Gov. Jerry Brown has named Ventura and Kern counties among four newly-established innovation hubs designed to spur job growth.
The so-called Kern-Ventura i-Hub is designed to foster the growth of high-tech companies in aerospace, energy and other fields and is part of the California iDEA Hub. It will be based in Ridgecrest, in Kern County and near the China Lake Naval Air Weapons station.
In establishing the program, the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development, or Go Biz, cited the proximity of research universities the Naval Air Warfare Center in China Lake and the NASA Dryden Flight Research Center in Palmdale as key assets for the hub.
The role for Ventura County wasn’t immediately clear from the Oct. 8 announcement, but the offshore missile test range and the Naval Surface Warfare Center at Naval Base Ventura County are widely viewed as key assets for advanced technology and the testing of unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs.
The i-Hub designation may be an effort to add state support to an effort to land one of a number of Federal Aviation Administration test sites, widely viewed to be a key to advancing the business of UAVs, more commonly called drones.
Florida, Colorado and upstate New York have mounted competitive bids for drone test sites, while California has put forth two bids: One with Ventura County as the lead agency and one from an independent group operating in Kern County. However, officials said the state was looking beyond the UAV industry to create a broader technology innovation center.
“The emphasis on R&D and technology transfer resonates powerfully with Ventura County’s economic legacy,” Bruce Stenslie, head of Ventura County’s Economic Development Collaborative, told the Business Times via email.
He said no additional state monies would come as a result of the i-Hub, but Bill Buratto, head of Ventura County Economic Development Association, said his group has seen industry and academic interest soar for programs such as an Oct. 16 seminar on drones in agribusiness.
The i-Hub effort comes as the Brown Administration has dismantled the state’s enterprise zones and replaced them with tax incentives for manufacturing and targeted innovation zones. The other three zones include a statewide manufacturing support effort, a San Joaquin Valley-based agribusiness i-hub and an innovative transportation corridor designed to link the Port of Los Angeles to the Inland Empire.