Local businesses desire better job training

901 Bar & GrillWith the race for the Ninth District City Council seat underway and elections next month, the spotlight is on the district’s economy.

Both candidates, State Senator Curren Price and Los Angeles City Council aide Ana Cubas, are highlighting job creation in their campaigns. But with about 15 percent of registered voters in the district participating in the March primary, local businesspeople and residents alike do not seem to be holding their breath for any quick changes.

“[The city] need[s] to do more that’s realistic,” said Bonnie Hayslett, the owner of Bubbles & Clips Mobile Pet Grooming. “A lot of times politicians promise the world and then they don’t deliver or they deliver to the wrong people.”

Hayslett said her business, which is located near the intersection of Central Avenue and 28th Street, does not have much competition in the area. At least two of her competitors have moved away in the past few years, but she said the main reason her business has been successful is because she is able to meet her customers where they are rather than have them come to her. While she is doing fine, she said the rest of the district is not. Hayslett believes the city needs to build more affordable housing in the area and offer better options for low-income families to buy or grow healthy food. About 70 percent of South LA has an income of less than $40,000. But most importantly, Hayslett said better job training in the district is crucial to improve the local economy, especially for young people.

“There needs to be jobs besides fast food restaurants,” said Hayslett.

In the University Park section of the district, over 40 businesses are being displaced or shut down because of major renovations the University of Southern California is making to the University Village. While those jobs are being lost, USC officials said the new University Village project will bring 4,000 construction jobs and 8,000 permanent jobs to the area. Thirty percent of those jobs will be local hires, according to a USC statement. Frank Arias, general manager of the Denny’s in the University Village, said his store will close in the next year. He agrees the shopping center needs to be improved, but has a question that has not been answered.

“What’s going to happen to all the people without jobs [because of the store closings]?” Arias said.

Arias and 901 Bar and Grill general manager Chris Hodge agree that new businesses would not want to move in to South LA until public safety is improved. Hodge said a high concentration of vagrants around USC keep people from exploring the area’s attractions such as the museums in Exposition Park. He said the city needs to clean up the image of South LA, starting with public safety.

“People don’t feel safe after a certain point (south of here),” Hodge said.

Both candidates for the Ninth Council District seat say the future could be bright for the district. John Hill, Cubas’s press deputy, said the district is “ripe for progress,” while Andre Herndon, a Price campaign spokesman, said the district has “great potential.” They cite cheap real estate and the district’s proximity to the Port of LA and the Los Angeles International Airport as major reasons.

Hill said Cubas wants to create partnerships with local schools like USC and UCLA to bring more biomedical research and manufacturing and green technology manufacturing to the district. Cubas also wants to improve job training in the district, especially for manufacturing jobs, and repurposing abandoned and neglected areas for public use or businesses.

Herndon said Price would focus on tax incentives for businesses that move to the district as well as developing more business improvement districts (BIDs). A BID is an association of businesses in the same area that agree to pay a regular fee to hire private security and make the surrounding area look nicer. Herndon also said Price wants to address problems with homelessness in the district by using Proposition 63 dollars for individuals with mental health problems and other resources.

The general election is May 21.

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