State Focus: Southern California – Where The Leading Edge Lives

By Business Facilities Editorial Staff
From the January/February 2015 issue

The GlobalHawk RQ4, the U.S. Air Force’s latest stealthy unmanned aircraft (pictured above), was produced in So Cal’s Leading Edge, home to the most advanced aerospace manufacturers. (Photo: Greater Antelope Valley Economic Alliance.)

A vast land of opportunity lies just an hour outside of Los Angeles. Known as Southern California’s Leading Edge, this group of high desert communities has been famed for its aerospace prowess for nearly 70 years. Supersonic travel, the Space Shuttle and advanced stealth technology were all born here. NASA astronauts train here and now commercial space flight is being pioneered here.

Today, So Cal’s Leading Edge is also showing the world that it has the right stuff when it comes to developing advanced materials, building clean transport systems, crafting high-precision parts, generating fresh, green energy and adding value to innovative agricultural products. Entrepreneurial endeavors and Fortune 500 firms have chosen to locate within the region for good reason.

With easy access to key transport corridors, good rail service and three of America’s top seaports within a seventy-mile radius, it’s no surprise that we’ve found favor with many distribution and logistics firms. Global traders enjoy the tax and tariff advantages of our Foreign Trade Zone. We also think you’ll find our air quality district, separate and distinct from LA’s stringent South Coast AQMD, to be refreshing.

Savvy investors such as Richard Branson, Warren Buffet, Bill Gross and Elon Musk have all established enterprises in the region. So have corporate giants including Boeing, BYD, GE, Hyundai-Kia, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Rio Tinto.


Strong industry clusters exist around aerospace, manufacturing, transportation, renewable energy as well as logistics and warehousing. Agriculture and mining, the area’s first industries, remain key to the economy. TV and films frequently use the region as their backlot.

The Leading Edge may be separate from LA, yet it is still close-at-hand. The region places some 21 million Southern Californians at your doorstep; the Western U.S. is within a day’s drive; and new Pacific Rim opportunities are ready to explore.

The region’s enterprising group of business-savvy cities understands how to help companies succeed. They’ve cut red tape and work to fast-track projects so you can get operational quickly, with less worry and substantially lower cost. As a matter of fact, business facilities costs along the Leading Edge are about 65 percent less than those found in Los Angeles or San Francisco. Labor costs are also lower, yet this workforce is highly trained, very motivated and anxious to work for local firms.

The region’s two largest cities, Lancaster and Palmdale, offer a combined population of more than 300,000 and provide all the modern conveniences you’d expect from a metro area: great shopping, dining and entertainment, along with a solid school system with a strong focus on STEM. Higher education opportunities include two-year community colleges, four-year state and private universities as well as strong graduate programs in education, engineering and medicine. Healthcare facilities are second to none.

The region’s three smaller municipalities, Tehachapi, Ridgecrest and California City, all offer a high quality of life, many family-oriented activities and ready access for both commerce and industry.

The region straddles northern Los Angeles County and eastern Kern County and has a total population of nearly a half million people. The area enjoys clean air, 300 days of sunshine each year and four-distinct seasons. In winter, the hillsides are sprinkled with snow. Spring brings a colorful carpet of wildflowers to the valley floor. Summers are warm and dry, while fall often has a little nip, helping leaves turn scarlet and gold.

Activities range from rugged to restful. Off-road riders flock to the area for miles of OHV trails. Speed racers will find a number of circuit tracks including the famous Willow Springs raceway. Outdoor enthusiasts can explore miles of picturesque, tranquil hiking and bike trails, while adventurers are challenged by rock climbing opportunities at all skill levels.

Sports fans will find great teams and facilities for all forms of organized sports. World-class soccer and softball facilities host many regional and national events, while a minor league baseball team provides opportunities to discover tomorrow’s big league players alongside the scouts. Family activities are abundant with local pools, playgrounds and parks to enjoy. Both beaches and ski resorts are a short drive away, while many Southern California attractions are easy day or weekend trips.

Culturally, the region is well represented with its own museums, symphony and ballet as well as talented and creative local theater, dance and art groups. Top quality venues host touring companies and well known guest artists for special events. Shoppers find their favorite national brands in abundance. Additionally, there are charming local shops and boutiques to explore. Local wineries and microbreweries dot the landscape.

When it’s time to choose a new place to grow your business, give yourself an edge: So Cal’s Leading Edge, where affordability, accessibility and availability come together, just north of LA.

For more information or to arrange a tour, visit or call (800) 888-7483.


Irvine, CA was master-planned to be an economic powerhouse. Strategically located in the heart of Southern California between Los Angeles and San Diego, surrounded by major arterial highways, on the perimeter of John Wayne/Orange County Airport, and next door to the premier west coast ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles, Irvine delivers the benefits of connectedness, proximity and customer accessibility.

Irvine has cultivated a well-deserved reputation as the address of choice for major industry clusters. As the Safest City in America for 10 consecutive years, it is the headquarters of Fortune 500 companies and a full spectrum of life sciences, technology, digital media, advanced manufacturing, R&D/scientific testing and clean energy companies.

Irvine, CA, named the Safest City in America, is the address of choice for several industry clusters and home to numerous Fortune 500 company headquarters. (Photo: Irvine Chamber of Commerce.)
Irvine, CA, named the Safest City in America, is the address of choice for several industry clusters and home to numerous Fortune 500 company headquarters. (Photo: Irvine Chamber of Commerce.)

Synergy and opportunity abound. Home to several R&D incubators, HUBs, collaborative work space and University of California, Irvine’s new Institute for Innovation, Irvine inspires innovation and offers start-ups an exhilarating eco-system and solid platform from which to launch.

While the city’s artfully developed office parks, wide thoroughfares and acres of protected open space are a signature of Irvine, its capacity to deliver, attract and retain high quality talent is one of its greatest strengths. Rooted in Irvine’s premier K-12 educational system and its 15 university and college campuses within its boundaries, including the world-renown University of California, Irvine has an enviable 96 percent high school graduation rate and 66 percent advance degree rate.

Over 70 percent of Irvine businesses surveyed say that they are completely or very satisfied with Irvine as their headquarters for business. Over 60 percent of Irvine businesses are preparing to add employees or expand in the next twelve months. Irvine businesses are thriving.

Its business community makes Irvine stronger. Public/private partnerships empower Irvine, diversity energizes it and quality of life inspires it. Irvine’s commitment to innovation in all things distinguishes it and helping companies grow motivates it. That’s what makes Irvine extraordinary.


Recent national economic trends combined with long-standing locational advantages have created an outstanding opportunity for manufacturing and logistics firms to consider locating their facilities in Barstow, CA. Nationally, manufacturing employment growth has been on a slow, but steady incline since the depths of the recession, with the nation adding nearly 200,000 jobs in the manufacturing sector over the past 12 months. With overall job increases exceeding 250,000 for four straight months and GDP having increased by over 2.5 percent in four of the last five quarters it is clear that the United States economic recovery is well underway and that manufacturing growth is playing a key role in the nation’s economic resurgence.

Barstow’s location at the junction of three major highways —Interstates 15 and 40 and State Route 58—combined with its abundance of available commercial and industrial property, low land acquisition and development costs, makes the City ideal for manufacturing, logistics and transportation firms. A 1200 acre industrial park adjacent to freight rail service and roughly 120 miles from the Port of Los Angeles, additional industrial zoned property in the vicinity and an abundance of vacant and available city-owned property provides a wide range of development opportunities. The City’s recently adopted General Plan Revision is accompanied by a Master Environmental Impact Report, allowing for streamlined application processing consistent with California environmental law.

Complementing the availability of affordable land, expedited review and approval processes and the region’s lowest developer impact fees is a well-trained and low cost workforce, with customized training available through the top-rated occupational training opportunities offered by Barstow Community College. California’s lowest cost housing is an additional plus for employers seeking a workforce able to live in close proximity to the workplace.

California is typically regarded as a high-cost, heavily regulated state in which to conduct business. The high desert region in which Barstow is located, however, is not typical of the state as a whole. Land acquisition costs are the lowest in the state and are competitive with lower cost states such as Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi. The Mojave Air Quality Management District, which oversees the review of industrial development projects in Barstow, is known as the state’s most reasonable air quality oversight agency. Moreover, the California Air Quality Act (CEQA), broadly acknowledged as the most onerous piece of environmental legislation in the United States is, nonetheless, administered at the local level and Barstow has proven to be flexible and creative in exercising its responsibilities as a lead agency under CEQA, as witnessed by the City’s recently adopted Master Environmental Impact Report.

The City of Barstow’s Economic Development and Planning Office is available to provide immediate assistance, including market analysis, technical assistance, site identification and preliminary design and introduction to the City’s key decision-makers. For additional information contact Gaither Loewenstein, Economic Development and Planning Manager at (760) 255-5177 or via email at


The 1,403 acres that comprise the West Complex (formerly Rough and Ready Island) was transferred from the U.S. Navy to the port in 2001. Since the transfer of the land, the port has invested more than $80 million dollars in infrastructure upgrades (docks, roads, bridges, and utilities) to expand its industrial capabilities and services, and incent industrial oriented companies to locate their businesses at the port. This upgrade and expansion translates into millions of dollars of savings for new development projects, including:

  • Deepwater Channel/Dock Access – Located 75 nautical miles from the Golden Gate Bridge, the Port of Stockton is serviced by the Stockton Deepwater Ship Channel with a project depth of 35 feet MLLW. With seven berths covering more than 6,000 lineal feet and more than two miles of on-dock rail, the Port of Stockton is well suited to handle dry bulk, liquid bulk and break-bulk cargos.
  • PT Zoning Designation – The port is uniquely zoned. The PT zoning designation only exists for the port, whereby most industrial uses are by-right (no discretionary action required by the city).
  • Programmatic EIR – $2,000,000. Originally completed in 2004, the port spent more than two million dollars on a Programmatic EIR to address build out of the West Complex. There are large brown field and green field parcels available for development. In most cases, the EIR baseline information can be augmented to address new projects at a minimal cost and reduced time frame. The port’s Board of Port Commissioners is the lead agency for CEQA processing and approval.
  • New 60KV Substation – $5,000,000. In 2009, the port invested more than five million dollars on the installation of a new 60kV substation. The new substation has a 25MW capacity expandable to 50MW when needed. The port is the Municipal Electric Utility on the West Complex.
  • Established Security Services – $2,000,000 annual expenditure. There is a two million dollar plus annual budget for ongoing security at the port. The majority of the West Complex is limited access only, with 24-hour armed security, perimeter fencing and CCTV.
  • Foreign Trade Zone #231 – The port is grantee of FTZ #231 consisting of more than 4,000 designated acres for FTZ uses. The FTZ can reduce or eliminate the duty on many imported and exported goods and materials.
  • Railroad Service from Both the Union Pacific and BNSF – The port is served by both Class 1 railroads (BNSF and UP) with local traffic managed by the Central California Traction Company Shortline. The port has been improving and adding rail since 2001 and has more than 70 miles of operating track.

Additional advantages include easy access to State Route 4, I-5, and the Crosstown Freeway; multiple sources of water (Cal Water, riparian, and groundwater); state and Local political support for industrial development; levees Certified for 100-year floodwaters; adequate fill material available at no cost for tenant projects (transport costs only).


The Union Pacific Rail Welding Facility was approved in February 2014. The Union Pacific Railroad (UPRR) is nearing completion of its first ever long rail welding facility at the Port of Stockton. The facility will ultimately occupy approximately 38 acres on the Port’s West Complex.

The facility, when fully developed, will consist of 17,000 feet of rail, a 90,000-square-foot rail storage structure, an 18,000-square-foot welding and inspection building, and a 200-foot span gantry crane. The UPRR plans to bring in rail by ship (120,000 tons per year, five to seven ships per year) from Japan in 480-foot lengths. Rails would then be welded to create 1,440 solid rail lengths shipped out on special rail cars to various project sites across the west and mid-western United States.

With this project, the Port of Stockton is the only port in the world handling 480-foot (150-meter) rail.

Wilmar International (dba Wilmar Oils & Fats LLC) completed initial construction of its nine-acre, $30-million edible oils terminal in mid-2013. At full production, Wilmar will handle significant maritime tonnages of edible oils products (palm, palm kernel, coconut) annually.

DTE Energy (DTEE) completed construction of its $110-million biomass energy facility and became operational in March 2014. DTEE will process and burn approximately 320,000 tons of biomass material annually to generate about 45 megawatts of renewable power. The fuel primarily is derived from urban wood waste, tree trimmings and agricultural processes.

Pending construction projects include a long-term lease with Endicott Biofuels was approved in February 2014. Endicott plans to construct a $110-million biofuels production facility capable of producing 60 million gallons per year. Endicott anticipates going to construction in early 2015 with an estimated 18 month for build out.

A long-term lease with Targa Resources was approved in July 2012. Targa will develop 33 acres on the port’s East Complex with a $110 million bulk petroleum terminal with a total storage capacity of 850,000 bbls. MOTEMS approval from the State Lands Commission is pending. Construction of the terminal project is anticipated to take 24 months.