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Showbiz key to quake recovery

From the end of January through the end of May, Los Angeles County is expecting to swallow a $ 308 million loss in tourism business due to the Jan. 17 earthquake. The state of California, meanwhile, is faced with a first-in-a-long-time downturn in tourism over the past year.

Powerful lure

So it’s no wonder that state, county and L.A. city officials have begun to really roll out the red carpet for Hollywood. Not only does the entertainment industry act as a powerful lure to snowbound television addicts in Wisconsin, but it is also the only industry that is showing double-digit growth in the entire state.

“By 1992, tourism and the entertainment industry (combined) provided more jobs in this state than the defense industry,” noted Kim Shaw of the Los Angeles County Community Development Commission. Shaw spoke at Monday’s economic symposium “There’s No Business Without Show Business.”

Those kind of statistics become mighty compelling for a state that continues to operate in deficit and has lost some 650,000 to 850,000 jobs since the start of the recession.

“Of those jobs lost, 100,000 were lost just because it was easier to do business in another state,” said Barry Sedlik, manager of business retention for Southern California Edison.

The state has also suffered a 39% loss of its key high-technology jobs since 1988, from which state officials estimate it will take years to recover.

Biz still boffo

In the face of this loss, the entertainment and tourism industries continue to be the high spots. It’s estimated that the private payroll in L.A. County is about $ 100 billion, out of which Hollywood and tourism jointly comprise a hefty $ 12 billion.

Which is why every government official from Gov. Pete Wilson on down is now playing up the importance of keeping tourism healthy, keeping Hollywood in Hollywood and linking the two as business partners providing incentives for one another.

Toward that end, state officials are pushing Senate Bill 1479, the California Tourism Marketing Act, through their corridors, in the hopes of quadrupling the state’s tourism budget. If passed, the state would continue to contribute $ 7.5 million annually to promote tourism, while the travel industry would assess itself another $ 25 million, which would make California the No. 1 state in promotional spending.

One-stop permit plan

Additionally, a move is afoot to create a one-stop regional film permit office that would significantly reduce the amount of red tape associated with location filming in Southern California.

And state and county officials are looking to Hollywood to reinforce California’s more positive image — one that negates earthquakes and riots — so that tourists and conventioneers continue to head west.

“Right now we need to convince the media that the show must go on,” said Julie Meier Wright, California’s secretary of trade & commerce.

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