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Allen

ALLEN/27inches/1stjc/mark2nd By DANIEL TAUB Staff Reporter Say Beverly Hills, and images of palm trees, Rodeo Drive and mansions spring readily to mind. Say Hollywood , and it’s easy to picture the Mann Chinese Theatre, the stars on the Walk of Fame and, of course, the Hollywood sign. But what comes to mind when someone says San Fernando Valley? Bill Allen wants you to think of movie studios, gourmet restaurants and a convenient airport- but he acknowledges that those may not be the first images that come to mind. “The problem is that the Valley’s image is undefined,” Allen said. “A lot of people have very positive images about the Valley but the business definition is very unclear.” The challenge, Allen said, is for the area’s businesses to work together to develop an easily accessible image for a very diverse area. “We need to try to develop a simple, clear vision for what the Valley is and where it’s going,” he said. A former MTM Entertainment and CBS Television Network executive, and the son of entertainer Steve Allen, Allen was hired last month as the first president and chief executive officer of the Valley Economic Alliance. The non-profit organization, formed in the aftermath of the 1994 Northridge earthquake with seed money from Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan’s office, is charged with promoting the Valley as a desirable place to do business. Allen, who is drawing an annual salary of $180,000, will head up the alliance’s numerous programs, including assistance to small businesses, government relations, educational programs and retention of businesses considering leaving the Valley. But perhaps the biggest challenge Allen faces is coming up with an image for the Valley and selling it as a place where businesses should relocate. “We hope to really develop an image of the San Fernando Valley that is marketable as a brand,” he said. Allen, 39, has been working since last summer on the alliance’s Valley image task force, along with Jane Boeckmann, publisher of Valley Magazine. Among the marketing efforts being developed by Allen, Boeckmann and others are informational kiosks to be placed at Burbank Airport and Los Angeles International Airport, an annual report about the Valley’s demographics and economy, and a glossy magazine promoting the Valley’s businesses, cultural activities and recreational attractions. “It will be the kind of first-class publication that L.A. or California puts out every few years,” Allen said. Other marketing tools already completed or in the works include a 10-minute videotape, a World Wide Web site, and freeway signs that would let drivers know when they enter the San Fernando Valley. Those types of marketing tools are needed, he said, because no one else in the city including the city-funded New Los Angeles Marketing Project is doing much to promote the Valley. “I would defy you to find much information about the San Fernando Valley in NewLAMP’s marketing efforts,” Allen said. “I’m not sure there was even one frame of film of the San Fernando Valley in their (television) commercial.” David W. Fleming, chairman of the alliance’s board, said the group’s marketing effort was also needed because none of the Valley’s other major business groups was devoted to that purpose. The Valley Industry and Commerce Association serves as an advocacy group for small to medium-sized businesses; the Valley Economic Development Center is designed to lend money to businesses; and the United Chambers of Commerce of the San Fernando Valley is an umbrella organization for local chambers, Fleming said. “The whole purpose of this thing is to bring all these organizations together, first of all to help recovery from the Northridge earthquake, and to retain businesses and attract new businesses, thereby expanding the economy of the region,” Fleming said. Fleming and Allen said the biggest task initially is raising enough money to fund the type of marketing and educational programs they envision the alliance providing. The alliance has a goal of raising $7.5 million by the end of the year. So far, it has raised more than $2 million, including a $500,000 contribution over the next four years from the Daily News of Los Angeles and a $90,000 commitment from the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. Universal Studios Inc., Pacific Bell and Atlantic Richfield Co. have also given money. Allen whose family will be donating office space to the alliance, likely to be based in Van Nuys doesn’t expect fund-raising to occupy most of his time. “I think fund-raising will be a short-term priority,” he said. “We’re really looking for investments from the community that will pay off in dividends in coming years.” Allen said he has been speaking to hundreds of business leaders in order to develop an image for the Valley an area with 60,000 businesses that include health maintenance organizations, manufacturing plants, mom-and-pop restaurants and movie and television studios. Allen said the alliance will likely focus on the studios, given their high profile, Allen’s own background and the fact that the entertainment industry is the Valley’s top employer. Allen said people from outside the area still envision Hollywood as the film and television capital, without realizing that Walt Disney Co., Warner Bros., Universal Studios Inc., NBC Studios and CBS Studios Center are all in the Valley. “There are so many shows filming here,” Allen said, noting that two of the nation’s most popular sitcoms, “Seinfeld” and “Home Improvement,” are taped in the Valley. John Rooney, president of the Valley Economic Development Center and vice chair of business development for the alliance, said he is hopeful the alliance will give the Valley control over its economy. “We need to have control of our own destiny,” Rooney said. “It supports and enhances what is already being done locally.”

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