With its own airport, one of the largest ports in the nation, access to multiple freeways and its central location to the businesses and consumers of Los Angeles and Orange County, Long Beach is a strategic location for many businesses and major corporations, from health care giants like Molina Healthcare to the massive tech firm Epson America Inc. to the many professional services, trade, aerospace and aviation, manufacturing and other businesses with offices or headquarters here.
The city’s multiple hospitals and large variety of hospitality, food and drinking establishments are valuable assets in attracting and retaining businesses, according to Robert Kleinhenz, economist and executive director of research for Beacon Economics. Still, he said the city should look to the future when contemplating how to best position itself to attract new business.
Focus on the strengths of the city. Long Beach is an attractive place with a strong social and cultural fabric.” – Thomas Anderson, Vice President/General Manager, Gulfstream Long Beach
“One might think about whether or not the digital pipeline that is available to employers [and] to companies in the city is adequate,” Kleinhenz said. “I’m not saying that the city should do it, I am saying it should explore something like that as a part of a strategy to be competitive and attract businesses.”
Just as important, however, is taking a look at how the city takes care of its existing corporate community, according to Kleinhenz. “The best thing that a city can do to ensure its economic future, I think, is to make sure that its current stock of companies – the current companies that are there and have chosen Long Beach for any number of reasons – to make sure that they are best positioned to succeed,” he said.
For the Business Journal’s annual Focus On Corporate Presence, we solicited dozens of local companies to respond to the following question: “What could Long Beach officials do to make the city a better place to live, work, play and start a business?”
Responses were received from major firms in the aviation/aerospace, tech, health care, engineering, oil and gas, real estate, legal and tourism industries, as well as from local leaders of business improvement districts. Common themes include a desired emphasis on education to grow the local talent base, improving communication between the city government and its business community, streamlining planning and permitting processes, investing in infrastructure, growing global competitiveness, reducing burdensome regulations, and allowing room for high-income sectors to grow.
Thomas Anderson, Vice President/General Manager
Gulfstream Long Beach
Focus on the strengths of the city. Long Beach is an attractive place with a strong social and cultural fabric. Serve the community by investing in more infrastructure to ensure the streets are safe, the environment is clean and manicured, and the traffic flows, so locals and visitors can take advantage of the many sites and activities the city has to offer.
Increase global competitiveness. Open Long Beach Airport and the city to international travel and more commerce. Make financially responsible decisions and continue to streamline the process to make it easier to start or expand a business. Continue on the path to making Long Beach a more business-friendly city.
Support and promote academic excellence. Work with local businesses and schools to identify fields of study critical for the city’s future success, such as STEM and trade/shop classes no longer included in high school curriculums. Many rewarding and high-paying careers do not require a college education. Assist students, schools and businesses as they focus on building these skills.
Jim Michaelian, President & Chief Executive Officer
Grand Prix Association Of Long Beach
I believe that the city has made substantial strides in terms of creating a more welcoming business climate for not only potential new entities but also for those who have located their businesses here for many years. I think that is a very positive direction. However, I would like to see the city become more proactive in its approach to recognizing the contributions of already existent businesses in our city.
Rather than creating a “Red Team” in reaction to word of the possible movement of a business out of town, it would be more productive to create a “Green Team” under the auspices of the Long Beach Economic Development Department, which would monthly identify a business here in town which was making a unique contribution to the city, not only economically, but also in terms of its social involvement.
Perhaps the Long Beach Business Journal could then highlight this firm each month in a small feature article. This would just be one way in which the city could reach out and express its appreciation for what so many businesses are contributing to the overall success of this vibrant city.
Chris Wacker, Chief Executive Officer
I would suggest to the city to encourage real developers to develop more high-income residential neighborhoods. High net worth households often bring an entrepreneurial spirit which would spur the creation of clean, high-paying jobs in the high-tech industry; and well as bring in discretionary income which would be locally spent and stimulate the local economy from which all residents benefit.
It seems to me as though the affluent sector of the population is an underrepresented minority in this city and may explain the reasons behind the city’s budgetary shortfalls and the numerous nonprofit NGO’s which serve a burgeoning low-income population. Diversity – a highly desirable goal for a healthy and vibrant community – should make room for the affluent sector, necessary for growth and self-preservation of the community at large.
Long Beach could easily trump the Beverly Hills, Bel Air, or Newport Beach in brand identity as Long Beach has an amazing 12-mile coastline and year-round boating, sailing and fishing activities. Long Beach could become an international destination center.
Lesley Wille, RN, Senior VP & Area Manager
Kaiser Permanente South Bay Medical Center
Long Beach is fortunate to have a variety of quality medical care providers. However, building a healthy community requires more than great care: it demands collaboration to address the upstream determinants of health, such as access to fresh produce, safe places to walk or play, and the availability of good, stable career opportunities.
Since 2011, Kaiser Permanente has invested $2 million in North Long Beach to promote healthy eating and active living through a grant to the Long Beach Department of Health and Human Services. Thanks to the leadership of Vice Mayor Rex Richardson, the Coalition for a Healthy North Long Beach, and local residents, we’ve seen real improvements that benefit the health of the community as a whole – from the installation of fitness equipment at Houghton Park, to the promotion of healthy foods at area schools.
Additional investment across the city – in parks, active transit, and workforce development, for example – will support the healthy, vital Long Beach that we all want to see. No one sector, city department, or organization can address community health alone. Great work is being done throughout Long Beach, but we can go further with additional funding, an engaged business community, and strengthened partnerships.
Kent Peterson, Vice President & Chief Engineer
Every individual and organization in a city has the ability to improve where they live and make it a more attractive place to do business. P2S runs several Long Beach initiatives like the ACE Mentor program, Ronald McDonald House Walk for Kids and Adopt-a-Family that aim to make Long Beach a better community. A healthy relationship between a city’s chamber of commerce and city government can do much to create a favorable business atmosphere. The relationship between the Long Beach Area Chamber of Commerce and the mayor and city council is much improved and on the right track.
One of the most important things officials can do is change the public’s perception about starting a business. People may believe that there are too many roadblocks to start a business. They may think that their tax burden will be too high. They may be afraid of the red tape. Long Beach city officials can do much by dispelling these perceptions, signaling clearly that Long Beach is open for business.
Rudy Duran, Director
Boeing Southern California Design Center at Long Beach
and the Company’s Executive Focal at Cal State Long Beach
The answer is simple: Continue to make education a priority in Long Beach, even at the earliest stages. Boeing and other companies are relying on the next generation for 21st Century success. The availability of future talent and the leading academic institutions that are producing that talent are right here in Long Beach.
Becky Blair, President & Principal
Coldwell Banker Commercial BLAIR WESTMAC
Long Beach officials should facilitate and strengthen communication, specifically between the private business sector and government to support the commercial real estate community in their efforts to bring business to Long Beach.
To reach this goal, city government can implement an ombudsman program that directly interacts with the brokerage industry to anticipate market trends, business vacancies and events that showcase entrepreneurs, developers and small-business owners. City leaders can also augment access to financial capital for business startups and business growth initiatives.
These efforts by city officials will strengthen the economic prominence of the city and keep Long Beach competitive with its neighbors and thriving.
Every individual and organization in a city has the ability to improve where they live and make it a more attractive place to do business.” – Kent Peterson, Vice President & Chief Engineer, P2S Engineering
Jerry Schubel, President & Chief Executive Officer
Aquarium of the Pacific
Long Beach leaders have committed to making our city a model of climate resiliency, and a portfolio of efforts is being enacted in pursuit of this goal. There is one area where I believe greater attention is deserved: reducing the impacts of climate change on human health, particularly along the 710 corridor. Zip code 90813 is perhaps Long Beach’s most vulnerable in terms of human health impacts because of its proximity to the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles. While the ports have had major initiatives to reduce particulate emissions from trucks and other machinery powered by diesel fuel to improve air quality, this location still has one of the highest asthma rates in the entire state and disproportionately high cancer rates linked to diesel emissions. These impacts will get worse with climate change. All trucks moving goods to and from the ports should comply with clean air regulations by 2020, and by 2030 half of them should be operating on bio-diesel. This, along with planting more trees and creating several more cooling centers, would go a long way in improving the health of our most vulnerable residents.
David Combs, Chief Executive Officer
The Termo Company
We would like to see the City of Long Beach and the Long Beach City Council be more business friendly, for example speed up the building permitting process, fight against anti-business legislation in Sacramento, and avoid taking stands on controversial issues such as the Dakota Access Pipeline.
Trash and liter have become serious issues and we would like to see the city do more to address this as well as continue to enhance the beauty of our city with more parks and green spaces.
Finally, be realistic about the significant role oil and gas production plays in the city and stand up for this history and the value that it contributes, and encourage oil and gas production and energy independence.
Chris Wing, Chief Executive Officer
SCAN Health Plan
First, SCAN was started 40 years ago by Long Beach seniors wanting to improve access to care and services for their fellow area seniors. So we believe in and admire this city and its residents. It’s a great place to start a business, raise a family and enjoy an incredible range of cultural and outdoor activities. We are proud to be in this community.
That said, continual improvement is essential to any city to better serve its residents, visitors and businesses. As the city grows, SCAN is thrilled to work with its leaders and local partners to make Long Beach a better place for seniors. I encourage a bold approach as we think about the aging experience and how to expand resources, social opportunities and access to services. Furthermore, we’re seeing the boundary line of retirement blur – it’s important that we not sideline seniors, but instead reimagine new pathways for them in employment or volunteer opportunities with age friendly companies and in city planning. Innovation in these areas will further transform the city, where all residents, young and old, will reap the rewards.
Trajan Perez, Long Beach Partner in Charge
Miller Nash Graham & Dunn LLP
Long Beach has come a long way in a short period of time. The city has built a great foundation for business, living and playing. Like all cities, we have challenges associated with those who struggle to survive on our streets. The downtown renovation of the city buildings is a key improvement that will support economic development and improved quality of life. An associated development of businesses supporting the city and the community will be essential to further create an ideal downtown environment with a well-planned mix of retail, service, and entertainment.
While an anchor store or two in the downtown area may provide for additional customers, current small, local and unique businesses should continue to be encouraged and supported by city policies. The Long Beach community leaders have made Long Beach a model of business-friendly policies and the city is well on its way to a bright economic future.
Joe Gamble, Senior Vice President
As a relative newcomer to Long Beach, Frontier Communications is working hard to become part of the fabric of this great community. Despite the bumpy start at the time of transition from Verizon to Frontier, we are fully committed to serving Long Beach and continue earning the trust of the community and our customers.
Long Beach is a city on the rise. Rather than offer advice, we want to commend city leaders and encourage them to keep doing the right things: promoting economic development, investing in infrastructure and the port, protecting community health and resources and delivering quality services to residents.
We are proud that our FiOS fiber optic system serving Long Beach remains the gold standard for delivering reliable video, voice and broadband Internet services. Few places in the United States are served by an extensive fiber network such as we have in Long Beach.
Frontier and our employees, many of whom are proud residents of Long Beach, are committed to serving the city and supporting our community leaders in their work to keep Long Beach on the right path.
Instead of trying to be another Seattle or San Francisco, the city should embrace its eclectic nature and loosen the regulatory reins so that the city can grow and prosper.” – Vince Passanisi, President, Marisa Foods division of Santa Fe Importers Inc.
Vince Passanisi, President
Marisa Foods, division of Santa Fe Importers Inc.
Long Beach has a certain charm all its own, and has the potential to become a great city. There is already exciting growth occurring organically, and city officials can help in the following ways: reduce licensing and certification requirements, consistently and predictably enforce building codes to reduce delays and costs to new businesses, relax and reform zoning requirements, and reduce the costs to consumers living and working in Long Beach.
Sales tax increases, rent control, Styrofoam bans, minimum wage laws, and prevailing wage requirements will only make the city more expensive, and, eventually, another coastal enclave for the wealthy.
Sadly, city officials are too often swayed by their own self-interests and the special interests of certain groups to the detriment of the citizens of Long Beach as a whole. The city should focus on better, more responsive public safety; infrastructure improvements such as sidewalk and street repair; the inevitable externalities of growth such as traffic, parking, upkeep and homelessness; and should sell non-performing assets, such as the Queen Mary, to private investors who can better bear the risk of operating and improving the landmark.
Instead of trying to be another Seattle or San Francisco, the city should embrace its eclectic nature and loosen the regulatory reins so that the city can grow and prosper.
Blair Cohn, Executive Director
Bixby Knolls Business Improvement Association
This is a big question with complicated answers. But I can best answer it with a general statement of the city pursuing a “Culture of Yes.” This means getting all hands to steer the ship in a positive direction in all areas. Not being afraid of something new or different but figuring out ways to make it happen. If there are successes in other major U.S. cities then it can happen here. For business, it is having an ombudsman to help businesses get through the process, which has been streamlined and made easy. Promote tools like BizPort and other resources for entrepreneurs, and hiring more plan checkers so businesses do not have to wait 4-6 weeks for plans to be returned. Making the overall city healthy and vibrant takes things like pursuing youth programs and park amenities, supporting the current business districts and help create new ones so all neighborhoods can be energized and active, infusing the arts into all areas and aspects of the city and neighborhoods, partnering with private business/organizations/resident groups so there are more foot soldiers implementing the city’s visions, and always encouraging and supporting creativity so the entire city is inviting and welcoming.
Tasha W. Hunter
Uptown Business Improvement District
The City of Long Beach has done an admirable job in providing its residents, visitors, and businesses with a platform for civic engagement, valuable resources, world renowned educational institutions and programs, and support for the arts and entertainment. With its active presence in print and social media, information and resources have become increasingly accessible (in multiple languages) city-wide. From first time home buyer’s programs to BizPort, beautification grants and its support of the Business Improvement Districts (BIDs), Long Beach is setting a standard of quality that other cities can model.
If I had any suggestions on what Long Beach officials could do to make the city a better place to live, work, play and start a business (outside of important discussions already on the table), many would like to see the development of an electronic signature program (similar to DocuSign) where individuals/business/property owners can register their e-mail address and sign necessary city documents without the arduous task of producing original signatures. This would help reduce the wait time for streamlining program and permit approvals, etc., and help BIDs become more efficient.
Chris Giaco, President
4th Street Business Improvement Association
Many of the major concerns of the 4th Street BID are issues that Long Beach finds itself facing as a whole. These would include parking and mobility issues, affordable rent and related gentrification concerns, and creating a streamlined and simplified licensing/permitting process for live music, entertainment, and events.
As a business district, we are facing significant changes to the shopping habits and expectations of visitors, and both our retail and restaurant establishments find themselves increasingly challenged to find ever more efficient, non-traditional, and creative ways to attract and retain customers. To that end, any non-traditional or creative ways the city can modify, simplify or clarify existing zoning and related permitting issues to reflect this changing landscape would only help us build on our previous successes.
Since our Retro Row neighborhood is comprised of an eclectic mix of business and residential, we are sensitive to how many of these issues are interrelated, and believe that holistic, “big picture” planning that encompasses overall “quality of life” issues will be necessary. That said, we are encouraged that many such concerns are already being addressed by both our district and city officials, and that they are actively soliciting the input of our businesses and residents.