Business People of the Year
Introducing the transformative thirteen of 2019
Ask Quentin Messer what drives his team at the New Orleans Business Alliance and he’ll counter with another question: How can we make sure the economy works better for all New Orleanians?
In 2019, NOLABA tackled the question from multiple angles, kickstarting a Workforce Leadership Academy with the Aspen Institute and inviting urban experts from across the world to study the city’s toughest problems. The group teamed with NASA to promote small business opportunities, developed online tools to make it easier for local firms to cull U.S. Census data, and launched InvestNOLA, a business accelerator designed for entrepreneurs of color.
“We have to be very good at convincing people to continue to invest in New Orleans,” Messer said, “whether that’s the CEO of a company or a local resident considering dedicating five weeks to a job training program.”
NOLABA now has a three-person team dedicated to economic development at the neighborhood level, which is currently ranging from a billboard campaign touting businesses doing work in New Orleans East to collaborating with local leaders on leveraging federal Opportunity Zones. The organization continues to work closely with Goodwill Industries and the Urban League of Louisiana to provide job training to residents through the STRIVE program supported by funding from AT&T.
Messer also highlighted recent tech wins. This past November, three locally grown biotech firms — AxoSim, Cadex Genomics and Obtala Sciences — announced expansion plans, adding a total of 135 new jobs. U.K.-based Testronic also announced plans for a game testing facility in New Orleans, employing 150 people. That followed expansion news earlier in the year from Technology Associates, a marine engineering firm; global software developer Accruent; legal tech platform Litify and Dreamleague Gaming, which hosts eSports events.
To be sure, New Orleans faces challenges. Big projects like redeveloping the former Six Flags site or negotiating to keep the National Finance Center, damaged in a 2017 tornado, in New Orleans East will take time, Messer said.
In Messer’s view, growing income disparity is one of the biggest hurdles the city faces. To that end, he said NOLABA is focused on boosting job and skills training across ages, neighborhoods and educational attainment.
“We really are looking into 2020 to develop a complete talent plan that goes from pre-K throughout one’s lifetime,” Messer said. “Ultimately our aspiration is to see New Orleans be a city of lifelong learners.”
— By Jennifer LarinoRead the full article here.