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Irvine’s economic X-factor: Our educated workforce

Greater Irvine Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Bryan Starr shares the key driver behind Irvine’s economic success.

Irvine’s economy is thriving.

The high-paying job market here is strong. We have the second-highest employment numbers in the nation. And international and domestic companies are expanding here.

As CEO of the Greater Irvine Chamber, I’m often asked why – what is our city’s “X-factor” when it comes to the economy? And my answer is this: a highly educated workforce.

Our education strength is due to the Irvine Master Plan. We have the No. 1 university in the nation, according to Money magazine. And the No. 3 school district in the nation, according to WalletHub. We have grade-school students building robots and high schoolers building satellites – and launching them into space. We have 16 college campuses in town and, at any given moment, we have more than 17,000 UCI students working on degrees in STEM fields.

On top of all that, I tell people who ask, 72% of Irvine residents hold a bachelor’s degree or higher – that’s tops in America! And 32% hold a master’s degree or higher – No. 2 in America.

Employers take notice of these numbers.

Since 2017, the Greater Irvine Chamber has successfully attracted international companies, especially from the United Kingdom, to relocate to Irvine due in large part to our educated workforce. Here at home, local companies continually expand their headquarters and operations, hiring more people and creating a virtuous cycle of economic strength that is driven by you, Irvine’s workforce.

It explains why Irvine is home to one-third of Fortune 500 companies; why we’ve attracted one of California’s richest high-tech clusters (900 firms); and why our city has a nearly equal jobs-to-population rate – earning Irvine another top distinction in America.

Business + Education

Impressive advancements are continuously being made at UCI Research Park – a catalyst of innovation on par with Stanford Research Park. The 185-acre office campus directly adjacent to UCI was master-planned to bridge the gap between academic research and business.

Today, it employs 8,000 people at high-tech firms like Cisco Systems, Medtronic and Toshiba America.

These and other companies at UCI Research Park draw on the talent of faculty, students, and STEM graduates at one of America’s top research universities while, in return, they propel Irvine’s economy and reputation for innovation.

Yes, Irvine’s economy is thriving. And the reason is simple: Irvine’s Master Plan.