The RISE of LA Economics, Football and Leaders of Tomorrow:
A Chat with the CEO of the Los Angeles Convention Center
If anyone is going to head one of the largest convention centers in the country, you would hope it would be someone who wants to help local businesses, someone who values and wants to represent all the different cultures of the city, and aims to create economic progress during difficult economic times.
You should be happy it’s Pouria Abbassi.
General Manager and CEO of the world class Los Angeles Convention Center (LACC), Abbassi was born in Iran and earned a degree at UCLA, worked in engineering and then went into financial management. In 2000, he joined the LACC as Chief Operating Officer during the Democratic National Convention. In 2006, he was appointed the head of the convention, a position that is appointed by the mayor of the city.
Abbassi is also an active member of the Pacific Council on International Policy, the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce, the Encino Chambers of Commerce and works with various Iranian American community organizations and concerns. Recently, he was awarded the Business Person of the Year at Encino Chamber of Commerce, an award he says that recognized his efforts in helping small businesses thrive in Los Angeles.
“Small businesses on a natural basis are responsible for the highest number of new jobs; they responsible half of workforce in the United States,” Abbassi explains, “If you look at the Los Angeles economy, when we talk about recession and what entities are going to get us out of recession, think small businesses.
“We have a responsibility to the small business community.”
One way that the LACC helps small businesses, he explains, is giving them an opportunity to exhibit their businesses. They put programs into practice where small organizations come in and talk about what they can benefit as exhibitors and buyers, giving them another tool to market what they have to offer.
As CEO, Mr. Abbassi has developed and implemented a strategic business plan for the LACC built upon three pillars of community, business and environment, which contribute to the LACC being a model organization. In the path they have taken in reaching heights in each of these pillars, he says that we, as students, or as professionals or as businesses, can learn from the strategies and apply them.
As far as environment, the Convention Center is the greenest building of its size in the United States and was awarded the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold-EB given by US Green Building Council. The Convention Center building was built in 1971, with parts of the building being forty years old, and still it is recognized for its environmental design.
On the community front, during Thanksgiving the LACC gives out 3,000 turkeys to people in need as just one example. They’re also helping young aspiring business owners with a Leadership Institute they started a couple years ago, a program that reaches out to higher education schools, such as UCLA, Cal State and USC, and works with alumni, informing them of opportunities at LACC, an one in which Abbassi speaks on behalf at different schools. They offer tours and internships for students where they can meet the likes of George Lucas and the owner of Ferrari.
Even the “Welcome” sign in front of the building is in several different languages, one of which is Farsi, and aims to represent the different cultural communities of the city. It’s no surprise then that the LACC was awarded Community Impact Award by the Los Angeles Business Council for the work they do in the community.
As the CEO of the LACC, Abassi helps not only the community as a whole but works on the Iranian-American division of small businesses. He has supported Iranian-American women owned business groups. “LACC is an organization is there to service communities on whole and Iranian-Americans part of that.”
So will there be a football stadium that will call LA home?
Abbassi is one of the key City officials involved in the ongoing progress and negotiations related to the multibillion dollar LACC modernization as well as the football stadium plans.
“We are moving forward, all our ducks are lined up in a row,” he says of developments in the stadium. “What we need to find out if NFL is going to move existing team to Los Angeles. That is an NFL decision.
“The city as whole has put an incredible proposal together and the decision should go through. We would break ground in Fall 2011 and the Fall of 2016 would be the first NFL game at the Farmers Field stadium.”
The stadium would bring in more economic revenue to the city, as do other significant events that already take place at the LACC annually.
Abbassi explains that the two most significant are the LA Auto Show, the third largest in the world and second in the nation, which attracts close to a million people, local consumers and auto executives from around the world, in the 12 days it takes place, The second event is the largest video gaming show in world, E3, which is closed to the public and open only to trade and brings in about 60,000 people a day.
An example of how specifically such events help local businesses is Microsoft’s partner conference which brought its partners around world to meet and talk about product launches of Microsoft. The event brought in 15 million dollars into the local economy over just four days.
“I love being the CEO of the LACC. How many chances to get to be a leader in a culture as rich as Los Angeles? We get a chance to showcase local and national business.”
And his advice to young Iranians:
“I always say schooling is important and even beyond schooling is being able to adapt to different situations. Opportunities come up for everyone so you have to be prepared. The best way to be prepared is be well educated, participate within community, opens networks and connections- the things that help your career.
“Be proud of who you are. Don’t forget about who you are.”