Despite a series of setbacks and criticism that her organization is not moving fast enough, RLA President Linda Griego said this week she is optimistic that the group will achieve its goal of revitalizing areas ravaged by the 1992 riots.
Griego told the Calabasas Rotary Club on Thursday that RLA, formerly Rebuild L.A., will stick to its twin-pronged strategy of encouraging retailers to locate in blighted areas of Los Angeles and of helping existing businesses in those areas expand. If all goes as planned, the group's mission will be accomplished before its five-year authorization expires.
Los Angeles and RLA suffered a major setback in December when the federal government turned down the city's application to be designated an "empowerment zone." Had the application been approved, federal officials estimate, the city could have received $375 million in tax breaks and direct grants over a five-year period.
However, the federal government did award Los Angeles what Griego called a $115-million "consolation prize," which will be used to create a community development bank for blighted areas.
Griego said she will continue to tout the area's strengths--a number of highly successful industries she said have gone largely unnoticed by outsiders. Those industries include biomedical technology, computer hardware, entertainment crafts, food products, household furniture, metals, plastics, textiles and toys.
In 1994, 8,110 companies had $22,417,078 in sales and provided 192,502 jobs, Griego said. "Our main thing is to get investors to look at these neighborhoods," she said.
According to RLA, about 10,000 businesses were damaged or destroyed by the riots. Although it is difficult to track how many have rebuilt, the Small Business Administration has received 8,500 loan applications. About 5,600 of those have been approved.
Griego said the organization also wants to help businesses in blighted neighborhoods in the San Fernando Valley. She said her group has interviewed about 25 firms to see what needs exist, but added she is not sure whether those businesses would qualify for loans from the community development bank.
Several in the audience said they were impressed with Griego, a 47-year-old former deputy mayor of economic development under former Mayor Tom Bradley and owner of the upscale downtown restaurant Engine Co. 28.
But some said they were concerned that time is running out for RLA. Other groups need to get involved to help the agency meet its goal, said Ross Fleetwood, a Calabasas-based engineer and building contractor. "There needs to be more community involvement," he said.