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Technology Hub Comes Together in Moorpark

If you’re looking for a biotech or defense-related research cluster, the Conejo Valley and Antelope Valley jump to mind. Both Thousand Oaks and subsets Westlake Village and Newbury Park are home to innovators in the biotech field, including Amgen Inc., MannKind Corp. and Atara Biotherapeutics. The Antelope Valley has Lockheed Martin Corp.’s Skunk Works and Northrop Grumman Corp. But the small city of Moorpark has quietly developed a tech cluster as well. As a Business Journal conversation with Moorpark City Manager Troy Brown confirmed, when it comes to tech and biotech bases, the community between Simi Valley and Thousand Oaks is trending. “Moorpark has actually been home to quite a few tech and defense companies for a long time,” Brown said. “Ensign-Bickford, Topaz Systems and Gooch & Housego all have large presences in Moorpark, working on everything from your defense and military systems to electronic signature pads. Attracting high technology has always been a priority.” Last year, developer Nearon Enterprises closed a substantial deal with manufacturer AeroVironment Inc., the manufacturer of unmanned aircraft for defense and commercial clients in Simi Valley, for a 94,290-square-foot warehouse space 14501 Princeton Ave. The lease carries a rough average of $75,000 per month across 63 months and went into effect in March 2018. In August, it was announced that CBRE Group Inc. had arranged a $12 million refinance for the industrial site. Shaun Moothart, Bruce Francis, Jim Korinek, Bob Ybarra, Dana Summers and Doug Birrell of CBRE Debt and Structured Finance arranged the seven-year loan on behalf of Nearon. “The debt market responded very favorably to the financing opportunity, given the high quality of the asset, stable market fundamentals and strength of sponsorship,” Moothart said in a statement. “This is one of the most attractive buildings in the Ventura industrial submarket.” Home-grown success AeroVironment is not the only tech player smitten with Moorpark. Mike Tingus, president of Lee & Associates – LA North/Ventura Inc., told the Business Journal that he has never seen anything like it. “Moorpark has definitely become a hub for hi-tech companies,” Tingus said. “It’s been truly amazing to see the area’s growth in the past five years.” Tingus characterized the typical Moorpark tenants as small-scale manufacturers. “Most of the emerging companies are doing research, development and prototyping and small-scale manufacturing,” Tingus continued. “Small scale in this region equates to a quarter million dollars of product fitting into a shoebox.” When faced with the question as to whether this emerging tech cluster at Moorpark is happening by design or organically, Brown said that the key to Moorpark’s evolution comes from the city creating an environment for business to succeed. “When you look at the demographics of Moorpark residents, what stands out is that – like our neighbors Thousand Oaks and Camarillo – the Moorpark population is extremely highly educated,” Brown explained.  “We have talent living in Moorpark, and that certainly will attract the attention of high-quality developers like Nearon and high-tech companies like AeroVironment. As a city, then, the challenge is to create a business environment that will translate that attention into action.” Brown cited a study to support his belief that Moorpark is conducive to a tech renaissance. “The Kosmont-Rose Institute found us among the 20 Least Expensive Cities in California in their Cost of Doing Business survey – that’s part of it,” he said. “As a city staff, we make sure we are very accessible and responsive to business needs.” In the tech sector, Moorpark city staff is actively working with multiple broadband internet providers to expand into the Moorpark market, both through the air and on the ground.  “We understand that getting from ‘most of Moorpark has gigabit service’ to ‘all of Moorpark has gigabit service’ is a big deal for attracting tech, so we’re doing it,” Brown said. And then there is Laritech, one of the community’s larger employers, which started out designing circuit boards in a Moorpark garage.  “Fast forward a couple decades,” Brown continued, “and they’ve moved and expanded over and over again – all over Moorpark. They’re a quintessential example of how you take talent in your community and cultivate it into economic development success. Job creation in this growing sector will be the fuel that drives our economic development engine.” Talent pool Brown said that one of the biggest reasons Moorpark has become a good fit for tech companies to call home is because the community has all of the ingredients for providing a home for its employees. Another attractive element: the city has been working with developers such as Westlake Village-based The Daly Group to cultivate a mixed-use central destination on High Street. “We have a perpetual vacation climate, excellent schools and world class parks,” Brown said. “We are consistently among the safest cities in California and the safest within Ventura County. Moorpark is not only a great place to do business, but the perfect place to raise a family.” Tingus agreed with Brown’s assessment that the area can tap into an amazing academic brain trust. “Moorpark boasts the highest median income in Ventura County, the most Ph.Ds per capita in Ventura County and Moorpark Community College, which has an enrollment of 14,000. It is the fourth-ranked community college in the country. It’s access to the San Fernando Valley and the Conejo Valley provides employers with a vast pool of highly skilled employees,” he said. Moorpark will continue to attract high tech and light industrial uses because the city wants to expedite the process for getting such companies set up. “We are ready and able to continue to implement the kinds of business practices that attract tech companies to Moorpark,” Brown said.  “From an application processing perspective, we get businesses on the ground. Moorpark strives to partner with business to help meet their needs. Nothing hurts business more than bureaucracy and we find ways to circumvent what are often complicated processes.”

Michael Aushenker
Michael Aushenker
A graduate of Cornell University, Michael covers commercial real estate for the San Fernando Valley Business Journal. Prior to the Business Journal, Michael covered the community and entertainment beats as a staff writer for various newspapers, including the Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles, The Palisadian-Post, The Argonaut and Acorn Newspapers. He has also freelanced for the Santa Barbara Independent, VC Reporter, Malibu Times and Los Feliz Ledger.
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