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Glendale Councilman Offers Futuristic Plan : Vision of High-Tech Industry Meets Doubters

March 20, 1986|MARTHA L. WILLMAN | Times Staff Writer

Rising land values and an emphasis on office and commercial development have steadily pushed manufacturing firms out of Glendale. Councilman Carl Raggio would like to change that.

He envisions building an industrial "technology park," using state-of-the-art techniques, to give manufacturing a strong base in Glendale.

Raggio, a veteran space-age engineer with Caltech's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Canada Flintridge, acknowledges that his plan is futuristic. Some others dismiss it as a pipe dream.

The councilman's goal is to form a consortium of city government, business, schools, universities and industry to build and share a sophisticated computer network center in Glendale. Unlike other technology parks that cater mainly to research and development firms, Raggio's would apply technological advances to conventional uses in the industrial park or elsewhere in town.

Manufacturers could use technology developed at the park to operate tooling, machining and molding equipment, to process foods or assemble equipment. The park could serve as a place to teach students and workers the skills needed in a technologically advanced society. Financial and insurance institutions, as well as retail and commercial businesses, could benefit by using the park for computer processing centers.

Such a broad-based plan has not been developed anywhere else, Raggio said, and he wants Glendale to be the first to do so.

Glendale has never done much to build a strong industrial base, city officials say. Instead, many manufacturing firms in recent years have been pushed out of the city, largely because of high land prices.

Manufacturing in Glendale peaked in the early 1960s when more than 14,000 workers reported to local factories, according to U.S. Commerce Department statistics. But, although industrial employment continued to soar over the nation until 1980, it remained static in Glendale, with fewer than 13,000 such workers counted there in the 1982 census of manufacturers.

And the numbers are steadily declining, said Tony Maniscalchi, chairman of the Glendale Chamber of Commerce Industrial Committee. "The trend during the last seven years has been a rapid decline in industrial users and a rapid increase in non-industrial users," said Maniscalchi, a commercial and industrial real estate broker. "As a whole, Glendale really doesn't have an industrial base."

Raggio won his first term on the City Council last year after a campaign that promised, among other things, to bring high-tech industry to the city. He said he is now prepared to ask the council to authorize a study of the needs of industry and its potential for growth.

"I've always felt that a community needs to be balanced in order to grow properly and to have the kinds of attributes and facilities that people want," Raggio said. He defines "balance" as "a fairly good cross-section of places where people work--commercial, retail and industry." While the commercial and retail sectors have thrived under Glendale's redevelopment project, industry has been ignored. "There is no nucleus of industry," Raggio said. "It is scattered. There is no one really doing anything as a group."

Need Questioned

Some industrialists, though, say Raggio's idea is far-fetched and that the city lacks reasonably priced land for it. John C. Schwarz, a plastics manufacturer who, for economic reasons, moved his plant to Sante Fe Springs last November after 50 years in Glendale, said there is little need for high-technology applications among local industries. He said technology "has not advanced to the point that everybody says it has. The electronic wonder has been oversold."

Schwarz and other industrialists also say that businesses now in Glendale have no need for such high technology.

"There's only a small nucleus of corporations or business entities that today can put together a high-tech system, then take advantage of it," Schwarz said. "It takes a JPL or Lockheed to put that kind of effort together. Schwarz Bros. Plastics is one company that doesn't need that."

Others, however, believe Raggio's ideas have merit. Jamie Maddox, director of promotions for Johnston Foods of Glendale, said, "High-tech is the present and the future. We had the Industrial Revolution; this is the communications revolution. Technological advances are going to be incredibly rapid."

Raggio said he believes such new technology can be applied to any business or industry. He helped design the first U.S. satellite, Explorer I, launched in 1958. And, as manager of design engineering at JPL, he introduced a sophisticated computer-aided design and manufacturing system five years ago. "People in my business are used to hearing, 'It can't be done.' Then we go out and do it," he said.

Glimpse Into Future

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