Driving Economic Growth in NOLA
Coordinate & Collaborate
Hurricane Katrina changed the way that companies, organizations, and institutions work together in New Orleans. Where before groups worked in silos and often at cross-proposes, post-Katrina funding and recovery opportunities forced them to work together to efficiently utilize resources to impact the greatest number of people. This spirit of cooperation has extended to economic development partners as well
Throughout this process members of both the Strategic Advisory Council and the subcommittees consistently expressed a desire to continue coordination efforts and to develop additional actions that will grow jobs in this city. Collaboration efforts, may at times, extend to regional efforts within the state, or as in the case of Advanced Manufacturing’s aerospace development activities, efforts in nearby states. This is a sampling of opportunities that will be supported by this plan. To encourage cooperative efforts, NOLABA has formed industry councils and working groups, composed of community, business and education leaders across ProsperityNOLA’s five clusters to identify top priorities and action items.
Invest to Compete
New Orleans’ industry clusters must make strategic investments that increase our competitiveness on a global scale. The availability of adequate resources is critical to success for any business even when the type of resources differs. Improvements to infrastructure can help existing businesses grow and serve as an important business attraction tool. Sufficient capital to effectively commercialize research and bring new product ideas to market is one of the greatest barriers to growth for many firms.
Prepare our Workforce
To compete, New Orleans must be able to provide employers a workforce with skills well-matched to the work at hand. The presence of a highly-skilled workforce not only impacts an existing business’ ability to compete, it also influences corporate relocation decisions. Unfortunately, New Orleans does not have enough qualified workers to fill all currently available and projected jobs. The city also faces an aging workforce readying themselves for retirement. A large population of disconnected youth without work-ready skills furthers underscores the need for employer-driven coordinated workforce development strategies.
While the actual workforce needs in specific clusters vary, business leaders that participated in the planning process identified workforce as the single most important issue that must be addressed to achieve economic growth in each cluster.
Promote Entrepreneurship & Small Business Development
Economic growth is a balance of local and attraction-based business development. More than 90 percent of New Orleans businesses have twenty-five employees or less . These small businesses are the backbone of our economy. New Orleans has also seen a surge in entrepreneurship, gaining a reputation as one of the country’s best cities for entrepreneurs. The Strategic Advisory Council recognized the value of attracting large companies, but it put an emphasis on supporting locally-grown small businesses and entrepreneurs.
Most often, the support that small businesses and entrepreneurs need is similar across clusters. Small businesses and entrepreneurs depend on access to capital, human resources, technical assistance – including business planning, credit counseling, mentorship, networking, market access, and business development opportunities. All are critical to growing and sustain a successful enterprise.
Equity is a Growth Strategy
New Orleans has long been a predominantly minority city with significant disparities in wealth, business ownership, access to capital, and business market share, including the second largest racial income disparity in the U.S. The issues faced by small minority businesses generally fall into three categories: capital, opportunity, and capacity. While all five clusters face challenges in accessing capital, small minority businesses are more likely to face entrenched inequities in the lending process. According to the WK Kellogg Foundation, income inequality creates a workforce poorly equipped for the modern economy, dampens U.S. GDP, decreases worker productivity and diminishes the local and national tax base. The goal of emphasizing equity as a growth strategy is to develop generational wealth creation, which in turn creates economic growth, stability and resilience for all New Orleans residences.
The City of New Orleans has put in place targeted efforts to support equity and inclusion of diverse small businesses, including a strong disadvantaged business enterprise (DBE) program. The strong role of government in opening up opportunity for minority businesses can also be accompanied by an increase in access to the city’s anchor institutions, such as universities and hospitals. Anchor institutions are notable for their stability, expenditure, projects job growth, and amount of jobs accessible to those with an associate’s degree or less. Anchor institutions can create shared value with the surrounding community through several strategies: purchasing of foods and services, employment, developing real estate, creating business incubators, advising businesses and building networks, and workforce development.
Mentoring relationships that improve equity and access for small and minority businesses can have a beneficial effect on an entire cluster. Industry clusters grow and make cities more competitive when there are more successful businesses all along the supply chain, including small minority business. New Orleans must be proactive in addressing these disparities to increase its competitiveness in the global marketplace.
Reposition the City’s Brand
New Orleans enjoys a globally-loved brand; however this brand is narrowly defined and not necessarily conducive to recruiting new residents and businesses. State, regional, and local leaders have made great strides over the past few years in developing and promoting the regional business climate, and that work needs to continue. Every subcommittee and working group identified the struggles of marketing their business to people who are not familiar with New Orleans, and how persistent misperceptions were hampering business growth and recruiting.
Whether a business is looking to recruit and hire employees, connect with domestic and international markets, or do business with larger companies from outside the region, there are challenges in communicating the business and residential opportunities here. From concerns about spousal employment, reluctance to move for a single offer without many competitor firms, or questions about affordable quality of life, persistent misperceptions of New Orleans are hampering business growth and talent attraction. While New Orleans has made great strides in addressing flooding, crime and education, these issues are not solved – but they are being tackled proactively. New Orleans has seen recent major investments in flood protection, crime prevention and education, and is showing the world that it is a city wiling to confront its challenges. If the New Orleans brand is not broadened and corrected, it will remain a constraint to future business development and residential growth.
In today’s global, interconnected economy, the importance of thinking internationally has never been greater. The city’s port and geographic position at the mouth of the Mississippi River, plus its comprehensive rail access, have made it a center of trade for three centuries. Multiple studies of New Orleans’ competitive positioning for trade have shown a clear competitive advantage in north-south routes but many of the commodities that come through the Port of New Orleans are stored here and then shipped elsewhere without adding value through manufacturing or processing. These opportunities represent the low-hanging fruit of New Orleans’ international position. Thinking internationally represents many of the most transformative opportunities to see widespread increases in investment, jobs, wealth, and business development
Thinking internationally does not just mean trade, however. The city’s experience with flooding and coastal restoration, and partnerships with the Netherlands, have position us as a global water management experts. New Orleans has the knowledge base and expertise to assist coastal cities around the world with living safely around natural waters. New Orleans must also be open to investment from foreign companies. Recently the largest economic development projects in Louisiana have been through foreign direct investment (FDI). With the proper position, New Orleans can be an attractive place for foreign companies to open subsidiary offices or base their American operations.