Weekly Report – May 4, 2015 – Part Three – It’s Time to Think Beyond the Minimum Wage

What should the City of Los Angeles’ minimum wage be – $10, $13.25 or $15 an hour?  If we do increase the minimum wage, will that provide an economic boost to L.A., or drive jobs out of the city? These questions deserve thoughtful consideration and rigorous debate.

What must not get lost in this debate is the fact that almost 400,000 Angelenos in the region are unemployed and on any given day there are up to 138,000 unfilled job openings.

Unemployment, underemployment and unfilled jobs don’t hurt just the unemployed and business owners. It’s bad for all of us. This lost of productivity produces little or no income and generates minimal taxes, which impacts government’s ability to pay for the services and programs Angelenos demand and deserve. More important, when a substantial portion of L.A.’s workforce is sitting on its hands, the economy is going to grow more slowly that it could.

The longer L.A.’s unemployment rates remains high – it has been above 7 percent since mid-2008 – the more our workforce becomes vulnerable to a phenomenon known as hysteresis, which leads to a permanently unemployed class of workers.

The safe bet is that policymakers will raise the minimum wage. What happens next is critical. L.A.’s big picture goal must be the advancement of a strategy that creates more higher-wage jobs and better career pathways for more Angelenos to occupy those jobs. We also need to accelerate job growth to match a population that is estimated to grow by more than 300,000 residents by 2020.

The L.A. Coalition was created to address these issues and its agenda for 2015 will remain focused on working with government to advance initiatives that are aligned with the categories below because they provide the best opportunities to create quality jobs.

  1. Invest in and Maintain World Class Infrastructure
  • Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach
    • Advocate for the approval of BNSF Railway and Union Pacific Railroad’s one billion dollar private investment to upgrade and expand existing rail yards at the Port of L.A.
    • Support efforts by public officials in L.A. and L.B. to develop a stronger working collaboration between both ports to increase their competitiveness in the global marketplace.
  • Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)
    • Better utilize LAX’s terminals to better highlight and promote L.A.’s Global brand, its key industries and the region’s economic and cultural history.
    • Support the full implementation of Los Angeles World Airport’s (LAWA) recently approved plans to modernize LAX ground transportation system.
  • Public Transportation Network
    • Continue supporting the plans to fully implement L.A.’s 30/10 Plan that builds out 12 public rail projects in 10 years, rather than 30 – resulting in a more efficient transport system that will be catalyst for economic and social development.
    • Advocate to Congress to create a new class of qualified federal tax credit bonds that would accelerate funding to some of the L.A. region’s most pressing public transportation needs.
  • Invest in California’s and Los Angeles’ Water System
    • Support Governor Brown’s Bay Delta Conservation Plan
    • Support the investment in local wastewater treatment, recycled/reclaimed water and conservation initiatives
  1. Strengthen Government’s Role to Foster Economic & Job Growth
  • Economic Development
    • Help L.A. City government create an Economic Development Model that will create public/private partnerships to better analyze current economic trends, develop strategies and solutions, and implement programs that help businesses succeed and quality jobs get created in the City.
    • Support federal, state & local tax reforms to incent businesses to settle, expand, and remain in the region.
    • Advocate for streamline the regulatory process at the state and local levels to create predictability and efficiency for businesses that want to invest and create jobs in CA.
    • Work with City Hall to help develop a economic development strategy that leverages its underutilized real estate assets to encourage private investors to develop industrial parks, and incubator and accelerator workspaces for the region’s most promising industry sectors – the creative economy, biomedical, bioengineering, digital media, advanced manufacturing, apparel, technology and entertainment. This should be done in collaboration with the region’s colleges, universities, foundations, non-profits, all leaders in research, academic and community programs, and workforce talent.

III. Promote L.A. as a Leading Hub for Innovation, Creativity & Culture

  • Support creative businesses and entrepreneurs through public/private/non-profit partnerships that provide access to capital, incubators and affordable workspaces, business training programs, and an angel-investment fund.
  • Leverage City and County assets to maximize the value of the State’s Film and Television incentive program to attract and retain more productions in the region.
  • Leverage government’s role in highlighting the societal, cultural and economic value and importance of copyright and IP protections.
  1. Enhance L.A.’s Brand as a Top Tourism & Convention Destination
  • Modernize the physical structure of the Los Angeles Convention Center.
  • Develop a multi-city/county wide marketing partnership that promotes L.A. as a top tourism and convention destination and emphasize cultural tourism.
  1. Prepare a Skilled & Quality Workforce for the Region’s Economy
  • Support comprehensive federal immigration reform measures, starting with the modification of visas and work permits in order to build a quality workforce.
  • Help recruit, mentor, develop and evaluate teachers who are trained in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) to help expand STEM Related Initiatives in LAUSD’s classrooms. (LAUSD’s Beyond the Bell initiative helps students earn college credits towards a cyber-security program through online classes.)
  • Advocate for better funding for Pell grants, work study, and other grant programs that fund a student’s schooling directly.
  • Push to strengthen the budgets of the National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, Energy, and even defense, for basic research to build upon L.A.’s worldwide competitive advantage in most physical and life sciences.

Please send along any additional thoughts you may have on this topic and more specific information can be found on the L.A. Coalition’s website – https://www.thelacoalition.com/ – where I have created sections dedicated to job creation ideas, our advocacy efforts and Op-Eds.