Sep 21, 2010

Pasadena Star-News – Growth predicted in major job sectors in Valley

Editor's note: This is the first in a series of columns by Cynthia Kurtz that will profile the San Gabriel Valley's economy, an economy that provides jobs for 625,000 people and is a critical component of our regional and state economies.

AFTER serving as city manager of Pasadena for 10 years, I have the great privilege of now serving as CEO of the San Gabriel Valley Economic Partnership. The Partnership has nearly 160 members including 21 cities. Business working with government? Aren't they supposed to be in perpetual war?

Actually, local government needs strong businesses just as businesses need effective local governments. In fact, it is nearly impossible for the one to be successful without the other.

Since I began working for the San Gabriel Valley Economic Partnership, I have learned a lot about the Valley, including how to drive from Pasadena to Claremont without using either the I-10 or the I-210, which can be invaluable at certain times of the day! But also about the diverse economic base in our Valley and what is happening within the major sectors during this recession.

This column is not going to dwell on doom and gloom projections. Our local economy does face challenges, of course, that must be addressed. However, equally important is to recognize the Valley's considerable strengths and resources, the positive forces that are at play and how we can leverage them to help people get back to work.

Recently, the Los Angeles Economic Development Corp. released a report that included a perspective on the positive economic forces for the L.A. County economy through 2011. Many of the sectors they noted happen to be San Gabriel Valley strengths:

Health Care Services – The Valley has some of the best hospitals in California, if not the nation, such as Huntington, Methodist, City of Hope and Citrus to name just a few. Hospitals are economic engines. Other medical services cluster around good hospitals. Even as we struggle with controlling health care costs, the demand for health care services will continue to grow. Many hospitals are moving forward with renovation and expansion plans providing valuable construction jobs. The health care sector will continue to produce jobs.

Higher Education – The SGV contains outstanding public and private colleges and universities bounded by Caltech on the west and the Claremont Colleges on the east while the University of La Verne and Cal Poly Pomona serve the heart of the Valley and beyond. Then with outstanding community colleges like Pasadena City College, Mt. SAC, Rio Hondo and Citrus College, the Valley can boast of excellent educational and economic generators.

Certainly these institutions must weather the current economic time, and they will. Their importance to our local economy cannot be emphasized enough.

Major Construction Projects – While it is taking more time then many predicted, the federal government's infrastructure program and the Measure R funding from the county's new half-cent sales tax is expected to provide a boom to this sector.

Groundbreaking of the Foothill Gold Line extension and the Alameda Corridor East grade separation projects are welcomed boosts to the construction sector. Majestic's proposed NFL stadium and adjacent retail and office development will be tremendous long-term job generators. And there are others like the proposed $170 million Rose Bowl renovation project and the Fairplex Conference Center which broke ground recently that will add to the Valley's economic recovery.

International Trade – Trade through our local ports is beginning to rise again. More than 40 percent of the nation's imported containers come through the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. Total container traffic through these ports is projected to increase by 14 percent this year. This is great news, especially for the San Gabriel Valley. With the I-210, I-10, I-60 and ACE all serving as the critical routes between the ports and the rest of the nation, the Valley continues to provide some of the best opportunities for companies interested in international trade. If your company is interested in exploring international trade opportunities, contact our offices at 626-856-3400 for information on free training available from the Port of Los Angeles.

Cynthia Kurtz is president and CEO of the San Gabriel Valley Economic Partnership in Irwindale.