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Camarillo Reaps High-Tech Harvest


Jim Jevens' job is to attract high-tech businesses to Camarillo and keep them there. By his own description, that's pretty easy work.

"We really don't have to run up the flag and light off the fireworks," the city's economic development consultant said.

That's because Camarillo has already established itself as a technology mecca. An increasingly popular spot on the Ventura Freeway technology corridor stretching from Calabasas to Camarillo, or by some accounts, Chatsworth to Santa Barbara, the city houses about 500 high-tech companies and adds about 30 to its rolls each year, Jevens said.

Camarillo has more such firms than any other city in the county, and only Thousand Oaks has more employees, according to a study released in July by larta, formerly the Los Angeles Regional Technology Alliance.

The city's high-tech umbrella covers companies specializing in telecommunications, film production equipment, electronics ranging from semiconductors to fiber optics and computer hardware, software and peripherals. The city also has a couple of biotechnology companies, although none on the scale of Amgen Inc. in Thousand Oaks.

"You'd be surprised the number of parts made here that go up in shuttles, satellites and rockets," Jevens said.

The high-tech firms range from tiny start-ups with seven or eight employees to Technicolor Video Services, the city's largest employer with 1,500 people in its video cassette and compact disc reproduction center, Jevens said. The oldest is probably data cartridge manufacturer Imation Corp., which opened a couple of months before the city incorporated in 1964 and is still growing.

Many of Camarillo's companies are hot tickets. Six of the 10 Ventura County companies on Deloitte & Touche's 2000 Los Angeles Technology Fast 50 list--covering Los Angeles, Ventura, Santa Barbara, San Bernardino and Riverside counties--are located here. They include Vitesse Semiconductor Corp., and BioSource International Inc., which also made the 1999 list of fastest-growing technology companies. And another of this year's finalists, semiconductor-maker Semtech Corp. of Newbury Park, is moving to Camarillo.


The city's founders grasped high-tech's importance early. Given the area's agricultural heritage, they decided they wanted the area to grow while maintaining its rural atmosphere and quality of life, Jevens said. By the 1970s, the city was already home to several contractors for the Navy bases at Point Mugu and Port Hueneme, and officials decided to build on that technological foundation.

"They are clean, nonpolluting and generally recession-proof," Jevens said. The high-tech companies in Camarillo tend to create small pieces of equipment vital to larger components produced by huge firms, he explained, so as long as the big companies do well, the city's companies generally will too.

Jevens recruits new companies by advertising in business relocation magazines. In a recent ad in "Plants Sites & Parks," the city billed itself as Southern California's "Little Silicon Valley" and ran a farm-label-inspired illustration of a computer-toting farmer overlooking a field planted in the pattern of a circuit board.

Camarillo has never offered incentives to these companies, Jevens said, but he works with them to ease their way through the process. He also helps them take advantage of incentives offered by state agencies.

Meanwhile, other factors have helped spur the city's high-tech growth. Employees of the original Navy contractors started new companies, while other firms moved to town to take advantage of the high-technology talent and resources here.

Many companies at the southern edge of the technology corridor are now finding that Camarillo has more industrial land and lower prices, Jevens said. In addition to Semtech, Rockwell Science Center of Thousand Oaks just announced plans to move its imaging sensors business into a 65,000-square-foot Camarillo facility in fall 2001.

Voice Print International Inc. co-owner Gene Silvers moved his company from rented space in Westlake Village to its own bigger building in Camarillo three months ago. Silvers, whose company makes digital phone recording systems for clients such as the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, said it costs far less than he would have paid in Westlake and he can expand if necessary.

Silvers also likes that his new neighborhood in Camarillo is filled with technology companies, creating a huge pool of possible executive help. If an employee of electronic manufacturer Power-One Inc., a Fast 50 company across the street from Voice Print, decides he'd like to work somewhere else, he might walk over to Voice Print, Silvers said.

"As we said in New York, Macy's did well because Gimbel's was across the street," the New York native said.


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