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OCBJ INSIDER

If there was any doubt about Irvine’s rapid rise as a population and economic center in Orange County, recent figures from the California’s Department of Finance set the case straight.

With a 3% boost in population last year to 310,250, Irvine displaced Santa Ana as OC’s second largest city, and now only trails Anaheim, which counted 341,245 residents at the end of 2021. Irvine is now the state’s 13th largest city by population, Anaheim is No.10.

By percentage, Irvine had the 14th largest boost in population of any California city last year, according to the state’s figures. None of the 13 cities above it has a population over 100,000.

The city’s added roughly 100,000 residents over the past dozen years or so.

Reports from brokerage CBRE also cite the area around Irvine as one of the fastest-growing tech jobs market in North America, which Irvine Councilmember Tammy Kim notes is “terrific news.”

However, she cautions that it appears that “the growth in business locally is being driven more by established companies moving to Irvine, rather than by new businesses being founded and created here locally.”

She’s asked that the city make efforts in the next few months to draw up a plan “to ensure that Irvine serves as the premier location in Orange County for individuals who want to find and establish high-tech and future-focused business ventures.”

The matter is scheduled to be addressed during a Sept. 13 city council meeting.

Future-focused ventures don’t come much more futuristic than electric-powered flying taxis. Two of the better-funded upstarts in that sector have major operations in OC, Santa Ana’s Overair and Supernal, a unit of Hyundai Motor Group whose engineering base is in Irvine.

Overair CEO Ben Tigner last Thursday won an Innovator of the Year Award at the Business Journal’s eighth annual event (see story, this page). For a more detailed look at Overair and the four other IOTY winners, see next week’s print edition.

Santa Ana’s fallen to No. 3 among OC cities, after seeing a nearly 2,900 drop in population last year, to 308,459, according to state figures. A little more than a decade ago, the city’s population was closer to 325,000.

It’s not alone among OC cities that saw a net loss in population last year: Irvine, Fullerton, Orange, Lake Forest and Stanton were the only cities here to see a boost in 2021.

The county’s population dipped 0.2% last year to a little more than 3.16 million residents; California as a whole lost 0.3% and now stands at 39.18 million residents, according to the Department of Finance.

Santa Ana has a few big development projects in the works that could boost its numbers; see Katie Murar’s front-page exclusive on a mixed-use development in the works with 600+ units located not too far from the city’s zoo.

Closer to South Coast Plaza, an early-stage hearing last week took the wraps off an ambitious project that envisions turning a 42-acre site in Santa Ana along Bristol Avenue into a mixed-use development with 3,750 residential units. See next week’s print edition for more.

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Mark Mueller
Mark Mueller
Mark is the Editor-in-Chief of the Orange County Business Journal, one of the premier regional business newspapers in the country. He’s the fifth person to hold the editor’s position in the paper’s long history. He oversees a staff of about 15 people. The OCBJ is considered a must-read for area business executives. The print edition of the paper is the primary source of local news for most of the Business Journal’s subscribers, which includes most of OC’s major corporate and community players. Mark’s been with the paper since 2005, and long served as the real estate reporter for the paper, breaking hundreds of commercial and residential real estate stories. He took on the editor’s position in 2018.
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