In the early 1980s, Mark Remson, then a recent graduate of Humboldt State College, couldn't find work in his major of forestry management. Newly married, Remson and his wife Sandi turned to Silicon Valley, then brimming with jobs. He landed one with Advanced Micro Devices, a semiconductor company that was developing a production technology called computer-aided manufacturing, or CAM. He learned semiconductor assembly and fabrication and to write and manage the software.
"And that," Remson says, "is what I've been doing since."
For nearly 30 years, Remson has been running CAM systems for semiconductor plants across the globe. From Sunnyvale, he and Sandi moved to St. Louis, where daughter Laura was born; to San Antonio, where they had Brian; to Phoenix, where Kerry was born; to Austin, Texas; to Aizu-Wakamatsu, Japan. Then it was back to Austin before taking off for Singapore, New Delhi, Frisco, Texas, and, in August 2007, to Geneva, Switzerland, where Mark is a senior director at STMicroelectronics, one of the world's biggest semiconductor companies. In June, the company bailed out of its 1,000-employee plant in Carrollton, Texas, where Mark had his office, and asked him to start packing for another stint in Singapore.
The children call themselves "third-culture kids," meaning they're from everywhere and nowhere. And they, like their parents, are not alone.
Now in their early 50s, the Remsons are corporate serial movers--"Relos," they call themselves. Relos are relocated every few years for jobs with IBM, General Electric, ITT and Hewlett-Packard, Advanced Micro Devices, Intel, Microsoft, Cisco, Procter & Gamble, Coca-Cola, American Express, UPS, Marriott International and Hilton Hotels, Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer, Siemens, Royal Dutch Shell, Sony and Toyota.
At most of those companies, periodic relocation has become a well-worn track to the executive suite. Twelve of Coca-Cola's top 19 officers and 27 of Caterpillar's 31 have been moved three or more times. W. Frederick Henderson, CEO of General Motors, has moved nine. His predecessor, Rick Wagoner moved eight. To get ahead at GE, UPS, ExxonMobil and P&G, executive relocation is all but mandatory.
Between moves, Relos roost in "Relovilles" that cater largely to them--young, mid- and upscale suburbs near their companies' plants and office parks outside Dallas, Houston, Atlanta, Denver, Raleigh, Charlotte, Chicago, Washington, Indianapolis or Minneapolis. Today, Alpharetta, Ga., Huntersville, N.C., Apex, N.C., Parker, Col., and Castle Rock, Col. are among the country's top "relovilles."
Text and images: Copyright Forbes.com Any unauthorised reproducton is prohibited.
Image: Alpharetta, Ga.