05 Jan CityBusiness Guest Perspective: 2017 Goals Include Making Economic Security Inclusive
2017 is an important year in a myriad of ways. Later this month and next, we welcome the world to our city not only during the unmatched annual pageantry of the Carnival season, but also for the NBA All-Star Weekend.
How the All-Star Weekend came to be here in New Orleans has been told elsewhere, but several words underscore the elements that won New Orleans this event: Tolerance. Collaboration. Flexibility.
These same three words could be applied to securing British Airways’ nonstop flights to London from Louis Armstrong International Airport that begin this spring. Similarly, the continued wins of corporate citizens like Shell, Entergy, Sazerac Company, GE Digital and Premier Event Management provide proof of New Orleans’ vibrant business community. Our city continues to be a viable regional business center that can compete globally within important niches.
Despite real progress, at times I have felt that we grapple with a collective “scarcity” mentality. We don’t have this amenity or that attraction. City X or City Y has surpassed us. Why can’t things be like they are in City Z? Disappointment is a natural emotion, but its presence should be fleeting and not lethal.
Honest and candid, collective self-reflection about the challenges facing our city is warranted, especially since sustainable economic growth does not occur accidentally. It results from decisions that either increase or reduce a city’s economic competitiveness and friendliness to business. Like magnets, human and financial capital are attracted to these attributes.
New Orleans is increasing its competitiveness to draw financial and human capital. While we must continue to attract capital and resources from outside the city, we must also invest in incumbent residents who have too often been economically invisible or unable to participate in our economy. Inclusive opportunity offers all New Orleanians a greater chance for economic security.
This fall, we will select the next mayor and City Council – public servants who sacrifice reduced privacy, enhanced scrutiny and financial rewards because they are called to work for the collective good. We owe it to ourselves to participate in the process. The New Orleans Business Alliance plans to engage all candidates on the issue of increasing economic security for every New Orleanian, independent of the ward in which they live or were born. In and of themselves, ribbon-cuttings and project announcements have little meaning; their meaning derives from how economic development impacts the lives of our fellow residents and transforms the places where all New Orleanians live.
Given the stakes this year, I am challenging myself to push the conversation further. I am pushing myself to think unconventionally about New Orleans’ economic future, to inspire friends and neighbors who may not have experienced fully our economic progress, and to celebrate those business leaders whose work contributes to a better – albeit not yet perfect – New Orleans for all of her children.
I hope that you will join me in this shared commitment to, in the words of one young New Orleanian who bought her talents home after living elsewhere, “keep up the good fight.” Despite perceived ‘scarcity’ and frustrations, New Orleans remains worth fighting for, because all of us matter. We’re all we’ve got; let’s demand and expect more of each other. The future is counting on us!
Quentin Messer Jr. is president and CEO of the New Orleans Business Alliance.