By Stephanie Raygoza
“Endorse, educate, advocate” were the resounding words spoken last Saturday by senior vice president of Los Angeles County’s Strategic Initiatives David A. Flaks, as he presented the Strategic Plan for Economic Development to the Long Beach League of Women Voters, as well as US Rep. Laura Richardson (D-37th).
Demonstrating why the economy needs the strategic plan, what it clearly is, the public input process and how the plan will be implemented were the main focuses of Flaks’s presentation held at the Los Altos Library.
Flaks opened with a brief background on Los Angeles County and how it has become a flourishing entertainment and business capitol over the years. However, his attention soon focused on the current state of its declining economy and how there is a dire need to create more jobs.
“Even with those extremely valuable fixed assets…we have grossly underperformed as a region in terms of created jobs for 10.4 million residents,” said Flaks. “During the last 30 years, while the county has added more than 2.9 million new residents, we’ve only created about 457,000 net jobs for those new residents.”
It is this problem in creating new jobs and protecting the county’s dwindling middle class, as Flaks mentioned, that the four-year consensus strategic plan was created by the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation, a private nonprofit organization.
“We created a straw man document with five core aspirational goals which we believe are not only reflective of the huge and remarkable diverse Los Angeles County economy, but will help us achieve out shared vision of enduring a strong, diverse and sustainable economy for the county residents and communities,” Flaks said.
The five goals, which have 12 objectives and 52 strategies incorporated into them, are to prepare an educated workforce, create a business-friendly environment, enhance the quality of life, implement smart land use and create a 21st Century infrastructure. The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors unanimously adopted the strategic plan in December 2009.
As Flaks concluded his presentation, urging community outreach as a form of implementation, Richardson and the women raised concerns over funding, and whether there would be any focus on community or education. “What has the county said about how they intend upon investing this?” asked Richardson.
Flaks responded by saying that the first step is getting people behind these broad-base economic developments and then the next step would be going to elected officials and relevant private organizations and companies. He also added that a good deal of funds were preprogrammed to help fund the implementation.
“This plan was created by a lot of representatives in the community and really publicly created so there’s a role for all of us,” said Flaks. “It’s really getting everyone together and then we’ll figure out how to do it.”
Modernizing the Los Angeles International Airport is one of the proposed investments and coming out with an annual progress report, which will document everything that has gone on in the county that perpetuates those principles, are among the other priorities under the strategic plan.
“We will pay for it if it’s important enough to us,” said League member Jan Gallup. She also raised the question of how education efforts or a community program focus will come into play for the residents.
Flaks mentioned the Long Beach College Promise and how it has already provided a seamless education pathway for all of the Long Beach Unified School District. He praised the success of the program so far and added that the strategic plan would indeed help with the “need to create an ecosystem to ensure that our young people are college- and career-ready.”
The need to grow business was also discussed, and the League will in turn survey small businesses to see how they can increase growth in Long Beach. A small group within the League will also be working closely with Richardson in redistricting efforts.
At the conclusion of the discussion, Richardson came out in full agreement and as a supporter of the strategic plan. “David is right– you need a strategic plan to be able to say what’s important to us,” Richardson said. “That absolutely needs to happen and hopefully elected officials feel that that should come from the people and not themselves. It’s also important to communicate that we’ve got to figure out how to pay to do those things.”