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Tuesday, Dec 6, 2022

OC on Tech Hiring Tear as 2022 Nears

2022 could shape up to be a banner year for hiring in Orange County’s tech sector, for a variety of emerging businesses the general public didn’t know much about just a few years ago.

The hiring process for several thousand new jobs, in a range of engineering, design, software and other fields, is soon expected to start in earnest, or continue to ramp up, for several upstart companies that the Business Journal has covered over the course of 2021.

The push for new tech workers could well provide a jolt to OC’s economy, which as of last year counted a base of innovation jobs around 68,000, according to the Chapman-UCI innovation indicator.

That figure is flat from 15 years ago and local growth lags other comparable areas in Southern California like San Diego, according to economists from the two local schools.

Those economists, including Chapman President Emeritus Jim Doti, noted in the Business Journal this summer that “high value-added jobs in software, semiconductors, aerospace, scientific research, and tech services command higher wages—an average wage of $208,000 in California versus $76,000 for all other jobs—and have powerful multiplier effects for the regional economy,” (see story, page 4).

Here’s a quick rundown of some of the more notable tech-related companies and industries expected to dramatically boost their local operations over the coming years.

EVs in Overdrive

Two years ago, few people had heard of Laguna Beach resident RJ Scaringe and his upstart electric vehicle maker Rivian Automotive Inc. (Nasdaq: RIVN), which moved its headquarters from Michigan to Irvine in 2020.

Today, the firm with about 1,500 employees in Orange County and a companywide base approaching 10,000, is OC’s most valuable public company with a valuation topping $100 billion.

A portion of the proceeds from the company’s blockbuster IPO in November, which raised over $13 billion for Rivian, is being directed to new hires in OC, where the company has dramatically boosted its real estate presence over the past year to accommodate the expected explosive growth.

Some 500 job postings in Irvine are listed on the company’s website, with tech positions including test software developer and battery integration engineer.

Rivian is not alone among publicly traded EV makers looking to up their local presence.

EV battery maker Romeo Power Inc. (NYSE: RMO) is moving its headquarters from L.A. to a much bigger facility in Cypress and has expansion plans on tap for its new 215,000-square-foot hub.

The opportunity to “recruit and retain talent” was a key factor in the move to OC, Romeo Power Chief Executive Susan Brennan told the Business Journal in October. “R&D; is core to Romeo’s success.”

Eyes in the Sky

Electric vehicle makers of a different type—electric-powered vertical takeoff-and-landing vehicles, known in the industry as an eVTOL—have formed a hub in OC.

One recently formed firm, Supernal, has a local hiring push in store as it aims to get its flying taxis into service by 2028.

The new division of Hyundai Motor Group has picked Irvine for its engineering headquarters; it recently leased over 100,000 square feet of high-end office space in the Irvine Spectrum to hold that division and is in the early stages of a hiring push for the planned 300-person group.

“Tech talent is critical to making advanced air mobility a reality—and that makes Irvine a great place for our engineering headquarters,” Supernal Chief Technology Officer Ben Diachun told the Business Journal earlier this month.

Supernal was advertising for about 30 open positions in Irvine on its website as of early December, with the jobs including airframe designer and lead flight control systems engineer.

Another flying taxi firm, Santa Ana’s Overair, now has a local team of almost 100 employees, and plans many more hires. The company was advertising for 32 positions on its website as of Dec. 15, including senior flight controls engineer and aircraft structures design engineer.

“We are on track to create 1,000 manufacturing and engineering jobs in Orange County over the next three years as we focus on bringing electric mobility solutions to the market,” Overair Chief Executive Ben Tigner told the Business Journal in September. See page 1 for more on the company’s efforts.

New Kind of Vacation

Heading higher up into the sky, space tourism firm Virgin Galactic Holdings Inc. plans to significantly boost its base of operations in Tustin, at the office park that already holds its executive offices.

The nearly $4 billion-valued aerospace company (NYSE: SPCE), backed by Virgin Group co-founder Richard Branson, recently inked a deal to lease an additional 61,000 square feet of space at the Flight at Tustin Legacy office complex.

The new offices space will hold a “new design and collaboration center where the [company’s] next-generation vehicles will be designed and engineered,” according to Virgin Galactic.

The new offices should be large enough to hold 200 or so employees.

The company is currently looking to hire dozens of staff for the Orange County location, primarily for engineering and operations-related roles, according to its website.

Virgin Galactic refers to itself as the world’s first commercial spaceline and vertically integrated aerospace company. It is primarily competing with the Jeff Bezos-backed Blue Origin aerospace firm to send wealthy tourists into space.

Satellite Stars

Irvine-based Tyvak Nano-Satellite Systems Inc. in Irvine is plotting its own big expansion launch, along with its parent company Terran Orbital Corp. of Florida.

Terran, an aerospace company that as of mid-2021 had launched more than 220 small satellites into orbit through its Irvine satellite affiliate Tyvak, a few months ago finalized a deal to lease 89,000 square feet at the 400 Spectrum tower.

Marc Bell, co-founder and chief executive of Terran Orbital, told the Business Journal in late September that he expects to have between 400 and 500 employees working at the Irvine Spectrum tower office, focusing on engineering, design and development work for small satellites.

That will require a big boost in local workers. Terran and its local affiliates employed fewer than 200 people in OC as of earlier this year, according to Business Journal research.

“We’re hiring fast,” Bell said. “We have a hiring plan over the next three years to bring on about 2,500 more people” companywide.

The company isn’t shy about publicizing its rush to grow in OC, whose base of defense and aerospace companies and jobs, long headlined by the local operations of Boeing Co., has continued to shrink over the past decade.

“Terran Orbital encourages those looking for employment, especially those in the engineering field, to please review our website for current opportunities,” the company said when announcing the new Irvine hub.

Luckey Move

Another upstart defense and aerospace company, Anduril Industries, is in the early stages of its own move from Irvine to a larger base in Costa Mesa.

The firm, co-founded by Palmer Luckey in 2017, already counts an employee base of some 600 workers.

Anduril says its new headquarters in Costa Mesa will have room for almost 2,500 employees. The office will run at least 640,000 square feet when complete, about five times the space it currently leases in Irvine.

Anduril utilizes the newest technology such as drones, optics and artificial intelligence to radically transform U.S. defense capabilities and solve national security challenges. The company also develops border protection systems.

The firm was advertising for about 85 local positions on its website as of earlier this month, with tech jobs including flight test engineer and software engineer. 

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