CityBusiness Guest Perspective: NOLABA Redoubling Efforts to Help Local Small Businesses
New Orleans Business Alliance President and CEO Quentin Messer, Jr., and Lynnette White-Colin, Director of Small Business Ecosystem Development, co-author this “Guest Perspective” column in the September edition of CityBusiness:
Leaders of local businesses have played pivotal roles in our city’s renewal over the last 11 years. The 21,000-plus small businesses in Orleans Parish – from one-person service providers to larger companies with hundreds of employees (the U.S. Small Business Administration classifies those with up to 500 employees as small businesses) form the backbone of our economy. They provide goods and services that support families and civic organizations throughout the region. Many of these small businesses are responsible for the 6 percent increase in income that many New Orleans residents experienced between 2014 and 2015.
More than 90 percent of Orleans Parish employers have fewer than 25 employees. They, and their larger counterparts, provide important services such as dry cleaning, real estate sales, landscaping, home repair, child care and personal and lifestyle services. Others provide marketing, website development, medical coding, temporary labor, construction, or accounting and tax services that sustain our economy.
At the New Orleans Business Alliance (NOLABA), we have redoubled our work to assist local small businesses. A generous three-year investment from the Surdna Foundation enables us to focus business expansion and retention efforts on these “Main Street” businesses, particularly those owned by minorities and women. My co-author, Lynnette White-Colin, recently joined us to lead these efforts as NOLABA’s director of small business ecosystem development.
This specific workstream continues our implementation of “Prosperity NOLA,” the city’s five-year strategic plan for economic growth launched in 2013. Lynnette’s work is central to all of “Prosperity NOLA”; however, this small business ecosystem work addresses our efforts to reposition the New Orleans brand as a place for business and to employ equity as a growth strategy (both identified as important to the city’s economic future).
Every Entergy or Shell began as a small business. By supporting the acceleration of revenue and profit growth for today’s small companies, we are creating more success stories that will reposition New Orleans’ brand as a place for business. In 2017, we’ll be conducting small business outreach and listening sessions to identify any gaps that may remain in the technical assistance landscape and find solutions to fill in those voids. In future guest perspectives, we’ll report on our progress convening technical assistance providers, chambers of commerce, government and other stakeholders to ensure that all are coordinated and focused on removing any inhibitors that prevent our small businesses from taking their companies to the next growth stage.
Beginning with Idea Village’s formation in the late 1990s, New Orleans has been fortunate to have a network of accelerators to aid high-growth, largely technology entrepreneurs scale to ever-closer strategic exits. These exits will create new wealth – akin to the “Dell-inaires” in Austin – for reinvestment in New Orleans. To create a more durable, inclusive economic prosperity for all New Orleanians, we must ensure equivalent support for Main Street businesses (i.e., non-tech companies that frequently are not candidates for incubation among the network of local incubators). We at NOLABA commit to doing just that with this small business ecosystem workstream.
By working to enhance opportunities for Main Street small businesses through increasing their procurement opportunities with larger companies and institutions unlikely to leave New Orleans, NOLABA will help create more employment for our hardest-to-employ fellow citizens. New contracts create new growth for small businesses. New growth helps generate new wealth in the city, which in turn rewards entrepreneurial risk and benefits local not-for-profits and cultural institutions. Like economic development, more broadly, small business development truly matters.
Quentin L. Messer Jr. is president and CEO of the New Orleans Business Alliance. Lynnette White-Colin is director of small business ecosystem development.