Bio Column – Destination New Orleans
Amritha Appaswami, NOLABA Director of Business Development, Bio and Health Services Innovation, wrote in the May/June edition of Healthcare Journal of New Orleans how industry-leading conferences lay the foundation for business attraction.
Destination New Orleans
In the last couple of articles, I talked about cultivating a vibrant ecosystem for innovation and the role conferences like Innovation Louisiana play in fostering regional technology commercialization. I will also discuss the kind of industry-specific assets, physical and intellectual, that are instrumental in successfully attracting a new business in the field of Bio and Health Services Innovation.
In this article, I would like to highlight the role of industry-leading conferences in creating economic impact, as well as driving the city’s reputation for innovation and attracting industry-leading companies and talent to the city. The economic impact can be felt from two directions: when a conference takes place in New Orleans and when the New Orleans Business Alliance (NOLABA) attends industry-leading events elsewhere.
A case in point is the Collision Conference, the U.S. edition of the popular Web Summit conference in Europe, which moved to New Orleans in 2016. Collision, a tech conference in its third year, is billed as the go-to conference for tech industry influencers, innovators and investors. It is discussed in the same league as the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas and South by Southwest in Austin. After Collision debuted in New Orleans last year, organizers announced they will remain for the next two years.
At last count, 11,400 people attended Collision in 2016, a 45% increase over the previous year. Of the attendees, there were 630 start-up exhibitors, and visitors from nearly 50 countries. Estimated to attract nearly 20,000 attendees this year, these attendees directly contribute to economic impact through their effect on the hospitality industry. They also have the potential to add to the local retail economy.
Beyond those immediate effects, such conferences create a platform to elevate regional industry leaders to national and international stages, help position the city as a venue in which innovative new ideas take place and new partnerships form naturally and seamlessly. They raise the knowledge and access to local assets, talent and resources in the consciousness of influencers, investors and innovators. All this acts as both the backdrop to, and a catalyst for, business attraction. Local economic development organizations (EDOs), including NOLABA, recognized this and were part of the success story of getting Collision to its new home here in New Orleans.
Likewise, healthcare conferences draw attention to the regional assets that are distinctive in promoting research and clinical care, serve as avenues for international collaboration, help cement the city’s reputation for innovation and further aid business attraction. An example of this is the recently concluded Gulf Coast Trade Alliance conference, focusing on the twin tracks of Ports & Infrastructure and Healthcare & Lifesciences.
While Collision attracts tech companies across a range of applications, a number of health technology companies were part of the contingent last year. Can you imagine the impact of a conference dedicated to health technologies? Without a doubt, such a conference would help strengthen New Orleans’ brand in all the myriad ways described above, and do so with a focus on the health tech space. An added advantage is that conferences are a conduit for EDOs to be informed and to influence policies and regulation surrounding the successful adoption and implementation of technologies. This has an impact on the long-term sustainability of their business attraction efforts. In a field such as healthcare, having a forum dedicated to the subject matter provides the biggest leverage in that process.
On top of the economic impact realized from a conference being located in New Orleans, EDOs like NOLABA create value, and drive business attraction by attending conferences outside the region too. Attending industry-leading conferences that are closely followed by large corporations, investors, innovators and policy-makers is a great opportunity for direct business attraction. It also provides a valuable lens into the topics that are attracting funding, driving new company formation, markets that are growing and cities and/or institutions that are driving innovation. All of this provides a source of data for the kinds of startups a city must attract, the industry sectors the city must promote and the best practices the EDO can foster to accelerate economic growth. It’s also a live opportunity to test the brand strength for your city, identify the messages that resonate with companies and investors and gaps that need to be worked upon. Lastly, EDOs help to drive the city’s credibility in promoting industry growth when they are seen by industry insiders as attending the key industry-leading conferences regularly.
A conference is considered successful and industry-leading when industry insiders begin planning their calendars around the conference dates, participants arrange other networking opportunities to coincide with the conference and the conference itself becomes the venue for pushing thought leadership ahead in the field from one year to the next. You know you’ve become recognized or respected as an industry insider or leader when you’re asked which conferences you’re going to, and your referral changes another participant’s calendar. Recently, we’ve seen startups seeking out New Orleans’ ecosystem for BioInnovation and Health Services Innovation as a direct result of meeting a local industry professional and leader in a conference outside the region. NOLABA will continue to promote the city and the Bio and Health Services Innovation sector here to those we interact with at conferences across the country and abroad.