PLEASANTON, CA-Two years after consolidating local operations from various locations in Alameda, Roche Molecular Systems is seeking approvals to develop a 255,000-sf headquarters building here in the Hacienda Business Park.

Company president Kathy Ordonez says she wants to fill the building with 450 employees in the next two years. Ultimately, though, it may be just an outpost for the biotech company. High prices and a tough cost of living may force the company to consider future locations outside the Valley.

Ordonez says employees are hesitant to move to the West Coast because of the region’s lack of affordable housing. When a group of New Jersey employees came out to California to investigate a possible move, says Ordonez, their shock at the cost of living was “phenomenal.” To get them here, Ordonez may have to resort to large moving bonuses.

If things go as well as planned, however, the company will need more room for growth than it’s currently developing. Many biotech firms have chosen to pull up their California stakes and relocate to New England, which is widely considered to be the world’s largest bioscience center, with fewer high-tech startups and lower commercial rents than the booming Bay Area.

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