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More On Los Angeles’ Business-Friendliness

From the Los Angeles Daily News:

Business is thriving in a half-dozen cities ringing Los Angeles thanks to a mix of tax incentives, employee-training programs, shortcuts through red tape and even personal tour guides coming from the various city halls.

Burbank, Lancaster, Palmdale and Santa Clarita earned kudos Tuesday as four of the finalists in a contest to determine the most business-friendly of Los Angeles County’s 88 cities. Long Beach and Cerritos also made the cut.

“I think what we see here is that cities are successful when they are close to their business community. It shows the city of L.A. and the county what can be done,” said Carrie Rogers, vice president of business assistance and development for the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp., the nonprofit advocacy group sponsoring the competition.

The spark driving the economies of the finalists is a willingness to be creative in drawing the tax dollars that commerce brings and providing local jobs to keep the work force off the crowded freeways.

“They are really thinking outside the box,” Rogers said. “The cities are putting themselves in the shoes of the business community, better understanding the philosophies and the needs.

“The cities are being proactive. When business needs processes streamlined, the cities are listening and looking at what they can do to be more business-friendly.”

The LAEDC will announce its judges’ choice during the annual Eddy Awards ceremony Nov. 6 at the Beverly Hilton. El Segundo took top honors last year.

The key factor in identifying the finalists, Rogers said, was the cities’ commitment to attracting and retaining business.

Each has its own way of standing out, as exemplified by Lancaster’s efforts to get Wal-Mart to create a Supercenter; Santa Clarita’s incentives to the Mann Biomedical Business Park; Burbank’s cooperation with Warner Bros. Studios; Palmdale’s dedication to bringing an airline to its airport; Cerritos’ tapping of an official ombudsman to business; and Long Beach’s lobbying campaign on behalf of Boeing Co.

“A lot of what these cities do is build relations,” Rogers said. “In Santa Clarita and now in the Antelope Valley, the businesses say, `We need more trained employees,’ so the city calls the local community college.

“It’s that kind of creativity that meets needs and helps attract and retain business.”

Palmdale Mayor Jim Ledford, for instance, regularly hosts informal round-table sessions with business leaders to discuss their concerns and help meet their needs.

“I think it’s important to have your existing business community have a line of communication with city officials on an ongoing basis,” Ledford said. “This averts any conflict and this kind of dialogue also sets the stage for anticipation of any new businesses interested in coming to Palmdale.”

Businesses weighing a relocation perk up when they hear that Palmdale – like Santa Clarita – has no utility tax.

“That’s 6 percent of your bill from cable to water to gas to power,” Ledford said. “That can be tens of thousands of dollars a year.”

The finalists also touted the quality of life they offer to employees, the skill of the available work force and the availability of affordable land.

“We’ve got residents who are highly trained, highly educated, who are commuting,” Ledford said. “You move your business here, they’re available.”

Palmdale contributed heavily to the $4.6 million incentive package that drew United Airlines this summer to the L.A./Palmdale Regional Airport. The new passenger service between Palmdale and San Francisco is seen as the beginning of a move to make the High Desert airport an option to the crowded Los Angeles International Airport.

Santa Clarita was successful in winning a state designation as an enterprise zone, which, starting July 1, allows it to offer sales-tax credits for equipment purchases and hiring-tax credits for certain work forces, such as those in low-income neighborhoods, said Jason Crawford, the city’s economic-development manager.

Palmdale, Lancaster and Long Beach have long-established enterprise zones.

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