When the Northridge Earthquake devastated swaths of the San Fernando Valley in 1994, business leaders knew the crisis demanded a coordinated response.
To facilitate federal and state aid, a group of leaders formed an organization that in 1995 took the name Economic Alliance of the San Fernando Valley. Later it was renamed the Valley Economic Alliance.
As the impact of the earthquake faded, the group shifted to promoting the Valley as an economic resource for companies. The Alliance gained traction with the appointment of Bill Allen as its first permanent president in 1997. The former head of Mary Tyler Moore’s television production company, he connected the Valley with the entertainment industry.
“Bill brought in all of the entertainment industry,” current Alliance Chairman Randy Witt told the Business Journal. “He was instrumental in raising our profile.”
Today, the organization works for the recruitment and retention of Valley companies, together with a long-standing emphasis on education and infrastructure advocacy for local businesses.
Even before the Northridge Earthquake rattled the Valley economy in 1994, local business organizations were discussing ways to spur development as the region’s once-thriving aerospace and manufacturing industries entered into decline.
But once the 6.7 tremor hit, business leaders decided the time for talking was over.
That’s when Robert Scott, then chair of the United Chambers of Commerce of the San Fernando Valley; Ben Reznik, then chair of the Valley Industry and Commerce Association; and David Honda, then chair of the Valley Economic Development Center launched a campaign to revitalize the local economy.
Led by Scott, the group set up emergency workshops to help businesses assess infrastructure damage and apply for federal funding.
They also welcomed U.S. Secretary of Commerce Ron Brown — who arrived by helicopter atop the roof of Sherman Oaks Hospital — to tour debilitated business districts and figure out how to distribute a federal recovery package. During the trip, Brown suggested business leaders designate a specific group to manage the relief funds.
In response, the leaders founded the Valley Economic Alliance, which would go on to become one of the region’s most vital institutions. For the past 25 years, the Alliance has served as a conduit between Valley business groups including VICA, VEDC, United Chambers and the Valley International Trade Organization, which together work to advance economic growth and improve the quality of life of Valley residents.
“It’s really an umbrella organization,” said Alliance Co-founder Honda. “We’re much stronger as a group than on our own.”