The methods used by Los Angeles to cause a major company to set up its headquarters there, as reported by Governing, are methods that could be replicated here, and one hopes they will be.
“In May, Los Angeles made headlines by landing the U.S. headquarters of BYD, a large Chinese manufacturer of electric cars, solar panels and battery storage devices. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa held a press conference on the steps of City Hall to welcome BYD's Chairman, Chanfu Wang.
“Jobs -- and green jobs at that -- were coming to Southern California. While published stories tended to focus on that happy news, they missed possibly an even bigger story: Exactly how the city managed to attract this very desirable employer without spending a lot of money.
“With an unemployment rate above 12 percent, Los Angeles hardly seems like the place to gain insight about economic development. But in this case, the city took an approach which others might emulate.
“In January, Mayor Villaraigosa created the Office of Economic and Business Policy and appointed First Deputy Mayor Austin Beutner to head it up. Instead of romancing BYD with massive tax breaks and other costly lures, Los Angeles instead focused on service, making it easy for BYD to do business in the city. Instead of an isolated economic development group working out on an island, the city pulled together to prove to BYD that it was serious about making L.A. a great place to headquarter its U.S. operations.
"The most important aspect of this from a systemic standpoint is that we brought the resources of all the city departments to work together to make it possible," says Beutner. Without a lot of cash to throw around, Beutner managed to get the culture at City Hall to coordinate their activities. Some examples:
• The city expedited planning and permitting for BYD headquarters, making it easier to refurbish the building and install solar panels in the parking lot. "We had to make sure that the policies and processes at the planning department could accommodate this sort of leading company, enabling it to move quickly," says Beutner.
• L.A.'s Department of Water and Power are committed to making it easier to get a charging station into any home that purchased a vehicle -- meaning if you buy a solar vehicle you'll have a way to use it almost immediately. City parking garages will also fast-track "recharging" stations.
• City Hall hosted meetings with solar panel installers and their unions to ensure that BYD products could successfully be installed locally.
• LAX, the city owned airport, agreed to place an electric vehicle on display at the Bradley Terminal, which both exposes the vendor's products to some 60 million travelers but also serves as a visual reminder of the city's commitment as a great place to do business. “