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Thursday, Dec 7, 2023

LABJ Insider: Small Businesses Get a Digital Delivery

The small business community got a well-timed and much-needed boost recently when the city of Los Angeles rolled out LA Optimized.

Mayor Eric Garcetti announced the program, which starts in January. It’s designed to help small businesses expand their online presence and increase their ecommerce capabilities as a way to make up for lost revenue at their brick-and-mortar operations.

Over the next year, LA Optimized is expected to deliver $1.5 million to help about 1,000 businesses — many in low-income areas — with everything from web design to digital production. 

It’s welcome news for one of the hardest-hit business sectors in L.A. — in September, Garcetti said some 15,000 small businesses had closed in the city, and a new round of stay-at-home orders issued last week by the state, the city and county figure to deliver another blow to many of those that remain open. 

Making the program even more promising is the fact that it incorporates and rewards local digital designers, artists and producers to work with the recipients. 

Like the small businesses themselves, these freelancers have felt the sharp sting of the pandemic as regular sources of income have either cut back or dried up altogether.

Roberto Martinez, who will serve as the city’s entrepreneur-in-residence starting in 2021, will oversee the program, which is being created in conjunction with ArtCenter College of Design and the design studio verynice.

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The city’s Olympic flame is burning a little less brightly after last week’s passing of Rafer Johnson. Not only was the L.A. icon one of the greatest athletes of the 20th Century, he made countless contributions to the Olympic movement and helped bring the 1984 Summer Games to Los Angeles.

The LA84 Foundation, an endowment created by the massive profits from those games still throws off millions of dollars each year for good causes around the city. 

Johnson won the decathlon gold medal in 1960 and the silver medal in 1956. The UCLA grad also lit the torch at the Coliseum to open the 1984 Games. He spent time as an actor, broadcaster and humanitarian and was instrumental in the creation of the Special Olympics.

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