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Another plan to make L.A. more business friendly. Will this one matter?

Another plan to make L.A. more business friendly. Will this one matter?
Views of downtown Los Angeles and city hall from the rooftop helipad of the AT&T Tower building at Olive and 11th Streets on September 29, 2014. (Los Angeles Times)

Another year, another plan to make Los Angeles more business friendly. After the City Council voted in July 2015 to raise the city's minimum wage to $15 by 2020, Council President Herb Wesson said that he'd heard the complaints from business groups that the city was layering new mandates on employers yet again without really trying to improve economic conditions. So he created a special City Council committee to figure out what the city could do to attract and retain businesses and help create more jobs.

The committee has finished its report, and the solutions sound ... familiar. Its proposals include creating a Business Advance Team, which would offer "concierge" service to help businesses navigate the city's bureaucracy. That's reminiscent of former Mayor Richard Riordan's L.A. Business Team; Antonio Villaraigosa proposed a similar service when he was mayor. The report also calls for the city to hire a consultant to write a comprehensive economic development plan — four years after another city-hired consultant produced an economic development strategy. That 2012 plan was commissioned by the Villaraigosa administration and largely ignored by the City Council and Mayor Eric Garcetti.

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Councilman Paul Krekorian, who headed the latest committee, says it's OK if its recommendations seem mainly like retreads of past proposals. L.A.'s political leaders have a history of grand pronouncements and promises that peter out or never take hold. Real change, Krekorian says, comes from the hard, often boring work of actually implementing those proposals and creating the institutions within City Hall that can carry on the work of economic development no matter who sits on the City Council or in the mayor's office.

The proposals are not just retreads — they're small steps. Still, Krekorian hopes that by creating a Small Business Commission to help shape city policies, by giving businesses a dedicated contact inside the bureaucracy instead of a shifting series of political appointees in the mayor's office, and by creating new economic development incentive zones, L.A. can make permanent changes to improve the city's business climate.

That's a start. Real change, however, requires committed leadership. Wesson and his council colleagues, along with Garcetti, have to stay focused on fostering economic development and job creation, whether by streamlining regulations, preserving land for industrial or commercial uses that can create high-paying jobs, using targeted incentives to spur investment in communities that need opportunities, or giving real thought to how feel-good city policies make it harder to do business in L.A. It's easy to commission a report. It will be much harder but far more important to turn recommendations into a better economic reality.

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