LABC Initiative Seeks to Create Economic Opportunity for All

It can be hard to capitalize on a good opportunity, for even the most experienced in the business.

Los Angeles has a lot going on—we are an economic hub and a leader in some of the fastest growing industries in the world– but even with all of this activity, often opportunity hits a bottleneck. While the region continues to attract increasing levels of both public and private investment, local, small businesses tend to be left out.

For the past two years the LABC Institute – the 501(c)(3) research arm of the LABC – has taken a deep dive on ideas that expand economic opportunity in the L.A. region. This journey began back in 2017, when LABC President Mary Leslie served on LA28, the official Olympic Bid Committee. Stemming from anecdotes from public officials and community members who felt the 1984 Olympics did not benefit local, small business, the LABCi sought to find a pathway for the benefits of major events to be pushed down into local communities.

We began by searching for the best practices from prior Olympic Games which led us to an online platform created for the 2012 London Olympics that connected small, local businesses to major procurement opportunities. The platform was a huge hit—over 13,000 opportunities, totaling 2.6 billion pounds, were advertised and awarded to local businesses (75 percent of which were small and medium-sized businesses).

The key to the platform’s success was creating a single-entry point system for the region that would act as a clearinghouse of procurement opportunities.  This platform took the opportunity that was there and made it accessible to all levels and sizes of business, resulting in better outcomes for everyone and a robust database of small businesses suppliers.

With a relatively simple concept and substantial results, the LABCi pursued studying how this model might work in Los Angeles. Creating effective procurement systems that benefit target communities has been at the forefront in Los Angeles for many years with the City, County, and proprietary departments all setting ambitious goals for opening up procurement opportunities for small, disadvantaged, women-owned, and minority-owned businesses.  Throughout our feasibility study, we reached out to local businesses, major contractors, and procurement experts and found that small businesses struggle to navigate the various complex systems often losing out on major opportunities in the process.

The major finding of our study was that a free, transparent, and open system like the one used in London, combined with targeted community engagement and outreach staff, has enormous demand in Los Angeles and the potential to create more equal access to economic opportunity among the business community.

At a time when Los Angeles is preparing for an influx of major sports and entertainment events like the Super Bowl and World Cup, and has a historic amount of investment slated from the likes of Measure M and other ballot measures, we need a system that ensures that everyone has the chance to benefit.

So, we took this idea to the LA City Council back in January of 2019 and asked them to make a recommendation about how to implement this system in Los Angeles. LA City Councilman Paul Krekorian championed this effort by introducing Motion 19-0078 directing the Chief Legislative Analyst (CLA) to review the findings of our study. The motion passed the Jobs Committee and was approved unanimously by the full City Council on February 12.

We expect the CLA’s report in August.

As we wait for the report, we have organized support from leading community organizations, including the National Association of Women Business Owners – Los Angeles, Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, Asian Business Association, Greater Los Angeles African American Chamber of Commerce, and many others. Earlier this month, these groups were among a coalition of 23 who signed on to an LABC-initiated support letter that was sent to Councilman Krekorian.

We have also kept up our research efforts to support this initiative, partnering with the University of Southern California to help create a community engagement strategy by conducting an in-depth sector analysis to identify underserved businesses that stand to benefit most from a more accessible procurement portal.  We expect this research in late July.

These ideas will be featured heavily at our 18th annual Mayoral Housing, Transportation, and Jobs Summit in November, where we will be gathering the top minds on these issues for a session dedicated to increasing small business access to procurement opportunities in Los Angeles.

We aim to take a basic idea, access to opportunity, and turn it into a tangible system. This procurement portal has the potential to change lives, businesses, and the economic landscape of Los Angeles.

A timeline of our work on this issue can be found on our Economic Development page.

If you’re interested in learning more or are associated with a small or minority-owned business, sign up below for updates on our progress and information about getting involved.

Also click here to pledge your support for our program!

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