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International electronics company opens research lab in the SCV

Samsung plans to dominate the audio market

Posted: April 2, 2014 12:00 p.m.
Updated: April 2, 2014 12:00 p.m.

Audio engineers, from left, Glenn Kubota, Colby Buddelmeyer, Allan Devantier, An Nguyern, Johnny Ventura and Bill Decanio, discuss the blue prints of the 3,000 feet of office space in Samsung's facility in Valencia.

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Samsung, one of the world’s leading electronics companies, has selected Santa Clarita to open its new research and development lab, setting its sights on becoming an audio systems powerhouse.

“The basic charter is that Samsung wants to become the No. 1 audio company in the world,” said Allan Devantier, director of the U.S. audio lab for Samsung. “We’re building a research team in the United States as part of that goal.”

Samsung, however, didn’t originally have Santa Clarita on its radar, Devantier said.

When Devantier – formerly with Harman International and whom Samsung scouted – was hired by the executives in Korea, they initially wanted to set up an audio lab in San Jose.

The company is currently building a state-of-the-art campus there to compete head-on with companies like Apple and Google and attract top talent, he said.

But, Devantier, who is a 20-year resident of Santa Clarita, pointed out that the top audio engineers are located in Los Angeles because of the music recording industry.

The executives from Korea agreed with Devantier’s assessment and gave him the green light to set up shop in Southern California.

It took only three to four months to find the right building, said Sam Glendon, associate broker with CBRE.

“Samsung was very motivated to get the project off the ground,” Glendon said. “They wanted to fast track.”

Searching for the right facility to build a sound lab, Devantier looked at buildings in Irvine, West Los Angeles, Culver City and San Fernando Valley.

“Most of the buildings were older product,” Glendon said. “Samsung needed at least 20-foot-minimum ceilings, so they could install audio lab chambers to test sound. Valencia had lots of state-of-the-art buildings.”

“The buildings in the San Fernando Valley are older, not in such great shape,” Devantier said. “In fact, we couldn’t find a building with a tall ceiling and air conditioning; whereas SCV had all of that in some of its warehouses.”

But within just a few months, Samsung found an 8,500-square-foot building located at 27931 Smyth Drive in Valencia. The new audio lab will have 5,500 square feet of lab space and 3,000 square feet of office space, he said.

While terms of the deal weren’t disclosed, Devantier said Samsung did lease the building.

Intertex Companies is making first- and second-floor tenant improvements and demolishing and reconfiguring the offices, said President Dale Donohoe. Intertex expects be done in June if it gets all the permits are processed on time.

“We’re building custom designed listening rooms, that mimic residential living, to test the sound quality as if people were in their actual homes,” Donohoe said.

Samsung is very much going over the top with the amount of money they’re investing in the audio lab, Glendon said – calling it a “really cool space.”

“The development budget for the lab is measured in the millions,” Devantier said. “Unequivocally, this will be the best loud-speaker and sound-system R&D center in the world.”

With the large investments Samsung is making to build its audio R&D test lab, Glendon introduced Devantier to the Santa Clarita Valley Economic Corporation, Devantier said.

“The SCVEDC is helping us to get set up here,” he said.

The economic organization met with Samsung early on to see what help they could lend.

“It’s great to have another name-brand company establish their home in Santa Clarita,” said Holly Schroeder with the Santa Clarita Valley Economic Development Corporation.

While the Santa Clarita Valley is home to many companies, so many are business-to-business related companies, she said.

“It’s nice to have companies that are recognizable to the general public,” Schroeder said.

In late March, Devantier met with the EDC’s manager of business attraction, Jim Brown, and the city’s economic development manager, Jason Crawford, to work with Samsung on some of the sales and use tax credits and incentives that would benefit Samsung for the investments they’re making, Brown said. It’s a move Devantier welcomes.

As for staffing the R&D lab, Devantier has already recruited some people. Positions are primarily for engineers and research scientists. He currently has two employees with PhD’s and two with master’s degrees, he said. All positions are high-paying ones.

“Everyone here is making well over six-figures,” Devantier said.

The staff numbers seven now, he said, but he anticipates having nine or 10 people by June. By next June, Samsung should have 14 employees, and by June 2016, it expects to have some 18 employees.

And every person hired – while all highly trained professionals – loves music, loves audio, Devantier said. Many play an instrument or are in a band.

“It (audio engineering) is the greatest job in the world,” he said.

Samsung wants to dominate the market. Today’s audio systems need to connect to TV, phones, whole-house wireless audio and home theater sound systems.

“We’re looking to expand and dominate the audio market,” Devantier said. “Our goal is to sound good and be easy to use.”

Samsung’s intention might be measured by the speed at which they’ve moved to achieve their goal.

Devantier himself was only hired in October 2013. By Jan. 6 of this year, a new building had been secured, and a small team had moved in. The engineers have been working off folding tables while the tenant improvements are being handled. And they don’t expect furniture until May. Currently, all contact is made by cell phone.

When all is finalized, Samsung plans to stage two press events – one being an international event for consumer and electronic media where dozens of writers from around the world will be invited to a grand opening, Devantier said.

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