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Digital marketing firm for car dealers moves headquarters to Tampa

Margie Manning



Photo by Alex Suprun on Unsplash

The Tampa-St. Pete area has won one and lost one in the battle for corporate headquarters.

AutoWeb Inc. (Nasdaq: AUTO) relocated its principle executive office to Tampa from suburban Los Angeles, while Taronis Technologies Inc. (Nasdaq: TRNX) moved its corporate office from Clearwater to Phoenix, Arizona.

Attracting corporate headquarters is a key focus for economic developers in Florida. Both of these companies are relatively small, with market capitalizations under $100 million, and both have operated in the red for the last several quarters.

Jared Rowe, president and CEO, AutoWeb

AutoWeb, formerly Autobytel, is a digital marketing company that helps auto dealers and manufacturers sell vehicles to consumers. Jared Rowe, president and CEO, cited financial and personnel issues as the reason for moving its executive offices.

“We’re keenly focused on restructuring our operating model to run a more efficient organization,” Rowe said Wednesday on a conference call with analysts. “On our last call we discussed the company’s efforts to migrate some of its functions from our office in California to our offices in Tampa and Guatemala City. In addition to lower real estate costs, we believe we can be more competitive in hiring top personnel in these markets.

“We plan to maintain our presence in California. However, we will have a smaller and more efficient footprint going forward. In recognition of these changes, we are announcing that our office in Tampa has been designated as the company’s principle executive office going forward.”

The company listed its new address as 400 N. Ashley Drive in downtown Tampa in a quarterly filing Tuesday with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. That’s Rivergate Tower, the iconic “Beer Can” building that’s also home to Sykes Enterprises. Florida Business Interiors and Create+Co designed the 13,000-square-foot office space to align with the company’s strategic goal of innovation in the industry, a web posting said.

AutoWeb had 199 employees as of March 5, according to its annual report. It did not say how many are in Tampa.

AutoWeb has websites that provide consumers with information and tools to help with their auto purchase decisions. Most of its revenue comes from lead fees paid by dealers after a consumer is referred to them through the AutoWeb site.

The company reported a net loss of $5 million, or 38 cents a share, on revenue of $27.1 million for the three months ended June 30. Revenue was down, but the net loss shrunk from the same quarter a year ago. The stock closed Wednesday at $3.15 a share, up about 1 percent from the previous day, and before the Q2 2019 earnings announcement.

Rowe has been focused on a turn-around strategy. He said on the call that while auto sales are slowing, he’s confident in AutoWeb’s prospects.

“We’re bullish because of our economic model. At the end of the day, we know that the retailers are going to have to figure out how to sell these cars and if we can help them do it efficiently than we think they’ll do business with us,” Rowe said.

Quiet relocation

Taronis, formerly MagneGas Applied Technology Solutions until it changed its name in January, produces and distributes MagneGas, a hydrogen-based synthetic fuel that is used as an alternative to acetylene and other natural gas derived fuels for metal cutting and other commercial uses. It also sells a system for gas production.

The company, which faces potential delisting of its stock form the Nasdaq exchange unless it can boost the price over $1 a share, quietly moved its headquarters to Phoenix in May. The only notice of the move was a change of address listed on its regulatory filings with the SEC. It plans to hold a shareholders meeting on Aug. 20 at a hotel in Phoenix.

The move came about six months after Scott Mahoney was named CEO. Mahoney had been chief financial officer at Taronis for about a year before his promotion to CEO. He previously was CFO at Phoenix Group Metals, an auto core supply and automobile recycling company based in Phoenix.

Taronis had 87 full-time employees as of Dec. 31. It maintains a presence in the Tampa-St. Pete area, but the company did not respond to emails from the St. Pete Catalyst asking how many employees remain locally. It commissioned new industrial gas fill plant facilities in July in Clearwater, according to a news release.

Taronis stock closed Wednesday at 45 cents a share.

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