Smaller Firms Create Big Share of New Jobs : Most Openings at Employers of 20 or Fewer

Times Staff Writer

So you want to be a gold miner? You’ve come to the right place, son.

In the past several months, Southern California firms have created jobs for people mining gold and making fish food, building truck bodies and assembling pregnancy testing kits. The list of companies creating jobs in the Southland is as diverse as the California economy.

But unlike earlier decades, state and local development officials say, the place to look for jobs is not the hiring hall at the local airplane or automobile factory, which once created jobs in batches of hundreds or thousands. Odds are better, they say, that the successful job-seeker will find work through word of mouth or the local newspaper’s want ads.

“We’re finding that the majority of jobs are being created in companies with 20 or fewer employees,” said Frank Smith, executive director of Orange County’s Economic Development Commission. “We create 55,000 jobs a year (in Orange County), and we haven’t landed a Saturn project in a long, long time. You have to go back to the early 1970s in the aerospace industry to find job creation in those magnitudes.”

(General Motors’ Saturn new-car project is expected to create 6,000 new jobs at a plant being built in rural Tennessee.)


“The individual’s best prospects are in knowing what businesses in your area are planning to start up or expand. Watch the local papers and don’t expect much luck at the big factories,” said Jack Kyser, chief economist for the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce.

According to California Department of Commerce figures, 301 firms announced plans in the first six months of 1985 to locate a new facility or expand existing operations in California. Half of these--152 companies--are located in the nine counties comprising the Southland: Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, Santa Barbara, Kern, Imperial and San Diego.

The agency calculates that a total of 153,000 jobs were created by these firms. About 51,000 jobs were created directly, with an additional 102,000 spawned indirectly in existing local companies providing services and supplies to the expanding firms.

Companies on the state list run the gamut from Scanray in Long Beach, which is building a plant to expand production of its X-ray security screening devices, to the Camarillo Daily News in Ventura County, which is installing a new press in its printing plant.

Scanray President Albert Centofante said the new facility, still under construction, would create 157 jobs for workers with various skills from assemblers to engineers. Most of the recruiting is being done locally, he said, through ads in local newspapers.

The Camarillo Daily News, a six-day-a-week newspaper serving the growing Ventura County market, is adding 26,000 square feet to its plant to make room for a $4-million press. Publisher Hank Crockett said the expansion would create four to six jobs at first, with further new employment expected as the company’s business grows.

Other firms on the state list include:

Gold Fields Operating Co., which is building a new gold mine outside of tiny Glamis in the southeastern corner of Imperial County. The revival of mining in the former gold mining country will create 220 to 240 jobs, said mine manager Robin Hickson. The company is looking for heavy equipment operators, truck drivers, mechanics, electricians, surveyors and metallurgists. The firm is investing $70 million in the operation and is hiring a few people each month until it reaches full production. Hickson said the company is convinced that it will find gold in them there hills, which are primarily known as the state’s most popular dune buggy recreation site.

Hybritech, a genetic research firm in La Jolla in San Diego County. President David Hale said the growing company will add as many as 300 workers over the next 12 to 18 months. Many are doctorate-level scientists, but a considerable number of jobs will be created for lab technicians and assemblers of biologically based products such as pregnancy testing kits and medical diagnostic tools to identify allergies, cancer and pituitary disorders.

Supreme Truck Body, which is boosting straight-chassis production at its Fontana plant in San Bernardino County. Since April, the firm has added 42 people and expects to hire 10 to 20 more this year, said manager Don Noel. Noel noted that the Indiana-based parent company, Supreme Corp., looked at a dozen potential locations but chose Fontana because of its access to freeways and proximity to Ontario airport. He predicted that because of its location Fontana will become the trucking and transshipment capital of Southern California.

Peat, Marwick, Mitchell, the international accounting firm, which is expanding its Orange County operations and moving to new quarters in Costa Mesa. Office manager Ron Merriman said Peat, Marwick will add 40 accountants in the next year to serve the growing Orange County business community. Support personnel will be added as needed, he said.

World Wide Aquatics, a fish food company, and Frito-Lay, the snack-food giant, which are boosting production in Kern County. James Radoumis, a local economic development official, said the county was seeing considerable expansion in agriculture-related industries because of its accessibility to farms and its favorable location for shipping to the Los Angeles basin.

The partial list reflects the diversity of the area’s economy and belies the misconception that job creation in Southern California is dominated by services, high technology and entertainment, said Kyser of the Los Angeles- area chamber.

He listed business services, international trade, tourism and health services among the bright spots in the Southland’s employment picture for the rest of the decade.

Kyser cautioned, however, that lists provided by development officials only cover expansions by large and mid-sized firms. Nobody really knows how many jobs are created every day in bars, body shops and boutiques.

“There are a lot of hidden jobs,” he said. “The most successful job- seeker in this area will have a multitude of skills and a willingness to change directions. It helps to know people. And you have to be creative and inventive in your job-seeking.”


Based on a survey by the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce of companies with 1,000 or more employees in Los Angeles, Orange, San Bernardino, Riverside and Ventura counties.

Company Employees 1. Hughes Aircraft 65,700 2. Los Angeles Unified School Distric 57,200 3. Rockwell International 46,000 4. McDonnell Douglas 37,400 5. Northrop 30,100 6. Pacific Bell 30,000 7. General Telephone 24,000 8. UCLA 23,400 9. L.A. County Health Services 23,300 10. TRW 23,000