During my one-quarter century sabbatical from journalism, I was side-tracked for about five years with Seattle’s economic development organization.   Among my responsibilities was spending money on research.

I got to hire some really smart people. I was mostly interested in why companies move.   The smart people found that the most reliable predictor for where a company was going to relocate was the home addresses of its chief executive.

You could throw a lot of other stuff up against the wall, but that was money bet.

This past week  Chipotle Mexican Grill announced it was moving its HQ out of Denver to the Newport Beach, CA.    Crazy?  Maybe.   I knew, however, that there could only be one reason for the move.

Chipotle’s new CEO Brian R. Niccol would sooner make the 400 headquarters employees in Denver move or quit than to move himself to the Mile High City.   And why would he?   He’s settled into a nice $4.4 million place snuggled between San Joaquin Hills and the Big Canyon Country Club. Newport Beach is a handy coastal appendage for Irvine, CA, the HQ for Niccol’s former employer, Taco Bell.

Officially, the reason Chipotle gave for closing down its Denver and New York City offices for the new Newport Beach HQ and the “Shared Services Center” in Columbus, OH is “brand revitalization.”

Niccol made no mention of food safety, which after 2015’s multiple outbreaks was supposed to be Job 1.   Instead, he babbled about  “strategic priorities” and “transforming our culture” and building “world class teams.”

People actually get paid for writing that stuff.  We’ll all be watching for how this disruption impacts food safety at Chipotle’s 2,400 outlets with 70,000 employees.    So will others.   Moves can play hell on keeping top talent.

Denver is reeling from so much in-migration from California that it’s become a political issue.  How much Californication should any city have to put up with?     So, Chipotle’s move is also some small payback.   At least for the folks who have to go, the moving vans will be cheap, and those Newport Beach wedge waves aren’t all spoiled.

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