By Rhea Mahbubani
4:07 PM PDT, May 25, 2013
Irvine Mayor Steven Choi believes his city is "one of America's best places in which to have a business."
During his first annual Business Luncheon with the Mayor on Tuesday, he cited a February Orange County Business Journal article that said Irvine's jobs-to-population ratio leads the nation's 100 largest cities at 94.8% and California Employment Development Department findings that local unemployment numbers are at 4.9% — lower than last year's 6.1%.
The jobs-to-population ratio for the United States was 58.6% earlier in the year. The state's unemployment rate was 9% in April.
But the city leaders can't rest too easily. Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and Utah Gov. Gary Herbert all tried to lure companies to their states, Choi said.
In response, he introduced the Irvine Mayor-Chamber Advisory Council on Business, which will include landlords and auto dealers, as well as representatives from real estate, restaurants, technology and banking, among other areas. Its first meeting will be in September with a focus on business needs, he said.
Members of small and large companies are "the eyes and ears of that community," Choi said, adding that the city and businesses need to communicate freely.
"There is no way to know each of you personally, and no way to understand each of your successes, challenges or concerns," he said. "You may be interested in having your voice heard. I am providing that opportunity."
Mayor Pro Tem Jeffrey Lalloway and City Councilwoman Christina Shea were among the 400 people at the luncheon, hosted by the Chamber of Commerce at the Hyatt Regency Irvine. Longtime council members Beth Krom and Larry Agran were absent.
Looking back on more than a decade of public service, which has included terms on the Irvine Unified school board and council, as well as founding Dr. Choi's Academy, a tutoring center, he said his work as mayor will be conducted in an "efficient and fiscally sound manner." He was elected mayor in November.
Prioritizing job creation and job growth for the city's continued development "is good for the city, good for businesses and good for Irvine taxpayers."
Choi, who sold ice cream on the streets of New York City to pay for grad school at Louisiana State University, considered it a point of pride to be able to offer his best wishes to newcomers, he said.
The council wants to build on its success of attracting new business like Walmart, Kabuki Japanese Restaurant, Casey's Cupcakes, EverTrust Bank and others. The Irvine Spectrum will soon also welcome a Courtyard by Marriott, he said.
"How often does a new business come to town?" he asked. "Very often!"
Choi also asked guests to participate in the 2013 Solar Decathlon and XPO, which is taking place outside Washington, D.C., for the first time and will bring 20 collegiate teams to the area, with public-private partnerships and financial sponsorships.
"As an economic engine, this event will benefit all of Orange County," he said.
With international trade as an end goal, he then floated the idea of a trade mission to Korea and Taiwan in the fall.
Earmarking "diversity" and "innovation" as necessary ingredients for commercial success, he said, "When we trade together, we grow together. And when we work together, we prosper together."