Over the last few years, the BioDistrict New Orleans has been a sort of mysterious yet major project encompassing 1,500 acres of downtown New Orleans and Mid-City. The economic development district was created by the state in 2005 to advance the bioinnovation sector in the city.
After statements showing just $360 in the BioDistrict account, in a seemingly perfect partnership, the BioDistrict has teamed with the New Orleans Business Alliance. Initiated in 2010 by the Landrieu administration, the Business Alliance is a public-private partnership that in 2013 released a five-focus plan designed to drive economic growth, ProsperityNOLA, including a focus on health and bioinnovation.
The partnership was established in an attempt to revitalize the state-enabled economic development district. Both will work with the Landrieu administration to raise $860,000 ($115,000 of the $975,000 goal is already available due to two small business development grants) to help fund the recent transition that is expected to begin this summer.
The considerable shift in the BioDistrict began after dedicated CEO Jim McNamara resigned. McNamara finally stepped down after realizing the resources had nearly dried up even after his years of hard work and no salary. It became clear there was some disagreement over the future of the BioDistrict, which only added to the awareness over the lack of annual revenue.
Before McNamara left, the economic impact of the BioDistrict over the course of 15-20 years was projected to create 34,000 direct and indirect jobs, 3,600 annual construction jobs, $3.3 billion in local economic investment activity, $24 billion in increased personal earnings, $1.9 billion in state sales tax, $1.4 billion in local tax, 11.6 million square feet of new, absorbed or renovated buildings, over 2,000 housing units and 125 extended stay hotel rooms.
The Business Alliance has taken over the management of the BioDistrict since the departure of McNamara late last year. If the agreed-upon, year-long transition period goes well, the BioDistrict could come out of things with a clearly define mission and plans to secure funding.
One longstanding goal for the BioDistrict is to create high paying, sustainable jobs for the city. The primary focus would be in the biosciences, but also in banking, law, construction and other service industries that could potentially benefit.
Business Alliance CEO Rodrick Miller and the current board will seek money from the state, city, economic development agencies, universities, hospitals and corporate partners to reach their goal. If reached, Miller plans to hire a vice president to handle day-to-day operations.
However, the city has expressed that there is no extra money in the budget right now. Andy Kopplin, chief administrative officer for the city of New Orleans, has mentioned other, higher priorities than helping the BioDistrict.
Hopes for the BioDistrict still remain high, regardless of apparent doubts and hurdles ahead. Last November, McNamara was quoted saying, “You’ve got a jet rocket engine here,” referring the BioDistrict’s potential. “You’ve got an unprecedented ability to propel the industry and you refuse to turn the engine on.”