Los Angeles Business Journal

L.A.’s Work in Creating Jobs Pays Dividends

OP-ED By ANTONIO VILLARAIGOSA Monday, October 31, 2011

Gensler, one of the world’s foremost architectural and design firms, has moved its regional headquarters, employing more than 300 people. In gross tax receipts alone, the city will realize a minimum 250 percent return on its investment. That’s not including tax revenues from meals, hotel rooms, gym memberships, and housing and more.

‘The place to be’

These are the types of companies we need – trailblazing leaders in their fields that not only create jobs and generate revenue but help define Los Angeles as “the place to be.”

Of course, in Los Angeles nothing significant happens without controversy, and we’ve heard some complaints that the city should not be spending public money offering incentives to companies like BYD and Gensler. In this case, it’s the critics who are failing to see the bottom line.

First and foremost, we did not use money from the general fund to attract these important new companies, and no city services were affected. On the contrary, we leveraged federal dollars exactly as they were intended to be used.

Some say we should be using federal grants only to take care of our downtown homeless population. Again, this criticism misses the mark. In fact, we use the vast majority of these federal grant dollars to house the homeless and lift Angelenos out of poverty. We’ve reserved a modest 14 percent of these funds for job creation and economic development. In fact, some would argue that isn’t enough.

We’ve even heard some say the city shouldn’t be in the business of working to attract business from neighboring cities. Ah, if things were only so simple. We know, California in general – and the city of Los Angeles in particular – have been major targets of deliberate business-poaching efforts by other governments all around the country. As Texas Gov. Rick Perry likes to say, “If California doesn’t want your business, Texas does.”

Fundamentally, we are going to have to change our mentality in Los Angeles. We are still sadly paying the price for many of the anti-business policies of our recent past. I’m committed to using every tool at our disposal.

I am proud that we are doing more than any other administration in recent memory to create jobs and strengthen our economy. If we lose this fight for business, there will be devastating long-term consequences for all of us who depend on our Police and Fire departments, and who rely on city government for basic public services.

You can imagine what the critics would have to say then.

Antonio Villaraigosa is mayor of Los Angeles.

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