Weekly Report – March 2, 2015 – Promote Los Angeles as a Leading Hub for Technology, Entertainment and Creative Talent

C.L. Max Nikias the president of the University of Southern California penned an Op-Ed for the L.A. Times.

Los Angeles has the Right DNA to Become Biotech Hub

As the Great Recession decimated U.S. job growth, one sector continued to thrive: biotechnology. Encompassing everything from medical device manufacturing to biopharmaceutical development and the latest diagnostic tools, this industry will no doubt frame humanity’s most important advances in the 21st century. The region already has leading research universities, top clinical and research hospitals, a manufacturing base, a massive port and a venture capital presence. California is home to two major biotechnology hubs — San Francisco and San Diego — but Los Angeles has been left behind. The paradox is that universities in Los Angeles County produce more than 5,000 graduates in biotechnology-related fields each year, compared with 2,800 in San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont. However, it’s San Francisco that attracted $1.15 billion in biotechnology investment in 2013, compared with a paltry $45 million here. No wonder, then, that so many of our graduates head north.

To reverse this trend, Los Angeles requires an ecosystem that fosters business, venture capital investment and access to academic medical centers for research and clinical trials. My university, USC, hopes to spark this change by building a Biotechnology Park adjacent to our Health Sciences Campus in Boyle Heights. With the cooperation of Caltech, community colleges, the L.A. Unified School District and other institutions, this will represent the first step in a plan for a robust biotechnology corridor in the surrounding area. The corridor will provide space for established companies, training for entry-level jobs and incubators for start-up firms.

Pharmaceutical, biotechnology and biomedical companies have already expressed interest. Such companies rely on university partners for research and development, and our Biotechnology Park would give them the infrastructure to flourish. If we get it right, the economic potential is enormous. The initial Biotechnology Park is expected to create 3,000 construction jobs and nearly 4,000 permanent positions, from entry-level technicians to high-wage doctorate-level scientists. But that would be just the start. The entire corridor could be of similar size and scope to San Francisco’s Mission Bay project, which will employ an estimated 30,000 people once completed. The bulk of these jobs will not require an advanced degree. A recent study found that for every high-tech job created, four more are added in fields like marketing, accounting, administration or sales. In 2012, the research firm Battelle developed a master plan for building up the biotechnology sector in Los Angeles County. It made the case that Los Angeles is primed for growth. The region already has leading research universities, top clinical and research hospitals, a manufacturing base, a massive port and a venture capital presence.

A biotechnology corridor would connect these pieces, drawing investment, adding jobs and generating tax revenues for all parts of the county. Other cities are moving ahead aggressively with their own plans to become biotechnology hubs. In New York City, for instance, officials are creating a public-private venture capital fund designed to launch biotechnology start-ups. If Los Angeles is to stake its claim, it must move quickly. In the last 15 years, nearly 50 USC start-ups in such industries have headquartered themselves outside Los Angeles because of the city’s lack of infrastructure and facilities. These companies, including successful firms such as ORCA Biosciences (acquired by Epigenomics) and Tocagen, now employ hundreds of people — but in cities such as Seattle and San Diego. Yet all of the ingredients for Los Angeles to capture growth in this booming field are already here. With the right alignment between government, academia and industry, we can harness the region’s existing strengths — including our science graduates — to create lasting economic growth.

Theodore F. Craver, Jr. the Chairman, President and CEO of Edison International penned an article for the magazine Electric Perspectives

Building the 21st-Century Power System

Energy: In 2003, the National Academy of Engineering published its list of the top 20 engineering achievements of the 20th century. The list included some undeniably profound breakthroughs that define the modern age:The Internet was 13th. The telephone, ninth. Radio and TV together were sixth. The automobile was number two. And number one? At the top of the list was the engineering achievement that enabled many, if not most, of the other 19: the electric power system. Calling it “the workhorse of the modern world,” the Academy said, “From street lights to supercomputers, electric power makes our lives safer, healthier, and more convenient.” The building of our national—and global—power systems is truly an historic achievement. Our industry is full of stories of visionary pioneers and amazing engineering feats. There’s a good example of this from our history at Edison International. In 1898, the Edison Electric Company (as it was called at the time) was struggling to keep up with rapidly growing demand in downtown Los Angeles. The challenge: How to get power from a recently constructed hydroelectric plant to Los Angeles, more than 80 miles away. Never before had such a long transmission line been attempted. The key to success was to increase the voltage of the line, but this required a much-improved insulator.

One of the company’s engineers, named Orville Ensign, envisioned a new type of insulator made from porcelain instead of glass. He created the “Redlands” insulator, and the following year the transmission line into Los Angeles was complete. The Journal of Electricity, Power and Gas wrote that the 83-mile, 33,000-volt line was “for years unequaled, both in length and voltage, by any line in the world.”

Ensign’s porcelain insulator was a simple idea that had profound consequences. It illustrates the innovation, creativity, and can-do attitude that has marked our industry for decades.

CA’s Water Supply

Last month the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and the California Department of Water Resources petitioned the State Water Resources Control Board –an arm of the state Environmental Protection Agency responsible for regulating water rights and quality — to allow delta pump operators to export more water south during heavy inflows. The Bureau of Reclamation and Department of Water Resources sought to double the maximum pumping levels to a third of their capacity. They suggested that operators could ease up on pumping if salmon or smelt were found caught in the pumps. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service even concurred that higher pumping would not jeopardize endangered species.

The Natural Resources Defense Council sent a letter to State Water Resources Control Board executive director Tom Howard decrying the agencies’ proposal and Mr. Howard rejected the request to pump more water south. Senator Dianne Feinstein , Democratic Rep. Jim Costa and five House Republicans last week importuned the five-member State Water Resources Control Board to overrule their executive director. Governor Brown has not weighed in even though CA is experiencing its fourth year of drought, more than 1,760 water wells have run dry and emergency drinking water and shower stations have been delivered to areas of the rural Central Valley. Torrential storms that doused northern California last week will only provide modest relief if only water pouring into the Sacramento-San Joaquin River delta could be exported to farmers and residents south of the Bay Area and Southern CA. Instead, 4,000 acre feet per day—enough to sustain 1,000 acres and 4,000 families for a year—is being flushed out into the ocean.

Foster the Development of a Skilled and Quality Workforce for the Region

The Vergara v. California education equality case is headed to the California Court of Appeal following the trial court’s ruling in June 2014 that five provisions of the California Education Code governing the tenure, dismissal, and layoffs of public school teachers are unconstitutional under the equal protection provisions of the California Constitution.  The successful advancement of this case is being driven by Students Matter a national nonprofit organization dedicated to sponsoring impact litigation to promote access to quality public education and their attorneys -Theodore B. Olson, Theodore J. Boutrous and Marcellus A. McRae.

To be successful in fighting the appeal, Students Matter needs the help of thought leaders and stakeholders in politics, law, business and education to weigh in on the impact of the historic Vergara ruling by filing amicus curiae (friend of the court) briefs in the Court of Appeal. The appeal process presents an opportunity to affirm the trial court’s ruling in Vergara; to continue to use the case as a platform to highlight the harm inflicted by California’s current teacher tenure, dismissal and layoff laws; and to demand student-focused solutions.

Students Matter has approached me to see if any of the members of the Coalition would like to provide any comments on the Vergara case that could be incorporated into an amicus brief. Any comments should be through the lens of improving California’s failing education system, producing an educated and competitive workforce, and strengthening our economy.

The Silicon Valley leadership group will be signing on to a amicus brief prepared by Students Matter to lend their support.