One of the Alliance’s first actions was to apply for a $350,000 FEMA planning grant to assess the makeup of the Valley economy.
“We were surprised to find that our economy was really based on entertainment,” said Honda. “So, the idea was to see, ‘How do we capitalize on this?’”
Shortly after receiving the planning report by Stanford University, the Alliance hired MTM Television President Bill Allen to lead the organization. Allen was entrenched in the local entertainment industry, and upon heading the organization, was able to engage local television and film studios to support and invest in the group’s early initiatives.
“Bill brought in all of the entertainment industry,” said current Alliance Chairman Randy Witt, who first began working with the group in 1996. “He was instrumental in raising our profile.”
Allen helped devise the Alliance’s ongoing ‘Valley of the Stars’ marketing campaign, which aimed to recast the Valley — home to Warner Bros. Entertainment, Comcast Corp.’s Universal Pictures and Walt Disney Co. — from a suburban backwater to the engine behind Hollywood.
“We wanted to let the world know that this is where the stars come to live, to work, to produce the entertainment that entertains the world,” Allen said.
The Alliance began producing tourism pamphlets, promotional videos and even a street banner campaign. It also launched its annual Valley of the Stars fundraising Gala Awards Ceremony in 1998. True to its name, the first event was sponsored by Disney and featured awards to Bob Hope, Bert Boeckmann of Galpin Motors and Allen’s father, television host Steve Allen.
Another of the Alliance’s early successes was its GRAD program, which was designed to help local students earn a high school diploma and provide scholarships to those attending college. Impressed by its hands-on approach, Disney and Boeing Co. became donors to the program.
“We brought a manufacturing laboratory, which is a big trailer to teach kids in high school and in a community colleges,” said Witt.
He added that the Alliance also helped Los Angeles Valley College receive a federal grant to create a bus driver training program as well as adult education classes.
“We feel that an educated workforce is very important,” Witt said.
The group was also a strong advocate for bringing a Metro line to the Valley. In 1997, it held a series of transportation summits with business leaders and local officials to come to an agreement over the Orange Line bus system.