Manufacturer opens new plant in LV

One of the few Silicon Valley manufacturers with an outpost in Las Vegas is expanding its operations here with a new 85,000-square-foot assembly plant for cargo screening equipment.

Varian Medical Systems of Palo Alto, Calif., has increased its Las Vegas facilities to 200,000 square feet and its employment to 200. The company has added 35 positions in Las Vegas over the last 12 months, said William Reed, marketing strategy and communications manager.

The company will celebrate the grand opening of its new manufacturing center with an open house from noon to 3 p.m. today at 6811 Spencer St. near McCarran International Airport.

The building serves as headquarters for Varian's Security and Inspection Products Group, which accounts for 85 of the 200 employees in the Las Vegas operation.

The group makes a high-powered X-ray machine called Linatron-M that can see through a tractor trailer. The industrial X-ray equipment creates images so detailed that operators can tell the difference between shipments of low-cost bicycles for children and high-priced mountain bikes.

Varian's security and inspection equipment typically is used at ports, international airports and other ports of entry, such as border crossings along the U.S.-Mexico border, said Lester Boeh, Varian's vice president of emerging businesses.

Governments want to verify that importers are paying all applicable import taxes. But since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the X-ray machines also help in providing security against devices used for terrorism.

The product can scan a tractor trailer within 35 seconds, revealing contents that an inspector otherwise wouldn't see unless he unloaded the shipment.

In addition, the equipment is used for nondestructive testing of solid rocket boosters used by NASA, checking the integrity of bridges and seeing inside archaeological finds such eggs of prehistoric animals.

Varian first opened a spare-parts plant in Las Vegas in 2002. Later, the company opened an educational center for medical technicians who use Varian X-ray equipment and cancer treatment equipment, and technicians for security and inspection.

Varian Chief Executive Officer Tim Guertin said: "Our orders for security and inspection products are up by over 60 percent compared with last year. During a time of economic uncertainty, we are pleased to see our Las Vegas-based business running in high growth mode."

All of Varian's Las Vegas operations continue to grow, Boeh said. Las Vegas has several attractive attributes, Boeh said, but he hopes the local community colleges and universities can expand their engineering programs so that Varian no longer needs to hire all of its workers from other cities.

About 10 percent of the Security and Inspection Group employees have doctorates. Entry-level technicians start with base pay of $45,000 to $55,000.

John Laub, president and founder of the CEO-CFO Group and executive director of the Nevada Biotechnology and Bioscience Consortium, applauded the expansion of Varian's operations in Las Vegas.

"Obviously, we can create higher-paying jobs here, but it takes education as part of it," Laub said. "We need to support our schools of higher education."

The company dates back to the late 1940s, when brothers Russell and Sigurd Varian established a company to make klystron tubes, a high-frequency amplifier used in aviation for radar. The company later expanded into new uses of X-ray technology.

Varian Associates was the first company to establish a facility at the Stanford University industrial park, Boeh said. Hewlett-Packard was the second.

Varian Medical Systems, which has shares traded on the New York Stock Exchange (ticker: VAR), reported $71.3 million in second quarter profit on $527.6 million in revenue.

Contact reporter John G. Edwards at or 702-383-0420.