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Antelope Valley Economic Development Head Resigns

Antelope Valley Economic Development Head Resigns By SHELLY GARCIA Senior Reporter The latest point man charged with attracting businesses to the Antelope Valley has left as the region readies a new strategy for its efforts. Tony Moon, president of the Greater Antelope Valley Economic Alliance, has resigned from the association for personal, family-related reasons less than a year after taking the top spot, GAVEA officials said. GAVEA has named Mel Layne to head the organization as interim president. This is the second time Layne, a project researcher for GAVEA, has been called in to tide the group over. He was appointed interim president last year when GAVEA’s former president, David J. Myers, left to spearhead economic development efforts at Ponca City Development Authority in Oklahoma. GAVEA officials said Layne, who worked with Moon to craft a strategy for business attraction and economic development, would be best suited to help execute those plans. “Mel’s going to be in this position for a minimum of six months, and we’re going to continue down the path that Tony set for us,” said Harvey Holloway, owner of Valley Realty in Lancaster and chairman of the board of directors for GAVEA. “Tony’s made a lot of changes in some of the programs he’s instituted, and Mel fortunately was working hand in hand with Tony through this process, so he’s in a great position to take the ball and go forward.” When Moon took office he began crafting a strategy that differed markedly from the one his predecessor had instituted. Before him, Myers had developed a fairly aggressive plan to actively recruit businesses from the San Fernando Valley, capitalizing on what, at the time, was seen as widespread disappointment by many businesses in the failure of the Valley’s secession movement. Under the tag line, “Just because the Valley will stay in L.A. doesn’t mean you have to,” Myers put together a letter-writing campaign and followed it up with visits to San Fernando Valley companies that were identified as having a large population of workers who commuted from the Antelope Valley. Joining with others Since then, however, the business climate has changed, and with virtually all of the economic development organizations in California focused on business retention, it now makes more sense to partner with those organizations than to try and run an independent business attraction campaign, GAVEA officials said. “In terms of our strategy, I would rather, and this is the line we’re proceeding down, make friends with my counterparts in the San Fernando and San Gabriel Valley,” said Moon just weeks before he left GAVEA. “They’re going to know more about their businesses than I ever will, and I would be more likely to get a call from them.” For alliances like GAVEA and others, the issue is no longer how to nab a business from a neighboring community. It is how to keep businesses from leaving California when states like Nevada and Arizona are actively recruiting them with incentives, far more plentiful land, lower costs and larger labor pools. By working together, these groups figure they will be better equipped to offer competitive programs that will be more effective at retaining business. And in the process, areas like the Antelope Valley may be better positioned to get their fair share of new corporate residents. “We have this network of executives and we have almost all of L.A. County covered now,” said Jack Kyser, chief economist for the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp. “If we have a firm that needs to expand, we try to keep them in the original area. If we can’t, we try to keep them in the county and if that doesn’t work, we try to keep them in the state. So we’re trying to work together.” Global competition The difficulties businesses face in California with respect to rising costs is compounded by stiffer global competition, Kyser said, and by working together, the alliances may be better equipped to address those issues. In the Antelope Valley, where land is still readily available, there is an opportunity for companies who want to consolidate what may now be multiple locations, officials say. But with neighboring states knocking, a company might easily be snatched away before a Lancaster or a Palmdale even has the opportunity to make its pitch. By partnering with other alliances, who are likely to know which companies in their immediate area are in need of new facilities, groups like GAVEA believe they are better positioned to attract those businesses. “There’s an opportunity to pool our resources and get some regional attention we might not otherwise get,” said Dave Walter, economic development manager for the city of Palmdale. “All the cities are going to continue to do their own marketing, but through the alliance we can pool our resources and get regional attention we wouldn’t be able to get before.” Palmdale, for example, runs ads and holds broker events, making the real estate community aware of the facilities it has available. Lancaster too works closely with the broker community, said Mark Bozigian, redevelopment manager for that city. And while these cities along with GAVEA say they certainly won’t turn down a San Fernando Valley-based company that is seeking new quarters, they also are not planning any marketing campaigns specifically targeted at the Valley or any other region for that matter. “We’re aligning with the other EDCs and LAEDC in particular, but others as well in a partnership to keep businesses and jobs from leaving the state,” said Holloway. “Obviously if someone’s going to leave the San Fernando Valley we would just as soon they come here than leave the state, and I think that’s a general consensus throughout the state.”

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