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Tuesday, Oct 4, 2022

Covering Capitalism’s Ups, Downs

If you want a good example of the dynamic aspects of our local economy, you don’t have to search hard. All you have to do is scan this issue of the Business Journal.

For example, the front page centerpiece story is about how Occidental Entertainment Group Holdings committed $12 million to build a sound stage in Hollywood two years ago – which was not only during the trough of the Great Recession but also a time when production work was fleeing Los Angeles. The timing may pay off now, but back then that was a pretty bold gamble on L.A.’s future, no?

In the Up Front section, you’ll see a story about how Speedo is starting to sell swimwear, goggles and the like out of vending machines near pools. That’s innovative.

And so is the idea from a kind of pop-up bookseller to temporarily occupy some of the old and oddly sized Borders shops, now that a dozen Borders have closed in Los Angeles County. The dollar bookseller gets to pay a very low lease in exchange for its agreement to fold up shop when the mall owner signs a permanent tenant. You’ll find that article leading off the News & Analysis section on page 5.

And you’ll see stories of growth. Another article about OpenX Technologies, which has got Groupon by the tail, just raised $20 million in a funding round to help propel its growth. (Revenues increased 600 percent last year!)

Another growth story: The Spanish-language network Univision will now do more than simply rebroadcast telenovelas from Mexico. As you can read in the article on page 1, it soon will create a “Biggest Loser” kind of show that is to be broadcast south of the border. There’ a kicker: That show, and some other shows Univision is to produce in the future, will be filmed in Los Angeles.

Not all is upward and onward. Meruelo Maddux Properties, having lingered in bankruptcy for two years, will be under new management that plans to shrink downtown L.A.’s largest property owner and give shareholders a buzz cut. On the other hand, some fresh capital and new managers may give the property company a new lease. And yes, the pun was intended.

Finally, there’s the front page article about the electric truck maker Balqon. Local public agencies thought it would be nice to make an environmental statement, and in a predictable boondoggle they spent millions of dollars to get trucks that are basically unusable. The Port of Los Angeles and Balqon can rightfully boast that their very expensive trucks emit no emissions, but you can say that about any truck that sits idle.

All this is merely to make the simple observation that the existential drama of free enterprise, the ups and downs of the see-saw business world, the agony of defeat and all of that, is on display in this publication and many others.

You don’t have to look far to see people – they’re all around us – taking gambles, making clever innovations and acting stupid.

Capitalism at work is dynamic, fascinating and messy. It’s fun to watch, and it can make pretty good copy, too.

Charles Crumpley is editor of the Business Journal. He can be reached at ccrumpley@labusinessjournal.com.


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