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  • Stephen Jordan

Together for Los Angeles Report: Release Remarks

Originally delivered by ISD CEO, Stephen Jordan, during the release of the second TFLA report “Small Business Recovery Report and Resource Guide” June 24, 2022, at the TFLA leadership symposium: “The Future of Small Business Resiliency in Los Angeles”

Thank you, Dr. Lucy Jones, for reminding us about the need to be vigilant against all types of disasters.

This reminds me of a survey we did in Canada in December 2019 where we asked respondents to name the top 10 threats that they were most concerned about.

“Pandemic” did not make the top 10.

And now, we are all worked up about pandemics. As Dr. Jones mentioned, we have the San Andreas fault next door, and who knows what curve balls the future may bring.

Emergency managers call this an “all hazards” approach to being prepared, and it is important to keep in mind.

I have been working on public-private partnerships (PPPs) and the role of the private sector in disaster management and critical infrastructure protection for twenty-five years, and I have been so encouraged by the Together for LA (TFLA) collaborative for small business recovery.

I have to cut to the chase – LA needs an ongoing economic resilience capability. The stakes are too high.

I have seen too many extreme events turn into major disasters because:

  • Pre-existing community conditions were not addressed,

  • Small businesses were too close to the bone already and not supported, and

  • Recovery efforts were not connected or coordinated.

The TFLA model offers tremendous new hope for changing the paradigm of how we manage future disasters.

I am going to report out three things today:

  1. How and Why TFLA Developed,

  2. What We Accomplished, and

  3. Implications for the Future.

I. How and Why TFLA Developed

The TFLA collaborative for small business recovery was launched by the City of LA, County of LA, LAEDC, L.A. Area Chamber of Commerce, LISC LA, Dr. Lucy Jones Center for Science and Society, and Institute for Sustainable Development (ISD) in July of last year.

It was made possible through a generous grant by Wells Fargo’s 2021 Open for Business Fund, but we started coming together in August of 2020 based on a shared recognition of the problems.

In 2020, more than 60% of the small businesses in Los Angeles closed their doors temporarily.

In an analysis of the economic impact of 2020, LAEDC, in partnership with the LA County Department of Workforce Development, Aging and Community Services (WDACS), researched that:

- An estimated 15,000 small businesses never re-opened,

  • If just 10% of those businesses had been saved, that would have saved an estimated $150 million. Add in mitigating all of the temporary impacts, and somewhere between $300 million and $1.5 billion in lost GDP for the region could have been saved.

- 437,000 people lost their jobs in 2020,

- 20,000 people became homeless, and

- Different neighborhoods and communities across LA still struggle with the fall-out of food and service deserts today.

Severe impacts hit women- and minority-owned businesses particularly hard. During 2020, in field interviews and assistance cases that ISD and our partners conducted, small businesses cited the following issues:

  • Lack of awareness

  • Difficulty to access resources

  • Did not feel they were eligible or included

  • Lack of responsiveness

  • And when they were in the system, that it was overly complicated and not worth the effort.

Before COVID, economic disaster response has tended to be fragmented, siloed, uncoordinated, and reactive. Some small businesses and neighborhoods would get a lot of attention, while others would be ignored.

You know how when kids first learn how to play soccer, they all move around the field wherever the ball is? Pre-COVID and during the early days of the response seemed pretty similar. Everyone was in crisis mode responding to the emergency.

But the problem with that approach is that you get “clumping” – resources going disproportionately to some places, and “gapping” – everyone assuming someone else is taking care of a problem, but no one is.

Instead of all chasing after the ball, all of us – government agencies, business support organizations, community leaders – needed to become more of a team and learn to communicate, share information, and build trust with each other.

Businesses were saying that they needed assistance with:

  • Access to capital,

  • Developing an online presence,

  • Managing supply chain challenges,

  • Customer retention and cultivation,

  • Public health best practices,

  • Hiring and training qualified employees,

  • Inclusion in/Help with application requirements, and

  • A vast range of other support services.

People like Jon Kinnard of Coffee del Mundo, who sponsored our coffee today, had to sleep in their stores in order to keep them.

ALAS Media had to take on business that was totally different from what they had been doing pre-pandemic, just because they did not want to lay off their employees.

One of the key tenets that we quickly realized is that we did not have to reinvent the wheel. LA has incredible resources. There was a vast array of business support tools available:

  • 265 Economic Development Organizations

  • 118 Urban Development Organizations

  • 114 Chambers of Commerce

  • 107 Higher Learning Institutions

  • 91 Venture Capital Firms

  • 88 Cities and over 100 Unincorporated Areas

  • 73 Co-Working Spaces

  • 44 Community Development Financial Institutions

  • 42 Business Improvement Districts

  • 33 Accelerators

  • 19 American Job Centers

  • 15 Convention Centers and Visitors Bureaus, and

  • 8 Small Business Development Centers.

We pulled all of this information together and went to work.

II. What TFLA Accomplished

Between July 2021 to today, we sent out hundreds of communications across multiple platforms designed to reach the poorest neighborhoods of LA with technical assistance tools, training opportunities, and easy-to-use information. While we are still counting up the total, we know that more than one million emails and e-notices were sent out over the course of the year.

TFLA members conducted dozens of training programs, workshops, and webinars, including:

TFLA has connected the dots between these small businesses, nonprofits, and micro-enterprises with billions of dollars in various federal, state, city, and county loans, grants, and other programs.

The success of TFLA can be attributed to its emphasis on collaboration and coordination – essentially, the creation of a culture of public and private cooperation and partnership among the founding organizations.

III. Implications for the Future

TFLA is a model for how public-private collaboratives can serve small business nationally. The landscape of LA is highly complex – with many cultures and languages celebrated in LA, including 88 cities and over 100 unincorporated areas. TFLA’s reach and impact across this diverse region demonstrates its potential to be successful in other areas across the country.

As Dr. Jones said in her remarks, we know future disasters are going to happen. We know that if we had a robust business preparedness function before COVID, we could have saved at least some businesses and jobs.

We know that extreme events become disasters because of pre-existing conditions in communities.

As the emergency managers are fond of saying, the worst time to exchange business cards is the day of a disaster.

We know that $1 invested in resilience supposedly saves $7 in disaster costs.

But we know it could be so much more.

An ongoing economic resilience program would more than pay for itself.

What TFLA has shown is that we can move:

  • From being reactive to proactive,

  • From doing our own thing to connecting with each other, and

  • From trying to solve things on our own to figuring out ways to collaborate and partner.

Together for LA has created an important base of understanding, relationships, content, and services. But all of us in this room and other allies beside need to consider how we can build on this excellent model.

We need to build up trust.

We need to improve how we prepare.

There are many critical questions that need to be worked out still, but I am hopeful that this conference will help push us forward in this direction.

As COVID has shown, the costs are just too high if we don’t.

Thank you.

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