NEWS: Pasadena, LA County are booming. So what has businesses worried?

Posted October 26th, 2016

Brittany Dodd, left, CBRE senior associate of workplace strategy, and Kim Sidders, people operations coordinator at Bolton & Company, discuss millenials in the workplace during the Pasadena Chamber of Commerce’s annual Pasadena Business and Economic Summit at the University Club in Pasadena on Tuesday, October 25, 2016. (Photo by Sarah Reingewirtz, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

Pasadena is thriving, businesses are scared of the government and companies need to create a team-oriented environment to effectively recruit and retain millennials.

Those observations were all dispensed at thePasadena Business and Economic Summit 2016, held Tuesday at the University Club of Pasadena. Co-sponsored by the city and the Pasadena Chamber of Commerce, the event attracted business leaders from throughout the city.


“I think Pasadena is thriving,” Mayor Terry Tornek said. “We are in the midst of something of a development boom, and we’re also in the midst of a cultural explosion. For those of you who live or spend time in Pasadena, most of you are aware that there’s no excuse for being bored in Pasadena. There are an endless number of events that you attend.”

Tornek cited last week’s Connect Week and Astronomy Week as prime examples, as well as a sold-out Chinese music event that was held recently in the city.

Still, Tornek acknowledged that the city still faces challenges, including a homeless crisis, inadequate trust between the community and police, a continuing tug of war over development and not having enough money to sustain enough city employees.

Eric Duyshart, Pasadena’s economic development manager, detailed the various office, housing and hotel projects coming to the city.

One of the projects that appears to be on track will bring a 375-room hotel to a vacant car dealership near Pasadena City College. Another would create a new student housing facility for ArtCenter College of Design.


Tracy Hernandez , founding CEO of the Los Angeles Business Federation (BizFed), was the keynote speaker at Tuesday’s event. She said the top issues of concern among businesses in Los Angeles County are the burdensome taxes and fees companies must pay in order to operate in California, transportation concerns from long commute times, and environmental regulations.

Those concerns were identified in a BizFed survey that was released earlier this year.

“When you’re in the private sector you’re mostly afraid of the government,” Hernandez said. “You’re afraid of getting audited even though you are doing everything by the book. You’re afraid that when you interact with the government it will cost you more money and somehow change your business practices and cripple your competitiveness.”

Hernandez said BizFed’s mission is to be a “force multiplier” that brings business groups together. That creates a strong and unified voice, she said, that can not only get a seat at the table with local elected leaders but also bring in experts to clarify issues of concern to top decision makers.

“We look at both sides of the issues and this maturity comes into play,” she said.


Hernandez displayed slides which showed that Los Angeles County’s employment base grew by 2.2 percent last year with the addition of 94,700 jobs.

Health care and social services accounted for the biggest chunk with 21,800 new jobs. That was followed by leisure and hospitality (19,600), government (10,000), wholesale trade (7,800) and transportation and warehousing (3,000)

Tuesday’s event also featured three panelists, including Kim Sidders, people operations coordinator forBolton & Co., Brittany Dodd, a senior associate with CBRE and Pauletta Tonilas, chief communications officer with the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority. The panel was moderated by Karl Bird, acquisitions department manager for the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.