The Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation

By Kyser, Jack | Business Economics, October 2003 | Go to article overview

The Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation


Kyser, Jack, Business Economics


People are surprised that the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation (LAEDC) has an economics function. They are even more surprised to find that we also have an economic consulting practice, but more on this later.

The LAEDC (a private non-profit association) was reorganized in 1990, and a consultant from the Beacon Council in Miami (considered one of the most effective economic development groups) told the EDC's board of directors that the organization should know the economy of its service area (all of Los Angeles County) better than anybody else. This was my cue, for at the time I was chief economist for the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce and previously had been a regional economist at two local banks. At first, I was pretty much of a one-man band, but as local banks downsized their economics departments, the demand for local information grew. We added a research assistant, then an administrative assistant, and finally a research project manager.

We produce a variety of regular reports including a semi-annual economic forecast and industry outlook for the Los Angeles five-county area and studies on important local industries such as apparel, international trade, manufacturing, and motion picture/TV production. After a period of trial and error, we made all of these publications free on-line at http://LAEDC.info. Traffic at this site is heavy, with both domestic and international visitors.

One of our most successful research products is a weekly email newsletter, the "E-Edge." This is a sponsored effort, and the recipient has to request it--no spam here. The current direct readership is over 3,000, with a huge pass-along audience. We talk about national and international economic statistics, but the meat is California and Southern California indicators. The audience is diverse: real estate firms, institutional investors, business, and the media. We keep it short--no more than four pages, which the readers seem to appreciate. Believe it or not, the E-Edge has received Christmas cards.

Who pays for the LAEDC economic function? We are an overhead department, which is dangerous in this day and age. We do charge for speeches to nonmember groups (who sometimes express outrage that we "charge" for speaking), but this is where the consulting practice comes in.

As the bank research departments disappeared, we felt that there was an opportunity for fee-paid economic consulting. To us, the most logical customer base was the smaller banks that had utilized the economists from large banks. This did not prove to be the case, but in the meantime we found both private and public sector clients, with good examples being Lowe Enterprises, the city of Los Angeles, and Mitsubishi (for an LNG terminal). The value added was the business economics expertise of our staff.

Currently, the LAEDC Consulting Practice has a director, a senior economist, a public policy expert, and an administrative assistant. Another economist works part time. Both economists came out of the banking industry. The Consulting Practice charges market rates for its work. To help get the work out the door, the practice uses the economics staff, including myself. There is a charge-back for the economics staff time used, so in essence we do pay our way.

Regional economic research in the Los Angeles area is quite challenging. Not only do we have to follow the standard measures such as employment, personal income, and retail sales, but people also want information on local industries. …

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