By FRAN INMAN
As the old saying goes, with crisis comes opportunity. This must be the mantra for Los Angeles in 2009, as our economy continues to slow, but our economic assets remain strong.
The challenges arising from the economic crisis are readily apparent. Washington is preparing a stimulus package, but every city and state is competing for investments in infrastructure, health care and homeland security programs. Sacramento has fewer resources than normal to adequately fund our local transit, education and housing needs. And City Hall is struggling to manage its own budget shortfall.
Yet, opportunities abound to leverage our city’s economic assets to create jobs, accelerate recovery and foster a business climate that is as welcoming and appreciated as our weather. Los Angeles is a dynamic kaleidoscope with a diverse economy that has helped lead us out of past recessions. As the new chairperson of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, I believe it is the business community that must lead us on the road to recovery once again.
At the Los Angeles International Airport, business must work with Los Angeles World Airports, the airline industry, the L.A. City Council and community groups to fast-track the City Council-approved Midfield Satellite Concourse and develop a plan to safely accommodate a new generation of aircraft. With each transoceanic flight of these new environmentally friendly and larger airplanes supporting 3,120 jobs and $156 million in wages over the course of a year, we should prioritize renovation at this important economic asset.
At the Port of Los Angeles, business must continue to push for green growth improvements that will create jobs and clean up our air at the same time. Business is down significantly at the port because of the economy and new competition. We must speed up the time it takes to bring a green growth project to the construction phase. We must overcome this obstacle before Prince Rupert in Canada and new U.S. seaports in the Gulf of Mexico and on the Atlantic Ocean take away a portion of our market and the jobs, and economic impact that go with it.
For transportation projects across the region funded by Proposition 1B in 2006 and Measure R last fall we must work to focus the California Environmental Quality Act on streamlining the environmental impact report process so that construction can begin in a shorter period of time. Without such reforms, CEQA will continue to be abused by persons seeking to derail transportation or housing projects for reasons unrelated to the environment. The business community, local elected officials and our state lawmakers must act now to restore CEQA to its intended purpose and get these important projects moving again.
And this is just the beginning. More must be done to protect local manufacturing jobs, address runaway production, and bolster the goods movement industry and international trade gateway that benefit our city, our region and our nation.
Recovery will not be easy. It will require the business community to make changes and search for a new norm. As Charlie Woo, the founder of Megatoys, has said, “We need to be curious beyond our comfort zones to make a difference.”
For business, this means finding new ways to address issues related to LAX, the Port of L.A., transportation infrastructure and many others. It means engaging a broad coalition of leaders from all industries and sectors to work collaboratively, drawing on our collective creativity and entrepreneurial spirit to drive innovation, enhance efficiencies and replicate best practices. It means finding common ground with labor, residents, community groups and lawmakers on key issues related to jobs and the economy. And it means focusing on the present and not shying away from the challenges ahead.
In 2009, the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce is creating a bold vision for business. During these difficult economic times, we will be more vocal than ever on issues that will create jobs and accelerate or hinder economic recovery. We will actively track, rank and loudly communicate the business position on key policies, legislation and issues facing Los Angeles. Our “dashboard” on the road to recovery will let everyone know how we are doing and serve as a resource for businesses to engage in our collective agenda and success.
The Los Angeles business community must lead when it comes to economic recovery in 2009. No one knows how to create jobs and market opportunities better than business. We must rise to this challenge so that today’s crisis does not become tomorrow’s missed opportunity. Together we can prosper.
Fran Inman was installed as chairwoman of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce last week. She is senior vice president, corporate development for Majestic Realty Co. in the City of Industry.