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Harlan: We need to take a closer look at business

June 07, 2013|By Jeffrey Harlan

Comedian Louis C.K. has a routine, "Of Course, but Maybe," where he challenges long-held beliefs.

Humorously, he illuminates the dark side of principles we generally accept — of course children with nut allergies should be protected and a soldier injured in war is tragic and slavery is the most awful thing ever.

The "Of Course, but Maybe" dichotomy came to mind when I read Mayor Pro Tem Steve Mensinger's final remarks in The Current commentary about keeping the city's business license tax low ("Low licensing fees make Costa Mesa an attractive home for entrepreneurs," June 5). Mensinger concludes that, "We can all agree that Costa Mesa is a great place to do business."

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Of course that's true. The city offers several qualities that would be attractive to businesses — a large customer base, available skilled labor and locations that are safe, attractive and accessible. Costa Mesa is also part of an Orange County subregion that is well-educated, firmly middle (if not upper-middle) class, and desirable for its proximity to our cherished coast.

But maybe it isn't. Maybe that perception exists because we have some long-established, thriving places of commerce — economic juggernaut South Coast Plaza, in particular, and assume that other businesses would benefit just by being in Costa Mesa too.

Maybe Costa Mesa doesn't offer the right environment for economic investment. According to recently released FBI statistics, violent crimes increased almost 10% last year, and property crimes went up by 15%.

Compounded by the fact that public-safety staffing is at historic lows, it would be reasonable for prospective and existing businesses to question whether Costa Mesa provides the security businesses and residents expect.

Maybe Costa Mesa's new reputation as a hotbed for political instability encourages new businesses to locate elsewhere. A contentious City Council with no clearly defined community vision, and a penchant for being litigious, does not exactly give businesses a lot of assurance or peace of mind.

And maybe the city's aging infrastructure, in spite of the council's recent investments in street repaving, gives businesses pause about where to lay down long-term roots.

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