Op-Ed: Would Howard Hughes Invest in Los Angeles Today?

The revitalization of LA’s economy is underway, but much more is needed to drive economic and private sector job growth

by Michael Kelly

Q2 2015 Editorials, Op-Eds, Real Estate & Finance
Howard Hughes, Jr. moved to Los Angeles from Texas in 1925 to leverage his diverse talents and knack for invention. That he did and more. By September 1945, the end of WWII, Hughes Aircraft Company employed 80,000 workers designing and building planes, making Hughes the largest employer in the region. By the 1960s his products—spacecraft, radar systems, the first working laser, and commercial satellites—were changing the world. Today his legacy of innovation lives on in Playa Vista, where his former headquarters stands at the center of LA’s most bustling business center, where one can find media companies, ad agencies, university-affiliated institutes and start-ups working alongside the world’s most-established tech giants.

LA’s economic hubs, like Playa Vista, were not created overnight. They were born from the imaginations of a long list of business leaders, developers, and planners who took advantage of the city’s climate, growing population, and expanding road network to grow LA outward from its center in downtown. For most of the nineteenth century, Hughes and investors like him benefited from abundant tracts of vacant land that allowed them to develop the infrastructure needed to fulfill the nation’s demand for planes, automobiles, movies, and space and weapons programs.

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