By: Brenda J. Trainor
To us locals, Monrovia is just a small town in the Foothills where families play at the street fair on Friday nights; a town that is often overshadowed by the size and cachet of nearby Pasadena and is regarded as a place where Beaver Cleaver might still be living. And yet, because of the presence of good technology and some smart planning, Monrovia is the site for some major business players who have a global reach from right here in the San Gabriel Valley.
As many cities struggle to deal with changes in state law that eliminated redevelopment agencies, and thus the loss of a major source of funds, the role of economic development has taken on a role of ever-increasing importance as one means of solving budget worries for the long term. Monrovia is fortunate to have been successful in its history of redevelopment projects, and has built a reputation for having taken some distressed neighborhoods and converted them into thriving sites of commerce and engaged neighborhoods.
One of the keys to its success was the creation of a high-tech corridor that now features businesses with global impact -- from defense department contractors who manufacture drones and sophisticated avionics, to biotechnology companies creating advanced healthcare products, to computer component and electronics suppliers, Monrovia is the headquarters for some major corporate players with world-wide reach.
Monrovia boasts corporate offices not only for high tech corporations but also for other kinds of organizations. Who would have pegged Monrovia as the headquarters for Trader’s Joe’s grocery stores? Or for philanthropic organizations like World Vision, an evangelical humanitarian aid organization with a budget of over $2.6 Billion? Or as the headquarters for the World Pet Association?
Monrovia has worked hard for the big businesses and also for the little guys, and was named “Most Business Friendly City” in 2011 by the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation. It earned that reputation by committing City staff to be proactive, responsive and helpful to businesses. It created project teams that guide businesses through regulatory processes, and worked to streamline those processes and established fee structures and incentives attractive to promote business growth. And with a mix of major global headquarters and mom and pop businesses in Monrovia, it is no surprise that one of the organizations headquartered in Monrovia, serves predominantly small businesses.
The World Pet Association is headquartered in a small building in Old Town Monrovia. This association puts on major trade organizations for pet businesses, many of whom are small independent companies. The membership of the organization includes major corporations and manufacturers, but as the pet industry is largely composed of small businesses - groomers and neighborhood pet shop retailers for example, the World Pet Association has these kinds of small businesses as a significant component of their membership. The Association puts on one of the largest industry trade shows, SuperZoo, that this year was in Las Vegas in July with over 800 exhibitors and about 10,000 attendees -- it is a major industry event. The organization also puts on other expositions for consumers and, along with its other activities, strives to bring the pet world together through education and interaction among suppliers, retailers and pet owners. Its goal it to “create healthier, happier pets and a healthier more productive pet industry.”
And how does an organization promote a healthier global industry from Monrovia? Given the nature of its business, the World Pet Association (www.WorldPetAssociation.org) is dependent on good communications and a flexible and sophisticated management structure. The association uses the internet and mobile applications to communicate with its members and its governing board who are quite geographically diverse. Information technologies, teleconferencing and online resources combine with flexibility of work locations and contract workers to handle field operations for conferences. Fully one-third of the Association’s full time employees are not located at the headquarters, but live elsewhere and telecommute using good information technologies. Like so many businesses, these technologies are dependent upon a good infrastructure that can bring high-speed and reliable telecommunications to the home office. As an employer, this Association can offer a lovely location in a beautiful neighborhood with easy parking -- the President, for example, has an easy commute, living about a mile away in one of Monrovia’s classic historic homes.
Maintaining and improving a municipal infrastructure, one that can accommodate the information technology needs of a multi-million dollar organization, is no small task, and it is an important component of any city’s economic development strategy. Without a good infrastructure, Monrovia wouldn’t be able to support the global impact it is having through the variety of corporate world-wide organizations located here; and it won’t be able to maintain or grow these operations without planning for advanced technologies that will fuel the growth of these kinds of information-technology dependent business operations in the future.