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IMPROVED ECONOMY HAS BUSINESSES KNOCKING AT DOOR.

Byline: Jim Skeen Daily News Staff Writer

Two RV factories have opened in the last two years, an electronics factory is under construction, a high-tech, precision machining firm is negotiating with Palmdale for land, and a computer company is said to be shopping around.

Antelope Valley's economic prospects, after a hard run in the early 1990s, appear to be looking up: Business executives are approaching valley officials to ask about moving in, following years of recruitment efforts by local leaders.

``There is a lot of interest. The need to solicit isn't as great,'' Palmdale Mayor Jim Ledford said. ``They are coming to us.''

An improving California economy and the creation in February of the Antelope Valley enterprise zone are among the reasons for the upswing, Lancaster Mayor Frank Roberts believes.

The enterprise zone, which covers most of the commercial and industrial land in Palmdale and Lancaster, provides tax credits for businesses that expand.

``The enterprise zone is helping. It's attracting people,'' Roberts said.

The enterprise zone was cited as one of the major reasons Senior Systems Technology Inc. decided to build a $6.5 million assembly plant in Palmdale. The 130,000-square-foot building in Palmdale's Trade and Commerce Center will employ as many as 500 workers.

Much of the new interest is centered in Palmdale, where city officials are negotiating with B&B Manufacturing Co. for 19 acres in the city's Trade and Commerce Center. The Valencia machinist shop wants to build a 300,000-square-foot plant which would employ up to 300 people.

Palmdale is also in talks with an unidentified, out-of-state computer company that is seeking 80 acres.

Lancaster officials say they get inquiries from warehouse and distribution businesses.

The city's first big catch is a $16 million, 432,000-square-foot warehouse - that's nearly 10 acres - for the Michael's craft store chain. The giant building is going up at Avenue H and 35th Street West.

``The Michael's has attracted - like a magnet - the warehouse-type businesses,'' Roberts said.

The retail sector is also active. Developers of the Antelope Valley Mall are negotiating to build a 150,000-square-foot Dillard's department store, which would become the center's first two-story building.

Palmdale officials have agreed to reimburse Dillard's up to $2 million for improvements made for the store. The money would come from sales tax generated by the store.

In November, the Palmdale City Council agreed to give New Century Entertainment Inc., of San Marcos, exclusive rights to negotiate to bring an entertainment center to Palmdale. The company has six months to bring back a proposal and line up tenants.

In Lancaster, Home Depot announced plans to build a 105,700-square-foot store near 20th Street West and Avenue J. The project is expected to bring 200 jobs.

In a report prepared for the Antelope Valley's economic leaders, Alfred Gobar and Associates, a Placentia firm, said the availability of large tracts of affordable land and a skilled and diversified work force are among the major attractions for new businesses coming to the High Desert.

``Antelope Valley's industrial market has been benefited by the capture of larger, nonaerospace companies, primarily manufacturing concerns,'' the report said. ``Antelope Valley's excellent proximity to major Southern California markets combined with its extremely diverse work force, ample supply of competitively priced land, liberal zoning practices, competitive rental rates, and numerous public sector/private sector benefits were key factors in the capture of new companies to this region.''

Antelope Valley economic leaders say there is a shortage of buildings available for new companies. Leaders are hoping prospective developers will step forward and begin constructing buildings on speculation.

For now, the region must concentrate on companies that have the financial capability of building their own plants. It is a narrow band of companies, Ledford said, but they are out there and they are showing an interest in the Antelope Valley.

``The possibilities are exciting,'' Ledford said.
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Dec 8, 1997
Words:643
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