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VENTURA COUNTY NEWS | High-Tech Jobs Lure Many, With
Strongest Gains in East County

Asians Boost Their Local Numbers by 25% Since '90

April 01, 2001|FRED ALVAREZ | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Drawn by expanding high-tech and biotechnology industries, Asians flocked to Ventura County during the past decade, boosting their numbers by one-fourth and making especially strong gains in the eastern portion of the county.

Second only to Latinos in percentage of population growth, Asians now account for at least 40,831 residents and possibly as many as 51,493, according to the 2000 census. Asians now represent at least 5.4% and as much as 6.8% of the countywide population, compared with 4.9% in 1990.

Race and ethnicity for the 2000 census are reported as ranges, because for the first time people could report themselves belonging to more than one racial group.

Oxnard continues to be home to the largest Asian community, representing 7.5% of the population in the county's largest city, and growing by about 15%--1,653 residents--in the past decade.

Simi Valley Asian Population at 6.4%

But it was the more affluent east county that posted the largest increases, with the Asian population growing at least 41% in Thousand Oaks and 33% in Simi Valley. Asians now represent at least 5.9% and 6.4% of the populations in those cities, respectively.

Many of the newcomers are like 36-year-old Moorpark resident Qi Huang, who came to the county three years ago to take a job as a research scientist at biotechnology giant Amgen Inc.

A native of Shanghai, China, Huang immigrated to the U.S. in 1992 to study at the University of Wisconsin, before arriving at Amgen in 1998. He met his wife, also a research biologist from China, at Amgen and they now have a 6-month-old son, Simon.

While there are few Asians in his neighborhood, Huang said he knows the county is becoming a magnet for high-tech workers of all nationalities.

"I think a lot of professionals end up here because of the jobs," said Huang, noting that many of his Asian colleagues live in nearby Thousand Oaks and Westlake Village. "Amgen particularly is a good company; most people are pretty happy to work there."

While the county recorded an influx of Asians and other minority groups during the '90s, there were decreases in the number of American Indians and African Americans. In particular, the number of African Americans decreased 7%, losing population in four of the county's 10 cities, including the loss of nearly 1,000 residents in Oxnard.

Despite the decrease, Oxnard continues to have the most African Americans, with about 6,000. They account for about 3.5% of the city's population.

"I knew there had been decreases, but I didn't know they had been that bad," said Oxnard City Councilman Bedford Pinkard, an African American whose family settled in Oxnard in the early 1940s.

"But I don't know whether you could ever say we've really had an African American community in this county," he said. "There have always been so few of us, and we've been spread throughout the county."

Thousand Oaks Adds 2,000 Asians in '90s

While that may be true for African Americans, there appear to be growing concentrations of Asians locally.

In Thousand Oaks, for instance, more than 2,000 Asians moved into the city during the '90s.

Thousand Oaks resident Joseph Chen, a 34-year-old software engineer at General Dynamics, moved with his family from Taiwan to the east county community when he was 13. He said he remembers back then that there were few Asians in the community.

That is no longer the case, Chen said.

In fact, he said there are several other Asian families in the apartment complex where he, his wife and two children live.

"I definitely see it becoming more diverse," said Chen, a 1985 graduate of Westlake High School who went on to earn his bachelor's degree from UC Santa Barbara and his master's from UC Irvine.

"When I was in high school, there were hardly any Asians in town," he said. "Now, when we do things in the community, when we go to the supermarket or go to the movies, we see a lot of Asians around."

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