Justin Rich

LOS ANGELES — KNN Public Finance is opening a Southern California office with two new hires.

Initially, the Irvine office will be staffed by recently hired vice presidents Blake Boehm and Justin Rich, who specialize in public finance for K-12 and community college districts.

"Collectively, Blake and Justin bring nearly 20 years of experience serving education districts and are well-known for providing high-quality service to clients throughout the state," said David Leifer, KNN senior managing director.

While Oakland-based financial advisory firm KNN already has clients in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino and San Diego counties, it expects the new office to help accelerate the firm's growth, Leifer said.

"KNN has a very strong resume of K-12 clients and it is an important part of our firm's practice," Leifer said. "That in combination with meeting Justin and Blake, and seeing they are a good fit, led to us moving ahead on opening a new office."

Founded in 1982, the Oakland-based KNN, a division of Zions First National Bank, now has 16 financial advisors and four administrative staff members providing services to government agencies and non-profit organizations.

Although the bulk of its financial advisory business is in California, KNN ranked in the top 10 among financial advisory firms nationally for long-term debt, negotiated and competitive transactions in 2013, according to Thomson Reuters.

"The amount of par puts us in the top nationally even though all of our deals in 2013 were in California," Leifer said. "We have done business in the past in Washington and Oregon and we are looking to expand there."

Last year, KNN ranked No. 7 nationally for advising on $5.3 billion in long-term debt issuances, No. 8 in combined long and short-term debt issuances, No. 9 on negotiated transactions and No. 6 for competitively bid transactions, according to Thomson Reuters.

Boehm and Rich both spent the past nine years working as financial advisors for Irvine-based Dolinka Group where they developed strategies for long-term capital financing for school facilities at the K-12 and community college level.

"KNN is very well-respected firm in this industry," Boehm said. "I'm very excited to work with them to help serve K-12 and community college district clients - and to help them grow their business in the market."

Rich said he was attracted by the firm's high-caliber people and mentoring environment.

Aging school buildings in California, modernization needs and the challenges of creating learning environments that meet the needs of the 21st century are expected to provide growth potential for KNN in this sector, Rich said.

Boehm received a bachelor's degree in business administration from San Diego State University. Rich received a bachelor's degree in political science from UCLA and a master's in public administration from California State University, Long Beach.

"Blake and Justin share KNN's commitment to client-focused service, providing objective and responsible advice to our public agency clients," Managing Director Dave Olson, who heads KNN Public Finance's education services, said in a statement.

Leifer doesn't have a target number or timeline to grow the office beyond the new hires. The firm intends to grow organically as they find good people who fit the firm's corporate culture, he said.

"We have flexibility to expand the office space," Leifer said. "My interest is in expanding with the addition of more people in the non-K-12 sector."

Unlike many FA firms in California, KNN doesn't just focus on education or government clients, but covers both sectors and works with non-profits as well.

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