Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa promised Tuesday that the city would make $30 million in loans to struggling small businesses and provide assistance to more than 1,000 local businesses as part of a stepped up effort to spur economic growth.
Delivering his annual State of the City speech, given before workers at an electric truck factory in Harbor City, Villaraigosa also said his administration would focus his economic development strategy for the remainder of his term on the green technology sector.
Central to this effort will be creating a "clean tech corridor" near downtown Los Angeles to lure companies and researchers focusing on renewable energy resources, water conservation technologies and green building techniques.
"We want to build a future in which clean technology is as synonymous with Los Angeles as motion pictures or aerospace," said Villaraigosa, who spoke at Balqon Corp., which is supplying zero-emission trucks to the Port of Los Angeles.
More immediately, Villaraigosa acknowledged the difficult economy, noting that the city's jobless rate is at 12 percent and rising, with 230,000 Los Angeles residents unemployed.
To help local businesses hammered by the recession, Villaraigosa unveiled the $30 million loan program, to be administered through the Community Development Department. He said the loans would help business owners "reinforce their bottom line and allow them to continue providing essential jobs, products and services to our residents."
Villaraigosa also reiterated his intention to shift his business team's focus away from development projects and towards assisting small businesses navigate the city's often Byzantine permitting processes. He set a goal for the business team to assist at least 1,000 small businesses over the next year.
This effort would come in spite of severe budget cuts expected for the coming fiscal year, which starts July 1. Villaraigosa said the budget deficit is now projected at $530 million. To close the gap, Villaraigosa is proposing pay cuts, furloughs and increased health care contributions by city workers in lieu of more than 2,800 layoffs.
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