MorphoTrak moving Federal Way operations to California; 95 employees affected

MorphoTrak, which had its U.S. beginnings in Tacoma before moving to Federal Way in 2011, will move all Washington operations to California by the end of 2015.

Company President and CEO Celeste Thomasson presented the news to Federal Way staff members on Wednesday morning.

An undetermined number of employees will be offered positions at a MorphoTrak facility in Anaheim, California. Others will be given “transition packages, outplacement services and other assistance,” according to a company news release. The company employs 95 at the Federal Way location.

The transition has already begun, Thomasson said in a phone interview Wednesday, and likely will be complete by December 31.

The company offers several services to police and other government security agencies including the Department of Defense and the State Department. Originally based in Tacoma in the mid-1980s, the company began by providing fingerprint identification and has evolved to provide facial and iris identification as well as credential security.

The parent company services clients in 450 government agencies in over 100 countries, and has “captured more than three billion fingerprints.”

The decision to move was made in late January.

“This is very recent,” Thomasson said. “We had a board of directors meeting a week ago Friday when the decision was made.”

She emphasized that the decision should not reflect negatively on the region.

“It is certainly nothing negative about the state of Washington or Federal Way,” she said. “We have two relatively large facilities on the West Coast. Anaheim was acquired in 2009 as part of an acquisition (and) much of the core technology is based in that facility.

“Our decision was based on our particular circumstance, how we’re set up and where the most of our resources are today. There was absolutely nothing negative we could say about Federal Way or Tacoma (where) we feel the climate is conducive to businesses.”

Chris Carrell, communications and government affairs coordinator at the City of Federal Way, said Wednesday that MorphoTrak’s decision “underscores the importance of the city having developed a comprehensive economic development strategy.”

He said the announcement “was not something that we had much advance notice of. If there were anything we could do to persuade them to make a different decision, we would have done that.

“In terms of total employment, it’s not a huge part of the total employment. (But) any time you see a large number of people losing jobs it is an impact. We’re concerned about those people.”

MorphoTrak has occupied offices in a building also occupied by HomeStreet Bank, and Carrel said his office would be working either to find another tenant or act to persuade HomeStreet to expand its presence at the site.

“We’re reaching out to HomeStreet,” he said.

Thomasson noted the long history of MorphoTrak in the South Sound.

“There’s a lot of history here, a lot of feeling, and it’s part of the company’s history,” she said. “From a business perspective, we need to reshape our footprint. We have to look at it at that level.

“I’m very grateful and thank the communities of Tacoma and Federal Way and all the other organizations for their years of support,” she said. “We’re very appreciative of that, and that’s one of the reasons this was a difficult decision for us.”