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Saturday, Dec 9, 2023

Economy–Data to Help Plan Future Of the Valley

The Economic Alliance of the San Fernando Valley is unveiling what officials say is a warts-and-all look at the Valley that businesses can use to explore market trends and elected leaders can use to set public policy. The compilation of economic and social data, the outgrowth of a two-year information-gathering effort, is also expected to provide a glimpse of the Valley as a standalone economic power. “It will be everything you wanted to know about the Valley but never had anyone to ask,” said David Fleming, chairman of the alliance. The lack of solid economic and social data long has been a complaint of Valley business leaders. The fact is, no one tracks many of the region’s key economic indicators. And if they do, the information is often incomplete, out of date, or not broken down specifically for the Valley. The “Valley Almanac,” which will be presented to the public Feb. 10 during the alliance’s “Summit 2000,” is expected to provide hard numbers on everything from consumer buying power to wealth, broken down by geographic area. “If people want to know something they don’t have to get the chamber of commerce view of the community. This will have the warts as well as the positive,” said Robert Scott, the executive vice chairman of the alliance who oversaw collection of the data. “This is something businesses could use who are looking to move to the Valley and need information.” From his own experience as a member of the Los Angeles Planning Commission, Scott said he has found that many decisions affecting the Valley are made in a vacuum due to the lack of data. “When we make decisions on zone changes and plan amendments, we aren’t giving thought to where we need commercial, industrial or residential property,” he said. “We don’t know what we need because we don’t have the information, like how many jobs do we need here? Or what would be the appropriate place for industrial or commercial buildings, or are we concentrating poverty in one place?” In addition to the almanac, organizers will release the results of two surveys one that delves into the attitudes of business owners about working in the Valley, and another that assesses the public’s take on issues such as traffic congestion, crime and municipal services. Jack Kyser, chief economist with the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp., is expected to release the details of an economic forecast tailored to the Valley. And Joel Kotkin, a senior fellow with the Pepperdine Institute for Public Policy, will take a look at the Valley as the “New Midopolis” a community caught between suburbia and a metropolis. Until the conference, the alliance is keeping the details of the almanac and surveys under wraps, but officials concede the results will mostly confirm what people already know or suspect: -The Valley is more ethnically diverse than it gets credit for. -It has a powerful consumer base. -Its businesses are optimistic about the economy but unhappy about city business taxes. Officials believe the new data show the Valley, with 1.6 million people and more than 40,000 businesses, is an economic power in its own right. “We have an incredibly dynamic area here, but we’re often overlooked,” said Fleming. “This is going to shed light on a lot of facts we never had.” Scott agreed: “People have a tendency to think of the Valley as just a portion of L.A., but it’s a lot more than that,” he said. “Unfortunately, there are invisible walls that have kept us apart. We haven’t functioned together. It’s part of the mission of the alliance to change that.” Kotkin said the Valley long has been considered little more than an appendage of Los Angeles, but the area is no longer the bedroom community some people perceive. “It’s changed tremendously,” he said. “By standards of most American cities it would be considered a very urban, dense place, a very complicated area.” Kotkin also sees the secession issue as a subtext of the summit, which could give people a glimpse of the Valley as a standalone city. “I’m sure it’s part of the agenda,” said Kotkin. “There’s no question there is among some of the people involved a political motive. But if you’re going to talk about an independent city, you want to know what it would look like.”

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