YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

O.C. Economy Tops Summit's List : Goals: Business leaders and lawmakers set a four-month deadline for devising ways to educate future workers, provide health care and unravel government red tape.


ORANGE — A coalition of Orange County business leaders, lawmakers and educators vowed Friday to meet a strict four-month deadline to come up with ways to jump-start the local economy.

The group, under the auspices of Partnership 2010, met for an all-day summit on ways to make Orange County more business-friendly. At the end of the meeting, participants set a 120-day deadline for tackling such difficult issues as how to educate the county's future work force, provide affordable health care for all workers, unravel complicated, cumbersome and expensive government regulations, and provide seed money for small businesses.

"We were here to build a consensus so we can all move forward with unanimity," said Harriett M. Wieder, chairman of the Orange County Board of Supervisors and head of Partnership 2010. "We hope that Orange County will be a model for the state."

The summit, which drew more than 200 participants, was held on the campus of Chapman University, which co-sponsored the event.

At the end of four months, the coalition will make specific recommendations and will schedule other summits on how to carry them out.

"This is the first of a series," Wieder said.

In the area of government regulation, San Clemente City Council member Scott Diehl said that he is "taking the show on the road" to persuade officials in the county's other 30 cities to pass resolutions supporting a "one-stop" permit processing proposal.

The permit process is a chief gripe by business owners, he said. Creating a single, countywide entity would save money and time, he said, and help generate local revenue from new businesses.

Gregory S. Bishop, president of consulting firm Business Health Solutions in Irvine, said that another area under scrutiny by the Partnership 2010 group is the affordability of health care for employers. Bishop proposes that businesses band together to negotiate prices with managed-care providers. Such a concept has already been introduced successfully in other cities, he said, among them Detroit and San Francisco.

And John F. Dean, superintendent of the Orange County Department of Education, said that, to make the county more desirable for new business owners, children should be encouraged as early as eighth grade to make decisions about their future so that they can choose the proper educational program, be it academic or vocational. That strategy, he said, would better prepare the student for employment later in life.

"For decades we have been teaching all of our kids as if everyone is going to college," Dean said. "That just isn't the case. They should be learning real-life skills."

Los Angeles Times Articles