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City Eyes Economic Recovery, Outlines Obstacles

As COVID-19 cases continue to trend downward in Southern California, so too have worries of its impact on the local economy, according to a recent report by Burbank’s economic development staff.
Earlier this month, the Burbank City Council heard an update from Mary Hamzoian, the city’s economic development manager, outlining the standing of Burbank’s economy, its comeback after the COVID-19 pandemic and new plans for future development and city services.
“The city of Burbank has a resilient economy. While other cities have suffered from recessions and the COVID-19 pandemic, Burbank has felt its dips but has come back even stronger,” Hamzoian wrote in the report, attributing Burbank’s economic durability to its proximity to Los Angeles — a hub for commerce — and its strong media and entertainment presence.
According to the report, California lost 100,000 jobs in March 2020 and by April of that year, unemployment sat between 15% and 20%.
In Burbank, meanwhile, unemployment is currently registered at 5.5%, a positive indicator of growth. The city is also seeing a healthy housing demand.
“While the economy is changing, Burbank is currently in a stable economic position with continued positive economic indicators that include growth in existing and proposed development,” Hamzoian wrote.
“The media industry continues to grow and so does the demand for content which has created new opportunities in Burbank, including future developments and more jobs,” Hamzoian wrote.
Despite strong indications pointing to a recovery in the post-pandemic economy, the city is not out of the woods yet. Hamzoian wrote that Burbank has begun to feel the impacts of uncertainty regarding the global economy.
Burbank recently saw five major businesses announce subleases of their existing office spaces including Netflix, Hasbro, Cast & Crew, WeWork and Aramark.
The largest, Netflix, announced it is looking for tenants to occupy 180,000 square feet of their original 351,000 square feet of space they leased in 2020.
Media giants that call Burbank home are cutting jobs in a process called “right-sizing,” after demand for streaming during the pandemic wanes. According to Hamzoian, a number of media companies like Warner Bros. and Walt Disney Company recently laid off thousands of employees worldwide.
“The potential impacts to Burbank are still unknown at this time,” Hamzoian wrote.
“What may continue to weaken our economy is the reduction of office use due to ongoing work-from-home programs, resulting in the subleasing of existing product and the tightening of budgets. Economists still are at odds with each other, some predicting just a slowing downturn while others say a recession is imminent, either scenario creates challenges and opportunities for Burbank’s economy,” the report added.
According to Hamzoian, the Economic Development team is already discussing the best way to “pivot efforts” and assist with subleasing and attracting new businesses to help the local economy remain healthy and strong during these unprecedented times.
“City staff continues to assist residents and businesses throughout this challenging time,” Hamzoian wrote in the report.
The report states that, as the city navigates post-pandemic obstacles, “Burbank needs to have a plan in place to assist with the recovery of jobs, facilitate new development, and help address personal debt incurred as a result as the COVID-19 pandemic.”
That’s where Burbank’s Economic Development Strategic Plan plays a key role in outlining opportunities on how to attract new businesses and jobs, increase the value of new and existing housing, retain Burbank’s businesses, stimulate entrepreneurship and increase tourism. The plan is currently being updated for the 2023 to 2027 version and will be reviewed for approval by the City Council later this year.

First published in the April 15 print issue of the Burbank Leader.

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