With our abundant sunshine and signature palm trees, Los Angeles has always stood out for its beautiful climate. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for our City’s business climate. With high taxes and copious red tape, Los Angeles has long been burdened by too many deterrents to job creation and disincentives to investment.
As the boom years gave way to bust and the Great Recession, the City needed to chart a bold new course. The stakes were simply too high to tolerate inaction. Businesses were suffering and more and more Angelenos were facing unemployment. In LA, our unemployment rate was as high as 14.7 percent during the depths of the recession, with some of our most vulnerable communities facing much higher numbers. The pain was felt by all.
It was time to do everything we could—as quickly as we could—to put people back to work. That meant creating jobs by investing in our infrastructure and changing the way LA did business so it was easier to do business in LA. We put together an innovative package of reforms and new programs that told the world: LA is open for business.
We started by putting LA on a path to long-term growth and competitiveness by making unprecedented investments in our infrastructure. Through Measure R, we’re doubling the size of our rail network, improving our roads and highways, and creating 400,000 jobs. By investing more than $4 billion in LAX and building a new International terminal, we’re going to have an airport that matches our spirit and style—not to mention, brings new jobs, trade, and tourism.
The Port of Los Angeles is number one in the nation, and we’re putting up $1.2 billion to make sure it stays that way—deepening access channels and expanding on-dock transportation. Along the way, we are supporting 20,000 good jobs. With our new rails, roads, runways, and ports, it will be easier than ever for businesses to get their goods to market and for employees to get to work.
We are committed to making LA an ally, not an obstacle, when it comes to job creation. We’ve reformed our tax code, bringing it more in line with the new realities of our high-tech economy. Through the business tax holiday, businesses new to LA no longer pay business taxes for their first three years. That’s what helped bring innovative, high-growth companies like Blackline Software to Woodland Hills, Google to Silicon Beach, and Tom’s Shoes to Playa Vista. But we didn’t stop there. By eliminating the auto dealer tax and reforming the Internet business tax, we are helping create the jobs of tomorrow in LA.
These reforms not only create jobs, they also create new revenue to fund essential services. Last year alone, we saw a 9 percent spike in sales tax revenue as a result of the changes we put in place. When our tax base grows, that means new dollars to keep cops on the streets, fill potholes, and open parks. That’s a win for all of us.
To keep LA competitive, we also needed to reign in red tape and make business development far more efficient, far more predictable and far more user friendly. That’s the driving force behind our Case Management Office and Restaurant Express Program. The Case Management Office oversees and coordinates a more efficient permitting process.
For example: by breaking down silos and providing key assistance and advice, Trammel Crow received permits for a parking structure in 3 weeks instead of the usual 4 months. This new structure enabled Farmers Insurance to add more than one thousand new jobs in LA. Trammel Crow saved money, construction crews got to work sooner, and the City added more jobs. The Restaurant Express Program cuts in half the time it takes to permit a restaurant. So far it has helped 136 restaurants open for business.
By investing in our infrastructure, cutting red tape, and building a business-friendly city, we are working to ensure the jobs of the future are created here in LA. Together, we’re leaving behind a Los Angeles built to prosper for generations to come.
A job is more than just a 9 to 5, it’s the bedrock of a successful community. When parents are employed, students have a better chance to succeed. When neighbors find work, streets are safer. That’s because a job is a source of pride—and it’s emblematic of the promise and opportunity that Los Angeles stands for.
Until the day I leave office, I will not stop working to create jobs and cut unemployment. We will build on our successes, we will remedy our shortcomings, and we will continue to implement the best new ideas. The people of Los Angeles deserve nothing less.
Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is the 41st mayor of the City of Los Angeles. Elected in 2005, his second term ends June 30, 2013. This is the third in a series about the future of Los Angeles.