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Mayor Villaraigosa unveils website to help Los Angeles businesses

October 6, 2011 |  1:58 pm

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa speaks with a radio reporter about a new city website to help businesses find office space. Credit: John Hoeffel / Los Angeles Times

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, borrowing a conference room from an expanding multinational biotech firm as a backdrop, unveiled a new city website Thursday designed to make it easier for businesses to find places in L.A. to locate their headquarters, open a manufacturing plant or launch a retail operation.

Villaraigosa, who as president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors has been pressing Congress to act on legislation to create jobs, stressed what he has done to create jobs in Los Angeles.

Noting that dwindling revenues have forced the city to cut about a quarter of its workforce, the major told an invited audience of about 130 business and community leaders: “We have had to face many budget crises, so one of the things we are focused on is how to expand the pie.”

Villaraigosa hosted the event at Grifols in El Sereno, which develops blood and plasma therapies. The Barcelona, Spain-based company has invested $135 million in its operations in Los Angeles, employs about 700 and is now hiring about 70 entry-level manufacturing technicians.

The mayor, who grew up nearby in City Terrace, also pointed out that he was familiar with the area. “During the fall after a rain, the grasses on these hills used to grow very tall,” he said, “so we would cut the cardboard boxes and we would either try to surf on them down the hill or sled, you know, bobsled them, that was our form of recreation so I know this neighborhood very, very well.”

Flanked by two large screens, the mayor announced the new website, LocateLA.org. It allows businesses to search for available sites and buildings in Los Angeles by multiple criteria, including neighborhood demographics, and provides detailed information on the properties. 

“That was great. That was awesome. You like that?” the mayor said, coaxing applause from the audience after a staff member demonstrated how intuitive it is to navigate the site. “As you can see, this is a powerful job-creating tool, and it is one of a number of initiatives on the part of our office.”

The mayor then listed some of the city’s job-creation accomplishments during his tenure.

He cited the suspension of the gross receipts tax for businesses that move to Los Angeles and named a few companies that have decided to relocate, including the international architecture firm Gensler, which is moving from Santa Monica to downtown. He noted that the tax, which he would like to eliminate, is higher in Los Angeles than in many neighboring cities. “That’s really hurt us,” he said.

The mayor also said he was pushing the City Council to adopt a plan to give local companies preference when bidding on city contracts and working to expand the city’s enterprise zones. He highlighted major construction initiatives, including plans to modernize the port and Los Angeles International Airport. “There aren’t a whole lot of airports in as bad a shape as LAX has been,” he said.

He also singled out transportation projects being built with money from Measure R, the half-cent sales tax that voters passed in 2008, including the $1.7-billion Crenshaw/LAX Line rail project.

And he touted efforts at City Hall to clear away red tape, including work being done by the Office of Small Business and a new streamlined approval process for developers.


Mayor lobbies Washington with jobs plan

Villaraigosa to lead national group of mayors

Talking jobs in D.C., Villaraigosa gets cold shoulder from Boehner

-- John Hoeffel 

Photo: Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa speaks with a radio reporter about a new city website to help businesses find office space. Credit: John Hoeffel / Los Angeles Times