Chamber Told to Think Beyond County Borders : Planning: Economic challenges facing Southern California need to be met on a regional level, not by individual counties, the Economic Outlook Conference is told.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Rather then try to foster an Orange County identity distinct from Los Angeles, local business and political leaders should help build regional institutions capable of confronting the huge economic challenges facing Southern California in the 1990s, two urban development experts said Friday at the Orange County Chamber of Commerce's annual Economic Outlook Conference.

Allen J. Scott, professor of urban and economic geography at UCLA, and Chistopher B. Leinberger, an author and managing partner of the real estate consulting firm of Robert Charles Lesser & Co., both said that myriad problems--including traffic, pollution and housing as well as the European challenge to the local aerospace industry--could be solved only if governmental and public-private organizations help coordinate economic development on a regional level.

"There is an urgent need for governmental reform," Scott told the 700 executives in attendance. "There will be a period of difficulty in the early 1990s. The innovative, entrepreneurial nature of the Southern California economy will take the region forward if it is underpinned by government."

Scott was in many respects optimistic about Orange County and Southern California because of the region's success in developing flexible production and labor markets, and miniature urban cores of technology-oriented industries.

But he cautioned that local "cowboy capitalists" should heed the lessons emerging from Europe and Japan, where "alternative managerial ideologies revolving around joint ventures, cooperation and government- and institution-building" have yielded some remarkable achievements.

Specifically, Scott pointed to the success of pan-European projects in the aerospace industry, which have produced the Airbus commercial aircraft company and the Ariane space consortium. Orange County aerospace companies, he warned, would soon be feeling the heat from the revived European aerospace sector.

Leinberger, citing a "great need to explore forms of regional government," said it was "silly" for Orange County to regard itself as an entity distinct from Los Angeles and likened such separatist tendencies to infielders on a baseball game proposing a boycott of the outfielders. Southern Californians, he said, should be "competing with San Francisco and Tokyo, not with one another."

Regional institutions, Leinberger said, would probably evolve incrementally on an issue-by-issue basis, with the South Coast Air Quality Management District as the most prominent current example. Many years down the line, he suggested, these new institutions might be shuffled and merged into a radically new form of regional political authority.

Leinberger emphasized that it was "critical that the real estate development community and business in general get out in front" in helping to solve regional transport, pollution, housing and other problems, because the failure to adequately address these issues would only strengthen no-growth movements.

He acknowledged, however, that forging the requisite partnerships between the public and private sectors was especially difficult in Southern California because the political and business leadership is so diffused.

Still, businesses can move to develop the necessary institutional structures and help "set the agenda" for the region by starting at the level of what he calls the urban core, of which there are 26 in Greater Los Angeles and five in Orange County: Newport Beach/Costa Mesa/Irvine, Anaheim, Huntington Beach/Westminster, North County and South County.

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