In L.A., we're lucky to have several torrid territories, from Silicon Beach to the 101 Corridor, with Hollywood, Burbank and Pasadena simmering on the not-so-back burner. A recent report released by the UC Santa Barbara Economic Forecast Project documents the growth of east Ventura County, the area from Calabasas through Thousand Oaks and up to Simi Valley. One reason for that area's sizzling rate of development: proximity to Los Angeles.
You might have heard that distance is dead, and as far as telecommunications pricing goes, that may be true. After all, with high-speed communication, people can work together from different locations. Nevertheless, geography still matters. Where your company is located can have a lot to do with how well it will fare in a tech-driven market.
But there's more. The factors that attract high-tech businesses have come under increasing scrutiny, as the astonishing success of Silicon Valley became clear. This cluster of cutting-edge companies, with its high concentration of brilliant nerds, is ground zero for innovation, the pinnacle of real estate prices, and the envy of the world. And it certainly has its imitators: Silicon Range in Colorado, Silicon Fen in the UK, and Israel's Silicon Wadi.
One surprise came in the early 1980s, when MCI Worldcom Inc. went looking for a corporate headquarters. The relocation team looked at what were the standard features of the time local industrial policies, tax considerations, workforce characteristics, transportation facilities, labor and housing costs, recreational amenities, and so forth. However, recognizing the growing importance of digital technology to its telecom operations, MCI also studied Silicon Valley and the N4 corridor in Massachusetts.
The company's conclusion was that there is another factor that tech businesses better consider access to universities with research facilities, faculty and grad students in the right disciplines. Who knew? But MCI found that Silicon Valley came about because of nearby Stanford and Berkeley. Similarly, the tech-heavy stretch of the N4 was joined at the highway to MIT. Based on this new understanding of the role of publicly funded research, the University of Texas shifted the balance to Austin, making it the winner of the competition for MCI's headquarters site.
From UCLA and USC to Caltech, UC Irvine, UC Santa Barbara, and UC San Diego, the Southern California region has an extraordinary first string of academic players. But now there's plenty of competition.
As communities discovered the benefits of high-tech industry high wages, relatively low use of natural resources and pollution they began to salivate at the prospect of attracting them. One of the savviest honey dispensers was established by the state of Georgia. The state's Advanced Technology Development Center sweetened the pot with plenty of dollars, incubating startups and linking them to Atlanta's Georgia Institute of Technology.
Today, almost every state and many cities have some kind of agency to lure tech startups. Just a few examples include Hawaii's High Tech Development Corp., the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center, and the Los Angeles Regional Technology Alliance (LARTA), headed by Rohit Shukla.
However, the UC Santa Barbara study points to still another factor at work: the anchor company. In a mall, the anchor positions are located at either end. They are typically large department stores that can be counted on to generate high levels of foot traffic.
In a community, the anchor company draws other companies to the area. An industry has sprung up around Microsoft Corp. in Seattle. Hillsboro, Ore., a suburb of Portland, is the company town for Intel Corp.. In east Ventura County, the 101 Corridor economy increased 14 percent, making it one of California's fastest growing locations. Like these other enterprise-driven neighborhoods, the study found that the magnet is Thousand Oaks-based biotech giant Amgen Inc.
It's hard enough to identify a company that will grow for your stock market portfolio, let alone know which startup might turn into the next Intel, Microsoft, or Amgen and turn your community into a high-paying hot bed of innovation.
Homestore.com Makes Good
Homestore.com Inc., based in Thousand Oaks, has found a home on America Online's House & Home Channel with a five-year content and e-commerce deal. The channel covers everything about the home, from buying and selling and all in between, such as security, remodeling, furnishing, decorating and gardening. Homestore.com will contribute its 1.4 million home listings from its real estate partners, a "how-to" library, a directory of companies offering local services to homeowners, moving and relocation tools, and gardening news to 14 U.S. regions. The partnership will launch with a six-week online promotion, "The $100,000 Celebrity Home Makeover" sweepstakes. The big winner will get 100,000 to remodel or redecorate their old home sweet home.
So Many Meetings, So Little Time
Wireless telecommunication is in the air, and in the next week there are two events that look interesting. On Oct. 26, the Hollywood Forum, in association with LARTA, will hold a meeting entitled "Unwiring Hollywood: How Wireless Devices, Telecom, and Satellites will Revolutionize the Entertainment Industry." The event will take place at the Santa Monica Doubletree, 1701 Fourth St., from 6 to 10 p.m. Speakers will be Rob Tercek (PacketVideo), Jim Griffin (Cherry Lane Digital), Tim Caruthers (iBeam) and execs from Qualcomm Inc., Nokia Corp. and studios will discuss their wireless initiatives. The cost ($60) covers dinner and panel discussion, plus reduced-rate parking. Call (310) 815-3884, or see for more information.
Then there's the Venice Interactive Community (VIC) Conference on Oct. 25 from 6:00 to 9:30 p.m. at the Museum of Television & Radio, 465 N. Beverly Drive, Beverly Hills. Richard Elliot, CTO of Tera-Point Wireless, the new division of eSat Inc., will speak about the company's plans for fixed wireless service. It's a global company, and Los Angeles will be one of the areas where it offers high-speed wireless communications. Cost is $20 for non-members, free to members. RSVP by Oct. 24 to www.thevic.org.
Contributing columnist Joan Van Tassel has covered technology since 1990. Her book, "Digital TV Over Broadband: Harvesting Bandwidth," will be published in December by Focal Press.
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