‘Beyond Our Wildest Dreams’: Bourns Marks 75 Years and Counting of Innovation

Published: 02/03/2022


Graduation ceremony for a 10-week robotics and coding class taught by Dr. Enoch Hwang, Chair of Computer Science, La Sierra University, at the Bourns Family Youth Innovation Center. Courtesy Bourns, Inc.

People are often surprised to learn that Riverside-based Bourns, Inc., with nearly 10,000 employees and 20 locations worldwide, started in a tiny Pasadena garage in 1947. Gordon Bourns, CEO of the leading global electronic components and sensors manufacturer, spoke proudly of the company’s founders, his parents Marlan and Rosemary.

“They hired the next-door neighbor as their first employee and ran hot and cold temperature testing on parts for airplanes in their kitchen,” Gordon said.

The City of Riverside and Greater Chamber of Commerce caught wind of this small, but mighty aerospace sensor business and proposed a move. On Labor Day weekend 1950, Bourns closed its doors in Pasadena Friday and opened Tuesday in Riverside, because they didn’t want to be late on any orders.

The Bourns’ team with toddler Gordon in front of the company’s first Riverside headquarters on Magnolia Ave. Courtesy Bourns, Inc.

With March Air Force Base transitioning from wartime to peacetime after World War II, Gordon said his parents moved to Riverside because “they knew it would be a great place to raise a family and excellent technicians would be looking for work.”

What eventually put Bourns on the map was the invention of a product to accurately determine an aircraft’s pitch attitude – solving a crucial problem that helped make aeronautics safer. Then, in 1969, Gordon and his parents watched TV in amazement as astronauts first landed on the moon using Bourns’ landing controls and walked on the moon using Bourns’ suit pressure oxygen regulators.

“When I speak to students, I tell them you can go from a garage to the moon in 22 years,” Gordon explained. 

STEM in policing event at the Riverside Police Department Magnolia Station. Courtesy Bourns, Inc.

Bourns hosts various STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) education programs for local school children. Recently, the Bourns Foundation donated $1 million to set in motion Riverside’s robotics, coding, film production, and web design youth center. Accessibility is key to the Bourns Family Youth Innovation Center, which officially opened in October.

“We’re grateful to Bourns for lighting those fires to get youth excited about futures in STEM and introducing them to career pathways,” said Mayor Lock Dawson.

Gordon estimates the Bourns Foundation has contributed $500,000 in scholarships among local universities including UC Riverside, Cal Baptist University, La Sierra University, and Riverside City College. Gordon also chairs the Science and Technology Education Partnership (STEP), an organization that encourages students throughout the Inland Empire to pursue education and careers in STEM with activities such as the popular STEP Conference.

Bourns makes more than 10,000 different products with its fastest-growing segments in support of electric vehicles, charging stations, and energy storage. The electronics company, now in its third generation, is expanding into solar energy, autonomous vehicles, telemedicine, and telecommunications as it gets ready to celebrate a milestone birthday. Bourns will turn 75 on July 7, 2022 Marlan and Rosemary’s 75th wedding anniversary.

Marlan and Rosemary Bourns on their wedding day, July 7, 1947 (L) and a portrait of the couple that hangs in all company plants worldwide. Courtesy Bourns, Inc.

“When my parents began working in their garage, they could never have envisioned someday finding their products in a vehicle on Mars or x-ray sensors for cancer treatments,” Gordon said. “They would say Bourns is beyond their wildest dreams.”


For more information about Bourns, Inc., go to www.bourns.com.