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ORANGE COUNTY AT WORK: CAREERS, COMPANIES, CORPORATE LIFE : PERSONAL VISIONS : County Business, Academic Leaders Look Ahead 25 Years : Leonard Shane, Chairman and CEO, Mercury S&L

May 03, 1987|JOHN O'DELL | Assistant Business Editor

They've come to Orange County in droves in the past two decades; businesses big and small. There were almost 50,000 of them at last count.

And each year, hundreds more arrive; finding in Orange County the climate, the skilled labor pool, the living conditions, the proximity to major national and international markets and financial centers that make this area one of the prime business addresses in the world.

But every once in a while, lost in the publicity given to stories of growth and success, comes word that a business has left Orange County, or has looked the county over and decided to pass it by.

The deserters and the no-shows are barely a trickle, but they are an early sign that not all is perfect in paradise.

On the flip side of climate, life style and location are air pollution, traffic congestion, housing that many workers can't afford and an uncertainty about the adequacy of the county's water supply.

Mindful that, for all it has going for it, Orange County still has some serious problems to grapple with, The Times asked a group of county business and academic leaders to consider the future--the Orange County of 25 years from now.

None of them pretended to have all the solutions to the problems we face, but each offered a highly personal vision of where the county is going and suggestions as to what it will take to get it there.

Most of the writers were cheerfully upbeat; one offered a fairly pessimistic look at what is to come, and even the most optimistic acknowledged that we face serious problems as we work to keep what we have today from becoming legend tomorrow.

Best of all, each of the six articles that follows offers serious and well-thought suggestions--some sure to become controversial, all worthy of consideration--for beginning to come to grips with the future.

Orange County's economy will grow and diversify during the next quarter-century as residents of the county seek to protect and enhance the life style that brought them to this idyllic area.

But the county will not be exempt from the major urban problems of the world. All of the heavily populated areas will share the problems of environment, ecology, life style and quality of life.

But far more than most areas, Orange County will have an active group fighting for the protection of life style and quality of life--because it is that very set of factors that brought residents here in the first place.

Seeking either to escape from an unfavorable political environment, or from urban congestion or the cold, snow, rain and sleet of the northern portions of the country, these people picked Orange County as the best possible place.

With their numbers, they brought traffic congestion problems. But society will organize in an attempt to break up the gridlock by improving the transportation system.

Population density will increase, but improvements in residential construction techniques will protect privacy.

The adequacy of water supply is a technological problem that will be dealt with as technology advances.

It will take a while, but housing costs as a portion of individual income will decrease, thanks not only to technology but to a growing social commitment to housing and home ownership.

The politics of the county will be truly reflective of the needs of the people, and some of the narrow-based views that have prevailed at times will give way to a more cosmopolitan and probably more tolerant set of views. The population of Orange County will become far more pluralistic that it is today, with people of all persuasions, ethnic origins, religions and colors interlaced in a truly homogeneous population base.

And while Orange County's population a quarter of a century from now will be much greater than it is today, the services available and the social benefits obtainable will be beyond anyone's wildest imagination.

The Performing Arts Center will be 25 years old--and it will have been joined by every conceivable type of modern communications facility to broaden the minds and enhance the lives of the people of the county.

Services for the young and old, for the worker and servicer, all will be increased because the demand will be there, and society will rise to the demand.

A larger proportion of the population will be engaged in service industries, but other forms of industry and technology will crisscross the county, and people will be able to live closer to where they work because the work will be brought closer to where they live.

Business leaders are going to be geared to providing services worldwide and locally, manufacturing products for use near and far to meet the needs of society.

The county is going to be a wonderful and beautiful place to live and work--different from what it is today, but very high on the scale of available alternatives.

The beaches will still be beaches. Greenbelts will still exist. The air will be clean and cleaner on a progressive basis.

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