Council Approves Creation of Tech-Centric Commission to Foster Innovation, Investment

LA VC InvestMap

A map of 2011 venture captial investments in technology sectors throughout Southern California. Map courtesy of Zara Matheson of the Martin Prosperity Institute.

The City Council approved a recommendation that the City Attorney draft an ordinance to examine the possibility of creating a Technology and Innovation Commission comprised of community members to help invigorate and foster tech-driven business in Long Beach. Staff will present a report on the fiscal impact, which will then be reviewed by the Economic Development and Finance Committee before returning to the City Council for a final decision.

The move comes after it was noted that Long Beach is largely going unnoticed in venture capital investments while surrounding cities, including Santa Monica and Anaheim, are booming with investment. This is not to say that a tech scene doesn’t exist; LB Tech and WE Labs, each of which had representatives to speak at the meeting, encourage creating a tech community. However, drawing large investors in has been, as data show, largely nonexistent outside of Epson‘s multimillion dollar investment in 2011.

Vice Mayor Robert Garcia did note the City’s moves in creating technology-based access to government through smartphone apps, wifi accessibilities, and online City Hall access but still felt moving beyond the City’s outreach and using experts within the tech sector is key.

“The idea of this commission is to truly bring together our best and brightest minds on the issue of technology,” Garcia said.

As mentioned before—and echoed throughout the discussion—was the fact that the economy needs to be shifted.

“This is about creating our next economy,” noted 4th District Councilmember Patrick O’Donnell, who sponsored the recommendation. “We’re not going to get factories to move to Long Beach—ain’t gonna happen. We need to create the platform for the next economy and that is why this commission is so valuable.”

And even more than the shift in economy, this was not, per se, a discussion that Long Beach lacks techies or inherent talent; many talented individuals sat in the audience and some spoke directly. Rather, it seems that techies lacks the tools necessary to create a tech sector; tools largely nonexistent thanks to either broken policy or an archaic City approach.

Perhaps Garcia et al are trying to avoid the initial disaster that was Laserfiche, an already established firm who was—according to a 2003 Press-Telegram article—lured to move to Bixby Knolls from Torrance, only to receive a very cold shoulder from the City. The City eventually warmed up but left a bitter taste in many mouths.

“This is a great opportunity to elevate the position of the City in regard to technology and development,” said David Ferrell, Executive Boardmember of Long Beach Tech. “As Gerrie Schipske noted, there are certain niches in tech that require specific expertise and the tech commission can bring that… The skill set of a commission could bring great advice [for policy].”

The City Attorney is due back to Council within a month to present the drafted ordinance creating the commission.

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Brian Addison has been a writer, editor, and photographer for more than a decade, covering everything from food and culture to transportation and housing. In 2015, he was named Journalist of the Year by the Los Angeles Press Club and has since garnered 16 nominations and two additional wins for Best Political Commentary for his work at KCET and Best Blog for Longbeachize, a section of the Long Beach Post. Brian currently serves as a columnist and editor for the Long Beach Post.