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Chevron may build regional HQ at campus in Moon

| Wednesday, May 1, 2013, 3:24 p.m.

Chevron Corp. is acquiring two adjoining parcels of land in Moon that it may use for a regional headquarters campus — an apparent sign that the gas industry boom is prompting the energy giant to plant more permanent roots in the region.

The news marks a dramatic turn for California-based Chevron, long known locally for its role in Pittsburgh's 1980s decline. It absorbed Gulf Oil Corp. in a $13 billion deal that moved Gulf's headquarters from the city in 1984.

Chevron's resurgence in Western Pennsylvania began in 2010 when it agreed to buy Moon-based Atlas Energy Inc. for $4.3 billion.

Chevron did not disclose the price it is paying for the 61 acres along Market Place Boulevard, the site of a soon-closing Super Kmart and the vacant parcel behind it.

The company is considering the site for a campus that would consolidate its regional headquarters from two rental buildings in Moon, but a final decision has not been made.

“We are committed to this community, to contributing to a vibrant regional economy, and to producing energy supplies that will fuel this region and our nation for generations,” Bruce Niemeyer, vice president of Chevron's Appalachian/Michigan Business Unit, said in a statement.

The company has 400 workers in Moon, split between the two buildings where it rents space. Chevron spokesman Trip Oliver declined to say whether the company is planning to increase the size of its headquarters workforce but did note the company had doubled its Pennsylvania employees to 650 in two years.

Oliver cautioned against interpreting the land deal as signaling “our future plans” but said the company expects to be “here for decades.” He said Chevron won't decide what to build on the land until later this year and will make a detailed announcement after that.

However, Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald said he views the move as a sign the company will add employees and believes the announcement will lead to more growth. When a multi-national giant like Chevron makes a decision like this, all the contractors that work with the industry will see it as a sign that they can invest and grow in the region, too, said R.T. Walker, a real estate consultant.

“For them to make a commitment here — well, that isn't temporary space here, they're laying down roots here,” said Walker, president of the oil and gas division at Beynon & Company Inc., Downtown. “This is going to lay to rest anybody's question on whether this is short-term or long-term. This is going to be multigenerational.”

Chevron holds 714,000 acres in the Marcellus shale, seventh most, ahead of Exxon Mobil and Downtown-based EQT Corp., according to data from the research and consulting firm Wood Mackenzie. It has 334 shale wells in Pennsylvania, sixth most, and a little less than half of the state's leading shale driller, Chesapeake Energy Corp., according to state records online.

The company looked at land all over the Greater Pittsburgh region, Oliver said. The spot it settled on, just off Montour Run Road and the Parkway West, will give it great visibility, Walker said. It is right next to the headquarters of FedEx Ground and GlaxoSmithKline, about 10 minutes east of Pittsburgh International Airport.

The two parcels had a combined value of about $21.5 million in the county's 2013 property assessment, online records show. The property owners could not be reached for comment.

Kmart officials said on Tuesday they plan to close the store there in mid-July, as part of a series of actions the company is taking to reduce ongoing expenses, adjust its asset base and accelerate the transformation of its business model.

Chevron wanted to be near the airport because of its worldwide reach, Fitzgerald said. It also chose a spot near the Interstate 79 corridor, popular for drilling companies from Cecil to Cranberry because of the easy access to some of the most profitable drill sites in the state north and southwest of Pittsburgh. Royal Dutch Shell plc, which has been contemplating whether to consolidate several offices into one headquarters, could be the next to decide, Fitzgerald said.

Chevron's decision “shows Allegheny County and Western Pennsylvania are becoming a mecca of energy companies,” he said. “That critical mass attracts more and more companies.”

Trib Total Media staff writers Sam Spatter and Bobby Cherry contributed to this report. Timothy Puko is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7991 or tpuko@tribweb.com.

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