A coalition of Valley economic development agencies and chambers of commerce revealed Friday preliminary findings of a strategic plan for the San Fernando Valley's economic future.
The coalition, the Economic Alliance of San Fernando Valley, has been meeting since February, 1994. It was granted $350,000 in federal funds through the city of Los Angeles to conduct a three-staged study of local economic strengths, weaknesses and trends.
The first stage, an assessment of industry potential in several business districts, has been under way since January. Stage two is the formation of a strategy based on that assessment. And stage three, to begin in August, is the implementation of that strategy.
"So far, we've interviewed about 40 company CEOs to find out what some of the major issues of concern are for each region of the Valley," said John Rooney, president of the Valley Economic Development Center, a coalition member.
"They're telling us a few things we already know," Rooney said, "but some answers have been a little surprising."
Rooney said many company officials expressed a concern over the Los Angeles area K-12 school systems. Basic skills needed for clerical or administrative support are becoming scarce, they said. Other issues raised, said Rooney, were connected to California's regulatory environment.
"Things like workers' compensation, environmental regulations and slow permitting processes were on top of everyone's list," said Rooney. "They want bureaucracies to be more business-friendly."
"We need to tackle these issues aggressively," Rooney concluded.
Besides conducting the business survey, the group looked at growth potential for what it considers key industries in the Valley.
According to Gary Alexander of SRI International, a consultant group hired by the coalition, both entertainment and high-tech industries figure prominently in the area's economic future.
"Our working hypothesis is that the Valley will soon be the center for both these industries," Alexander said.
"The key is to get businesses to organize now so they can take advantage of all this potential," he concluded. "Once we've gathered all of our information, we'll work on ways to do that."