Inland Empire Southern California—specifically the 28,000-square-mile, three-county so-called Inland Empire that lies east of Los Angeles—is the golden child when it comes to job creation. The Riverside-San Bernardino region has created the most jobs in the country this year to date: 29,700 in July and 26,000 in August, according to the BLS.Land is available and affordable, making it "one of the last places" where businesses can put up facilities for trucking, railheads, storage and logistics, Shukla said. And the good news for job seekers is that logistics is highly automated and requires a specialized set of IT skills, he said. But perhaps an even greater contributor to the regions economic health is its diverse industry base. In addition to distribution and manufacturing companies, the area is home to an array of growing biomedical companies, including Baxter International Inc. and Becton, Dickinson and Co., as well as medical device companies such as Guidant Corp. Why do biomedical companies keep coming up as drivers of economic growth—and IT jobs—in healthy regions? James Miller, a contractor who runs IS hiring services for Guidant, has a scenario that helps to explain why health care spending grows, even in a down economy: Your husband or wife suffers a cardiac incident. Do you finish building the deck on the house, or do you buy a pacemaker? "Its one of the few industries I consider insulated from economic downturn," said Miller, in St. Paul, Minn. Guidant, the largest employer in Temecula, Calif., 60 miles northeast of San Diego, has a strong culture of promoting from within. Guidant has hired between 70 and 80 tech workers nationwide this year to date, and 50 percent of the openings Miller filled were from within the company. That still leaves 35 to 40 IT jobs open to external sourcing. Miller usually turns to Web search engines, Guidants Web site, local staffing companies and internal referrals to fill these openings externally. Two areas of IT growth for the company are EAI (enterprise application integration) and data warehousing. Guidant has been seeking out people with skills in what Miller calls "canned solutions"—packaged systems, such as MQSeries in the world of EAI or Siebel Systems Inc. in the customer relationship management realm, that Guidant brings in-house and customizes. Of late, the need for such skills has kept Miller mired in candidate screenings. Hes not finding it easier to source good candidates because of the saturated candidate pool. Quite the contrary. The average length of time IT openings remain unfilled at Guidant—between 30 and 60 days—has been unchanged since the Internet bubble burst and unemployed ranks around the country swelled. "There are more people on the street, but that just means there are more people to screen to find the right people," Miller said. "I call it an I can do it marketplace versus an Ive done it marketplace." Contrary to whats said about many biomedical/biotech jobs, Guidant doesnt insist on industry experience in its IT hires, although experience working in a regulated environment always gets the attention of recruiters at such businesses. "Its a bonus if somebody understands documentation and the methodological approach to systems development," Miller said. "If you worked in a regulated environment, we know youve been in a position where documentation is everything. After all, [a business such as Guidant] has to stay auditable by the [U.S. Food and Drug Administration]." If the idea of seeking work at a Southern California company like Guidant appeals, bear in mind that this region isnt much like Seattle or San Francisco—its got a lot more industrial grit than such refined tech centers. But, said Lartas Shukla, as IT becomes more central to just about every industry, the Inland Empire is typical of the kind of place thats going to become the next IT job center. "The last [technology] wave was marked by incredible cuteness and an obsession with small, hip little towns that had universities at their centers and coffee shops in their souls," Shukla said. "Its not their time anymore. Its time for the dirty, messy, diversified, broad economies of the U.S. to absorb this [IT] stuff and make it work." IT Careers Managing Editor Lisa Vaas is at email@example.com.
Whats going on that makes the region so much more robust than much of the rest of the country, particularly its ailing neighbor to the north, Silicon Valley? According to Rohit Shukla, founder, president and CEO of Larta, a think tank for the regions technology businesses formerly known as the Los Angeles Regional Technology Alliance, part of the explanation for the regions health lies in the fact that its become a major center for distribution.