The City of Angels is starting to get serious about job creation. Last month, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa announced the creation of the Mayor’s Council on Innovation and Industry, a group comprising some of our region’s best technology entrepreneurs, venture capitalists and private-sector innovators. These futurists have started some of the most cutting-edge businesses in the world, creating mountains of jobs, remaking industries and sparking creative thinking around the globe.
Now they are being asked to do something Los Angeles has never asked them to do before: give their advice to help us create jobs.
Until recently, City Hall has seemingly turned a blind eye to innovators, often overlooking the singular contributions entrepreneurs have made to Los Angeles. (Entrepreneurs with companies under five years old are responsible for creating more than 75 percent of all jobs here). So when I heard the news that the Innovation Council was being formed, an idea I proposed in my Feb. 28, 2011, op-ed in the Business Journal headlined “Getting to Work on Unemployment,” I was edified because of its potential to produce transformative change.
The council is tasked with rebranding Los Angeles as technology friendly, developing strategies to create permanent jobs here, figuring out how to unlock access to financial capital for new businesses and understanding how to grow our local startup community. And they are being asked to do this all within six to eight weeks.
This is an extremely quick timetable for any group – even for one that can think and work at warp speed like this one. Even with this compressed schedule, however, I’m confident this impressive group will develop fresh, original thinking on job creation. My hope is that we will see creative ideas brought to the forefront such as debt forgiveness for job creation, business incubators for the unemployed, guaranteed city contracts for job-producing startups, and many others.
But the ideas coming out of the Innovation Council will not be enough to revive Los Angeles.
Regardless of what comes out of their report, I strongly believe we need to use this opportunity for something more. We need to move beyond just rebranding our city and growing the technology sector in Los Angeles. As important as those goals are, we now need to relentlessly pursue an all-encompassing entrepreneurial agenda to produce the kind of breakthrough we need to jumpstart our economy and city.
We can begin to do this by recognizing that entrepreneurship and job creation are not the sole responsibilities of the technology or even business sectors. We have civic-sector entrepreneurs and even public-sector entrepreneurs who are creating substantial jobs and intrinsic value for our communities, and their practical insights should be included in our strategic planning and decision-making processes.
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