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What’s Jazz Fest Got To Do With Small Businesses & Economic Development Week

nola quentin messer business allianceToday marks the beginning of National Small Business Week and National Economic Development Week, and the start of Jazz Fest withdrawal. Focusing on the positive, it is highly appropriate to connect celebrations of business creativity and economic vibrancy to Jazz Fest.

Let me explain.

The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival (simply Jazz Fest) is one of the nation’s largest music, food and cultural events. Its history makes it an incredible example of economic development rooted in small business development, and a driving force for economic growth in our city.

Fifty short years ago, Jazz Fest was a small gathering celebrating New Orleans music and culture. Today, it boasts hundreds of thousands of attendees, more than 680 musical acts in two weekends, and contributes as much as $400 million to the city.

Beyond Jazz Fest’s direct economic impact, it helped brand New Orleans as a festival city and set the stage for Summer’s Essence Festival and Fall’s Voodoo Music + Arts Experience.

Celebrating National Economic Development Week 

In terms of National Economic Development Week, Jazz Fest is an important example of a great business retention/expansion project.

As we have enjoyed Jazz Fest’s sonic and culinary treats, the elements of any great art experience are not dissimilar from those required of a vibrant business environment: great initial creativity, continual refinement, responsiveness to audience feedback and service, rain or shine.


Daily in New Orleans, more of our friends and neighbors are benefitting from the commercial artistry of entrepreneurs and executives in companies such as GE Digital, DXC Technology, and Accruent. Local business creativity is not confined to technology companies.  Multi-generation companies in more traditional industry sectors such as Shell, Laitram, Canal Barge, Woodward Design+Build, Barriere and Boh Brothers have endured the muddiness of business cycles to perform at high levels for our city.  No sector has been untouched by technology and the talent that older businesses brought to our city fashioned an environment that assisted in shaping newer companies such as Lucid, iSeatz, LevelSet, and Big Easy Bucha among others.

Alongside our partners at Louisiana Economic Development, the City of New Orleans and regionally with GNO, Inc., The Business Alliance is working to add more businesses to a lineup that is creating wealth and jobs. We can empathize with well-known Jazz Fest challenges since we face cancellations, forces beyond our control, and audience frustration with the rate of growth and diversity within our community.

Trust and believe, we recognize that there is pent-up demand for a business lineup that reflects and leverages the native-born entrepreneurial talent in our city. Work remains to be done, however, rain or shine, my colleagues and I are committed to presenting the best representation of the New Orleans economy that we can to local, national and international audiences.

Happy 50th Anniversary Jazz Fest  

In honor of National Economic Development and Small Business Weeks, happy anniversary New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival! Your evolution and growth is not only inspiring but also instructive as we seek to better capture locally the dollars that New Orleans’ artists have generated for so many others globally.

And, in honor of National Small Business Week, happy 50th to all the stage managers, musical acts, artists, food vendors and culture bearers who have come together for five decades to make this event a truly economic win for all.

If you want to learn more about the New Orleans Business Alliance’s inclusive economic development and small business growth efforts, make plans to attend our annual meeting on June 27.

Our theme is “Economic Development Reimagined”, and our guest speaker is Arnold Donald, a New Orleans native and CEO of Carnival Corp. As leader of one of the world’s most successful corporations, Mr. Donald knows that creatively focusing on new, untapped markets utilizing all available talents offers great economic benefit.

At the Business Alliance’s Annual Meeting, we’ll show you how we work to promote support, and grow our culture, focus on equitable and inclusive economic development, and strive to bring prosperity to all New Orleanians, rain or shine.  As artists feed upon the crowd’s energy, we hope that you will join us next month in person as we enter the next song of the greatest economic redevelopment set in American history:  the reimagining of a New Orleans economy that works for everyone and is competitive with any city.


Quentin Messer, Jr.

President and CEO


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