Anaheim State of the City 2014: Chamber of Commerce Chairman Jeff Farano’s Speech

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Jeff Farano

As is customary, the mayor’s State of the City speech is preceded by remarks from the chairman of the Anaheim Chamber of Commerce, giving the chamber’s perspective on the state of the city. Here is Chairman Jeff Farano’s speech from Monday’s event:

Thank you for that kind introduction, Phil. For the last three years I’ve had the honor of standing before you as chairman of the Anaheim Chamber of Commerce, and sharing the Chamber’s perspective on the state of our city. Next month, I will hand the chairman’s gavel over to my able successor, Ross McCune of Castile Builders.

While I have enjoyed being the Chair of the greatest Chamber of Commerce not only in Orange County but in California, I am also excited to see Ross use his proven business skills to continue growing the Chamber and carrying out its policies. Through my experiences around the state and nationally, I truly believe that pound for pound this chamber gets more things done than any other chamber or business organization in the state. And since this will be my last time to do this I would like to recognize and thank my wife Sue for allowing me the time to serve in this important capacity.

HOW WE GOT HERE

Many of you here are long-time Anaheim residents, business owners or both. Some of you are newer to our community – but we’re all partners in one of the major economic centers of this state. Anaheim didn’t achieve that status by chance or fate. Let’s take a moment to reflect on how Anaheim became the success that it is, and why this is such a great place to live and to do business.

Take, for example, Disneyland and the Resort Area, the Angels and the Stadium, the Ducks and the Honda Center, the Anaheim Convention Center and soon, ARTIC. It is no accident they are all located in Anaheim. They are here thanks to the vision and planning of Anaheim’s civic leadership.

These – and more recently the Platinum Triangle, GardenWalk, the Canyon District and the soon-to-open Anaheim Packing District – didn’t just happen in a vacuum. Anaheim is home to all of this, and more, because the leadership of this city and the private sector have shared a vision and worked together as partners to plan out and implement that vision.

For more than half-a-century, Anaheim’s civic and business leadership have worked together to bring businesses and jobs to the people of this city. Anaheim’s leaders had the vision to welcome Disneyland in 1955 as well as each of its expansion projects over the years. The Angels came to Anaheim in 1966, because city leaders had vision to see how it would benefit Anaheim to be the home of a world-class professional baseball franchise.

Anaheim is the largest convention center on the West Coast because city leaders had the vision to build the Anaheim Convention Center in 1967 and maintain it as a top-tier destination by regularly investing in the modernization and expansion of this cornerstone of Anaheim’s economy – most recently the Anaheim Grand Plaza, the 100,000 square foot outdoor meeting and event space connecting the Convention Center with the Anaheim Marriott and the Anaheim Hilton.

Anaheim is a great place to do business because Anaheim has historically been led by bold leaders who understand city government’s vital role in setting the table for business and job creation. They were conservatives who not only believed government should be limited – but that it should act vigorously within those limits to promote prosperity and opportunity. Recent highly successful programs like the Anaheim Enterprise Zone and the Regulatory Reform Task Force are examples of putting that belief into action.

This is often referred to as “public-private partnership” – but whatever name we use, it has worked well for Anaheim for many years, and we believe it will continue to produce prosperity in this community. Businesses have come to Anaheim creating jobs and helping the community because this partnership. As an example of building on this vision, TOT revenue from the Resort Area alone tripled between 1994 and 2013, going from $30 million to $93 million. This money goes into the general fund to pay for needed services.

The business community strongly feels Anaheim has developed a very strong economic engine and we are excited for this direction to continue. We support and honor the vision, leadership and planning that has made Anaheim a great city, and we encourage moving forward with a proven model of economic development that works.

STRONG ECONOMY = STRONG COMMUNITY

Economic development isn’t an end in itself. Anaheim’s businesses have a long history of participating in the community. We strongly believe that a strong economy equals a strong community. We believe in the opportunity to work, run a business, support one’s family and to give to one’s church and charity. We believe that these are the fruits of a strong economy. It is the soil in which civic pride and safe neighborhoods take root and grow.

Anaheim is a living example of how responsible economic development IS community development. Anaheim’s quality of life is inseparable from economic activity and job creation – they are the avenues of opportunity and advancement, and they generate the revenues that fund our public safety agencies, our parks, our libraries and neighborhood improvement projects.

But economic growth is about more than generating tax revenues. Prosperity enables the Anaheim business community and philanthropic leaders to give back to our community and help disadvantaged neighborhoods. Examples of this include the Disneyland Resort giving back $17 million to our community in 2013 alone. Disney, the Angels and the Ducks have partnered in a neighborhood improvement initiative to which they contributed $3 million. Small businesses are also very involved in building a strong community such as our very own CNN hero Bruno Sarato of the White House, who has given countless hours and money to help disadvantaged youth. These are just a few examples of the tens of millions dollars and thousands of volunteer hours given by Anaheim businesses.

A strong community depends on a strong economy, and a strong economy supports a strong community. It’s a vital symbiotic relationship

WHAT WE ARE EXCITED ABOUT IN 2014

Jobs for Anaheim has always been a primary purpose of the Anaheim Chamber of Commerce. The good news is that Anaheim’s unemployment rate continues to drop – from 12.5% just three years ago to 6.8% today. Much of that credit goes to the nearly 6000 jobs created by Anaheim Enterprise Zone. As we all remember, the Chamber partnered with the City to fight hard for that program and then to put it to work. By November 30th of last year, in just 11 months nearly 6,000 EZ vouchers had been issued – each one representing a job for an Anaheim resident. It’s truly shameful the Enterprise Zone program had been ended, but there will be numerous opportunities for the Chamber to help grow this economy in 2014.

On the front burner for 2014 is the proposed 200,000 square foot expansion of the Anaheim Convention Center and a TOT policy to incentivize the construction of full-service hotels in the Resort District. These two go hand in hand, and the importance of the Convention Center expansion and bringing in full service hotels cannot be overstated. The wisdom of this plan is simple. The Convention Center attracts large conventions and trade shows. The conventions, in turn, fill hotel rooms in the Resort District, which in turn generates TOT revenue to fund public safety and public amenities like libraries and parks. The Anaheim Chamber of Commerce strongly believes that the Convention Center expansion is necessary for Anaheim to keep shows like NAMM – — and at the same attract even larger shows. The expansion will enable the Convention Center to start stacking multiple shows and conventions at the same time — which feeds even more guests to Anaheim hotels, area shops and restaurants, which generates even greater TOT revenue.

At this time, I’d like to take a moment to recognize Jay Buress, the president and CEO of the Anaheim/Orange County Visitor and Convention Bureau. It’s just over a year since Jay came here from Texas, and he’s quickly brought new-found vigor and energy to this critical piece of Anaheim’s economy.

While there are many fine hotels in the Resort District, Anaheim’s challenge is to ensure a more diverse mix of hotels that appeal to every vacationer and conventioneer demographic.

The Chamber supports a forward-thinking TOT program, that will attract to the Resort District the high-end hotels that make us more attractive to large conventions and luxury travelers. This translates into more economic activity, more jobs, and more revenue to fund necessary city services and public amenities.

The Chamber looks forward to the renewal of the 50 year relationship that will keep our World Champion Angels in this city. This team has helped put this city on the national stage, bringing pride to the city and helping Anaheim’s strong economy. A continued partnership that creates a world class stadium will be a catalyst for the economic development of the Stadium District, and will be a win-win that will protect taxpayers and enhance Anaheim’s luster and quality of life.

We are pleased to see that The Platinum Triangle and Anaheim Canyon are rebounding from the Great Recession. The city has invested millions in infrastructure in the Canyon, and we can already see the return on that investment. Commercial vacancies there have plummeted. One of our larger development members, Panattoni Development, is building its 300,000 square foot Anaheim Canyon industrial complex as we speak. The Platinum Gateway apartment community is expected to begin construction this year, and the city has approved plans for the Platinum Vista community next door.

The Honda Center unveiled its ambitious Grand Terrace – a $20 million, 15,000 square foot restaurant, shopping and bar space – the biggest expansion of the Honda Center since it opened in 1993.

Ground was broken on the Anaheim Regional Transportation Intermodal Center – ARTIC. Any day of the week, you can its graceful lines taking shape along Katella Avenue, another iconic landmark preparing to take its place in Anaheim’s skyline. The GardenWalk recently came under new ownership that is determined to revitalize this important component of the Resort District to help it achieve its full potential.

Downtown Anaheim continues its revival. The Anaheim Packing District – a public-private partnership between the city and The LAB Holdings — will infuse new dynamism into Downtown’s growing nightlife. The Chamber played a leading role in the revival of a great city traditions of the Anaheim Halloween Parade and the Fall Festival, both of which drew thousands of families to our downtown last October.

This recovery is happening all over the city’s diverse economy – not just in tourism and entertainment, but in construction and manufacturing, among large and small businesses. The Anaheim Chamber of Commerce will be a key player in promoting our city’s prosperity, and continue with its efforts to assist small business startups, long time family-owned businesses and our large corporate partners.

CLOSING

I am excited to see the opportunity Anaheim has in 2014 to demonstrate the same vision and leadership that preceding generations of leaders have demonstrated. I can promise you that the business community will continue to work to protect the investments that have made Anaheim a great economic center.

In closing, I would like to express my gratitude for the opportunity to lead a great organization like the Anaheim Chamber of Commerce, enabling me to serve the city that I have been a part of for my entire life. The state of the Chamber is strong, providing valuable services to our businesses from a strong financial position, and I will be turning over to Ross a Chamber of Commerce that is stronger than ever. In particular, I would like to thank our President Todd Ament and the amazing Chamber staff who make everything happen and make me look good – not always an easy task!

I’m especially pleased to turn over the chairmanship as the Chamber prepares to re-locate its offices to the heart of the Platinum Triangle – one of the epicenters of Anaheim’s economic growth for years to come.

Anaheim has everything going for it. By building on the foundation that has worked for our city for so many years, I’m confident Anaheim’s best years are ahead of us.

I look forward to hearing from our esteemed Mayor who will give us all the positive news about the future of Anaheim

Thank you.

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