by Robin Heffler
According to Los Angeles’ economic development czar, a variety of resources are available to improve the business climate and create much-needed jobs in Los Angeles, which faces a 13 percent unemployment rate and a $350-million budget deficit next year.
Austin Beutner, Los Angeles’ First Deputy Mayor and Chief Executive for Economic and Business Policy, gave that assessment to a gathering of School of Public Affairs students on Wednesday, Feb. 23, and said he is beginning to tap those resources.
“Our entrepreneurial spirit, educational foundation, and cultural diversity, combined with effective civic leadership, are how we go forward and create jobs for Angelenos,” Beutner said.
Appointed to his post by Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa in January 2010, Beutner talked about his determination to change City Hall’s leadership culture and approach to business. He said he is taking steps to help city departments work together in promoting business development while incurring little or no additional costs, including:
• Requiring City Hall staff to make five outreach calls each week to businesses;
• Using the city’s “convening” power to schedule summits between business leaders and potential partners in the community;
• Instituting policy changes, including a business-tax holiday for new businesses for three years.
“Some of this is bearing fruit,” said Beutner, who previously was a partner in a leading investment and advisory firm, owned a private equity firm, and helped Russia transition into a market economy during the Clinton Administration.
One example of results he cited is a pilot program to facilitate two-way trade between the Port of Los Angeles and the Port of Shanghai. Another is an agreement between local automobile dealers and community colleges in which the dealerships provide students with internships that lead to permanent jobs; a similar program is planned with the aerospace industry.
Beutner also contended that building a privately funded football stadium on part of the current site of the Los Angeles Convention Center downtown would be a boon for business and the city, bringing more conventions, tourism, businesses, and hotels to the area.
Responding to a student’s question about how to keep more jobs from going overseas, Beutner said it’s important to create good manufacturing jobs in Los Angeles, which would generate products needed worldwide, such as electric buses. He said this could be done by calling on the city’s existing assets, including high-quality engineering schools and a trained manufacturing workforce.