Did you hear? Yahoo is moving to Los Angeles! Mayor Eric Garcetti snagged it! He made the announcement Thursday!
Well, no, not the whole company. But a piece of it! Yahoo is bringing hundreds of jobs to Los Angeles!
OK, no, not from outside the country or outside the state or even from Silicon Valley. Or from Northern California at all. Yahoo is moving all those jobs to L.A. from Santa Monica.
Which means that there's not much moving going on after all. Yahoo needed better office space, and it found some a couple of miles down the coast. A Yahoo employee who now may skateboard a few blocks westward to get to work will in the fall skateboard a few blocks the other way. Big deal.
Economic development is crucial because it provides new jobs, keeps revenue flowing into government coffers to pay for needed services and attracts more business. And Yahoo offers the kind of creative work that pays good wages, which in turn attract a home-grown and imported population of young, well-educated workers who have money to spend and ambitious projects on their drawing boards. It is a terrific complement to the region's more traditional entertainment industry. Holding on to and building the region's creative sector is the right goal. We're glad Yahoo is here. We're glad that it merely switched neighborhoods rather than counties or states.
But it's hardly a win for the region and its economy when Los Angeles poaches a business from Santa Monica. We've seen that folly play out for years. Burbank and Glendale would snatch companies from L.A. and L.A. would snatch them back, with each city offering incentives and givebacks to make the local tax base look better on paper. In this case, it appears that Yahoo is moving a few blocks to take advantage of L.A.'s special tax incentives for Internet companies. The move will put some tax dollars into L.A.'s budget that had previously gone to Santa Monica's, but it will do nothing to enlarge or develop the economy.
What is needed is an economic development strategy that allows local cities to work together to make themselves more attractive to employers ready and able to create new Yahoo-level jobs here. Or at least to bring them here when they are outgrowing their quarters in Silicon Valley, New York or elsewhere outside the region. Neighboring cities may compete, but they should compete to create good jobs, not to steal them from each other.
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