This past year brought a lot of welcome news for Irvine businesses, the engine of one of America’s best-run local economies. High-tech leaders of EVs, med-tech, aerospace and other cutting-edge industries have come here for the innovative energy, along with the sunshine, safe streets, high-performing schools and Class A office space. Producing everything from flying taxis to small communications satellites, they’re building a future of continuing prosperity.
In a virtuous cycle, these entrepreneurs join one-third of all Fortune 500 companies providing the strong tax base supporting Irvine’s celebrated schools and police. And that, in turn, attracts even more talent to the city.
“The power of Irvine is in its ecosystems,” says futurist business consultant Neil Sahota, who advises the United Nations on artificial intelligence. He’s referring to how Irvine’s Master Plan, delivered in 1971, created space for business hubs in which big companies like Allergan or Mazda could attract smaller companies and startups to supply them. “People with similar interests and goals were connected, generating ‘aha!’ moments everywhere from offices to the gym,” Sahota says, adding: “It’s this kind of interaction that unleashes innovation.”
The following 10 stories, selected in consultation with local business experts, help tell the broader tale of Irvine’s dynamic, resourceful economy.
1. An electric flying taxi
Get ready for a ride-hailing service in the sky. Irvine-based Supernal, a subsidiary of Hyundai Motor Group, recently offered a glimpse inside the cabin of its zero-emissions vertical takeoff-and-landing vehicle – or “eVTOL”– whose design was inspired by a butterfly. The five-passenger, battery-powered flying taxi, still in development, is expected to be in service in 2028.
Southern California travelers who once spent more than an hour driving from Anaheim to Los Angeles may henceforth be able to get there in 24 minutes, by passing through “a network of connected ground hubs” to board their eVTOL.
Supernal’s chief technology officer, Ben Diachun, recently told the Orange County Business Journal that Irvine’s tech talent is critical for progress in “advanced air mobility,” making the city “a great place for our engineering headquarters.”
2. Spectrum Terrace attracts big brands
In addition to tech talent, the city continues to attract businesses to its office campuses that have taken design and amenities to the next level – with Spectrum Terrace being the latest example, opening its third and final phase in October. Located on Laguna Canyon Road, the campus provides a fitness center with a studio room and Peloton bikes, a cafe serving fresh SoCal cuisine, and outdoor workspaces amid 73 acres that include 2,200 mature trees. Its newest amenity is an only-of-its-kind gathering area with an Olympic-length pool, meeting-ready cabanas and poolside refreshments.
“At Irvine Company, our teams talk about delivering excellence in everything we do, and that was our driving force with Spectrum Terrace’s design,” says John Koga, the company’s senior vice president of planning and design, who is also a longtime resident. “We wanted to deliver a remarkable workplace community environment for businesses to succeed.”
Fortune 500 brands and technology companies have taken notice, including Amazon, the online retail giant. In June, it announced a major expansion in Irvine, signing a lease for 116,000 square feet of office space at the campus that will be the home base for corporate and technology jobs.
3. Rivian delivers
Amazon’s giant new delivery vans have already made a difference in the atmosphere and air we breathe. Several thousand of the sleek blue EVs, designed and manufactured by Irvine-based Rivian, have delivered more than 5 million packages since July. Amazon has ordered a total of 100,000 Rivian electric vans to be on the streets by 2030.
Rivian, which also produces the world’s first and fastest electric truck, moved its headquarters to Irvine in 2020. By doing so, it joined a growing EV hub, including more than half a dozen designers and builders of new cars, trucks, batteries and charging stations.
4. Robotics firm’s HQ now in Irvine
For more monotonous warehouse and factory jobs, Zippy and Dynamo are ready to scoot around, sorting and moving goods and equipment. The robots are made by Irvine’s Addverb Technologies, a 6-year-old global company, headquartered in India, that moved its U.S. headquarters to Irvine in September. Addverb’s A-list customers include Unilever, Coca-Cola, Pepsico and Johnson & Johnson. Analysts estimate the growing global warehouse- robotics market could exceed $9 billion by 2026.
5. Bristol Farms Newfound Market opens at Spectrum
Local foodies were thrilled in March by the opening of Bristol Farms Newfound Market, a giant gourmet marketplace that adds a boutique wine shop, a full-service restaurant, a European-style cafe and other sumptuous services to its aisles of fresh produce, dairy, meats and carbs.
Bristol Farms executives see the market as a showcase of their newest concepts, they told the Standard. And with 34,000 square feet, they’ve got plenty of room to experiment.
6. Bass Pro Shops coming to town
Another exciting retail announcement came in April with the news that Bass Pro Shops’ Outdoor World superstore was delivering a 140,000-square-foot retail destination to Alton Marketplace. Meaning: If you can’t find it here, you probably don’t need it.
Bass Pro Shops, America’s most popular outdoor retailer, sells gear and clothing for hiking, camping and backpacking, in addition to ATVs, off-road vehicles and fishing boats at wholesale prices. Johnny Morris, who founded the franchise in 1972 in Springfield, Missouri, told the Standard that he was attracted to Irvine’s location, which is surrounded by the largest urban open space network in America.
7. $4 billion for Irvine health care
All that open space – a standing invitation to get outside and move – helps make Irvine one of America’s healthiest cities. Yet, when health is a challenge, Irvine is ready with expert medical care. The city’s already extraordinary health care system is getting a huge infusion of cash this year, as its leading institutions undergo major expansions.
UCI Health has broken ground on a new $1.4 billion medical complex on Jamboree Road, to include a large new hospital, an advanced-care outpatient center and a comprehensive cancer-care facility. City of Hope is building a $1 billion cancer-research-and-treatment campus at Barranca and Alton parkways to be completed in 2025. Hoag Hospital is spending another $1 billion to double the size of its hospital, adding three new medical institutes, and UCI Health Sciences is spending $235 million on a new “health sciences district,” to include a new integrative health institute and medical research facility, at California and Bison avenues.
These developments will elevate Irvine’s health care into a league with destinations such as Boston and San Francisco, Orange County Business Council President and CEO Jeffrey Ball recently told the Standard.
8. New hub for gaming companies
Innovation happens when people of similar interests cross paths. That’s true not only with Irvine’s EV hub and med-tech and aerospace industries but with the video-game leaders gathering in the newly opened Innovation Office Park in the Irvine Spectrum District.
Five innovative gaming companies – Sega, Frost Giant Studios, Twitch Interactive, Postcard Game Studio and Notorious Studios – have moved there, drawn by the modern indoor/outdoor design of the new campus that offers roll-up garage doors and light-filled offices.
“The space is the perfect setting for creative minds to thrive,” says Tim Morten, CEO of Frost Giant Studios.
Irvine is also home to Blizzard Entertainment, Bandai Namco, Obsidian Entertainment, Ready At Dawn Studios and other game developers, making it a leader in the booming $196 billion-a-year industry, which delivers coveted high-wage, high-tech jobs.
9. Aerospace jobs Lift off in Irvine
More of those good jobs are on offer from Irvine’s growing aerospace hub, including Terran Orbital, Tyvak Nano-Satellite Systems, Ametek FMH, Eaton Aerospace and Iceye.
Iceye, a Finnish satellite company, moved its U.S. headquarters to Irvine last year and announced a new contract with the National Reconnaissance Office, a U.S. intelligence agency.
In June, Iceye reported plans to launch as many as five satellites by the end of 2022.
10. Alteryx’s super-fast data underpins its swift success
Irvine-based Alteryx continued its speedy growth this year, beating Wall Street predictions with an estimated $825 million in revenue expected for 2022 – a roughly 55% increase over last year. That seems fitting for a company whose platform is all about speed, helping businesses condense time spent on tasks from hours or days into seconds, resulting in tighter inventory and streamlined operations.
Alteryx counts some of the world’s largest companies as clients, including Hyatt, Dell, Coca-Cola and Unilever. It set up its global headquarters in Irvine in 2020, leasing 184,000 square feet at Spectrum Terrace.