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Heard on the Beat / ECONOMY

Eyes Are on More Than Just Top Dollar

April 22, 1998|PATRICE APODACA

Demand for high-priced executive talent is surging along with the booming Orange County economy.

In the past few years, businesses have turned from an era of survival through cost-containment to one of prospering through growth. To achieve that growth, they are trying to lure top executives from all over the country, said Elliot Gordon, managing partner of the Irvine office of the executive search firm Korn/Ferry International.

"Everyone is looking at 'How can we do better, how can we grow, how can we expand our sales,' " he said. As a result, "the number of requests for executives is the strongest it's ever been."

Overall pay is rising, in terms of base salary and other compensation such as stock options, Gordon said. But he stressed that upper-level executives are looking for more than just top dollar.

"The executives we're looking at are individuals who have been successful in their careers," he said. "What I'm seeing is that, to get someone to move to a new position, it's not just compensation. They're going to move for a greater professional challenge or an opportunity to move up quickly, or if the company is growing quickly."

It helps that Orange County has a lot going for it in the recruiting game. The recession is long gone, and the municipal bankruptcy is a distant memory in most people's minds, he said. That allows businesses competing for experienced executives to focus on the county's many strengths, not the least of which is its pleasant climate. One local recruiting technique is to bring job candidates from other parts of the country here during the depths of winter. That, Gordon said, makes it tough to turn down a good offer.

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Patrice Apodaca covers economic issues for The Times. She can be reached at (714) 966-5979 and at patrice.apodaca@latimes.com

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