The following Op-Ed appears today, December 28, 2011 in the San Gabriel Valley Tribune:
This year wasn’t exactly the booming economic year we had hoped for but in retrospect a lot of really good things happened this past year.
We cheered when the $486 million Metro Gold Line Foothill Extension contract for construction from Pasadena to Azusa Light-rail Line was awarded in July. Construction is already under way on the I-210 rail bridge in Arcadia. Next year the construction of the new rail right-of-way will begin. Everything is on schedule for that much anticipated 2015 opening.
In October, the California Transportation Commission allocated $336 million of state funds to the Alameda Corridor-East Project (ACE). The ACE project reduces traffic congestion and enhances goods movement through the SGV. Since no dedicated funding source exists, finding every dollar for the needed improvements is a challenge.
This grant guarantees the 1.4 mile San Gabriel railroad trench and roadway bridges will be constructed.
California was finally successful in winning “Race to the Top” federal grant money.
California and eight other states will share $500 million for K-12 school reforms. In 2010, California was disqualified from receiving any funds under this program because it had not demonstrated that it was ready and able to make educational reforms. This time we made the grade.
Caltech enjoyed a particularly good year. It received a $122 million research grant to study a commercially sustainable method for converting water, carbon dioxide and sunlight into fuel. Caltech followed that victory by being named the World’s Top University in the New Times Higher Educational Global Rankings. It doesn’t get any better than that.
At the Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL), all eyes were focused on the stars with the discovery of the first earth-sized planets orbiting suns beyond our solar system. The planets are named Kepler-20e and Kepler-20f after the great Johannes Kepler who described the first two laws of planetary motion in 1609.
Two weeks earlier the JPL rover “Curiosity” had successfully begun its eight-month journey to Mars. Clearly, just the beginning of the story. We’ll be checking back in mid-August 2012 for Curiosity’s reports from the Red Planet.
The Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp. selects only two of the eighty-eight Los Angeles County cities to award the title “Most Business Friendly” – one large city and one small city. This year both awards went to San Gabriel Valley cities.
Congratulations West Covina and Monrovia. You make us all proud.
We aren’t doing summersaults over the unemployment rate yet, but job growth continues to expand and the unemployment rate is headed in the right direction … down.
This is definitely reason to celebrate.
Even more importantly for the San Gabriel Valley, the construction industry is beginning to show signs of recovery. While the single-family home market continues to struggle, both non-residential and multifamily building permits are on the rise. With a 40 percent loss of construction jobs during the recession, this is terrific news for the SGV.
Drawing together the SGV’s innovation in education and research, its business friendly cities, public and private construction growth, and an improving job outlook paints a picture of an even better 2012.
Cynthia Kurtz is president and CEO of the San Gabriel Valley Economic Partnership.