LOS ANGELES, Calif. /California Newswire/ — Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Councilmember Dennis Zine, and city officials joined Farmers Insurance representatives to welcome the company to their new Woodland Hills facility that directly benefited from the City’s recent development reform efforts.

“The opening of Farmers’ new facility demonstrates our ongoing commitment to creating and retaining hundreds of good paying jobs in Los Angeles,” Mayor Villaraigosa said. “During these tough economic times, we are steadily improving the business climate in Los Angeles through development reform that helps businesses create jobs and complete projects more quickly.”

Farmers is relocating over 1,200 employees from Simi Valley and signed a 10 year lease to occupy 8 floors at their new facility in Woodland Hills. Farmers was able to move more employees to this location because of the expedited permitting for a new parking structure by the new Development Services Case Management Office (DSCMO). The Mayor announced the DSCMO earlier this year that houses expert staff from the five key departments that oversee development and assigns a case manager to every development project.

“Farmers would like to thank Mayor Villaraigosa and Councilmember Zine who have helped Farmers with this important move to Woodland Hills. Farmers was founded in Los Angeles 83 years ago, and still occupies its headquarters office in the mid-Wilshire area of Los Angeles. We are proud that through the years Farmers has grown to be the third largest insurer of personal lines auto and homeowners insurance in the United States. We have over 900 employees now in the facility, and 400 more will move there next year,” noted Robert Woudstra, Farmers CEO. “This new facility is a continuing commitment to our employees in California.”

To further streamline the development process and improve customer service, the Mayor yesterday signed an executive directive to improve the City’s development review processes, improve interdepartmental coordination, enhance technology and update codes and policies to create an efficient, transparent and predictable process for all participants. To manage and implement this strategic development reform plan, there will be a Development Services Cabinet that will be chaired by Deputy Mayor of the Office of Economic and Business Policy Matt Karatz and will include staff from key City departments.

“I congratulate and welcome Farmers Insurance to Woodland Hills,” noted Councilman Dennis P. Zine. “Farmers presence and growth in Los Angeles is significant, and we truly appreciate the dedication of the more than 2,000 local Farmers agents, district managers and employees who work in Los Angeles and provide quality service to nearly one million policies in the Los Angeles area. Growing jobs in Warner Center is a vital part of keeping Los Angeles a vibrant city and I am proud to facilitate bringing good-paying, high-quality jobs to the San Fernando Valley.”

These development reform initiatives are part of the Mayor’s efforts to create jobs and make Los Angeles more business friendly. Development represents a critical source of employment in Los Angeles. Even in the midst of the current economic slow-down, the $3.3 billion in construction approved last year represented 23,500 construction jobs.

In addition to development reform, the City has moved forward with business friendly policies such as the elimination of the gross receipts tax for three years for new companies, a local preference for local companies bidding on City government contracts and expanded State Enterprise Zones (SEZ). Farmers Insurance is also benefiting from the tax credits and DWP incentives of being in a State Enterprise Zone.

“Our goal was a first class facility that our employees and the community would be proud of. At the same time we wanted a facility that was environmentally friendly. We accomplished our goal,” said David Travers, executive vice president of Operations. “The types of jobs in the facility include professional level positions supporting the Farmers Business Insurance corporate office, information technology and claims handling.”

The Mayor’s Office of Economic and Business Policy (OEBP) also led the effort to keep Panavision, a motion picture equipment company specializing in cameras and lenses, from relocating out of the city and as a result saved 400 jobs. The OEBP worked with the Governor’s Office last year to expand State Enterprise Zones in the Valley, East Los Angeles, and the areas around LAX and the Harbor.

The SEZ was critical to retaining Panavision as it provided the company millions in tax savings and made the possibility of remaining in the City much more viable. Panavision was founded in Los Angeles and has operated out of the city since 1956.