Caption: (R to L) Aura Mc Cracken, Martha Saucedo, Ted Fikre, and Michael Roth
AEG visits the Sentinel
Representatives from AEG met with the Sentinel’s editorial board had a lengthy discussion which included the entertainment/sports giant’s interaction and relations with L. A.’s Black community, and some of their goals and objectives for downtown L.A. in general
By Yussuf J. Simmonds
AEG is big; it operates worldwide sports and entertainment venues, and in Los Angeles, its sports and entertainment venues include the Staples Center, L.A. Live, the Nokia Theatre/Club Nokia and ESPN Zone. These venues are gathering places for entertainment, sports, community activities, etc. And according to AEG’s website, “We’re working to build a state-of-the-art sports stadium, entertainment, and premier convention center in downtown L.A. by 2015. The Farmers Field project will create jobs for our community, boost our economy, and finally bring NFL football back to our city.”
What is of vital concern to the community is the reference to “our” in that statement relative to “jobs for our community” and “boost our economy.”
Representing AEG at the meeting were Aura McCracken, supplier-diversity-purchasing; Martha Saucedo, vice president, community affairs; Ted Fikre, chief legal & development officer; and Michael Roth, vice president, communications, AEG’s liaison with the media.
Roth made a brief statement of the AEG’s stadium, the Farmers Field project (FFP) thus far, which is virtually in its formative stage, and its potential impact on the community.
Followed by Fikre, a veteran with the company who said, “I’ve been with the company for awhile; I oversee all the legal affairs and I also take a very active role in all of the big projects including the Staples Center and L.A. Live here in the L.A. area…” And it is apparent that he will play an important role in the negotiations of the FFP. Part of his statement was the vast opportunities that the project represents for the city “…which is looking to revitalize the economy and create jobs which are needed desperately … and make the city more attractive for big city events …”
As the person dealing with community affairs, Saucedo said, “… we’ve made a promise, a goal, that 50 percent of the individuals who are hired must come from the community, which is basically defined as within three miles (of the designated project), so obviously there’s a priority placed with individuals in low-income communities.” She also outlined the job opportunities and benefits with the potential of growth … also factored in was the closeness of L.A. Trade Tech, as a hub for training to be able to compete for the aforementioned jobs.
However, even though the number of potential jobs mentioned relative to the stadium project was estimated between 20,000 and 30,000 in the construction field and small businesses, there was an absence of the same aggressive outreach for higher, professional and management positions such as contractors (general and/or specialized), lawyers, vendors, etc. Also, Saucedo mentioned an affordable housing component where AEG was supposed to be the funding source, most likely for low-interest loans which would be a complementary asset to the low-income component.
As a five-year veteran of AEG, McCracken is in management and she oversees the business opportunities with the minority communities. She was very versed in the statistics of the company’s interaction with the minority communities and appeared to be aptly capable of representing AEG to her client base. She explained, “In the area of diversity, business takes on a number of different forms and I also worked with business organizations such as the BBA. We’ve also worked with business partners and non-profits, and have been very successful in our partnerships sometimes working one on one in mentoring teams … some we’ve sat down with them and helped develop their marketing plans, and facilitate their attempts to expand their business. We work with management and one I can think of where we worked in a 12-month program with them.”
At that point, members of the editorial board then ‘took the floor.’ They were Skip Cooper, Kenneth Miller, Danny J. Bakewell Jr, Charisse Bremond-Weaver, Leon Jenkins, Brandon I. Brooks and Yussuf J. Simmonds. Roth volunteered to show the panel some charts to assist and clarify AEG’s position on the stadium, but it was put off until later.
Representing the Black Business Association (BBA) Cooper was direct, “My major interest,” he said, “is all the business opportunities, goods, and services of African Americans far beyond the football stadium in terms of numbers. One of the problems we have is transparency. Numbers are thrown out but who you’re really doing business with is true business.”
He outlined some of his concerns per the BBA and mentioned how things got off-track in the past. As an example, Cooper stated, “We missed the boat on L. A. Live; we don’t want to miss the boat this time.” He was referring to inclusion of African Americans in the building, construction and maintenance of L.A. Live. He added, “I think the city of L.A. is indebted to AEG.”
Then Miller, chimed in, “There are a lot of things going on there that hinges on partnerships. Some of the opportunities you’ve mentioned are out of the reach of small vendors.”
Having to leave prematurely, Bakewell Jr. thanked AEG for coming especially as he stated, “I think it good that you guys are reaching out to the community long before the project started and I want to commend you guys and thank you for coming, and I also share some statistics with you.” He delved off into questions about the size of the stadium, its seating capacity, costs… and if you guys have a media package, please send it to us.”
Roth and Fikre reiterated and motioned towards the charts, to answer the questions about statistical information.
“Looking at the four-year timeline, community outreach is important to me in order to engage the African American community.” said Bremond-Weaver, “What is the outreach strategy – is there a town hall meeting in that outreach strategy for the African American and Latino communities because those are my constituents. I’m on Slauson and San Pedro, so I’m right in that 3-mile radius. So for me the timeline is critical, the partnership is important. I want to do my part and make it a win-win for my community.”
When the discussion focused on rules and regulations (laws), Jenkins, an attorney, jumped in at the point saying, “As a private company, you’re not bound by (Prop.) 209; we are not saying that you have to do this or that but we’re a stickler for fairness. It easy to get us to be loyal. If we think that we’re being respected and treated fairly, we’ll be very supportive.”
Brooks mentioned that the three-mile radius as something of concerned to the community. He said, “Los Angeles is such a tight-knit community that even a mile can make a big difference and re-capping what they said, this project could yield many opportunities to the community.”
At the end, AEG reps. explained the charts and all in all, the session was cordial with interest generated for future similar sessions.