Oct 11 2019

Dunn and Done: Call to Action for Business: Keep Investing in OC

Orange County is an economic powerhouse.  With the recent release of the 2019-20 OC Community Indicators, the facts are in:  3% unemployment–well below state and national levels–5th most educated county in the US, 2nd largest workforce in California, and 4th largest international population in the nation.  Yet when the perception persists that we’re suburbia, note that net 200,000 commuters travel from all surrounding counties to work here than the other way around

LA is, indeed, now OC’s bedroom community!

This economy has thrived because of diversity of our people, businesses and the quality jobs they help create. In recent years, we’ve become a leader in tech, innovation, medical device manufacturing, tourism and hospitality – attracting new businesses, jobs, opportunity and visitors to the regional annually.

Critical to our success are the businesses that continue to make significant investments in their product, employees and our communities.  For example, the City of Irvine and FivePoint are transforming a former military base into a life center of homes, health, community, recreation and open space, bringing state-of-the art cancer care with OC’s own City of Hope.  Rancho Mission Viejo earns environmental kudos preserving 20,000 acres of ranch while building a new water reservoir, homes, parks, community farm and award-winning amenities. In innovation, OC received almost $1 billion in venture capital investment last year for new business products, internet, aerospace, medical devices and biotech. 

Even Disney has invested billions of dollars to enhance Cars Land, Pixar Pier and create the recently-opened Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. These projects have had a major impact on the local economy, driving millions of guests to Anaheim and Orange County. 

With Disneyland Resort as OC’s largest employer, let’s drill down a bit more on that investment:

 Resort president Josh D’Amaro recently shared new findings from Cal State Fullerton economists on their regional economic impact analysis. The study found that Disneyland was responsible for generating an eye-popping $8.5 billion in 2018 alone.

 That’s a big number, but what does it mean for us?

  • 78,000 jobs in Southern California with nearly 75% of those jobs in Orange County.
  • $510 million in taxes paid to Southland cities, counties and California.
  • $162 million for Anaheim’s General Fund, which helps support public safety, parks, libraries and other community benefits selected by its city council.
  • And it’s a 50% jump in economic activity for Southern California since 2013—making a strong economy for us all.

As good as these numbers are there is no doubt OC has its fair share of issues to address:  the high cost of living, housing, homelessness, food insecurity, educational attainment gaps, and more, but a strong economy also means more resources to solve the problems.

Disney has made significant investments in their employees through Disney Aspire – an industry leading education program that offers 100% free tuition for a range of degrees, professional and vocational certifications and diplomas. The typical “entry-level” job is now a path to upward mobility, particularly when education is coupled with a new $15 per hour minimum wage standard.

Additionally, Taco Bell, Walmart, Lowe’s, Lyft and others partner with Guild Education to help employees finish high school, learn a language and go to college—education benefits that help recruit, retain and upskill workers to higher paying jobs. 

First5OC—OC’s Commission on Families and Children–declares, investing in early childhood development is critical to closing achievement gaps, improving health and boosting earnings. Disneyland Resort is in the process of implementing a $10 million investment in childcare for their employees and other businesses must follow suit.  75% of children of working parents have a hard time finding childcare.

Finally, affordable housing and homelessness are top of mind today.  Increasing supply and “housing first” with appropriate supportive services to end homelessness are not consigned to faith communities and non-profits advocacy alone.  Business knows it must step up to help– housing choice is an economic indicator for a strong community, retaining skilled workers, and the right thing to do. Disney started with a $5 million challenge grant to the Orange County Housing Trust, helping kick-start affordable housing and permanent supportive housing projects.  Wells Fargo, Brookfield, Union Bank and others are joining the call to action. UnitedtoEndHomelessness.org is for all of us.

As the 2019-20 OC Community Indicators shows, the state of Orange County is strong, but troubling issues persist that require innovative thinking, leadership and financial support.  OC businesses: keep engaged in this community, focus on growth, but also study the issues and increase your own role in corporate social responsibility that lifts all boats, and leaves no one behind.  You have a lot of strong role models right here.

2019-20 Orange County Community Indicators:   https://tinyurl.com/yxm9wwcq

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