01 Mar CityBusiness Guest Perspective: Storms Remind us of New Orleans’ Economic Resiliency

tornadoes resiliencyNew Orleans Business Alliance President & CEO Quentin Messer writes in the March edition of CityBusiness that the New Orleans business community must continue to advocate for the city as residents rebuild after the tornadoes: 

The recent destructive tornadoes in the New Orleans area remind us of the continued resiliency of the local business community, particularly its small businesses, in the face of natural disasters and marketplace challenges. Our thoughts and prayers remain with those businesses impacted by the tornadoes. My colleague, Lynnette White-Colin, New Orleans Business Alliance director of small business ecosystem development, continues to work with the city’s economic development team and others to provide assistance to the affected businesses.

As the tornadoes highlighted, behind the business statistics there are actual people working to make payroll, grow their companies and employ more of their friends and neighbors.  As I have written numerous times before, economic development matters because people matter. The task that each of us at NOLABA embraces daily is ensuring that our individual work helps generate wealth in our community, more jobs are created and retained and that the world recognizes the commercial sophistication of our city.

The recently concluded NBA All-Star Weekend and Carnival season serve to let the world know that New Orleans welcomes the world to herself like few other cities. Successes like the All-Star Weekend create the chance for economic developers to present the case for business owners to relocate their companies to our city. Our question to those ruefully boarding flights out afterward is, “You want to be here, what’s stopping you?”

What’s stopping business owners from moving to our city? There are a myriad of reasons, but there are several that each of us can positively impact. First, our own ambassadorship of the city. While we have challenges, we are blessed to live in a great city whose personality oozes from its streets. We don’t need campaigns like Houston’s that aim to convince the world that it is a “cool” city. We have lived it for nearly 300 years. So why do we have so many caveats about why we chose to be build our lives here?  As we near Spring and the fifth season of the year, New Orleans Entrepreneurship Week, let’s embrace advocacy for our city without caveat, cognizant of the challenges we face but confident that no other city has triumphed over as much (and looked as good doing it).

Second, there is a lingering perception that if you remain in New Orleans, you artificially constrain your career. Our #WhyNOLA campaign is an effort to push back against this false narrative. Voices ranging from the Port of New Orleans’ Brandy Christian to Transdev’s Justin Augustine are powerful witnesses to the ability to create world-class careers right here in New Orleans. During the second quarter, in partnership with the New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corporation, NOLABA will be amplifying our #WhyNOLA campaign and giving voice to more entrepreneurs who call New Orleans home.

Third, there is a misperception of limited locally available capital. Our annual enjoyment of Carnival should remove all doubt regarding the enduring financial strength of our city. As startups incubated across New Orleans mature into high-growth companies, more than a few will realize successful strategic exits, either via acquisition or the public market. The impact of Dell’s IPO for Austin (nearly 2,700 millionaires were created) underscores why NOLABA, along with our partners at the city and GNO, Inc., are pursing business attraction and retention in software development, health care and digital health sectors currently in favor with the public markets.

Despite her challenges, ours is a wonderful city, made so by her residents.  As our neighbors rebuild yet again, let’s honor their commitment by speaking life into our city and about her economic future.

Quentin Messer Jr. is president and CEO of the New Orleans Business Alliance.

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