By Joe Hooven In late 2001 I was nearing the end of my presidency of the Universal City/North Hollywood Chamber of Commerce. I’d had a pretty good time of it, we had a better than average Board of Directors, most were supportive of my goals, and we had managed to turn around a Chamber budget deficit in the thousands of dollars. At our monthly breakfast meeting I had the pleasure of introducing our guest speaker David Fleming, a highly respected San Fernando Valley attorney, an astute businessman, philanthropist, and friend to many of our city’s elected officials. Fleming spoke that morning about the important role business plays in our city. He referred to business as the engine that drives the train called the city of Los Angeles. He spoke of the growth through the years of our city’s services police, fire, parks and recreation as a result of taxes paid by the thousands of businesses in the city. I left the breakfast feeling good about myself, reflective of my business accomplishments, and the good volunteer work that I’ve done. Every once in a while I’ll either read or hear something about Fleming. I’m attentive he left a good impression with me. He has always looked after the business interests of the Valley. He found time this last year to be the chairman of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce. That’s pretty cool. During his term, he became the driving force behind the newly formed Los Angeles County Business Federation. The goal of this new business advocacy organization is to be a counter weight to the powerful Los Angeles Federation of Labor, and to be a unified voice for business before the Los Angeles City Council and other elected officials. This new organization already has 44 business groups, representing about 70,000 businesses, signed on, including chambers of commerce, trade associations, and ethnic business organizations. Every business person knows that the Federation of Labor is a political powerhouse, lobbying elected officials to pass policies favorable to labor and putting forward labor-friendly candidates for local office. The current Speaker of the California Assembly is a product of the Federation of Labor. Here in the San Fernando Valley we’ve got a variety of business advocacy groups. There are something like 20 local Chambers of Commerce, ranging from North Hollywood, through Encino, out to Woodland Hills, and over to Van Nuys. Then we’ve got an umbrella organization over all these local Chambers called the United Chambers of Commerce. In addition to these local business advocacy groups, we’ve got an organization called the Valley Industry and Commerce Association. This organization spends a lot of time taking positions on business issues and interacting with local and state elected officials, even traveling to the state capital. Add to all this another business advocacy organization called the Economic Alliance. They’re looking for money for business, and planning for the future of business in the San Fernando Valley. Never in the history of our state have we needed the diverse talents of businesspeople more than we do now. The State’s budget is $14 billion short, or is it $17 billion? We hear different figures each month. This is a direct result of elected officials trying to grow the government horizontally, involving themselves in more areas of activity, without prioritizing or weighing the consequences of how the money is being spent. Turn to our own city. Mayor Villaraigosa said of the City budget woes, “The word ‘crisis’ cannot be underestimated. We are looking at an uphill fight.” Even though he was able to pass the Measure S phone tax and receive an additional $270 million a year, he states that we are still $155 million short. Living in, and owning two businesses in, our beloved San Fernando Valley, I know, just like the great Sam Cooke sang, “a whole lot of change is going to come.” What’s happening in the state and in the city is everything-for-everyone. Officials throw money at problems with hardly any thought to efficiency. We’ve got a whole lot of programs that don’t work well. If you run a business, you know immediately that this kind of thinking will close your doors. We’ve got to get business people into the mix. If you run a business you know discipline, you know objectives and goals, you know how to set a vision and get the buy-in, and you know effort. I applaud David Fleming for recognizing the problem and for attempting to organize business people. But in the Valley we’ve got way too many business advocacy groups. As a local Chamber of Commerce member for more than 20 years, we spent all our time trying to stay financially solvent. The important issues through time were zoning, parking, and development. The local Chamber of Commerce business model is pass & #233;. These issues are still important, but are handled more effectively by our elected Neighborhood Councils. VICA and the Economic Alliance are filled with well-meaning members, and seem to have important agendas, but in reality they don’t change the minds of many of our elected officials. The disappointment here is that the membership rosters of these organizations are filled with dynamite business people. It’s time to begin thinking about closing down all these groups, and moving toward a new business model that will bring all of these important business people under one roof. But the new Los Angeles County Business Federation is not the answer. I’d love to ask David Fleming to spearhead a new effort to establish a powerful and effective new business organization in our own San Fernando Valley. Think of an organization that will bring Valley business people like Rickey Gelb, Vince Liuzzi, Bob Robertson, Bert Boeckmann, Flip Smith, Richard Leyner, Alan Oberman, Paul Davis, Bruce Ackerman, Ken Banks, Guy McCreary, Mike Quiroga, Art Ginsburg and Ray Vega to name only a few, under one roof. Take these people and a whole bunch more just like them, turn them loose to achieve some basic goals, and you’ll see plenty of action. That’s the wave of the future, and a whole lot of business people just like me are ready to shoot the curl. Joe Hooven is president of Best Window Treatments, Inc. in Burbank, and is a board member of the L.A. Valley College Foundation
L.A. County Business Federation: Good for Business?