VP Joe Biden and Mayor Garcetti Celebrate Innovation at Laci’s Newly Opened La Kretz Facility

Joe Biden

Eric Garcetti: We are so pleased to welcome our dear friend and honorary Angeleno, a man who’s been a guiding force for this country and world, our vice president, Joe Biden.  

All of us in the last 48 hours have had our hearts broken by the events that we saw in Paris. Earlier today I visited the French Consul General to express just how close Los Angeles felt, not only because one of the fallen was one of our own—Nohemi Gonzalez, who grew up in Los Angeles and was a student at Long Beach State—but also because we, as freedom-loving people, know that an attack on Paris is an attack on each one of us. 

These moments hurt, but they also strengthen our resolve to be who we are: folks who are open to the world and curious about ideas, Americans who embody the universal values that the world looks to. That’s really what this campus is all about; that’s what our vice president is about; that’s what each one of the leaders around this table is about—the free ideas that we have and the ability to figure out in difficult times, in a confusing global system, how we can use technology to improve lives to address the challenges of our time, like climate change. But it’s also to figure out how we can bridge those economic and social divides that too many people are locked into, as well. 

And so we gather today in this space not just because of what LACI does. I’m very proud because we’ve had a small hand in starting this incubator—more than a small hand. We put together federal dollars that you helped us bring together with local public and private dollars to form this non-profit that can help new companies that are facing some of the greatest challenges we have to get started, create jobs, and do well. This is how we envision the new Los Angeles and, indeed, envision what the old and new America look like. 

As our nation calls for sweeping climate action, you have been such a great ally, coming here just a couple months ago as we brought together and hosted some of the greatest mayors in the US and China to make real commitments to combatting climate change. LACI recognizes that while we face these global challenges, what we need are local solutions—solutions like this in every neighborhood, in every city. All you have to do is look around here to see why this incubator, Mr. Vice President, was recently ranked the world’s number-six incubator, and the top green-tech incubator in the world. It represents about $60 million in investments since 2011, with 40 portfolio companies, and it offers our entrepreneurs, our future workers, our students, our innovators, our darers, and our doers 60,000 square feet of space to explore the possibilities of what tomorrow may look like. There’s a world-class prototyping lab, a web lab, welding lab, an energy-efficient R&D facility, and much more, all in one place. 

It’s also fitting that this space, which works to solve some of the daunting challenges of our time, calls Los Angeles home. It was here, Mr. Vice President, that President Kennedy—or not-yet-Senator Kennedy—accepted his party’s nomination, standing in the Los Angeles Coliseum just a couple miles to the south of us. He was on the east edge of that great stadium, looking west to the ocean, and he said that Los Angeles, as he gave his New Frontier speech, was a place where all things were possible.

We still believe that today, and increasingly we need the nation to believe that too. It’s certainly true when it comes to climate change, as you’ve shown us. In the summit you joined us at, we acknowledged the simple truth that cities are ground zero when it comes to climate change. We house more than 50 percent of the world population and produce more than 70 percent of carbon emissions. So when nations strike their national compacts and set reduction goals, as they’ll come together to do just next month, cities are where those promises have made tangible, real-world, on-the-ground progress. 

Your closing remarks at the summit reminded us of that. And during the summit when we talked to leaders on both sides of the Pacific, the Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator came up time and time again. People wanted to know what we’re doing here. It’s not just a national model—it’s increasingly becoming an international model. And under the great leadership of Fred Walti and his team, we’ve now created the network for global innovation. Its goal is to create and connect cleantech incubators around the world with each other. That network now has members in Italy, Germany, Mexico, China, India, Canada, and Japan, and it’s growing every day. It embodies what so many of us already know: that if we’re going to solve this critical challenge, it’s going to happen one-by-one in each of our nations. 

With that, I want to say to you, Mr. Vice President, that we have the capacity to reach a future that you have laid out for us. I think you’re one of the most beloved Americans in the world today, and a man who has stood for what this place embodies: that Americans believe in rewarding hard work, that we will never stop innovating, and that the moonshots—all of them—are worth taking. It’s who we are. It’s what we’re about. It’s what stirs our soul, but it’s also what saves our world. We know that you have been for us such a guiding light. We want to see that continue, both here in Los Angeles. I just want to say how proud I am to have you here.

It is now my great pleasure to welcome a great friend, political giant, and a man who’s been a valued force to all of us, Joe Biden.

Joe Biden: It’s always great to be with the mayor. If my father were here, he’d believe everything the mayor said. My mother would wonder who in God’s name he was talking about! Thank you.

As the mayor started off, expressing our solidarity with the people of France, the people of Paris, our hearts do go out to them, and to Nohemi Gonzalez, whose family is here in Southern California, and all those families who lost loved ones. The fact is that France is our oldest and one of our closest partners. They have always been there for us in times of need. And we are with France. 

This goes beyond our condolences. We’re sharing intelligence. We’re fully engaged. And there’s one thing I want you to know: We will prevail. ISIS will not prevail. It offers nothing but destruction. It offers nothing but a twisted ideology that’s unsustainable. People throughout the world, including the Middle East and the Muslim world, want to live in freedom. There is no possibility of ISIS being sustained. 

There’s one thing that I want to make clear. Terror is designed to inspire terror. And we lose—they win—the moment we give in to that terror. There will be a tendency, both here and in Europe, to call for closing borders, to call for closing down access to information, etc. But that’s what all this is about. That’s what they’re attempting to do. 

We didn’t do it after 9/11. We didn’t do it after the Boston Marathon. I say to the American people: There is no existential threat to the United States in the sense that nothing ISIS can do—it can threaten to bring down the government, can threaten to fundamentally alter the way we live—to get us to change. 

I have much more to say about that in another forum, but I just want to be clear that we, the United States of America, will not yield. We will prevail, and we will own the finish line. It’s a simple, basic proposition. It will take time to root it out throughout the Middle East. It’ll take time, but it is inevitable.

Mr. Mayor, the thing I love about being with you is that we share one thing in common: We are optimists. The American people, given an opportunity, rise to the challenge. And we’re led by people like the folks around this table—people who believe in themselves and are just looking for a shot. It seems to me, Mr. Mayor, that that’s what you’ve done in taking this on.

Eric Garcetti: You can see why this vice president loves Los Angeles, and why Los Angeles loves this vice president. Thank you for those remarks to frame our conversation. Fred Walti is now going to lead the conversation around this table, Mr. Vice President. We’re going to dig in deeper into what we’re doing and then some of the issues. It’s a chance for each of us to hear from each other, but also to ask questions. Let me toss it over to our great CEO, who was on a motorcycle trip with his wife in Bolivia when he got the call asking him to come back and start this up. Thank you, Fred, for your leadership.

Fred Walti: Thank you for those kind words. Thank you, Mr. Vice President, for making my case for me for incubation. I’d like to welcome you to LACI and our new home, the La Kretz Innovation Campus. I think it would be an understatement to say that we’re thrilled to have you here. 

This is where invention, innovation, incubation, and, if we’re lucky, monetization happens. We build companies here. And this is a unique place to build companies. I don’t think there’s another one like this in the country or the world. This facility is designed to create cleantech companies from the very beginning. An entrepreneur has the opportunity to take an idea, go to the research labs, do research, then go down the hall to the prototype room, and then go across the hall to the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power’s testing and certification space, and get it tested and certified by the largest municipally-owned utility in the country. And then there’s a chance to introduce it in the marketplace. Nowhere else does an incubator reside across the hallway from a utility, and I think that’s the model for the future.

LACI is a private-public partnership that really works. We are a child of the City of Los Angeles, yet as a child we’ve been given enough freedom to really flourish. 

We are a house of entrepreneurs. What does that mean? We create companies. We run fast. We make mistakes. We don’t always administer everything perfectly well. But we end up going further than we thought we could. 

We would not be here without the city’s help. Money is important, but that’s not really what I’m talking about. I’m talking about the close working relationship that we actually have with you and your staff, and staff at the LADWP. We really work well together. And because we’re so different, I think we accomplish something that neither one of us could accomplish by ourselves. 

I’m not sure that any of us really envisioned this becoming what it is now when it started, but it is terrific to be here, and I think we’re just beginning. The magicians that create these companies are sitting around this table and in the audience. They are entrepreneurs, investors, members of government, and members of the academic world. They’ve all contributed to this ecosystem, as has the federal government—the other part of our partnership. We showcased some equipment in the R&D lab, and that was paid for by the EPA. We see continued support from the Department of Energy and from SBA. Most of the companies around this table or in the bleachers have received some sort of support from the government. So this is a really great partnership. •••

“LACI recognizes that while we face these global challenges, what we need are local solutions—solutions like this in every neighborhood, in every city.” -Mayor Eric Garcetti