Los Angeles Business Journal

‘A City in Decline’? Not L.A.

OP-ED By Russell Goldsmith Monday, January 27, 2014

• An Expanding USC: After years of unnecessary delays, the $1 billion USC Village project was approved in December by the city Planning Commission. That means that USC can now apply for permits to construct a town square for the university, including retail, student housing and academic space. The project will cut down on traffic congestion and is expected to create 8,000 permanent jobs.

• A Much Improved LAX: One of the LAEJC report’s key recommendations six years ago was improving LAX, the second largest job generator in our region, which the city owns. Under Gina Marie Lindsay’s leadership, LAX is making significant improvements. The new Tom Bradley International West Terminal is a state-of-the-art facility where Los Angeles welcomes its most valuable visitors. More airlines are now bringing A380s to LAX than any other U.S. airport. Many other capital improvements to the other terminals are moving ahead. A key to all this was the City Council’s approval last year of the airport’s much needed and delayed plan to move the north runway to enhance productivity, safety and more investment at LAX. This momentum needs to be maintained by city officials to ensure all of this happens and that Metro’s rail system is finally connected to LAX.

• Public Safety: This is a vital prerequisite to a healthy economy. The police force is larger today and crime has been dropping for 11 straight years.

• A Vibrant Tech Community: More than $720 million in venture capital flowed into L.A.-area firms just in the third quarter of 2013 – more than double the amount in the second quarter. Our tech bankers are seeing that L.A.’s Silicon Beach is a dynamic and growing hub for tech and entertainment companies. It posted the biggest venture capital deal in the United States in the third quarter – the $500 million investment in Beats Electronics in Santa Monica, demonstrating the dramatic potential for L.A.’s growing base of firms that blend technology and entertainment. We are now attracting and retaining more of the tech talent from our own world-class universities.

These are just some of the positive things. Of course, there are very real problems, such as the quality of education at the Los Angeles Unified School District, pension costs that the city cannot afford, too many unemployed Angelenos, poverty and too much traffic.

Clearly there is still much more that needs to be done for Los Angeles to solve its problems and optimize its remarkable resources and opportunities as a thriving and diverse world-class metropolis. Government at every level needs to do much more and be truly proactive to help business, labor, non-profits and universities grow jobs and the economy.

Despite all its challenges and problems, Los Angeles has the talent, resources and opportunities to create more economic prosperity for its citizens. Fortunately, both our new mayor and our City Council president are focused on job and economic growth. It is important that they, and all of us, see Los Angeles as it really is and then do what is needed to maintain Los Angeles as a city that is the envy of the world for its many strengths and opportunities, industries and entrepreneurs, cultural and educational resources, and much, much more.

While much has been accomplished and much more remains to be done, Los Angeles is definitely on the way up.

Russell Goldsmith is chairman and chief executive of City National Bank.

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