23 Jun Accredited Excellence: New Orleans Business Alliance

accredited aedoNOLABA achieved accredited economic development organization status from the International Economic Development Council in April. IEDC profiled NOLABA in its series on newly accredited AEDOs in a members-only newsletter and blog. 

By Robert Caldwell, IEDC intern, The Ohio State University

IEDC’s Accredited Economic Development Organization (AEDO) program recognizes the professional excellence of organizations in the areas of internal and external operations, structures, and procedures. ED:Now is resuming a semi-regular series that profiles newly accredited AEDOs, putting some of economic development’s high-performing organizations in
the spotlight.

AEDO member: The New Orleans Business Alliance (NOLABA)
Accreditation date: April 2017

Q&A with NOLABA President & CEO Quentin L. Messer, Jr.
What does your organization do particularly well?
We are very focused on making people the center of our work. The only reason that economic development matters is because people matter. With that in mind, a lot of our programs are focused on personalizing economic development. This includes our small business initiative that has two full-time employees, as well as the WhyNOLA campaign [in which local business people share stories of why they choose New Orleans to do business].

What is the biggest challenge facing your community, and how does your organization work to address it?
The biggest challenges from an economic growth perspective are twofold. The first is the misconception that New Orleans is not serious about business. People sometimes don’t realize we’re a serious economy with the capital and knowledge to drive business into the future. This is where our WhyNOLA campaign plays the important role of educating people on why our city is a great place to do business. The second challenge is maintaining the level of jobs needed to keep pace with all the people moving to New Orleans. We’re redoubling our efforts both to grow local business and to be aggressive in business retention and attraction activities.

Why did your organization decide to pursue accreditation?
In an industry where metrics of success often are fuzzy, it can be challenging to accurately assess your team’s performance. The AEDO program gave us an independent third party to confirm our commitment to best-practice standards. Additionally, New Orleans is having mayoral and city council elections this fall, and it’s critical for us to think about sustainability. This distinction will help us demonstrate our effectiveness to whomever is elected to office.

What feedback from the AEDO Review Team did you find particularly helpful, and how do you plan to implement their recommendations?
There are three recommendations that were particularly helpful from the Review Team. The first was the observation that we have a relatively young team, and that it will be essential going forward to focus on employee retention and giving them opportunities for growth. The second was the need to have a CEcD (Certified Economic Developer) on staff, and I’ve committed myself to take the exam this fall. The third was thinking about how we go about fundraising. In the past, we’ve always hoped for a lot of unrestricted funds. But after receiving the team’s feedback, we realized it would be more beneficial to focus on programmatic fundraising.

Distinctions: NOLABA’s strategic plan, ProsperityNOLA, won an IEDC Excellence in Economic Development Award in the Multi-Year Economic Development Program category in 2016. It also is the first New Orleans-based economic development organization to receive the AEDO accreditation.

Organizational structure: NOLABA is a public-private partnership formed in 2010 as a 501(c)(3) organization governed by a 17-member board of directors.

Leadership and staff: President and CEO Quentin L. Messer, Jr. oversees 17 employees across five teams: business development, performance and support, marketing and communications, small business, and the 504ward talent retention initiative.

Mission statement: “To unite a diverse community of stakeholders to catalyze growth, create wealth, and build an equitable and sustainable economic future for New Orleans.”

Vision: To reposition New Orleans as the next great American city for business investment, quality of life, and economic opportunity.

Population: 384,320 in the city of New Orleans
Budget: $2.8 million for FY 2017

Key focus/target industries:
• Advanced manufacturing
• Bioinnovation and health services
• Creative digital media
• Retail
• Small business development
• Sustainable industries
• Transportation, trade, and logistics

Highlighted accomplishments:
Bio and health services innovation:
• NOLABA attracted the Cobalt Rehabilitation Hospital to open a new 66,000-square-foot facility in Mid-City New Orleans. The $24 million project is expected to employ 178 people. Select Laboratory Software recently announced an expansion of its New
Orleans operations that will create 25 jobs over the next year.

Creative digital media:
• NOLABA worked with Louisiana Economic Development and Greater New Orleans, Inc. to attract video game company inXile Entertainment’s first expansion outside of its California headquarters. The company began operations with seven employees and quickly grew to 25 in less than four months.

Retail:
• NOLABA has worked with more than 50 retailers to expand to or come back to New Orleans, to address what was a nearly $2 billion retail leakage identified by the city in 2010. Major brands include Costco, Tiffany, Nordstrom Rack, and H&M, as well as local and regional retailers. The city has increased its tax revenue by 48 percent since NOLABA’s retail effort began five years ago.