiatives. Oakland County is helping to drive Michigan’s economy,” Patterson said.
WWJ’s Charlie Langton gathered reaction from business leaders and politicians who were on Mackinac Island for the annual Detroit Chamber of Commerce Policy Conference as they learned of PulteGroup’s plan to relocate.
Republican Sen. Mike Kowall, chairman the Senate Economic Development Committee — which is charged with bringing business to the state, said he was “blindsided” by news of the move.
“I’m going to have a conversation with them, coming up this week, and we’ll see what happens,” he said. “I would like to see them stay, but usually when corporations make up their mind, their minds are made up. Obviously, there are other reasons that they’re moving.”
Gov. Rick Snyder said he’s disappointed, but he tried to keep a positive note as he addressed the issue on the final day of the Mackinac Policy Conference.
“They fully intend to keep building homes in Michigan and they see a positive outlook, I believe,” Snyder said. “But it’s important that they have a headquarters moving out of state. But we have a lot more wins than losses.”
Snyder praised the Pulte family for their efforts to help eliminate blight in Detroit.
Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley isn’t happy, either, about the move, but said that doesn’t mean Michigan’s business with Pulte is over.
“In Michigan, we do have to keep in mind that it’s a competition, that companies can be anywhere in the world. So, we have to be serious about both retention and attraction,” Calley said. “We shouldn’t just assume though, that just because an entity is going to have a presence some place else that that’s necessarily going to come at the expense of a presence in Michigan.”
Roger Penske, whose Penske Corporation is also based in Bloomfield Hills, doesn’t want to second-guess the decision, but said he feels Michigan’s business climate has a lot to offer right now.
“The goal for all of us as business leaders in this part of Michigan is we want to see people moving in. I’m sure there’s a good reason if they made that decision [to move]… but to me, we’ve got great opportunity here,” he said.
Bill Pulte, grandson of the company’s founder, has been leading an effort to demolish abandoned homes in Detroit. Without directly addressing the move, he had this to say on Twitter Thursday night:
I was born in Florida and chose to move to Michigan. Our Pulte family has been and will be committed to MI & Detroit.—
Bill Pulte (@pulte) May 31, 2013
PulteGroup has been a fixture in Detroit since its founding in 1950. It became the nation’s biggest home builder in 2009 when it purchased rival Centrex. PulteGroup also owns Del Webb.
“William J. Pulte built his first house in Detroit in 1950 and within a few years, he had a subdivision in the city and then the company grew. Today, they’re in 55 markets across the U.S.,” WWJ Business Editor Murray Feldman said.
Stay with WWJ and CBSDetroit.com as this story develops.