05 Dec CityBusiness Guest Perspective: An Early New Year’s Resolution

Quentin Messer Jr.

New Orleans Business Alliance President & CEO Quentin Messer writes in the December edition of CityBusiness how NOLABA’s wide range of business attraction efforts will expand in 2017 and how the WhyNOLA campaign will grow:

Realizing that we have a lot still to accomplish in 2016, this perspective is a look ahead at 2017. This means determining how NOLABA can more positively impact all three of the basic approaches to economic development: business, place and residents.

Historically, NOLABA has focused on the business aspect exclusively, via business attraction and retention in specific target sectors: bioinnovation, software development and retail. In 2016, we enhanced these efforts significantly by adding Amritha Appaswami to our team, the only dedicated professional focused on bio-related economic development in Louisiana. Next year, in concert with the BioDistrict Board of Commissioners, we will present a concrete plan for leveraging the BioDistrict’s yet-untapped taxing and bonding authority to increase employment and wealth creation related to our health care sector.

Regarding wealth creation, in September, Lynnette White-Colin joined our team to lead our small business efforts. Like Amritha, Lynnette has done an excellent job listening to stakeholders. In 2017, expect NOLABA to provide programming that enhances procurement and other business opportunities between “Main Street” small businesses (i.e., non-technology based companies that are not candidates for incubation among the network of local incubators: 4.0 Schools, New Orleans BioInnovation Center, Idea Village, Propeller, etc.) and larger companies throughout the metro region. We’ll host outreach sessions and educate small businesspeople on the differences between risk capital versus bank financing, keeping the concerns of small businesses central to our work. And we hope to celebrate the successes of our Main Street small businesses; applause is the greatest progress accelerant known to humankind.

In the area of technology, we will monitor legislative development and work to protect the digital media and software development labor incentive that has been so vital to attracting entrepreneurs from across the world to New Orleans. NOLABA’s Louis David is working closely with counterparts at the state and regional levels to attract blue-chip names to our city. In 2017, the city’s attractive co-working spaces will be another positive differentiator for New Orleans in the competitive tech marketplace.

Led by Brenda Canada, our retail development efforts have moved the needle so far that announcements that once elicited, “Wow” now elicit, “That’s all you got?” That’s a good challenge. We are ready for it and have more aggressively segmented the market and micro-targeted our retail attraction efforts to meet the city’s continuing needs. We cannot wait to reveal more major retail news in 2017.

What most excites me is NOLABA’s work in the two approaches that haven’t been our focus traditionally: place and residents. To redefine New Orleans as a place for business, NOLABA aims to tell this story more aggressively in 2017. Our WhyNOLA campaign will continue, and we will work more assiduously to ensure the national narrative about our city reflects reality. We deserve to be on national news for reasons beyond Mardi Gras or tragedy, and we are redoubling our efforts to be seen by national press as the city that we are becoming. We anticipate exciting public-private partnership announcements that will continue to positively transform the city.

Economic development matters because it is about providing more opportunities for our friends and neighbors to increase their economic security. NOLABA’s work to become an accredited economic development organization and on a new five-year strategic plan only has meaning if it improves the lives of our fellow residents. We cannot retreat from intentional focus on growing the local economy in 2017 or any year. The burden of paying for city services must be more broadly shared to maintain both our economic competitiveness and our vitality. That is a resolution for 2017 and every year. Our best is yet to come!

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

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