In what is being hailed as an economic boon to the city, the nation's second-largest health services company on Thursday announced plans to build its $70-million corporate headquarters in Santa Monica.
City officials and business leaders applauded the move planned by National Medical Enterprises Inc. and said it may be evidence of a growing confidence in Santa Monica's business climate.
Earlier this year, Santa Monica lost its largest private employer when General Telephone Co. of California moved 2,200 employees to Thousand Oaks to consolidate its headquarters.
In response, the Santa Monica Chamber of Commerce established a 15-member task force to study the city's economic climate, and the group is expected to present its report to the chamber and City Council within a few weeks.
Martin Gottlieb, who as chamber president established the task force, said he views National Medical Enterprises' plans as a sign of "a change in attitudes toward business here."
The city's adoption of a revised land-use plan last fall has provided an element of "predictability," allowing companies to know what can be developed on a particular property, said Gottlieb, who is a senior vice president of First Federal Savings Bank of California.
"It has been difficult to attract companies of any size here because of a number of things that have gone on in recent history in Santa Monica," he said, referring to a 1981 building moratorium and other restrictions on development imposed by the city. "Hopefully, those days are behind us."
Vince Muselli, the current president of the chamber, said the medical company's announcement shows that there has been "a turnaround in the city's attitudes" toward business development. The project is "a fabulous event" that will mean jobs and tax dollars for the city, he said.
"We are fortunate that a Fortune 500 service company is looking to establish its corporate headquarters here," Mayor Christine E. Reed said in a press release. "The city will benefit greatly. . . . I believe the citizens of Santa Monica will welcome both the additional jobs and increased tax revenues resulting from the project."
She added in an interview Thursday: "This will help replace the hole left in our community when General Telephone moved its headquarters out of the city."
The company expects about 770 to work at its new offices, and its officials predicted that through expansion and attrition, 200 additional people would be hired yearly. The amount of tax revenue has not been determined, they said.
Leon Leonian, the company's senior vice president of real estate, said the company plans to build the $70-million, six-story office building on a 5.7-acre site bounded by Olympic and Cloverfield boulevards, Colorado Avenue and 26th Street.
The city's land-use plan has designated the area as a "garden office district" and as a suitable place for advanced-technology companies.
The medical company plans to use the new headquarters to consolidate offices scattered throughout West Los Angeles, according to Richard K. Eamer, chairman and chief executive officer. The company is seeking city approval to build the 350,000-square-foot office building as a first phase of development on the site. An additional 150,000 square feet may be developed in the future, Leonian said.
Christopher M. Harding, spokesman for the property owners, said the company's decision to locate in Santa Monica "will encourage quality development of the area and attract additional companies with a national presence."
Harding also is chairman of the chamber's Economic Development Task Force.
National Medical Enterprises operates 516 medical facilities internationally, including Century City Hospital, and has 69,000 employees worldwide. It is ranked 28th in the Fortune 500 listing of the nation's largest service companies and is 16th in the Los Angeles Times roster of top California companies, officials said.