When I get an information packet in the mail that says up to 43,000 new entertainment industry-oriented jobs are about to be created, I sit up and take notice. It's all supposed to happen practically in my backyard, Universal City, California, thanks to NBC Universal. It takes away a bit of the sting from the recent announcement of up to 1,000 layoffs that the City of Los Angeles could potentially have up its sleeve.
According to information sent out to local residents shortly after President Obama announced his jobs bill, the NBC Universal Evolution Plan will provide 31,000 new jobs during the construction period and an additional 12,00 new, ongoing full and part time jobs in the city of Los Angeles and the surrounding county. The plan includes the construction of 2,900 lofts, town homes, apartments and condominiums on 124 acres, with 35 of those acres being devoted to open space. And it promises to make Universal Studios the largest working studio in the world by updating production facilities with new high-tech sound stages, outdoor sets, modern office space and new post production facilities.
And get this: it's not supposed to cost us tax payers a thing. In fact, developers claim it will increase our city and state tax base by about $26 million.
"But what about the impact on the environment?" many locals ask. Well, the NBC Universal plan calls for an investment of $100 million to accelerate local and regional transit improvements and to work with Caltrans to improve speeds and traffic along that nasty five mile stretch of the 101 where the project is located. In the complex itself, there will be shuttles, flex cars, bikes and foot traffic to work. They promise a comprehensive recycling program, reclaimed water usage, plus smart design that involves the latest in wise energy and environmental practices.
Of course, this is not a done deal yet. There are still to be public hearings. And there is no mention of how the recent acquisition of of NBC Universal by Comcast will affect these plans, which were obviously designed well before the merger was ever conceived. On the NBC Universal Evolution site it says, "as we are very early in the review and approval process, it will be at least two years before any project-related employment opportunities are available. This is true for both direct hiring and vendor contracting opportunities. In the meantime, we encourage you to visit nbcunicareers.com to learn about current openings at NBC Universal." So it's probably not a good idea to pack up and move to California just yet.
And if you do get a job there, there's no telling exactly how long it will last. The website also states, "the NBC Universal Evolution Plan is a long-term blueprint for the success of NBC Universal and will be developed in stages based on business needs and market conditions. The project is at the beginning stage of a comprehensive environmental and public review process, which will include public hearings by the City and County of Los Angeles."
Still, there's room for hope. With public sentiment in favor of anything that creates new job opportunities, I expect the public review and approval process to be fast tracked. With any luck, thousands more workers will be kicking back on Sundays, sipping fresh-squeezed orange juice and enjoying the California sunshine within the next year or so. Hopefully that's not just a Hollywood pipe dream.