Report Takes Wraps off Valley's 'Hidden' Economy

Times Staff Writer

The San Fernando Valley could be called California's shadow city because its economic importance has been masked by a lack of accurate statistics.

This has changed with a new report entitled "Business Profiles in the San Fernando Valley (Western Economic Research Co., 15910 Ventura Blvd., Suite A-8, Encino 91436, $20).

Through a cooperative agreement with Market Statistics, a New York research firm, Western Economic Research has obtained ZIP code tapes of the 1984 County Business Patterns census.

As defined in the report, the Valley includes 69 ZIP codes and 24 communities--including the independent cities of Burbank, San Fernando and Hidden Hills and the unincorporated Los Angeles County areas of Topanga and Universal City, according to C. Michael Long, vice president of Western Economic Research.

Ahead of Detroit

Under this definition, the Valley has 359 square miles and a population of about 1.3 million, Long said. This would make it the second most populous city in the state--after Los Angeles--if it were a separate city. Nationally, it would rank sixth, after Houston, and ahead of Detroit.

The Valley has more businesses--32,314--than San Francisco, Long said, and its 527,348 non-governmental employees are more than in any of 17 states.

Long past the bedroom community stage, the Valley has a very strong and diversified economic base, the statistical breakout shows.

Its distribution is remarkably similar to Los Angeles County as a whole, Long said. For instance, the manufacturing category has 3,438 plants and 154,380 workers, representing 29.3% of its total business employment. This compares with 27.5% in Los Angeles County.

Service Is Second

Second to manufacturing in the Valley is service, with 12,372 establishments and 152,363 employees. Together, manufacturing and service make up more than 58% of the Valley's business employment. Third in importance is retail trade, with 6,809 firms and 96,562 employees.

The top business communities in the Valley, based on total business employment, were Burbank, Van Nuys, North Hollywood, Chatsworth and Canoga Park.

The top industrial communities were Chatsworth, Van Nuys and Burbank. The top financial communities were Woodland Hills, Encino and North Hollywood, while the top retail trade communities were North Hollywood, Northridge and Canoga Park.

Long said that while the data is a few years old, "it is better to have old good information than no information at all. A 2- to-3-year delay in essential bench mark data does not seriously impair its usefulness."

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