Gov. Gray Davis visited the thriving Ventura Freeway technology corridor Friday for the dedication of a new, multimillion-dollar headquarters for Thousand Oaks-based biotech giant Amgen Corp.
The 266,000-square-foot building -- designed by the same architectural firm that made over the Louvre in Paris -- stands as testimony to the high-tech industry's success along a 20-mile stretch of the Ventura Freeway from Calabasas to Camarillo.
In the wake of the dot-com bust, biotechnology and health care are among the few industries that have continued to expand and whose long-term prospects appear relatively promising, economic analysts say.
"An extraordinary company deserves an extraordinary facility, and Amgen has been an extraordinary company for 21 years," Davis said to hundreds of employees gathered in a courtyard in front of the metal-and-glass headquarters building.
The governor said Amgen represents the entrepreneurial spirit of California business.
"I am not going to discover the cure for cancer or Alzheimer's disease, but I want to create a hospitable environment for world-class scientists and engineers that are going to find a cure," Davis said. "The future is unlimited. There's no telling how far this industry will go."
Although the governor's Thousand Oaks stop was not billed as an official campaign appearance, Davis is traveling the state in the final weeks before the Nov. 5 general election, in which he faces Republican Bill Simon. Amgen contributed $65,000 to Davis' campaign, according to the secretary of state's office.
Davis was flanked by venture capitalist William K. Bowes, who founded Amgen 21 years ago in the Newbury Park section of Thousand Oaks. The new headquarters bears his name, along with a life-size bronze statue of the 6-foot-3 Bowes in front of the building.
"It wasn't too long ago that this entire company consisted of a small building," the bespectacled, white-haired Bowes said. Then, referring to the headquarters site, he said, "This was a field, brown in the winter and brown in the summer."
Bowes and two other Northern California investors started the company with about $200,000 -- and a molecular biologist from UCLA. They formed Applied Molecular Genetics -- almost immediately shortened to Amgen -- and set about getting the business off the ground.
Eventually, they took the company public, hired 185 workers and began marketing Amgen technology to major firms such as Texaco and Upjohn. Now, Amgen is the largest private employer in the county with 7,650 employees working out of more than 40 structures on the sprawling campus off Rancho Conejo Boulevard.
It serves as a centerpiece organization for the 101 technology corridor that includes Baxter International of Thousand Oaks, which produces blood therapy products; Rockwell Scientific Co. of Thousand Oaks, a research and development firm; BioSource of Camarillo, which conducts biomedical research; NetZero of Westlake Village, an Internet service provider; and Xylan Corp. of Calabasas, which makes switching systems for computer networks.
Scientists at Amgen have developed a number of products to treat rheumatoid arthritis and to boost red blood cells. One of its leading drugs, Neulasta, is used to prevent infection in chemotherapy patients by boosting their white blood cell count.
The 101 technology corridor is among several pockets of high-technology clusters that have sprung up in the Southland, including Multimedia Gulch in Glendale, Burbank, Universal City and North Hollywood; Internet Valley in Pasadena, Altadena, Monrovia and Alhambra; and Biotech Beach in San Diego.