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Mayor details strategies for economic development

Calls South L.A. the ‘heart’ of the city

Cynthia E. Griffin | 6/19/2014, midnight

Vowing to ensure that the future of economic development in Los Angeles comes to South L.A. and not through it, Mayor Eric Garcetti Tuesday laid out plans he said will help preserve and bring business to the community.

Garcetti, became the first mayor to address a meeting of the Crenshaw Chamber of Commerce and spoke to a crowd of about 140 people at the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza. He gave a set of prepared remarks and then answered several questions e-mailed to the chamber.

Standing within a stone’s throw of construction of the Crenshaw LAX light rail line, Garcetti also talked about the importance of making sure that businesses currently in operation in the area stay that way. A business solution center being created in conjunction with Metro will take the lead in this effort.

Among the other initiatives the mayor discussed was a workshop called Small Business Entrepreneurship: Doing Business in L.A. which is planned for Saturday from 10 a.m.-noon at the Hyde Park Branch Library, 2205 W. Florence Ave., Los Angeles.

The workshop, which is open free to the public, will focus on how to legally start a small business as well as introduce resources that the city and its regional partners provide that can help out. To register: visit https://hydeparklibrary-moed.eventbrite.com.

The mayor also listed several other efforts: The Icons of South L.A. Initiative, and the Silicon South Initiative. The latter is working with tech teachers and students at Dorsey and Crenshaw high schools to help young people learn how to start technology businesses in South L.A. Another goal is to train non-tech people in coding in order to help them obtain jobs in this high-wage industry.

Garcetti mentioned that students at the two schools were recognized by President Barack Obama for the apps they had created.

In answer to the overarching question of what will the city do to bring more business to South L.A., Garcetti referenced a report by the British newspaper called The Guardian. It found that of all the cities in the world, Los Angeles was number one in brand recognition.

“But we do a lousy job of marketing the city,” Garcetti said candidly. “First, we’ve got to market ourselves better. We’ve got to make sure people know everything that’s here.”

In particular, the mayor talked about a way to let people coming into the city via LAX, for example, know about the existence of places like Leimert Park. In short, he said the city needs to focus more on cultural tourism.

But Garcetti noted that it takes more that just letting people know that an area exists. It also takes getting people into the area to stay and spend money.

He cited his Great Streets Initiative as one way to facilitate this.

The mayor went on to recount an effort he put into motion as councilman, and detailed how he and his staff, working with the community, were able to each week shut down selected streets for Sunset Junction.

Contrary to business owner fears, Garcetti said the initiative created a reason to bring people into the neighborhood on a consistent basis.

This, rather than trying to fix everything at one time, is the better way to address needs in a neighborhood, when there are limited financial resources.

Garcetti said, “trying to insert one element, something strategic, into one neighborhood can help boost economic development.”

The mayor noted that Crenshaw Boulevard and Central Avenue are two of the 15 streets that have been identified in his Great Streets Initiative to undergo development.

On Crenshaw, the investments will be made between Florence Avenue and 78th Street in conjunction with the building of the LAX light rail line.

Garcetti also talked about the revamping of the city’s worksource centers to focus more strongly on job training in key areas such as aerospace and manufacturing, trade logistics and hospitality.