Reaffirming Orange County's global leadership in medical-device technology, a new report revealed that the county has 337 biomedical firms that employ more than 33,000 workers and pump billions of dollars into the local economy.
The survey, issued Friday by the California Healthcare Institute, a trade and lobbying group, showed that more than four in five Orange County biomedical companies focus on medical devices or diagnostics research and development.
Overall, the report, which updated a previous study done in 1998, reflected steady growth in the region's health technology base.
David Gollaher, the institute's chief executive, said that the Southland has carved out the medical-device wedge within California's burgeoning biomedical pie because its industrial and intellectual roots lie in engineering.
"Each region has its resources and personality," he said. "Orange County's work force and demographics, with its large Southeast Asian population, has proven particularly suited to creating and manufacturing devices."
Local health-tech executives credited the good fit with their ability to thrive.
"I didn't realize the extent of the ideal conditions," said John Wareham, chief executive of Beckman Coulter Inc. in Fullerton. "We continue to be impressed by the depth and the diversity of the talent pool."
Beckman Coulter, with almost 2,200 workers, was ranked as Orange County's largest biomedical employer, followed by B. Braun McGaw Inc., Baxter Healthcare Corp., Allergan Inc. and Medtronic Inc.
Statewide, the health technology industry employs about 212,000 workers, more than the movie industry, according to the study, which used government wage and employment statistics as well as a survey of companies.
The Bay Area leads in biotechnology, capitalizing on the expertise of nearby academic institutions, with 645 companies employing more than 80,200 workers. Los Angeles County has about 467 health technology firms with total employment of 35,382, the report said.
Joe Nation, consulting economist for the study, said that the medical-device business boasts fewer breakout success stories, but offers more stability and predictability.
Although the biomedical industry can claim only about 8% of Orange County's high-tech jobs, health technology manufacturers have enjoyed faster growth and higher wages, said Anil Puri, dean of the College of Business and Economics at Cal State Fullerton.
According to the latest California Healthcare report, the average pay for workers in the biomedical industry in Orange County is $49,065.