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Sunday, May 28, 2023


By DANIEL TAUB Staff Reporter Six months ago, Bill Allen was assigned the task of developing a marketing plan for the San Fernando Valley an area that most of the world outside Los Angeles associates more with tract homes and strip malls than high-tech companies and movie studios. Allen and the organization he heads, the Economic Alliance of the San Fernando Valley, are now on the verge of launching an advertising and public relations campaign to let businesses both inside and outside the Los Angeles area know that the Valley is more than the suburbs and houses such major movie studios as Universal Studios Inc. and Warner Bros., such television studios as NBC Studios and CBS Studios Center, and such technology companies as Litton Industries Inc. Allen and other alliance leaders hope to attract new and relocating businesses to the Valley by showing them other major companies have had success in the area and by showing them the Valley’s other amenities. “A lot of people have no idea of the size or strength of the businesses that do exist in the Valley,” said Allen, who was named the alliance’s first president and chief executive last spring. The group was formed in the aftermath of the 1994 Northridge earthquake to promote the Valley as a place to do business, but has had no on-staff leadership until Allen’s arrival. In addition to attracting and retaining Valley businesses, the alliance also hopes to promote the area as a tourist destination and a place to live all to help nurture and grow the Valley’s economy. In order to spread the word to people both inside and outside the Valley about those businesses and the area’s amenities, the alliance has a variety of projects planned: – Organizing the “Valley Business Corps,” a group of at least 25 volunteers who will focus on business attraction and retention in the Valley (much like L.A.’s Business Team in Mayor Richard Riordan’s office does for the entire city). Most of the volunteers will likely be people already associated with the nearly two dozen chambers of commerce throughout the Valley, who will donate their time as part of their chamber activities. – Developing the “Valley Information Project,” an exhaustive study of taxes, demographics, top companies, employment, transportation, personal income, education and trade. It would be the first comprehensive study of the Valley’s economic make-up, and alliance leaders feel it is needed to effectively promote the area. Allen is hoping to work with Cal State Northridge’s Center for the Study of the San Fernando Valley Economy in the university’s school of business to conduct the survey. – Publishing three glossy magazines on the San Fernando Valley: “Visions,” which will cover the area’s business community; “Views of the Valley,” which will deal with the Valley’s lifestyle; and “Visits to the Valley,” which will focus on tourism. The magazines will be supplied for free to major businesses, hotels, business magazines, newspapers and government agencies. – Creating a one-year “Workforce Preparedness Job Survey” detailing what positions need to be filled at Valley companies, thus allowing local universities, community colleges and trade schools to train their students appropriately. The survey is being funded by a $300,000 grant from the Los Angeles City Council and will be conducted by the Valley Economic Development Center. The various parts of the campaign particularly the three magazines and an already-completed 10-minute video on the Valley to be used by chambers of commerce and given to businesses considering locating in the area will be based on the theme “Valley of the Stars,” referring to the entertainment industry’s strong presence in the area. Michael Collins, executive vice president of the Los Angeles Convention and Visitors Bureau, said he has been impressed by the alliance’s early efforts, and that the San Fernando Valley is sorely in need of such a campaign. “To me, that’s exactly the kind of thing that makes all the sense in the world. What they’re trying to do is focus on the virtues and characteristics of that part of the world as a place to do business,” Collins said. “The Valley has more of a geographic designation, but it has not been able to evoke a certain personality or character.” The alliance differs from the Valley’s other business organizations in that it is the only one that focuses specifically on marketing. The Valley Industry and Commerce Association serves as an advocacy group for small- and medium-sized businesses; the Valley Economic Development Center is devoted primarily to loaning money to businesses; and the United Chambers of Commerce of the San Fernando Valley is an umbrella group for local chambers. In order to pay for its various efforts, the alliance hopes to raise $7.5 million by the end of the year. It expects to pass the half-way point on that goal soon, Allen said. The money has been donated by the Daily News of Los Angeles, Universal Studios Inc., Atlantic Richfield Co., Pacific Bell and others. Kevin Tamaki, a director of external affairs with Pacific Bell, said that his company has donated $40,000 to the alliance and plans to donate more in the future because he feels the alliance will help grow the economy and improve the business climate in the Valley. That, he said, will be good for Pacific Bell and its 2,000 employees in the Valley. If the alliance succeeds in its goals, it will be good news for the Valley’s businesses. “They’ll be able to invest more; they’ll be wanting more telecommunications services,” Tamaki said. “The fund raising is going well, so we’re really beginning to implement some of these strategic initiatives,” said Allen, the son of entertainer Steve Allen. One of the first steps will be the Valley workforce survey, which is being funded by a $300,000 grant awarded by the Los Angeles City Council. The survey is expected to launch this fall and be completed by spring or summer of 1998. The Valley Economic Development Center, which the alliance has hired to conduct the survey, will interview hundreds of business leaders throughout the area. “We’ll hit, obviously, all the big companies and a lot of mid-size companies and probably some small companies,” Allen said. The information gathered will then be compiled to create a database of information about the job needs of Valley businesses, Allen said. The Valley Business Corps is expected to be a less cost-intensive effort, with most of the 25 to 30 members offering their help as volunteers. Only one person the group’s coordinator will be on the alliance’s payroll. The others will likely be representatives of chambers of commerce from Glendale, Burbank, Calabasas, San Fernando and the Valley portion of Los Angeles. One function of the corps will be to deal with requests and questions that result from the information contained in the alliance’s three magazines “If a business reads about your opportunities, you have to be able to respond to that,” Allen said. Jack Kyser, chief economist with the Economic Development Corp. of Los Angeles County, said the alliance is needed to dispel old stereotypes about the Valley. “Sub-regional groups like this are going to prove very important to the future of Los Angeles County,” Kyser said. Other upcoming alliance projects include a pair of meetings on the Valley’s transportation issues, improvement of the group’s World Wide Web site and the placement of informational kiosks at the Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena and Los Angeles International airports. Many of the alliance’s efforts such as publication of the magazines and the formation of the Valley Business Corps will come together in the fall as part of a cohesive campaign, Allen said. “I didn’t want to do things in dribs and drabs,” he said.

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