LOS ANGELES - Mayor Eric Garcetti debuted Wednesday LA Optimized, an initiative to help local small businesses recover from the COVID-19 pandemic by expanding their e-commerce capabilities and growing their online presence.
"COVID-19 has changed everything, the way we communicate, work, socialize and shop, and our brick-and-mortar stores need to rapidly rethink how they reach their customers, market their goods, sell their products and thrive when so much business is happening online," Garcetti said.
LA Optimized is designed to help small businesses adapt to the rapid shifts in consumer behavior and technological advances by boosting their digital marketing, maximizing their online business listings, creating or optimizing their websites and increasing their knowledge and presence in the e-commerce space.
"Our small businesses are the backbone of our economic strength, and LA Optimized taps into the power of partnerships to equip local enterprises with a larger digital footprint and the tools necessary to gain a competitive edge and lead our pandemic recovery," Garcetti said.
LA Optimized will be overseen by the mayor's newly appointed 2021Entrepreneur-in-Residence Roberto Martinez, who brings more than 15 years of experience and expertise to the effort, Garcetti said.
The program will be provided at no expense to businesses, with the help of partner organizations. The mayor's office plans to allocate about $1.5million to provide the services. As part of the program, the city will also partner with the ArtCenterCollege of Design and very nice, a design strategy practice based in Los Angeles, to assist "creative professionals," who will receive $500 worth of business and digital content services including branding, video, photography and graphic design.
In the program's first year, up to 1,000 small businesses will be able to access LA Optimized.
Although the pandemic accelerated the surge of online sales this year, small- and medium-sized businesses have long faced digital challenges to compete with larger corporations, Garcetti said.
This year, California's small business revenue has dropped by 29.3%, according to Opportunity Insights, an economic indicators tracker based at Harvard University.
Garcetti said another report in September found that Los Angeles has seen 15,000 businesses close, half of which are permanent closures.
LA Optimized will be open to active small businesses in the city of Los Angeles, with priority given to brick-and-mortar establishments located in or serving residents of low-income neighborhoods.
Businesses can enroll now at Coronavirus.LACity.org/LAOptimized, and qualified businesses will be selected starting January.