they are under enormous pressure from shareholders to perform. And they are also global businesses. They are not in business to help Los Angeles or Chicago or New York or wherever they might be headquartered. So one of the things you have to understand is that there are only going to be so many corporations who are going to play a big, positive leadership role. There are going to be some individuals who might do it in one city. But the fact is that there are only going to be a limited number. The future of cities, I believe, is going to be developing leadership the way Jim Johnson has done with Lawnmower, the way the fashion industry is trying to do it, the way the furniture industry is trying to do it. We have lots of big industries made up of small companies. There are 150,000 people in the garment industry in Los Angeles.
So we are going to have to create networks, like the Lawnmower network, in every one of those industries as a way to get input -- almost like new guilds, if you look back to the Middle Ages. Because what you have is not a lot of large companies but large industries. Remember, Digital Domain, the second-largest digital effects company, has 400 employees. That is nothing compared to what you would find in traditional industries. So we are going to have to create networks of networks -- getting the multimedia people talking and finding common interests with the furniture industry and the toy industry and so on -- to create new kinds of collaboration that involve the entrepreneurs who ultimately will be the ones who determine whether cities live or die.
Q: Is there a role for the federal government in all this?
A: I believe that we are, as Kenichi Ohmae pointed out, moving into an era of global regionalism. I think over the last 10 or 20 years, and even going back to the Great Society, cities have become essentially addicted to federal transfer payments. Urban leaders would actually get up there and say, "Well, I brought this from Washington and that from Washington." They were so interested in trying to get money out of Washington, they didn't even look at their local economy and how to fix them on a local level. Every city has a different challenge, a different series of interests. Something that might work for New York City -- which is a very concentrated, centralized city -- might not work in Los Angeles. So I think what we need to do is bring responsibility back to urban leadership, to city councils, to states, because that is the only way we can address it.
I mentioned the importance of getting smaller companies involved in decision making. The bigger the level of government the more the domination is by larger companies and by large organizations in terms of lobbyists. The voice of a regional economy, the voice of multimedia in Los Angeles, for example, is not going to be heard very loudly in Washington, D.C. It can make a difference in Los Angeles. It can make a difference, even more so, in a small city like a Culver City or a Burbank. And I think that is the direction we have to go. Because the urban leaders have been very misled by the idea that the federal government is going to save them. The federal government is not going to save the cities. The cities are going to have to save themselves. And the sooner they realize this, the better off we will be.
March Table of Contents