CityBusiness Guest Perspective: NOLABA’s Ambassadorship Program a Great Education Tool
New Orleans Business Alliance President & CEO Quentin Messer writes in the April edition of CityBusiness how our Economic Development Ambassadorship Program shows New Orleans’ entrepreneurial buzz and talented workforce:
The New Orleans Business Alliance just launched a new initiative called the Economic Development Ambassadorship Program (Ambassadorship). In this five-week program, nearly 30 of the most talented and committed young professionals in New Orleans are joining NOLABA staff in an immersive orientation to why economic development, entrepreneurship and talent retention matter for enhancing the economic competitiveness of our city.
In a future perspective, I will discuss this Ambassadorship program in greater detail, but now I want to discuss a particular question a participant asked during the first session March 29. That question was, “What is New Orleans’ unique competitive advantage as a city and metro area relative to other cities attempting to grow technology-related entrepreneurship?” This perspective is about two elements of the complex answer: New Orleans Entrepreneur Week (NOEW) and the upcoming Collision conference in May.
There are a lot of cities attempting to replicate the “magic” of Silicon Valley. In fact, we have New York’s Silicon Alley, Chicago’s Silicon Prairie, Austin’s Silicon Hills and this region’s own Silicon Bayou. It is impossible to reproduce the unique historical circumstances that gave rise to the “Valley.”
Among other factors, there was a California bar that was reluctant to enforce restrictive anti-compete clauses in employment contracts. California lawyers had a pricing model that exchanged legal service for equity or greatly delayed payments. Stanford and UC Berkeley were front and center in accelerating the pace of commercializing applied research into products and services for the marketplace. Also, there is only one garage where Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard tinkered and launched an industry and a sensibility.
NOEW and Collision highlight the unique competitive advantages New Orleans possesses as we raise the entrepreneurial bar in our city. The city’s relatively compact size forces us to operate in close quarters, and the “collision” of ideas and dreams are more likely to occur when we can bump into friends and neighbors at the coffee shop, book store or a festival. NOEW is a powerful testimony to this “creative combustion” that is more probable here than in larger cities. Idea Village has provided an atmosphere where the seeds of creativity, vision and exploration are watered in an intentional way. Our “fifth season” brings together gamers, big data analysts, attorneys, educators, physicians, university researchers and aspiring entrepreneurs in a stimulating environment that demands an open mind and willingness to question. Magic happens when questioning begins and the “tinkering” starts, and NOEW is our metaphorical “HP garage.”
Collision takes this “creative combustion,” adds New Orleans’ global brand for being mind-expanding and exports it. For the second straight year, we expect to welcome more than 10,000 enthusiastic attendees from beyond our shores. European connectivity will be easier with direct flights through British Airways and similarly with Latin America via Copa Airlines.
Yes, other cities host conferences. Yes, other cities host entrepreneur weeks. But no city does it in a city that created a global musical genre, jazz and the Creole cuisine. Artists need inspiration, and entrepreneurs, while adept at solving business problems, rely on the creative magic of artistic inspiration as much as science and spreadsheets. New Orleans herself is that magician’s assistant that gets entrepreneurs to think more expansively. That’s why NOEW and Collision are more than conferences. They are annual confirmations that the essence that inspired Buddy Bolden, Madame CJ Walker and Dr. Michael DeBakey still lives to inspire the next great creators who will transform industries. There is something truly special about that.
Quentin L. Messer Jr. is president and CEO of the New Orleans Business Alliance.