Regional leaders assembled last week for the Greater New Orleans, Inc. (GNO, Inc.) annual meeting.
During the meeting, GNO, Inc. President and CEO Michael Hecht discussed a number of multi-year initiatives designed to improve the region and prove that it can be great. “What matters to NOLA?” asked Hecht. The key drivers are the economy and quality of life.
Surprise guest Mayor Mitch Landrieu also spoke about the economic development in the region and the excitement surrounding future plans. He said the region has pulled itself together through various partnerships and collaborations, a key component to success.
“When is the last time you heard someone in your lifetime who is not from here talking about the region positively?” asked Landrieu. He gave the audience a hint, his answer was never. The last few years have been a critical point in the development of the region, highlighted through many projects implemented or in the works.
Landrieu compared the symbol of the proposed, world-class airport with added international flights to the region allowing the good to come in. “Go faster, get there sooner, do more,” Landrieu stated enthusiastically. The airport will not only act as a symbol of the region’s open doors, but also show that the New Orleans area has the connectivity required to be a first-tier region for international business and other economic development opportunities.
GNO, Inc. introduced the “REGI” during the meeting, otherwise known as the Regional Economic Growth Index, comprised of 13 indicators that have been tracked since 2006. The indicators include jobs, GDP, construction permits, export value, sales tax collections, population, home affordability, % > 25 with H.S. diploma, violent crime rate, percent in poverty, pay gap, value of VC deals and share of STEM jobs.
Flood protection and resilience is one of the many multi-year initiatives. GNO, Inc. strives to ensure that Southeast Louisiana remains viable and insurable for future generations of businesses and families, and economically productive for the nation. The National Flood Insurance Program that would increase premiums was a hot topic of discussion. In response to the program and the price increase, 34 states and over 200 organizations, including Louisiana and GNO, Inc., joined the Coalition for Sustainable Flood Insurance to prevent such an occurrence.
GNO, Inc. called it an opportunistic response, something that is occurring in other sectors as well.
Other projects such as the Urban Water Plan, which garnered international support to directly address groundwater and storm water as critical factors in shaping a safer, more livable, and economically vibrant Southeast Louisiana, and DestinationGNO have launched to improve the region. DestinationGNO is a dynamic, innovative relocation tool that highlights the quality of life in the area. The tool, created by GNO, Inc. in partnership with 504ward, was originally designed with the ultimate goal broken into three parts: to diversify lifestyle options, to have the tool to eliminate confusion and to recruit workforce to the region.
There was also much excitement around the “virtuous cycle” of business development– former companies are returning, local companies are staying and growing, and new companies are choosing the region.
Smoothie King, for example, is a smoothie food retailer that launched in Kenner in 1973 and has been in the area ever since. The company, which was at the top of the list for 2013 business development, created 105 direct jobs, 78 indirect jobs and a capital expenditure of $5 million. Along with the 12 other companies mentioned, the total economic impact was recorded as producing 1,164 direct jobs, 1,936 indirect jobs and $2.23 billion in capital expenditure.
For the first time in decades, the region will experience the challenges associated with growth. “Growing pains are a good thing. We must positively engage these challenges if we want to Grow into Greatness.” Growth challenges mentioned in the meeting were workforce, land and sites, participation in the recovery, planning while growing and maintaining leadership.
The annual review, along with future plans for the region, is outlined here.
With the right support and drive, the region has the potential to be a premier hub for business, development, education, tourism and much more. Below is the video released during the meeting, highlighting what the future of New Orleans will look like if the steady growth continues (note the headline “Silicon Bayou Beats Silicon Valley”).