by Kristina Bedrossian, Sarah Locher, Frank Lopez, Matthew O'Keefe
For full report click here.
In an effort to revitalize its economy, protect the environment, and help create new jobs for its middle-class, the City of Los Angeles’s leadership has been actively looking for ways to help make Los Angeles a global leader in the research, development, production, and application of clean technologies. Driven by one of the most aggressive climate action plans of any large city in the U.S. (GREEN LA), the nation’s largest solar project (SOLAR LA), three of the world's top research universities, and the country’s largest manufacturing center, the City of Los Angeles contains the necessary supply and demand to develop a thriving cleantech cluster in the region. Although several measures indicate that the Los Angeles region is emerging as a significant employment and activity center for cleantech, the City has yet to realize the ―green‖ job and firm creation it desires.
One reason why is because Los Angeles is not alone in its desire to become the ―Silicon Valley‖ of Cleantech. With millions of dollars and thousands of future jobs at stake, many major metropolitan cities across the U.S. are also targeting their economic development efforts towards this rapidly emerging sector. Near record levels of unemployment—especially in the manufacturing sector—and growing public and private investments in cleantech have also increased competition between cities across the country.
The usual tech-savvy players—San Francisco, San Jose, Seattle, and Boston—currently lead the way in cluster development, but strategic investments and planning by Austin, Portland, New York, Denver, Detroit, San Diego, Sacramento, and Houston have also firmly placed those cities on the cleantech map. Despite its efforts, Los Angeles is not perceived as being a leader in cleantech. The City is continually facing greater competition to become the hub of clean technology in the U.S. and regularly loses desireable firms to other cities within the state and throughout the nation.
This report assesses Los Angeles’s strengths and competitiveness in attracting, retaining, and growing cleantech firms by comparing it to the aforementioned competitor cities on the following seven business placement factors: workforce characteristics, land & facilities, business environment, financing & funding access, industry clustering, transportation systems, and quality of life. Our research indicates that Los Angeles has comparative strengths in its sizeable workforce, industrial land, and easy connections to and from global shipping and air hubs. Assets aside, attracting
cleantech businesses to the City of Los Angeles is difficult because of comparative disadvantages, including: expensive land and facilities, an unfriendly and bureaucratic business environment, and the high cost of living.
In addition to measuring Los Angeles and its competitor cities on these seven business placement factors, we surveyed each city’s economic development programs, especially those designed specifically for cleantech companies. This process revealed substantial gaps in the programs and incentives available to cleantech companies in Los Angeles. Most of the competitor cities we examined administer economic development programs that are substantially more developed, innovative, and targeted than those in Los Angeles.
To address the City of Los Angeles’s weaknesses and gaps with respect to cleantech, we identified specific economic development programs and incentives used by our competitors. We cited the following policy options, organized by the gaps that they seek to address:
WORKFORCE: Cleantech Industry Skill Panels
LAND & FACILITIES: Property Tax Abatement
BUSINESS ENVIRONMENT: Cleantech Business Assistance Center
Local Purchasing Preference
Enhanced Economic Development Website and Online Tools
FINANCING & FUNDING: Revolving Loan Fund
INDUSTRY CLUSTERING: Enhanced Regional Cleantech Network Demonstration Projects
Cleantech Focused Staff and Expedited Permitting Service
Our analysis took into consideration each incentive's financial impact on the City’s general fund, the ease and feasability of adoption, and the type of resultant benefits that these programs provide to cleantech firms. We do not offer specific