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The importance of a global city

LA mayor: 'We are the shot callers, the investors, the storytellers'

LA Mayor Eric Garcetti speaking behind a lectern.
October 03, 2022

Editor's note: This story is part of our coverage of a weeklong series of events to mark ASU's expansion in California at the ASU California Center in downtown Los Angeles.

The pandemic highlighted the nimble ways that cities can quickly address problems that take national governments months to untangle, according to Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti.

In the early days of the pandemic, Garcetti jumped on a Zoom call – only his second ever – with 70 mayors from around the world, sharing information and best practices, such as how to prepare hospitals and whether to shut down.

“We talked to each other and the next day, we were implementing,” he said.

“Thousands if not tens of thousands of people are alive today because the cities of the world connected to each other.”

Garcetti spoke at an event on Monday morning called “Is LA Still a Global City?” at Arizona State University’s California Center in downtown Los Angeles. The talk is part of a weeklong celebration of ASU’s new site, based in the historic Herald Examiner Building.

Garcetti said that the important question for Los Angeles is: "What kind of global city are we?"

“Nothing about being global inherently makes you a fair city or a just city. It just makes you big,” he said.

Los Angeles, where 63% of the residents are immigrants or the children of immigrants, is at the crossroads of many of the world’s biggest industries, including not only the entertainment industry but also fashion, fine arts and new media, he said.

“We are the shot callers, the investors, the storytellers.

“Part of that is our universities, like ASU, which we welcome as an LA university joining the other great institutions,” Garcetti said.

A panel discussion followed Garcetti’s talk, in which ASU President Michael Crow emphasized the need for cities to maintain a vibrant urban core.

“We’re here because this is the place where the future is being outlined,” he said.

“You have to be downtown. We searched for years for this building. We wanted to be in downtown LA. It’s an essential location for human capital development.”

Four people on stage in chairs at ASU California Center event

ASU President Michael Crow (second from left) speaks during the "Is LA Still a Global City?" panel discussion, following Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti's keynote speech, on Oct. 3, during a weeklong celebration of the ASU California Center in downtown Los Angeles. Joining the discussion is (from left to right) moderator Jessica Lall, CEO of the Central City Association; Stephanie Hsieh, president of Biocom CA; and Stephen Cheung, president of the World Trade Center, LA. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU News

Steven Cheung, president of the World Trade Center in Los Angeles, said that the narrative of an influx of companies leaving California is not new.

“It’s true that it’s cheaper to do business elsewhere. But as we know, cheaper is cheaper, it’s not better,” he said.

“Companies are coming to LA not because it’s cheaper but because of the diversity of the population.

“The bottom line is that these companies still need to grow and find talent, and LA has one of the biggest and most diverse talent pools.”

The speakers emphasized the need for more education opportunities.

Stephanie Hsieh, executive director of Biocom CA and a biotech entrepreneur, said that nearly two-thirds of the workers the life sciences industry don’t have a bachelor’s degree.

“When it comes to workforce development, it starts in pre-K and it’s a continuum,” he said. “You have to get the kids in early.”

Hsieh said that with the Los Angeles Community College system, plus the Cal State and University of California systems, Los Angeles produces more PhDs in the life sciences than any other part of the country.

“But there’s a lot more we could be doing. How do we pull together to have people in our community see themselves in these positions?” she said.

The speakers noted that LA’s sprawling workforce weakens the ability to be collaborative.

“Prior to COVID, we were talking about downtown going through a renaissance,” Cheung said.

“There’s been a slight hiccup, but I think we can get back there. But also because of the transition to remote work, how do we look at the office space and attract a different type of collaboration?

“It can happen, but we need more leadership.”

Hsieh said that office space can be transformed.

“We have essentially a zero percent vacancy rate for wet lab space. We need to make room for that,” she said.

Crow said that of the top cities in the world, Los Angeles has the most potential.

“It’s the most economically diverse and has the highest concentration of forward-thinking industries,” he said.

“It also has a deep commitment to social transformation and justice. All the momentum is here.”

Top photo: Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti answers the question “Is LA Still a Global City?” during a keynote speech on Oct. 3, during a weeklong celebration of the ASU California Center in the historic LA Herald Examiner Building. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU News

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