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Origins: Henry Mayo Newhall bought 44,000 acres in the 1850s and incorporated Newhall Land & Farming Co. in 1883. The land was farmed until the 1960s, when the Newhall family began developing a master-planned community that is today the city of Santa Clarita. Business Profile: Light industrial, entertainment sound stages and post-production facilities, manufacturing and some retail. By JENNIFER NETHERBY Staff Reporter Valencia is known as a bedroom community, but a demand from businesses for affordable land is filling the town’s business park, the Valencia Gateway, and turning this north L.A. County suburb into an employment center in its own right. Over the last four years, the suburb has been attracting businesses from the San Fernando Valley at a record pace, despite its location 30 miles from downtown L.A. “There’s tremendous interest in coming here,” said Marlee Lauffer of Newhall Land & Farming Co., which developed the Valencia Gateway as part of the master-planned community of Valencia. “It’s close to (the tenants’) existing customer base, Burbank Airport and LAX.” Pointing out bike and walking trails surrounding the industrial business parks, collectively known as Valencia Gateway, Lauffer said it’s the atmosphere beyond the business location that helps pull in companies from the San Fernando Valley. The Gateway has child-care facilities, restaurants and shopping nearby, and Santa Clarita boasts a low crime rate. The 4,500-acre Gateway, which includes the Valencia Industrial Center and the Valencia Commerce Center, saw a record number of companies move in and build facilities in 1998, all the while maintaining a 3.5 percent vacancy rate. And this year brokers are already seeing a jump in leasing. Craig Peters, vice president with CB Richard Ellis, said in an average year, 1.2 million square feet of space is leased in the Gateway. Peters has already leased 1.1 million square feet for the first three months of 1999. Tenants include a mix of entertainment studios, post-production companies, manufacturing and high tech. Most come from the San Fernando Valley. The U.S. Postal Service moved its regional distribution center to the Valencia Commerce Center in 1994 from its former Van Nuys facilities. Harte Hanks, a direct mailer, came soon after, relocating from the city of San Fernando. ITT Aerospace, Warner Bros. and Attraction Services moved from Burbank. Future Media came from Woodland Hills, and so on. So why do businesses come? For one, the Gateway offers more space in newer buildings and at lower rates than the San Fernando Valley. “If you’re looking for a 100,000-square-foot building with minimum 28-foot clearance, there’s only two choices in the San Fernando Valley,” Peters said. Another attraction is the area’s labor base, which draws on the San Fernando, Santa Clarita and Antelope valleys. A high quality of life including good schools, no commute, little crime and a planned community are all added benefits, say Lauffer and other Gateway promoters. And in the coming year, the Westridge Golf Course Community, with a Tournament Players Championship golf course, will be built adjacent to the industrial center. “Those are the things that keep employees happy and make business run better,” said Cheryl Adams, executive director of the Santa Clarita Chamber of Commerce. “We tailor it to fit not just business but people who work and generate business.” The biggest drawback for businesses is the city’s location 30 miles from downtown Los Angeles. But Santa Clarita Economic Development Director Mike Haviland said most change their minds about the commute once they visit. “You have to get people to come here,” he said. “Once they look at their watches and see how long it took, they’re like ‘Oh.’ (The distance is) strictly an image, not a fact.” And as the town reaches what Lauffer terms “critical mass,” office-type businesses are taking notice and further transforming this one-time bedroom community. In November, Princess Cruises moved its offices from Century City to the Valencia Town Center. Explorer Insurance Inc. of Burbank is building offices in the Valencia Industrial Center. The 10 million-square-foot Valencia Industrial Center was the first business park in the city and is on the verge of build-out with 9.5 million square feet filled. In the 1980s, the center took off with aerospace companies. In the 1990s, film studios, manufacturers, high tech and other light-industrial companies moved in and have almost filled out the center. The industrial centers will total 22 million square feet at build-out. The 12 million-square-foot Valencia Commerce Center will be one-third filled by the end of 1999, with 4.5 million square feet built. At the Commerce Center, Pharmavite Corp., an herbal pill maker formerly based in San Fernando, announced it recently signed a 10-year lease on a 740,000-square-foot building, where it plans to house 1,200 employees by 2000. And if businesses continue to move in at the same rate, Lauffer said the Commerce Center will be built out by 2005. “We market (Valencia) as ‘The place to be,’ and right now it really is the place to be,” Lauffer said.

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