Business leaders and their government counterparts converged on LMU Thursday for the White House Urban Economic Forum, an event intended to connect urban entrepreneurs in Los Angeles with the local and national resources available to help their businesses grow and thrive.
U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis, business leader and NBA legend Earvin “Magic” Johnson, and healthcare pioneer and philanthropist Patrick Soon-Shiong spoke at the event, one of several such economic forums sponsored by the White House in cities around the country this year.
LMU President David W. Burcham and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa welcomed attendees at the event, and Johnson and Solis hosted the opening panel discussion on bringing investment and jobs into urban areas like Los Angeles.
“We have a lot of jobs for people in urban America,” Solis said. “We have to get our people trained to be ready for those jobs.”
Johnson noted his background with LMU - the Lakers practiced in Gersten Pavilion during his NBA career - and offered advice to business owners about familiarizing themselves with their markets.
“I did my research and homework on what was missing in the community, and then I brought that to the community,” said Johnson, whose early business strategy included opening movie theaters and Starbucks outlets in predominantly African American neighborhoods that were underserved by those industries. “It’s paid off for me, that strategy.”
The event also featured a business expo intended to link small business owners and other entrepreneurs with government resources and investors.