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Saturday, Jul 13, 2024

Making the Valley’s Case

The Great Recession is over. At least that’s what the economists, media and stock floggers have been telling us for more than a year. The problem is, almost 10 percent of Californians are still out of work; businesses are timid about investing in people, plants and processes; uncertainties about Obamacare are bedeviling the health care and insurance industries; and a cloud of economic malaise continues to hover over the San Fernando Valley. Yet here we have a potential secret weapon for economic development: the Valley Economic Alliance, (until recently known as the Economic Alliance of the San Fernando Valley) … that is, if it focuses on the job for which it was created. Formed out of the rubble of the Northridge earthquake, the organization was designed to attract, retain and foster business for the Valley. Somehow it got partially off track by committing a significant portion of its staff and financial resources to promote its “Valley of the Stars” moniker. How that name would attract and retain business was the subject of many dinner discussions the late-and-lamented Bruce Ackerman, then the alliance’s president, and I would engage in. Lending its name to a Valley of the Stars Fair, Valley of the Stars Heart Run & Walk, and the Valley of the Stars Memorial Day Parade – events appealing only to local residents – neither attracted nor retained business, I would argue. A confluence of dates and people has brought about an opportunity for the alliance to re-set its objectives and activities: Just ahead is the 20th anniversary of the Northridge earthquake that spawned the organization, which the alliance is – properly – commemorating; we have a new mayor in town; and the alliance itself has a new chairperson and a new president. Perhaps the time is right for a renewed laser-like focus on bringing jobs to the Valley and keeping them here. Sadly, we have allowed others to define us: Valley girls, strip malls, unattractive post-World War II housing tracts, porn capital of the world, culturally deprived and much worse. The Valley is also heir to the negatives laid on our entire region: traffic congestion, racial strife, too few police, a reputation (deserved or not) as being one of the most business-unfriendly cities and states. … In short, not a place to move your business. Part of the problem is that the Valley does have a good story to tell, we just haven’t told it as well as we can. The weather, availability of an educated work force, an environment of entrepreneurialism, cultural and ethnic diversity, and other area attributes would be attractive to many a company. We just have to identify the most likely prospects, prepare our story in a compelling fashion and deliver it effectively and persuasively. How do we go about it? Enlist key organizations and individuals in the San Fernando Valley who realize the importance of attracting new business and are able to research, plan and bring a real economic development program to fruition. From Northridge to Encino and from Calabasas to Universal City, there are hundreds of people who could provide the information, creativity, funding and staffing for a national business-attraction program. The Valley is home to more companies engaged in producing film, television, video games and other forms of entertainment than any region in the world. Let’s turn their creative minds loose on how to bring business here. Research why companies that are here chose to establish themselves in the Valley, and determine why they stay here. Write up those case studies and include them in the alliance’s business attraction kit. Create “the case,” an inventory of reasons to relocate to the Valley, including a determination of which types of industries are most likely to thrive in the area. Those are the ones to focus on first. Review the “best practices” of other cities and regions in economic development, including an examination of how they have positioned themselves in the marketplace, what materials they create, the activities they implement and what resources they commit to such programs. Begin by comparing printed materials and websites: Where on the Economic Alliance site is a compelling presentation of reasons for businesses to locate here? Participate in trade shows and business relocation fairs across the country, particularly focusing on industries that would fit in well here. So, why don’t all those Valley business leaders get together and begin to create a strategy to bring us more business? Leaders of the Economic Alliance clearly recognize the need for a strong business attraction program; let’s focus on creating it, funding it and doing it. Martin Cooper is president of Cooper Communications Inc. in Encino. Editor Laurence Darmiento was on vacation.

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