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Location California: Taking Charge of Energy, Manufacturing, Higher Education, and Entrepreneurship

California charts its destiny by acting like its own nation.

Apr/May 08
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Even more examples of California taking its future into its own hands:

• The state is boosting educational programs in an effort to bring 20,000 new engineers into the work force.
• California has embarked on its own plan for bringing health coverage to the uninsured and underinsured, ultimately hoping to benefit business' bottom lines and the state's quality of life.
• California is investing in job creation through programs aimed at newly discharged veterans, as well as nurse training. The state also recently announced $10.5 million to boost training and job services for residential construction workers and others whose jobs have been affected by the slump in the housing market.

Victories and Successes

"People have always written off manufacturing as a thing of the past," says McGowan. Yet the California manufacturing sector continues to record successes and expansions, he says. Here are some examples from recent months:

• USG Corp. picked Stockton for a new environmentally advanced manufacturing plant that will use recycled materials to create drywall. The company was looking at sites in Oregon and Nevada, but chose the Stockton location, citing the state's healthy business climate and the site's proximity to Bay Area ports. The $220 million project is to open in 2010 and create up to 170 well-paying jobs along the world's largest drywall manufacturing line.
• Kyoho Manufacturing California is investing $62 million into a plant that will produce door frames for Toyota's Matrix and Pontiac's Vibe, both built in Fremont. The three-phase project in Stockton could employ as many as 1,200 people by 2013.
• The Cargill Beef packing plant in Fresno announced plans to add about 200 jobs as part of a $105 million investment.
• United States Steel, SeAH Steel, and POSCO Steel picked the California community of Pittsburg for a joint-venture manufacturing plant called United Spiral Pipe. The $93 million plant is to produce large-diameter steel pipes and employ as many as 175.

It's no surprise that R&D is big business in California. Among the big news in recent months, Genentech announced plans to create some 160 jobs by building a research laboratory in Dixon. The 140,000-square-foot building will house biotechnology technicians and research scientists.

"We're also continuing to grow our leadership in clean air technology, green technology and nanotechnology," says McGowan. Aerospace, too - among other things, the state has a significant role in the creation of the next generation space vehicle and new Mars rover, he says. Though the state's not as known for space launches or Mission Control, the fact is that, according to McGowan, "NASA spends more in California than in any other state."

Innovative business developments take many forms in California, some with spectacular potential. For example, the University of California-Irvine's California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology is helping Unimodal Systems develop control software for its proposed SkyTran personalized rapid transit system. The system would move commuters in two-person, "Jetsons"-like pods traveling at 100 miles per hour on elevated magnetic field tracks. Not far away is Blizzard Entertainment, the software designer behind the wildly popular "World of Warcraft" game, which helped propel the California electronic gaming sector into a multibillion-dollar industry.

Economic Assets

What's California's greatest economic asset? State officials often place higher education at the top of the list, including the 10 prestigious locations of the University of California and the 23-campus California State University system. Some 250 colleges and universities across the state currently enroll about 2.5 million people, representing some of the nation's best and brightest students. Many come to California to learn and are so impressed with the quality of life that they never leave. That helps to explain the fact that the state has the nation's highest concentration of scientists, engineers, mathematicians, and skilled technicians.

"We have a million high-tech workers, more than any other state," says McGowan. In fact, that's one-sixth of the entire nation's high-tech payroll, all in one place. More than two-fifths of the nation's biotech workers can be found in California, along with a third of the biotech company headquarters. The state tops the employment list in such areas as computer systems design, telecommunications, R&D laboratories, and engineering services.

Adding to the list of assets is the availability of funding for both R&D and entrepreneurial ventures. California receives more venture capital than any other state, helping boost the innovation sector. The biggest recipients include the software, biotechnology, telecommunications, medical device, and semiconductor industries.

Manufacturing is alive and well, too, despite the common reports of the sector's demise. Since 1977, California has been the nation's top manufacturing state. Of course, a lot of that is high-tech manufacturing, which accounts for nearly half of the state's value-added manufacturing workers.