NORTHERN CALIFORNIA SPOTLIGHT
ixar in Emeryville, Genentech in Vacaville, LucasFilm in The Presidio, Bayer Biological Products in Berkeley, and now Google and NASA in Mountain View: These recent corporate growth projects embody the foresight and vision that remain calling cards for Northern California's economy.
They also explain why the San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose area was the fourth most popular destination in the U.S. for college graduates over 25 between 1995 and 2000. The Silicon Bust may have damaged that ranking a bit since that period, but the region is making up ground fast.
Identified by the Metropolitan Institute's Robert Lang as one of the nation's "megapolitan" areas, "NorCal" covers approximately 34,065 sq. miles (88,228 km.) and has a population of just over 12 million. Even amid the clamor of companies exiting the state and housing prices exiting the stratosphere, that population actually grew by nearly 4 percent between 2000 and 2003.
Those statistics now are further buttressed by October 2005 employment projections from the state that show San Mateo Co., home to San Francisco, with 8.1-percent nonfarm job growth (including 5.4 percent in manufacturing) between 2001 and 2008. The same report shows Oakland's Contra Costa Co. at 16.4 percent (12.9 percent in manufacturing), and Alameda Co. at 10.9 percent (7 percent in manufacturing). San Joaquin Co. comes in at 16.8 percent, with 12.3-percent growth in manufacturing jobs. Even the hard-hit San Jose metro area shows 7 percent job growth between 2002 and 2012, driven by information industries and professional services.
Like the people, the projects keep coming. They may be regenerating land or — like the coming beneficiaries of the newly situated $3-billion California Institute of Regenerative Medicine — regenerating tissue. But they all have in common a thirst for adventure that comes naturally to the edge of a nation and an ocean.
Vision Key to Bayer-Berkeley PartnershipBayer Biological Products' global headquarters has just relocated from Research Triangle Park in North Carolina to Berkeley, following the divestiture of its plasma business to Talecris Biotherapeutics Holdings Corp. Along with the move comes the construction of a $50-million, 33,000-sq.-ft. (3,066-sq.-m.) pilot manufacturing facility.
Bayer employs about 1,400 at its 44-acre (18-hectare) Bay area complex, which has operated under the names Cutter, Miles and then Bayer since 1903. The Bayer operation there has long had a primary focus on products for the treatment of hemophilia, headed by Kogenate, a recombinant factor 8 product formulated with sucrose, with the added advantage of further safety because of its lack of blood plasma. Because the company was already manufacturing at Berkeley, it made sense to move the rest of the organization there, says Sheri Alterman, spokesperson for Bayer Biological Products. Now global marketing, R&D and other general headquarters functions will join the manufacturing and compliance personnel already working in Berkeley.
Like the recent Genentech expansion in nearby Vacaville, already being there was a significant factor in choosing to grow there. And a big part of being there for many California companies (like Hitachi Global Storage Systems in San Jose) is the development agreement with the local community. In this case, Bayer is 13 years into a 30-year agreement with the City of Berkeley.
Clelia Baur, manager community relations and site development for Bayer Biological Products, says Bayer realized in 1992 that it wanted to develop its Berkeley facility as a center for excellence in biotech manufacturing. She says the company knew it would need to work with the city on non-standard aspects of the project like building height, and so entered into a development planning process that has yielded such far-reaching elements as affordable housing, work force development, transportation and infrastructure contributions from Bayer. Bayer and Berkeley also developed a unique biotech education program for at-risk Berkeley youth in public schools, recognized by the Clinton administration as a model school-to-career program. In addition, the campus recycles more than 80 percent of its recyclable material, encourages mass transit, and features such amenities as on-site mail, ATM and laundry service.
"The thing I like best about the development agreement is that over the years it's a vehicle for a really active and healthy dialogue between the city's largest private employer and the city," says Baur.
The plan extends through 2021, and involves decommissioning some older structures and parking areas as new facilities come online. Baur says the one challenge Bayer is confronting along with every other biotech business is the increasing level of competition for good workers. She says the area's universities, medical centers and "rich tapestry of biotech companies" provide a wonderful work force, "but by the same token, there is a lot of competition for them." Right now at least, there is no competition for the 30 positions on the headquarters staff who are transferring from North Carolina.
Asked if the lure of the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine has had an impact on Bayer's talent scouting (Bayer's work is not stem cell-related), Baur says she hasn't noticed it yet, "but we'd hope that the continued focus on biotech as a growth area in California will result in more talented people coming our way and supplementing the work force that's already out here."
Certainly the University of California, Berkeley and its Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory are chief attractors of talent in their own right. Concurrent with a visit to their facilities from Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in August 2005, the state reported that UC-Berkeley alone has spun off 87 new companies (48 since 2001) and the Berkeley Lab has spun off 15 new companies that have created more than 650 jobs. The University of California system estimates that it will help create 2.3 million California jobs between 2002 and 2011.
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