Jason Nazar at the Far Right Moderating during the State Of The City 2012. Photo by Kibiwot Limo (photo by Kibiwot Limo)

WILSHIRE BLVD — Technology and web startups took top billing at the Santa Monica Chamber of Commerce’s State of the City event Thursday morning, with city officials pointing to the flourishing industry as a sign of a bright economic future in “Silicon Beach.”

The forum featured a first-ever panel discussion featuring three members of the tech community, an international law attorney and Chui Tsang, the president and superintendent of Santa Monica College.

It was time to put the industry on display and make it visible to the wider community, said Laurel Rosen, president of the Chamber of Commerce, which organizes the annual event.

“Our members need to understand now the importance of tech companies, the impact they have,” Rosen said.

The discussion, moderated by Jason Nazar of Docstoc.com, focused on Santa Monica’s role as an up-and-coming tech hub, and what city officials can do to encourage that growth.

Santa Monica could be the home of the next Google or Facebook, but only if it can give such a company the climate to take root and the space to grow, said David Travers of Rustic Canyon Partners, an early-stage venture capital firm.

That means business campuses on the lines of the Yahoo! Center that could support a small company expanding as it gains success, Travers said.

“Santa Monica needs to be ready,” he said.

The city’s natural beauty and young vibe are its most critical assets to securing businesses seeking top talent, said Paige Craig, founder of BetterWorks, a company that helps companies attract and retain employees.

“You’ve been to Silicon Valley,” Craig said. “It sucks.”

The panel encouraged City Hall to create more events like the State of the City to bring together the various businesses in the community face to face, without the medium of technology.

City officials were happy to report that Santa Monica is weathering recent assaults on its fiscal stability with relative ease.

Despite a sour national economy and the blow delivered by a recent state decision to ax agencies that provided vast infrastructure investment, Santa Monica remains a strong player in the region, said Mayor Richard Bloom.

The city continues to attract floods of visitors, 6.5 million in 2011 alone who brought in $1.2 billion in economic activity.

It also boasts the third highest assessed property valuation in Los Angeles County, according to the Assessor’s Office.

Efforts on the part of police reduced the crime rate by 9 percent in 2011, and City Hall is working to meet its commitments to provide affordable housing, with 270 new units ready to break ground shortly.

“The state of our city is excellent,” Bloom declared.

At the end of the event, the Chamber of Commerce announced its award winners.

Avesta and Cameron Rasouli, the couple who founded the shared workspace community Coloft, received the 2011 Innovation Award for their concept of bringing the self-employed out of their homes and into a dynamic workplace.

“I told my little Persian mom that I wanted to be an entrepreneur, and she asked me what kind of doctor that was,” Cameron Rasouli said.

Brad Cox, the senior managing director of developer Trammell Crow Co., was awarded the Leadership Award for his work on the Santa Monica Alliance, an organization that partners City Hall with the Chamber of Commerce to attract and retain businesses.

Finally, Tsang accepted the 2011 Economic Excellence Award on behalf of Santa Monica College, a “stabilizing force” and one of the largest employers in the city.


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