When it comes to jobs and the local economy, the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce wants to know: Do the members of the City Council get it?
To help them grasp the concept, the chamber began producing annual reports on job trends in each of the city’s 15 council districts last year.
The second report was released last week, giving additional data on economic trends by district.
The goal of the reports is to help council members enact policies that preserve or create jobs and reject policies that threaten jobs.
The Los Angeles City Council’s reaction to last year’s report was lukewarm at best. But after another year of sluggish economic growth and soaring jobless rates, chamber Chief Executive Gary Toebben said council members this year seemed more focused on economic conditions in their districts.
The report also contains rankings showing the districts with the most job and wage growth, and the largest increases in business and sales taxes.
“We’d like nothing better than to foster competition to see which council district can grow the most jobs,” Toebben said.
The report, compiled by L.A.-based economic consulting firm Beacon Economics, showed a net 1 percent gain in jobs citywide between 2009 and 2010, with 10 council districts adding jobs and five losing them. That’s a reversal from last year’s report, which showed a 4 percent drop in jobs between 2008 and 2009, and all but one district losing jobs.
Yet, Toebben said, the job growth rate is still way too slow to make a significant dent in the city’s 14 percent unemployment rate, which is higher than the 12.5 percent Los Angeles County unemployment rate and more than 50 percent higher than the 9 percent nationwide rate.
L.A.’s businesses are still struggling, at least according to one major indicator tracked in the report. Business tax receipts only grew 0.4 percent between 2009 and 2010, and they fell in 12 council districts. Only strong growth in tax receipts among downtown professional firms kept the citywide figure from turning negative.
About the only bright spot in the report was a 4 percent jump in sales tax revenue between 2009 and 2010, following a sharp 10 percent drop the previous year.
The report showed distinct differences between council districts. Increased activity last year at the Port of Los Angeles turned the 15th Council District into the top jobs gainer for 2010, with a growth rate of nearly 11 percent. (The district was represented by Janice Hahn until her election to Congress; her seat is vacant pending a special election.)
But Council District 1, the area immediately north and west of downtown represented by Ed Reyes, showed a nearly 3 percent drop in jobs in 2010, the largest of any district.
Reyes said last week that he was not surprised by most of the report’s findings.
“My district has continued to feel the impact of the exodus of manufacturers. As they have left, they have left behind brownfields, and it’s taking a lot of time and money to reinvest in those properties,” said Reyes, using a term for abandoned or underused industrial and commercial facilities.
The district now has very few major employers: the Los Angeles Dodgers and Good Samaritan Hospital are the largest private-sector operations. Most of the rest of the businesses are small retail and professional outlets that serve the large immigrant communities in the district.
Reyes said he is trying to convert abandoned manufacturing buildings into live-work space for artists, content providers for technology companies and other professionals. But he acknowledged that it was a slow process.
He said that in the meantime, he’s trying to bring more educational facilities and affordable housing to the district.
Reyes said the one aspect of the report that most surprised him was how differently council districts were performing.
“This report shows just how successful the downtown renaissance has been and how the commercial center in Jan Perry’s district is thriving,” he said. “And then you look across the freeway to my district and it’s a completely different picture.”
Meanwhile, in the heart of the San Fernando Valley, business taxes in the district represented by Paul Krekorian plunged 18 percent in 2010, the largest drop of any district.
That decline came despite the thriving entertainment industry. CBS Studio Center is in the district, as are hundreds of companies that supply the industry.
But other economic indicators in the district were significantly better. Job creation matched the citywide average of 1 percent and sales taxes rose nearly 6 percent, above the citywide average of 4 percent.
Krekorian said chronic budget deficits prevent the city from spending the money to do the economic analysis on its own.
He was puzzled by the divergent gross receipts and sales tax figures the report shows for his district and he’s asked consultants at Beacon Economics for further details.
Krekorian said he’s focused on the redevelopment of the largely vacant Valley Plaza shopping center.
“When that project is complete, we hope we can bring back some of the sales tax dollars that have gone to neighboring cities like Burbank,” he said.
Meanwhile, he’s also pursuing another citywide strategy to boost local job creation. Last year, he introduced an ordinance giving companies based in the county an 8 percent boost when bidding on city contracts. The ordinance is set to come before the council before the end of this year.
“I realize that the cost of doing business in the city and the region is higher than elsewhere, so a local preference is definitely needed,” he said. “Besides, a local preference means more city dollars will be put to work reinvesting in the local economy.”
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