O.C. Boosters Reach Out to Europe : Investments: A promotional team hopes 10-day tour will broaden county's biomedical sector.


A business recruiting team from Orange County will swoop through parts of Europe next month on a mission to persuade biomedical companies to establish U.S. operations in the county.

The 10-day swing through Germany and neighboring countries will be the first in a series of recruiting efforts by the Orange County Economic Development Consortium, which announced Tuesday that it has secured nearly $8 million in pledges to finance ongoing efforts to boost the county as a place for the world to do business.

Representatives of UC Irvine, where two professors last week won Nobel Prizes for scientific research, will accompany consortium officials and business executives promoting the county as a hot spot for biomedical research and development.

"We will be able to go there and tell them about this great university that is here to help businesses," said Ken Moore, president of the consortium.

He said that about 20 companies, some already involved in research projects with UC Irvine, have been targeted for the trip, which coincides with a major biomedical trade show in Dusseldorf, Germany. He would not identify the companies.

The trip is the first effort of a business development program the consortium is launching. The group will use its new funding--pledged by 99 private companies and three cities--to finance $1.5-million annual budgets for its first five years. The consortium will seek financial support from local business and government for future operations.

The group--an arm of the Orange County Business Council--is essential, said Donald R. Beall, chairman and chief executive of Rockwell International Corp.

"I'm bullish on Orange County's future," he told the 100 or so executives and politicians attending Tuesday's congratulatory breakfast, "but I also am a pragmatic realist. . . . Our competition is not standing still. Other areas are fighting tooth and nail to land companies that are disenchanted with Orange County."

Rockwell, headquartered in Seal Beach, was one of several companies that pledged $500,000 each to the consortium. The names of the other $500,000 contributors were not disclosed.

In addition to its business retention and recruiting goals, the consortium is developing programs to improve an image damaged by a lengthy economic recession and the 1994 county government bankruptcy, and to promote tourism and filmmaking in the county.

The consortium's goal is to secure enough business expansion and relocation to create 48,000 jobs in Orange County, with a projected economic impact of $4.4 billion over the next five years, Moore said.

About 75% of the consortium's business recruitment efforts will focus on wooing international companies to locate offices, labs and factories in Orange County, he said.

The German trip is scheduled for Nov. 18 to 28. The consortium and UC Irvine will jointly operate an Orange County booth at the medical industry trade show, Medica, Nov. 22 to 25 in Dusseldorf.

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