Explaining Southern California's economy

Sam Adams founder Jim Koch 'brews the dream' of small business in Los Angeles

Sam Adams brewer and Boston Beer Company founder Jim Koch, right, speed coaches a small businessperson at an event in Los Angeles.

Los Angeles is becoming the U.S. center of alternative small-business lending. Over the summer, California-based microlender Kiva unveiled a new program to loan modest amounts of money to entrepreneurs in the region. Now one of America's most famous brewers has gotten in on the act.

"This all came from my experience starting Sam Adams in my kitchen 28 years ago," said Jim Koch, a cofounder, chairman, and public face of the Boston Beer Company, which kicked off the American craft-beer — or microbrewing — revolution three decades ago.

Koch was talking about Samuel Adams Brewing the American Dream, his company's microlending initiative, which debuted in Los Angeles this month with an event at the Grace E. Simons Lodge near Dodger Stadium. The program has two objectives: provide financing for food, beverage, and hospitality businesses that are too small to pursue truly big bucks; and furnish those entrepreneurs with high-caliber advice, in the form of mentoring and coaching.


For small biz Republicans in LA, it's the economy, stupid, all over again


George Washington University/Thumbtack.com

Number one issue for L.A. Republicans headed into the November election? It's pretty clear.


George Washington University/Thumbtack.com

California Republicans aren't making anyone guess about their biggest concern headed into the election.

George Washington University and Thumbtack.com have just released something they call the "Small Business Political Sentiment Survey." You know what GWU is. Thumbtack.com is a website that matches consumers with service-provides, which explains its exposure to small business — and its ability to survey them in the thousands.

The results for California are in, broken out by political party and gender, as well as aggregated with those distinctions eliminated. (They survey is also interactive.) In both the state as a whole and in L.A. in particular, Republican small business folk identify the economy and jobs as the biggest issue for them going into the November political election. 

While just under half of California Republicans call this issue number one, nearly two-thirds of Los Angeles Republicans do. And an even 60 percent say that when it comes to small business, Mitt Romney is their man. President Obama only outranks "Not sure" when it comes to his support for small biz among those who identify themselves with the Grand Old Party by to percentage points, 20 to 18.


A Labor Day story about one Southern Californian's career change


Matt DeBord/KPCC

Eric Arimoto left the Army in the the mid-1980s. He started his own business in the mid-1990s. Now in midlife, he's becoming a therapist.


Matt DeBord/KPCC

Tools of the trade.


Matt DeBord/KPCC

Eric and his partner own a warehouse in Los Angeles. And it's full!


Matt DeBord/KPCC

Eric's company specializes in intricate, high-end molded designs.


Matt DeBord/KPCC

More complex moldings.


Matt DeBord/KPCC

Eric plans to keep his business going while he trains as a therapist, after getting his Master's in clinical psychology.

The housing boom was good to Southern California — while it lasted. But when the bubble popped, our unemployment rate skyrocketed. In a state with a jobless rate near 11 percent, a number of our cities are above that. And as most everyone knows, the downturn hit the building trades hard.

What do you do when you’ve been exposed to real estate’s ups and downs for much of a career? What you hear all the time when talking to economists who follow the job market in Southern California is: If only we could take all those unemployed construction workers and turn them into healthcare workers.

But of course you can’t turn carpenters into nurses overnight. I decided to try to find someone who'd transitioned out of the building trades toward "the helping professions," however, using our Public Insight Network. While I didn’t find a guy who had been hammering houses together before the financial crisis, I did find someone who was connected to the real estate market when the bottom fell out. And who decided to explore explore a new career in healing.


Is the Labor Department missing small business jobs?


So by now everybody knows about the disappointing March jobs report from the BLS. Marketplace's Heidi Moore commented on "The Madeleine Brand Show" this morning that the glass is still half full. She stressed that we were promised a slow recovery, and we're getting a a slow recovery.

But she also raised the scary prospect of structural unemployment, which essentially means that we have workers who can't get a job because the skills they have are either no longer needed in the volumes they were before the financial crisis; or because they aren't living in a place where their skills can be put to use. You could add to that the disappearance of whole career options — not much demand for typesetters these days — and you get a new definition of "full" employment, maybe something more like 6 percent than 4-5 percent.


Letting credit unions in on business lending

Occupy Protesters March In Downtown L.A.

David McNew/Getty Images

Molly Hawkey, who moved her money from a bank to a credit union this week, carries her sign in the downtown financial district during during the the Move Your Money March on what is being called Bank Transfer Day.

Small business! The lifeblood of the U.S. economy! Except when big banks won't lend them money...

Small businesses may soon have another option: credit unions. These non-profits are usually more focused on home loans, car loans, and personal loans. But not entirely by choice. This is from Congress.org:

The debate [in the U.S. Senate] is about whether credit unions should be able to expand their reach into the commercial lending world that is the backbone province of the banks. For years, the banks have successfully fought a behind-the-scenes, rear-guard lobbying campaign to keep the idea under wraps —  but no longer.

A lopsided majority of Senate Democrats (who are customarily the credit unions’ more reliable friends — because they represent “the little guy” and “Main Street” and all that) are ready to vote for Mark Udall’s bill raising the credit unions’ small-business loan portfolios to a maximum 27.5 percent of their assets, up from the current 12.25 percent.