Restoring a Voice for Business
I applaud your major treatment of Los Angeles’ nagging problem “Why Business Lacks a Voice” (Nov. 24).
While some historical perspective was provided by the Joyzelle Davis article, it didn’t tell the complete story of the perhaps unusual and certainly effective partnership between the business and political communities here in the several decades after World War II.
The Committee of 25 led then by Asa, not Ava, Call certainly did “help” to run Los Angeles, but they were not alone. The Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce was a major player then, led by a powerful full-time executive named Howard Wright. Wright, working side by side with committee leaders Call, Ed Carter of The Broadway, banker Jim Shelton, and scientist-turned-business-executive Arnold Beckman, worked closely with city government. Theirs was not a venal mission, because they were concerned citizens and their gain was the community’s gain.
I also take issue with Ezunial Burts and his description of the L.A. economy then. Retailing was a major factor, so was banking, the entertainment industry … not just major manufacturing companies. To give you some idea of the collective purpose that existed then, the L.A. chamber, under the leadership of Beckman and Wright, organized a Southern California-wide effort to lure jobs to this area. Following the huge invasion of population and business to this area in the first 10 years after the war, the economic infusion slowed. The aim then was to get business/industry and resultant jobs for all the post-war arrivals, who continued to come in droves.
This amalgamation of business executives and city officials, hailing from six Southern California counties, got together for this common purpose, trekked to New York City, Washington and Boston. They met with business and financial leaders and politicians, selling the attractive virtues of this area. Major media interviews gave public visibility to this sizable undertaking. It worked, and the jobs began to flow into Southern California again. I know, because I was here then and was deeply involved in this exceptional area-wide thrust.
Can this kind of mutually beneficial working relationship happen here again? The new Committee of 25 and the larger group of 100, helped now by NewLAMP, might be able to do the job. The businessman mayor of L.A. certainly tried to make this a more business-friendly place early in his first term. L.A.’s dismal permitting process remains a bureaucratic frustration, as one example of a kind of anti-business atmosphere here. Our form of city government doesn’t help things. In contrast, a city like Chicago has had a powerful mayor almost dictatorial in the Mayor Daley days but things got done, the arts and culture climate was wonderfully stimulated and, power politics or not, that city worked.
What a challenge! I just hope you keep the pressure on and maybe the Los Angeles Times can wake up to its critically important role here. This isn’t blatant boosterism. It’s more a case of survival in a viciously competitive arena of scrambling, ambitious, job-hungry cities around the country. L.A. needs all the help it can find from whatever sector, including the media.
An area like this one that has diversity, creativity, climate, opportunity, a distinct Pacific Rim advantage and a proven capability of recovering from a serious recession has all the elements for finally becoming a major city of the world. Ah, but leadership, that’s the rub.
ROBERT B. WOLCOTT JR.
Public Relations Consultant