Making moves: Acquisitions help Santa Barbara’s Movegreen grow
Santa Barbara eco-friendly moving company Movegreen is working to claim more coastline, with two acquisitions that give it a foothold in Los Angeles and bridge its operations from Ventura to Orange County.
The company is also in the final days of acquiring an expanded facility in Oxnard to serve as its new flagship, as historically low lending costs and the COVID-19 crisis spur migration across Southern California.
“New markets have led to significant growth over the years,” said CEO Erik Haney. “Acquiring another business during this time required a different mindset.”
The company purchased Santa Clarita-based Watford Moving and Storage, as well as the contracts of Anaheim-based La Habra Relocations. The deals are the latest in a string of acquisitions that have spurred 20-30 percent annual revenue growth since its founding in 2008, Haney said, with revenue expected to reach $5 million this year.
June was a record-setting month for Movegreen following the close of the deals, which gave the company a foothold in Los Angeles.
“That was a real kind of strategic location for our group, more or less bridging the gap between Orange County and Ventura,” Haney said. “Santa Clarita really enables us with about a 20 mile radius of all our service and storage locations.”
Demand for moving services has been on the rise as real estate markets take advantage of interest rates sometimes less than 3 percent. COVID-19 restrictions, too, have contributed to heavy moving activity.
“Through all this we are an essential business, so we have been able to stay open the whole time,” Haney said. “We’re also seeing a lot of people through this COVID crisis. People are now learning that they can work from home, so they might not need to live in Los Angeles and can move to the Santa Barbara area, so we’re seeing a lot of that.”
Though many customers were on the fence in the early days of the pandemic, as the summer busy season gets underway, listing activity has increased substantially for Simi Valley real estate platform HomePie, said CEO Brad Rice.
“The more important factor when it comes to borrowing to buy property is the cost of the money, more than the cost of a home,” he said.
Moreover, larger spaces have become a priority for large families and home offices amid the shelter-in-place restrictions, while proximity to downtown areas and amenities is less sought after.
“When you’re locked down in your home for a period of time, you realize maybe you don’t have as much room as you thought you did,” he said.
“They need bigger space, so that takes you to suburban areas … Maybe now is the time to make a big life change because life will be changed.”
Migration has picked up across Southern California in particular, where high cost of living serves to push residents out to “Sun Belt” states like Arizona, Texas and Florida, while economic vitality and a “global gateway market” attract younger and more affluent workers from international, Northern and Midwestern markets.
Both trends “are particularly heightened in some ways in economic downturns,” said CBRE Research Director Eric Willett. “The bright spots of Southern California will remain strong attractors,” including the biomedical, military, technology and financial services industries, among others.
Movegreen’s real estate deal in Oxnard provides 33,000 square feet of warehouse space where it plans to relocate its Ventura County storage business. The location includes around 20,000 square feet of bulk storage for portable, stackable units, while another 12,000 square feet of office space could be built out for self-storage.
“The building lends itself to a great way to offer a variety of storage,” Haney said. “It gives us some more roots in the Ventura County region.”
The deals brought on around 25 new employees, including key new staff, Haney said, bringing the company to around 55. By the end of 2020, he expects to add eight to 10 new positions.
With a few acquisitions under its belt, the company has experience integrating new team members into the organization.
“Getting people integrated into the system, into our tech system and processes, can be challenging, but once people buy into it, they see the efficiency of it,” he said, including the company’s culture and tech platforms. “Now doing it three or four times, it gets easier every time, and we learn from each one.”
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