“If opportunity doesn’t knock,” the late great American comedian Milton Berle once said, “then build a door.”

Creating job growth incentives and a business-friendly private sector environment continues to be a major priority for me and my council colleagues.

I brought forth an initiative to organize the first annual Anaheim/OC Job Fair and Expo this year, and by doing so, we built a door of opportunity to future job growth.

Our inaugural Anaheim/OC Job Fair and Expo was a remarkable partnership event with community and business leaders, all of whom can take pride in the fact that 7,500 job seekers and 102 employers made positive job growth connections. Our efforts led to a substantial accomplishment.

By the end of the day, more than 1,000 potential employees were interviewed, and of that group, more than 400, or 34 percent, have now been hired for meaningful jobs in office and administrative support, production, military, healthcare, management, sales and sales related work, engineering and aerospace, retail and food service, protection services, as well as in business and financial operations.

We’re not saying by any stretch of the imagination that we have found the magic bullet to remedy what ails our current unemployment rate. However, the fact that 102 employers hired 400 new employees demonstrates how we can optimistically facilitate an economic turnaround in job growth to combat unprecedented unemployment rates in our region.

In these tough economic times, we must keep building doors of opportunity for economic recovery in our region through creative job growth incentives that will relax or eliminate burdensome business regulations and lower taxes. In moving forward with such incentives, we will be producing a positive overall economic stimulus in the region.

By way of example, the Anaheim City Council created its own economic stimulus plan as an incentive for continued development of residential projects given current market conditions. Under that plan, payment of development impact fees that the city would normally charge at the time permits are pulled was deferred to the time of certificate of occupancy issuance. As explained recently by a residential developer, not having to pay $1 million in total fees up-front led to the building of additional units this year resulting in 70 additional full-time jobs from all the different trades that it takes to build them. This also stimulates the lumber, steel, concrete, roofing, landscaping, furniture industries… on and on – leading to significant job growth overall.

To encourage an even wider range of construction activities, we extended our economic stimulus incentive plan to commercial development in Anaheim. Our overall goal is to help accelerate construction activity through innovative decision making and to facilitate the upgrading of older, outdated commercial and industrial sites.

Other positive signs are cropping-up in the region. Although monthly new business-name filings in Orange County are down 20% from what they were this time last year, an 80 % filing rate also means that many of our local entrepreneurs are willing to set-up new ventures in spite of the economy. Similarly, monthly small-business loan volume in the SBA-guaranteed program has crept back up to $38.6 million in August.

Some employment gains are already looming on the horizon. And, in the wake of the economic downturn, while many major retailers faltered, others have rebounded. Also, as stated in the Institute for Economic and Environmental Studies (IEES), California State University Fullerton, August 2009 Report: “The Southern California Leading Economic Indicator increased by 0.92% in the second quarter of 2009 compared to the first quarter of 2008. This increase suggests an increase in economic activity in the Southern California region in the next three to six months.”

So, slowly, but surely, the job market is gaining some strength. It still needs help. Through innovative, visionary action and incentives – we can make a difference by continuing to build doors of opportunity to future job growth.