I give it a qualified yea, especially since the mayor is going to China, Japan, and South Korea - three of L.A.'s most important trading partners. I appreciate all the skepticism: Much of what he's announcing would have happened anyway, past Villaraigosa trips have had a boondoggle taint (remember the Copenhagen fiasco?), and the $295,000 price tag looks bad in the face of a troubled economy. Still, businesspeople who do lots of business in Asia will tell you that meet and greets can make a difference. Plus, the trip is skewed towards trade and transportation, which will be linchpins for the recovery, and it's being underwritten not by taxpayers, but by the airport and port (and understandably so, given their roles in the local economy). There's something else to consider, as I mentioned yesterday on KPCC:
What [these trips] mostly do is provide a chance for the city to show its flag - kind of a preemptive strike against all the other U.S. cities that are looking for business overseas. There was a time when L.A. did very little marketing because nobody thought it was needed. This was L.A., after all. But over the years lots of business has been lost to other areas that were only too happy to arrange attractive incentive packages. So city officials now realize they have to work a little harder, and we are starting to see some results.
Given Villaraigosa's penchant for the finer things, I suspect the 10 days could have been done a whole lot cheaper (imagine how Gov. Brown would have economized). But the expenses, whatever they turn out to be, are pretty inconsequential compared with the potential economic payback. It's known as the price of doing business. Also on Business Update, a look at whether the European debt woes will impact the local economy. Transcript is after jump