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San Gabriel Valley Tribune
April 10, 2006

Keep Business Booming

OUR special publication "The Summit, The State of Business in the San Gabriel Valley" reminded us of the area's crucial position - i.e. at the top - of Los Angeles County's economic development ladder.

But aside from reporting on the Valley's business acumen, the leaders interviewed in the publication presented challenges that must be met if not only the Valley but the entire region is to remain king of the business hill. In short, how do government and business leaders not kill the goose that lays the golden egg?

Three things come to mind: goods movement, regional zoning/planning and partnerships/marketing.

As the publication pointed out, the region and the economy has found a way to adapt to the decline in manufacturing jobs felt throughout the state. One way is for businesses to hook into trade from China, Taiwan and Hong Kong. The rise in Asian-owned businesses has kept the warehouses full in the business-dominated city of Industry. More than 800 of Industry's 2,300 businesses are owned or operated by Asians. This trend reflects a growing Asian population in the Valley, from Monterey Park, San Marino, Temple City and Arcadia to the Puente corridor cities of Hacienda Heights, Walnut and Rowland Heights.

Government leaders need to find new ways to keep the link between the Pacific Rim and the San Gabriel Valley and Whittier area strong. A new foreign trade zone planned by Industry is one way. It would be patterned after one established in 1998 in El Monte. El Monte's zone has helped minority-owned businesses establish start-ups and with that, create jobs.

Something that no one here has to create is more containers filled with goods. The ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach will continue to accept an increased volume. Experts predict this year's 15.6 million containers moving through the twin ports (up from 14.2 million one year ago) will reach 22 million in only four more years.

While most of us think of traffic in terms of people, usually people in cars sitting on "parking lots" called freeways, planners and legislators must think about ways to free up goods movement. It is the movement of goods - mostly by trains and trucks - after they're unloaded at the ports that must continue like a well-oiled machine. We need to fully fund the Alameda Corridor East projects in order to allow trains to move unimpeded to warehouses, as well as cars and trucks on major arteries at and beyond rail crossings.

Many companies are taking advantage of a new industry gaining considerable traction here, one of logistics. Wal-Mart and PepsiCo Inc. are perfecting how they move products. We need to market this new "trade" to our area - it is clean industry, and it combines high-tech with higher-paying jobs.

Also, high-tech businesses are growing (mostly in Monrovia and Pasadena). We'd like to see that growth continue and expand. That means, drumming up government dollars for more infrastructure (grade separations, light-rail, freeway improvements) and more tax breaks for biomedical and high-tech start-ups. It may also mean passing out warehousing in favor of high-tech business parks and the high-paying jobs they afford.

Officials in Santa Fe Springs recognized warehousing was creating traffic problems due to the large numbers of trucks necessary to the industry. They are considering recruiting other types of businesses to town. So-called "smart parks" would be a fine addition to the city's business mix.

Also, if companies are to grow and others relocate here, we need to find a way to provide lower cost housing for their workers. That, as we all know, is a tall order. But the San Gabriel Valley can't be a success in business without the whole package: housing, partnerships with business and government, and better movement of goods and people.

Anything less would be a step down.