Silicon LBC? Mayor Garcia’s Vision of a Tech Hub Faces Challenges, But Could Give Overlooked City Attention

Silicon LBC?

 Mayor Garcia’s Vision of a Tech Hub Faces Challenges,
But Could Give Overlooked City Attention

Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia looks out over the city from his City Hall office.

Thursday’s Los Angeles Times contained a feature discussing the vision of new Long Beach, California mayor Robert Garcia to make “LBC”  the next tech hub.

In earlier decades, the city’s character was easier to define. It was an oil town, a Navy town, an aerospace space. But the derricks vanished, the Navy sailed off, and Boeing is closing its C-17 plant.

Now, as Long Beach gropes afresh for its identity, the mayor of this famously blue-collar town is arguing for what seems an unlikely vision: Long Beach as high-tech hub, a world-class mecca of innovation, an incubator of cutting-edge entrepreneurship.

Or, as he likes to put it: “The Silicon Valley of the south.”

I lived in Long Beach from 1998-2002 before moving north to Santa Monica.  The city certainly has a lot to offer and it is hard to beat our location in Belmont Shore where we lived one block from Alamitos Bay, one block from the Pacific Ocean and two blocks from a half-mile strip of restaurants and shops .

But as the LA Times article explains

What it doesn’t have — with exceptions such as the electronics firm Epson and the software company Laserfiche — is a conspicuous tech sector.

That ultimately is what drove our move north.  In post-DotCom bust Southern California, opportunities were either north of LAX or south of John Wayne Airport which meant longer and longer commutes from Long Beach.

The Opportunity

Long Beach does have some things working in its favor, which include

  • an attractive beach community (that includes “Rosie’s Beach” the only legal off-leash dog beach in Los Angeles County);
  • a convention town with lots of attractions such as the Aquarium of the Pacific, the Queen Mary and the outstanding Museum of Latin American Art (the only museum in the western United States that exclusively features Latin American art and which displays the famous Mexican muralists on its exterior under the stars in the summer);
  • a great retro airport that is the most hassle free of the Southern California airports, which has the lowest average airfare in California and nation’s fourth best on-time rate;
  • being the most ethnically diverse large city in the United States (which includes the second-largest Cambodian community outside Asia behind Paris);
  • being warmer and sunnier than competing communities since the Palos Verdes hills block the west to east airflow that bring the marine layer to other coastal towns; and
  • connection to the Los Angeles metro system as the Blue Line ends in downtown Long Beach.

At the same time, however, Long Beach is very much in the shadow of the much larger Los Angeles and cannot compete with it in terms of culture, but then again neither can Irvine or San Jose.

The Numbers

Long Beach generally is more affordable than its neighbors, but it does not compare as favorably in the areas of education and crime.

Tech hubs often rely on an elite school to feed the talent that will spur the innovation and growth.  Of the 8 biggest cities in California (Los Angeles, San Diego, San Jose, San Francisco, Fresno, Sacramento, Long Beach, Oakland) plus Irvine – only Fresno and Long Beach lack a UC university and an elite college.  Long Beach must rely on the respected, but hardly elite, Long Beach State.

 LBC  LA

Santa
Monica

Irvine San
Diego
Pop  463,589  3,804,503  90,008  213,880  1,308,619
Pop Density  9,218  8,118  10,696   4,774  4,024
Unemployment  8.4% 8.5%  6.3%  3.7%  6.0%
Family Med.
Income
  $59,408  $54,352  $110,487  $109,176  $77,545
Median Home   $446,100  $476,300  $1,172,400   $751,100  $472,200
Cost of Living  158  164  295  215  164
College Degree  18.81%  20.44% 35.83%  37.43%  24.75%
Graduate Degree  9.83%  10.4%  28.37% 28.39%  16.51%
Commute Time  28.26  29.17  25.73   23.05 22.20
Air Quality Index  15  15  15 78.1  59.1
Sunny Days  287  284  281  281  266
Violent Crime
Index
 63.7  62.8  58  23.5  57

The LA Times article notes

When Slate.com compiled a list of dozens of places the media has characterized as “the next Silicon Valley” in recent years, the candidates included Austin; Boston; Chattanooga, Tenn.; Detroit; Beijing; Kigali, Rwanda; Tel Aviv; and Santiago, Chile. Long Beach wasn’t mentioned.

Recently, however, Virgin Galactic announced that it will build satellite launchers at a facility near the Long Beach Airport. This combined with the Mayor’s efforts may have the effect of at least making Long Beach part of the discussion. Particularly, as the boom in the nearby Silicon Beach and Orange County tech communities may have some spill-over effect for Long Beach.

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