Hiring at L.A. Chamber Puts Renewed Emphasis on Policy and Government
by Howard Fine
The L.A. Area Chamber of Commerce, long criticized for not having a significant enough presence in the corridors of government power, has boosted its public policy staff. The chamber is also stepping up its communications efforts with member companies and the media.
Among the three new hires to the public policy group is Marisa Medrano Perez, who recently left the Bush White House to join her new husband in L.A. Perez, who served as President Bush’s associate director for domestic policy, will specialize in transportation, health care and education issues. Also joining the public policy staff is former state legislative aide Brendan Huffman, who will specialize in city and state government issues.
“With these moves, we’ve doubled the size of our public policy staff and there may be more to come,” said chamber president and chief executive Rusty Hammer. “It’s part of our strategy to boost our profile in the public policy arena.”
Meanwhile, chamber staff member Robyn Ritter Simon, who had been on the public policy team, has been promoted to vice president of marketing communications, where she will oversee the chamber’s efforts to garner more media coverage and improve communications with member companies.
Think the Westside gets all the breaks? Not according to a group of business and development types who are forming the Westside Economic Development Collaborative, or WEDC.
“We’re the last region in L.A. County without an economic development organization,” said Gwen Pentecost, senior administrative analyst for the City of Santa Monica’s economic development division, one of the leaders of the drive to form the WEDC.
Pentecost said the group formed as chamber and local economic development officials started grappling with the impacts of the dot-com collapse. It picked up steam with the drop-off in tourism after Sept. 11.
“We found that the problems crossed city boundaries and needed to be addressed as a region,” she said.
This Friday (July 26), the WEDC will hold its first public meeting since filing for incorporation as a 501 C-3 non-profit in May. Selection of a 40 to 60-member board is the top item on the agenda.
The WEDC will be similar in structure and mission to the Economic Alliance of the San Fernando Valley, according to Inga Estes, one of the WEDC’s executive committee members. It will focus on economic development and infrastructure issues and try to market the Westside as a whole to prospective businesses.
“Too often, one community plays off against another on the Westside,” Estes said. “One of the goals here is to have an organization that presents a unified front.”
Staff reporter Howard Fine can be reached by phone at (323) 549-5225, ext. 227, or by e-mail at