Medifast relocating headquarters to Harbor East from Baltimore County

Medifast is relocating its corporate headquarters from a suburban business park tucked away in Owings Mills to one of the highest profile addresses along Baltimore’s Inner Harbor.

The weight loss and healthy living services company said Monday it plans to move 160 employees to offices in the 24-story Legg Mason Tower in Harbor East by the end of the year.

The company is keeping a manufacturing facility in Owings Mills, where an additional 60 employees work.

The new urban headquarters gives Medifast a modern space to help attract and retain talent and is “reflective of the transformation we’re going through as a company,” said Medifast CEO Daniel Chard.

“It will help kind of continue to solidify the confidence of who we are as a company and where we’re going,” he said.

Chard said Medifast began its search for a new corporate headquarters about a year ago and considered other locations, but wanted to stay in the Baltimore area to reduce the impact of a move on employees.

City officials welcomed the move.

“We are thrilled that Medifast is moving to Baltimore City,” said William H. Cole, President of the Baltimore Development Corp., in a statement.

Even Baltimore County officials were upbeat.

“We’re pleased Medifast is keeping its headquarters here in Baltimore,” said Fronda Cohen, a spokeswoman for Baltimore County.

Medifast joins a long list of companies, including T. Rowe Price Group and CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield, that have a presence in both Baltimore City and Baltimore County, she said.

“We’re an interconnected economy,” she said.

Companies are increasingly focused on their brand and executives are scrutinizing what their headquarters location says about the company’s culture, vision and priorities, said Adam Peake, executive in residence for marketing at Loyola University Maryland’s Sellinger School of Business

“With the mass commercialization of almost everything, the one thing that separates you from everyone else is your brand,” Peake said. “It’s unique to you, it has a personality and a reputation that comes with it. Everything you do, including where you decide to put your corporate headquarters, is part of your brand.”

The headquarters announcement follows the company’s move to rebrand its leading business line, now known as Optavia. Medifast expects Optavia, with its network of 13,500 healthy lifestyle coaches, to be a top driver of Medifast’s business in the years ahead.

Medifast was founded in 1980 by a doctor, who sold products directly to other physicians to use with their clients. The company evolved over the years into a franchise network of weight-loss centers with a vast menu of weight-loss foods and products. It reported revenue of $274.5 million in 2016.

The company still offers its eponymous line of products, but Optavia, rebranded from Take Shape for Life in July, now accounts for 80 percent of the company’s business, Chard said.

Optavia sells meal replacements and other products through a network of thousands of coaches, all independent contractors. Optavia uses clients’ weight-loss goals as a catalyst for a broader suite of products and coaching aimed at healthy eating and wellness.

Medifast’s new Legg Mason Tower office, with its 17th and 18th floor views of the harbor and downtown, will be an asset as the company looks to strengthen its brand among its network of Optavia coaches, Chard said.

Next year, the company plans to offer as a performance incentive a trip to its new headquarters. The space also will be able to accommodate training and larger conference meetings with coaches that Medifast has previously held at hotels or other group conference spots, he said.

The 51,000-square-foot space, connected by an exposed staircase, features an open-concept design to encourage collaborative working.

Such modern offices in city centers are increasingly common among corporations, as they compete to attract Millennial workers, said John Boyd, a principal at The Boyd Co. Inc., a corporate site consulting firm in Princeton, N.J.

“It’s not just to send a message to the marketplace — we’re a company of the future — it’s also to attract and retain the best talent,” Boyd said. “Young workers in particular enjoy working in downtown settings.”

Chard said the Harbor East location appealed to the company because the space could accommodate growth.

The 160 workers based in the office will be relocating from Owings Mills, but the company also plans to hire in the years ahead, he said.

Medifast is not receiving incentives from the state or the city, but it would qualify for the state’s Job Creation Tax Credit if it creates at least 25 new jobs, according to Maryland Department of Commerce.

The company’s stock closed Monday at $58.15 a share, up nearly 3 percent.

sarah.gantz@baltsun.com

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