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Toastmasters explains move from California to Douglas County

Price, workforce needs drive nonprofit's relocation

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When Toastmasters International announced in October the nonprofit planned to relocate its global headquarters from California to unincorporated northern Douglas County, it marked the culmination of a years-long search for a more affordable location with a talent-rich workforce, organization heads said.

Toastmasters International teaches public speaking and leadership skills to its more than 352,000 members in 16,400 clubs in 141 countries. This month, Toastmasters scheduled a ribbon cutting signaling its transition to the new office, at 9127 South Jamaica St., near I-25 and E-470, which it purchased for $19.5 million. Toastmasters will occupy approximately one-third of the 106,575-square-foot-building and is seeking tenants for the vacant office space.

With the move comes new jobs but also new residents to the Denver metro area.

The first round of employees began working from the new location in January, CEO Daniel Rex said. They hope the rest can follow by April. About 60 employees are relocating with the organization, and they'll hire an additional 65 to 85 people within the first year of operation in Colorado for a variety of positions — from entry-level to senior leadership.

“As the company continues to grow, I don't know what the limit is or how long that will take, but we'll continue to hire. I've been very impressed with the workforce here,” Rex said.

In August 2017, Toastmasters International reported is 23rd consecutive year of membership growth. Membership rose by just over 2 percent in the 2016-2017 program year and saw the creation of 1,539 clubs, although there was also an increase in the number of suspended clubs, with 964 being suspended in 2017.

Lynn Myers, the vice president of economic development with Denver South Economic Development Partnership, said attracting a headquarters to the south metro area is always positive news to the organization.

"We are very pleased to have them in the area. Certainly they are a quality employer and they bring an international flavor," Myers said.

The prospects of hiring from Denver's “highly educated workforce” was alluring to Toastmasters during its location search, Rex said, and based on the region's growth they trusted the pool of qualified candidates would remain strong.

“Millennials are attracted to the Denver metro area and are moving here with or without jobs,” Rex said.

Toastmasters International left its home in California, where the nonprofit has operated for 93 years, partially because they outgrew their headquarters of 26 years in Rancho Santa Margarita, Rex said, but also in search of a more affordable location.

International President Balraj Arunasalam, who hails from Sri Lanka, said Toastmasters hasn't forgotten its Golden State roots.

“Our legacy will remain that we started in California,” he said, adding that the need for a strong workforce and cost-effective location spurred the move.

Through its nationwide search, the nonprofit considered headquartering in locations on both the West and East coasts.

“We were looking for a place that was conducive to our way of working that was frankly priced better than the coasts are priced,” Rex said. “The Denver area, even though it's not the least expensive, is priced better than many of the coastal areas are and some of the inland parts.”

The cheaper cost of living benefits Toastmasters employees as well, Myers said.

"The cost of doing business here and the cost of housing and supporting their workers here is much more affordable than Southern California," Myers said.

And for an organization with members and leadership from across the globe, Denver's freeway system, light rail and nearby airports served as another attraction.

Rex said he sees their relocation as a benefit for the Denver metro area.

“We are bringing a globally recognized, large not-for-profit into the south Denver area,” he said. “From what I can see, we'll be the biggest, with the biggest brand recognition and the largest global reach.

The organization will showcase that global reach come 2019 when it holds its Global Conference in Denver, an event Rex said brings in 2,000 people from around the world. As of now they're planning to hold the conference near Denver International Airport.

For now, Rex said he's grateful the community and county have welcomed Toastmasters and its employees.

“We are 100 percent confident,” Rex said of the new headquarters, “that we made the right choice.”

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