The Los Angeles Economic Development Corporation: LA’s Strategic Partner for Economic Growth

Pam Sornson, JD

Even before the Coronavirus pandemic of 2020 struck, the Los Angeles Economic Development Corporation (LAEDC) was asking its members, “where will the well-paying jobs come from in the future?” Launched in 1981, the non-profit Agency continues to pursue its mission of guiding regional economic development through public-private partnerships between governments, industries, and education centers. Embracing the benefits of its geographical location, the LAEDC engages the many globally competitive industries that have already invested resources in the community, helping them to build out supply chains that employ ever-growing numbers of LA County residents. Its members’ efforts collectively drive the Agency to achieve its “Triple Bottom Line”: regional economic strength, environmental sustainability, and shared equity and prosperity.

 

 

How the LAEDC Works

The LAEDC is comprised of more than 500 stakeholder organizations, all sharing a common vision of an economically stable, safe, and thriving LA Basin. Through communication and collaboration among its 26 focus groups, the Agency created a series of seven goals:

    1. Invest in people;
    2. Strengthen export-oriented industries;
    3. Accelerate innovation and entrepreneurship;
    4. Be more business-friendly;
    5. Remove barriers to critical infrastructure development;
    6. Increase global connectedness, and
    7. Build more livable communities

Each goal also numerates four distinct solutions, directing the efforts of goal-specific groups toward those determined ends:

      1. Increase the supply of qualified and skilled labor;
      2. develop and grow consumer demand by creating new products, services, and markets;
      3. capture and promote innovation to grow both legacy and new sectors, and
      4. develop industry-based business clusters to encourage competitiveness and differentiation.

Each group’s task is to apply its efforts to develop these solutions for their particular goal’s challenge.

Collectively, the LAEDC is working to address the fundamental challenge of today’s society (before COVID): how to engage human labor and effort in an increasingly technological world? Throughout history, old systems have given way to innovations that make those legacy activities obsolete. Today’s technology threatens the current labor force the same way:

Automated robotics technology performs routine and mundane tasks faster, more efficiently, and with fewer errors.

Radiofrequency identification technology tracks millions of products across billions of supply chains.

Computer networking is eliminating the need for shared office spaces, and the transportation systems needed to get people to them.

International out-sourcing of industrial production chains only adds to the challenge for today’s workers to find well-paying jobs in LA or anywhere in the U.S. All these technological developments have caused millions of lost jobs in the LA area and around the world.

The LAEDC believes that lost jobs don’t also always equate to missed economic opportunities. Its challenge is to assist its members in paving their individual road to success by developing both the technical resources that will create their future growth and the human resources that will power and control them. Its purpose is to “capture the power of many to propel economic equity and prosperity for all.”

 

Measuring Success

According to its 2019 report, the LAEDC has already achieved significant success on its mission. In data collected from just a few of its programs indicates that not only is the Agency on the right path but so are its constituents:

 

The Business Assistance Program

This multilingual team offers business advice and assistance to local companies, cities, and the County itself for opening, building, or finding success in the LA County region. Its goal is to attract new businesses to the area and help them establish a sustainable consumer base. It works to ensure existing companies stay in the region and in business, protecting their workers from job losses and the subsequent calamities those cause. Finally, the team helps any business expand into new frontiers, helping them identify and remove barriers to growth and prosperity.

Metrics gathered since 2014 indicate that the Business Assistance Program has saved upwards of 7,000 jobs, created almost 14,000 new jobs, and generated over $3 billion in economic outputs to the County.

[Notably, a long-standing project within the Business Assistance Program is building resilience into the fabric of the industrial community. Until very recently, these efforts centered on managing disruptions caused by earthquakes, wildfires, and economic recessions, and provided resources that outlined strategies for surviving and rebuilding after such a disaster strikes. While the Agency couldn’t predict the COVID pandemic, its prescience and foresight guiding economic resilience in the face of a disaster will undoubtedly prove invaluable as the LA Basin works to recover from its catastrophic impact.]

 

The World Trade Center LA (WTCLA)

The WTCLA invites international interest and resources to invest and participate in LA’s industrial complex as part of its goal of attracting new business to the LA basin. Already, LA acts as the export hub for the western United States, and building those trade partnerships will only bolster its economy further. In the 2018-2019 Fiscal Year:

WTCLA engaged in 66 international investment consultations;

Hosted ten business and industry delegations from countries including Canada and the United Arab Emirates;

Recruited delegates for trade missions at Australia’s Avalon Airshow, New Zealand’s Tripartite Economic Summit, and Hong Kong’s Asian Financial Forum, and

facilitated the investment of over $11 million into LA County.

 

The Institute for Applied Economics (IAE)

This body performs the research and analytics that underpin the LA region’s economic decision-making opportunity. Gathering data from diverse resources, including industry clusters, workforce development efforts, and labor supply and demand, the IAE provides commercial and business insights to hundreds of clients. The Agency’s work informs the LAEDC about the aims and successes of its programs and how they contribute to LA County’s Strategic Plan for Economic Development in general.

 

Coordinating Growth in Critical Industry Clusters

Much of the LAEDC success comes from its strategic alliances with LA’s major industrial clusters, which provide the foundation for many local and regional economies. By building connections between leadership in these sectors and city and county governments, the LAEDC helps to knit together the systems that encourage success on both sides of those collaborations. LA’s AerospaceAdvanced MobilityBioscience, and Digital Media & Entertainment industries all contribute and participate with LAEDC members, generating system alignments that wouldn’t happen without the discussions and discourse.

 

And Coordinating College-to Career Opportunities: Propel LA

Propel LA is the operational arm of the LAEDC, leveraging the activities of hundreds of stakeholders to implement the 2016-2020 Countywide Strategic Plan for Economic Development. Linking companies, individuals, governments, and educational institutions, Propel LA facilitates the conversations that turn industry labor requirements into educational programs and well-paying jobs.

Its Workforce Development team engages all aspects of the workforce development continuum to achieve three major objectives:

align college and university curricula with occupational demands, as employers, businesses, and industries determine those standards;

develop work-based learning opportunities for students to experience employment parameters while learning valuable hard- and soft skills, and

create industry Councils to advise, inform, and solve current and emerging workforce challenges.

Using these resources, government and school leaders can develop the investments and strategies needed to transform LA’s community colleges into the talent pipelines demanded by LA’s growing industrial community. Students can enter college with their speific career goal in mind and a clearly defined pathway to achieve it. And the LA region can bank on the improved economics generated by well-trained workers performing critical jobs in support of their families.

Propel LA relies on the work of the LAEDC’s Center for a Competitive Workforce (CCW), which also evolved through collaboration across industries. It now generates the labor and occupational market data that informs businesses, governments, and – most importantly – LA County’s 19 community colleges about labor trends and future hiring needs. Schools realigned courses and programs to respond to hiring needs, and businesses turn more frequently to those schools for the skilled workers they need. Because of these interactions, in fall 2019, 523,000 of the LA Community College’s 770,000 students were enrolled in some form of an occupation-directed education program.

 

Established and Growing

As a non-profit organization, the LAEDC is always seeking new members, donors, and investors to maintain its momentum toward better jobs and a higher standard of living for all the region’s residents, both human and corporate. Members enjoy unique and informative forums, ‘RED’ Talks, social events, and cutting-edge research and insights on the future of LA’s economy. An an entity, the LAEDC is unique to California, and its vision, goals, and strategies are unique to the country and perhaps even the world. With such an authoritative resource available, there’s no reason why LA County and its industries, businesses, residents, and schools shouldn’t build the economy of the future: fair, equitable, sustainable, and profitable.

 

 

 

 

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