Crossposted on RonKayeLA
BYD — the Chinese electric carmaker that City Hall promoted as a job creation engine for Los Angeles — finally opened today a year late and a lot of dollars short.
“In April 2010 when the deal was announced, BYD said it would open the office by the end of 2010, and have 150 employees by the end of this year. It now has 20 employees in Los Angeles, with plans to reach 30 by year-end and 100 by the end of 2012,” according to a story by Bloomberg News reporters Alan Ohnsman and Christopher Palmieri.
“The company, partly owned by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway, has delayed plans to sell electric cars to retail buyers, citing limited availability of public chargers. Instead, it’s focusing on solar panels, batteries, LED lighting and rechargeable buses.”
The article is a fair but thorough examination of the promises that were made and the reality that has developed, and represents a blow to the mayoral aspirations to former Deputy Mayor for economic development Austin Beutner and to Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s boasts about his job creating efforts in a city with one of the nation’s highest unemployment rates.
Both Beutner and Villaraigosa offered no apologies.
“We see BYD’s Los Angeles opening as a catalyst that will usher in good jobs, global investment and a more sustainable future,” Villaraigosa said in an e-mail last week to the reporters.
Beutner, whose mayoral campaign is built on his ability to create jobs, said: “Things like this are about planting seeds. Some grow fast, some grow slow, but you’ve got to plant them.”.
The deal the city put together to get BYD to settle in L.A. a long-term guarantee to cover the company’s rent if it leaves, three-years of a business tax holiday, installation of a charging station by DWP within a week of buying an electric car and $5 million in incentives — including $2 million that came from federal programs intended to help the poor.
City Controller Wendy Greuel, who has voluntarily taken on audits of the community colleges and the Coliseum, might take a look at the mayor’s entire job creation with an eye for how much money intended for the poor has been used as it has in this case and with Gensler architects to provide swank offices for huge and wealthy businesses.
How many jobs are being created, what kind of jobs and who actually is getting those jobs are areas of importance if Greuel, also a wannabe mayor, can find the time and staff to look at city government.
Bloomberg reported the jobs program really isn’t about jobs, at least not directly, as image.
“For both the city and the company, the project may be more about brand enhancement and indirect jobs. Operating from the U.S. entertainment capital boosts BYD’s image with customers in China while making Los Angeles, which lost the headquarters of Hilton Worldwide Inc. and Northrop-Grumman in the past three years, appear friendlier to business.
“Los Angeles has long been a headquarters desert, especially of marquee companies, and becoming even more so in recent years,” said Rob DeRocker, a Tarrytown, New York-based economic-development consultant. “This company will give the city much-welcomed bragging rights.”
Perhaps, the mayor will have better luck when he goes on his Asian junket to promote trade and tourism in December with visits to China, Japan and Korea planned.