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COVER STORY
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Lucy dunn & the ocbc, continued ...Published: July 01, 2011

Eddie Nothen
“She carries a big bat in this state,” says Curt Pringle, former Anaheim mayor and speaker of the state Assembly. “She isn’t hesitant to step into a fight or speak her mind.”
   
Several years ago, Anaheim officials turned to the OCBC to help lure the National Football League to its city. Though Anaheim’s bid for a franchise and a new football-only venue next to Angel Stadium fell short, the OCBC’s advocacy work scored big points with local officials and the NFL commissioner’s office, signaling another milestone in the group’s rise. It’s one reason Dunn’s phone rings almost daily with calls from public and private sector leaders seeking advice and guidance on key economic proposals and speed bumps. In recent months, the OCBC has been credited with playing a pivotal role in keeping nearly 2,000 jobs in Lake Forest and Irvine, including 900 high-paying semiconductor positions.
   
“We were spoiled in this county when unemployment was 3 percent,” says Dunn, an attorney by education who has worked in both the private and public sectors. “We didn’t have to work at job creation or business retention. Our weather, roads and quality of life sold the county for us. But that’s not the case now. We have to battle for every job every single day, whether we are creating new ones or fighting to keep existing ones. It’s serious stuff.”
   
The creation of “red teams” by the OCBC to engage companies weighing opportunities to move operations outside of Orange County has been one of the group’s biggest achievements, says current OCBC Board chairman and UPS executive Eddie Northen. “These efforts are one reason O.C. has the lowest unemployment in the state,” Dunn says.
   
A big part of the challenges facing Dunn and the OCBC are beyond her control. They rest with California itself and its worsening reputation as an address to do business. The state is viewed by many C-level executives as the “land of disincentives” when it comes to operating or starting a business. To balance its teetering budget and finance its runaway public employee pension system, among other problems, California lawmakers in recent years have adopted more taxes than the Sheriff of Nottingham in medieval England. But rather than stay and pay, many companies have left the state or are seriously romancing relocating to other zip codes with far more favorable business climates. Add some of the strictest environmental laws in the nation to the toxic mix of taxes and budget woes, and California is failing in its effort to paint a promising picture for future economic investment and expansion. Try as it might, Orange County can’t escape being swept up in the tide of negative worldwide press about California’s business environment.
   
“On its own, Orange County is creating opportunity, jobs and embracing business,” Pringle says. “But it is the state that is dragging us down.”
   
Attorney Michael Hornak, a partner at Rutan & Tucker and co-chair of the OCBC’s Advocacy and Government Affairs committee, says California must look in the mirror. “Businesses just don’t view California as a place to grow,” says Hornak, who has traveled with OCBC delegations to both Sacramento and Washington, D.C., to lobby on behalf of O.C. and California business. “California ranks at the bottom, or near the bottom, as the best place to do business. This has to change.”   



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