“Los Angeles has a very decentralized government structure, so companies often don’t know who to approach to resolve any issues that could be holding their business back in some way,” he said. Bud Ovrum, deputy mayor of Economic Development for the city of Los Angeles, said that strides have been made to improve the business climate. Nor is he too concerned about the perception cited in the survey. “In the economic development business, you always get more growth out of the companies who are already here than the companies that want to move in,” he said. “Companies that are already here give you the biggest bang for your buck.” And the fact that so many executives are confident about the future strikes a positive note and bodes well for the city as well, he said. Ovrum also points out that Los Angeles had its best year ever in 2006 in terms of new construction. “There are projects in the pipeline, not things we’re dreaming,” he said. New home construction has slowed, but office, hotel and retail projects are picking up the slack. The survey also found executives plan to significantly increase employees, products and technology over the next 12 months. Other findings include: Forty-nine percent said their company’s primary focus is expansion to fuel long-term growth. Fifty-four percent of the companies planning new hiring this year will get those employees from the Los Angeles area, and 29 percent said they will add staff elsewhere in the West. Fifty-seven percent plan to make capital improvements and/or investments in technology, and 52 percent expect to increase investment in new products over the next year. Forty-six percent expect to expand the number of geographic markets they serve in their efforts to grow their businesses. Fifty-two percent said it is likely their company would make an acquisition over the next year, and 29 percent said it is likely that their company would be acquired in the next year. The biggest negative issues are high gasoline prices, cited by 68 percent of respondents; state and local taxes, 45 percent; and the transportation system, 43 percent. Hutchins also said that most executives are concerned about the impact on the local economy of the low graduation rate among Latinos and the litigious nature of the area. Positive attributes cited were the availability of office space, the quality of the employment pool and the quality of life. “What we’ve seen in the last year, especially in terms of white-collar employment, is pretty good growth,” said Eduardo Martinez, an economist at the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp., which works on attracting and retaining jobs in the area. For example, last year the professional, science and technical service sectors saw employment grow an annual 6.7 percent to 241,900 positions, he said. And finance and insurance employment levels in the last half of 2006 returned to mid-1990s levels. “We’ve been able to attract and we’ve had companies expand in those areas,” Martinez said. [email protected] (818) 713-3743160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! Business executives throughout the Los Angeles area expect their companies to perform better in coming years on stronger economic growth, but most say the region is not an attractive relocation destination, according to a survey released today. Some 56 percent of executives said high taxes, poor high school graduation rates, heavy traffic and other factors make the region unattractive to relocating businesses, according to the first business executive survey conducted in the area by KMPG LLP, a national audit, tax and advisory firm. Still, the survey’s overall results were more positive than expected, said Mark Hutchins, managing partner of KPMG’s Los Angeles office. “Bullish business predictions combined with growing optimism over the local economy are good news for our city,” he said. The KPMG survey was based on responses from 104 business people – 52 at the highest executive level and 52 from the senior-management or vice presidential level. Hutchins said he was not surprised that the Los Angeles area is perceived as an unattractive place for businesses looking to move. “I kind of think the good is why we have the bad,” he said. Seventy-three percent of the executives said that Los Angeles’ ability to attract and retain new business is important to the health of their own enterprise. Hutchins said local government should take note of this.