New city manager talks business

Glendale’s economy appears to be turning the corner, but it will still have to adapt to the “new normal,” said City Manager Scott Ochoa during an economic outlook event Wednesday.

There are some bright spots on the horizon, he said, such as property tax revenues flattening out and sales taxes starting to rebound from a double-digit reduction.

“We saw that in the second half of last year, and hopefully it will continue,” Ochoa said in his address at Glendale Outlook 2012, sponsored by the Glendale Chamber of Commerce and held at the Hilton Glendale.

The city works hard to support local businesses, Ochoa said, citing as an example the decision by the Glendale City Council on Tuesday to postpone discussion of proposed water-rate hikes so officials can get more input from commercial customers.

“At the end of the day, your job is my job, and my job is yours,” he told the business representatives in the room. “I want to make you successful so you can make me successful.”

There are still many challenges, though, particularly for small businesses that have difficulty getting access to capital, Ochoa said. It often creates a Catch-22 situation, where banks turn down small businesses based on their revenues, but the businesses need to expand to improve their bottom lines.

Looking at the city’s finances, Ochoa said the elimination of redevelopment agencies, which began Wednesday, is going to be a thorn in the city’s side.

“It’s the wrong idea at the wrong time,” he said.

Redevelopment projects create jobs, particularly in the construction industry, which was hit especially hard during the recession, he added.

Despite the loss of redevelopment powers, the city’s goal is to have a long-term balanced budget in the next three to five years, Ochoa said.

To improve the city’s financial picture, Glendale officials have been rolling back retirement and health benefits and making sure the city isn’t top-heavy with management, Ochoa said.

But even as Glendale’s economic outlook starts to improve, it could still take time for the city and local businesses to get to a point where they’re thriving again.

“We could still be stuck in this little rowboat without a paddle for a couple years more,” Ochoa said.

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