News Column

An Interview with Los Angeles Mayor Villaraigosa

Sept. 30, 2008

Michael Bowker--Managing Editor, Hispanic Business Magazine

Photo: Matt Graves, Hispanic Business

Far from struggling in the recessionary economy, L.A. is blooming like a desert rose. "You see cranes all over the city for the first time in decades," said Mr. Villaraigosa, who is the first Hispanic mayor of L.A. in 133 years. The city's recovery is being driven by massive housing and infrastructure development. More than 87 high-rises are being erected across the region, while the downtown section - long blighted and virtually ignored by most residents is being revitalized through a $2.5 billion project called L.A. Live. It includes the construction of high-end hotels, movie theaters, several restaurants, and office space. The project will create 25,000 new jobs, many, if not most, employing Hispanic workers. Another $7 billion is slated for improvements to LAX, and measures on the November ballot would generate an additional $40 billion for highway improvements and $7 billion for new schools.

Tech companies are rediscovering L.A., as biomed and biotech companies are being wooed by the mayor. "The healthcare sector has also remained strong, and I expect it to help drive the coming recovery nationwide," he said.

One thing that sets L.A. apart is the abundance of what the mayor called "creative capital." "We have more than 455,000 jobs in the film industry, the arts, music, architecture, and fashion," he said. "So much of what happens here catches on across the country and the world."

State voters will decide this November on a $10 billion bond that would initiate construction of a "bullet train" that would travel from San Francisco to L.A. in 2.5 hours. Passage would ensure construction jobs statewide and increased trade and commute possibilities.

L.A. and California are also actively supporting small businesses, particularly minority-owned enterprises. "We are especially focused on making capital available for them," said Mayor Villaraigosa.

As Hispanic political power centers, L.A. and California have already emerged. California has more Hispanic representatives in its legislature than any other state. California is also tops in Hispanic members of the U.S. Congress.

The mayor's future vision for U.S. Hispanics has a single foundation. "People ask me how I broke through the barriers to become mayor, and I tell them it happened because I can read and write," he said. "Our economic long-term viability especially in the Latino community rests on one thing: education. Especially in this global economy, education is the key to influence and success."

Check out a copy of our October issue for the list of 100 Influentials, with a special section singling out 40 of the most influential entrepreneurs, educators, and politicians in L.A. Or check it out here, or on's Ranking Channel or Magazine Channel.

For more of Hispanic Business' signature lists, please see the Ranking Channel

Source: (c) 2008. All rights reserved.

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