New Orleans is the third most COVID-19 exposed metro area in the country, outside of Las Vegas and Orlando, due to its reliance on hospitality/leisure spending. Within New Orleans, key communities that were once thriving or emerging entrepreneurial hubs, after years of disinvestment and natural disasters, now struggle to regain footing as we enter the post-pandemic world. To address the record economic fallout while supporting the entrepreneurial community, the City of New Orleans and the New Orleans Business Alliance (NOLABA) launched a $250,000 pilot program to harvest businesses and commercial corridors within the following seven neighborhoods identified as part of the NOLABA Strategic Neighborhood Development (SND) Strategy: New Orleans East, Lower 9, Hollygrove, Gert Town, Gentilly, Treme, and Algiers.
The program is designed to provide small seed funding and technical assistance to help implement strategies to sustain their presence through this period of economic downturn and recovery. Technical assistance is tailored to the needs of each business participating in the program to support pivoting business models for stronger virtual and remote work and critical cross-sector business collaboration allowing them to enter new markets to expand and scale businesses.
In addition to direct support for businesses within these prime areas, NOLABA invested $100,000 in projects that advance commercial revitalization efforts and build economic development capacity within the seven targeted neighborhoods through partnerships with the New Orleans Redevelopment Authority (NORA) and a coalition of community organizations. The projects include business retention, attraction, and placemaking activities intended to increase the economic vitality of these important New Orleans neighborhoods, directly benefiting small businesses and the surrounding residents they serve.
As part of an intentional and strategic response to meet the needs of these vital communities, the City of New Orleans and NOLABA launched a joint program called the “Resilient Corridors Initiative” to provide financial support to these businesses. This customized support will help ensure their ability to maintain operations through COVID-19 and allow them to continue to act as anchors for future economic growth within these strategic neighborhoods. NOLABA and the City invested $250k to initiate the pilot program, to support a cohort of 40 businesses currently located, or with plans to expand within our impact neighborhoods. Businesses chosen to participate in the pilot program received $5,000 in grant funding and customized technical support from a cadre of diverse experts and practitioners to help implement strategies to sustain their presence through this period of economic downturn and recovery.
Through an initial $250,000 from the City, a cohort of 40 businesses currently located in or with plans to expand within the seven Resilient Corridors was chosen to participate in the pilot program and received $5,000 in grant funding and currently receiving technical support from a cadre of diverse experts and practitioners in business planning, marketing, technology and access to capital. The goal is to help these businesses implement strategies to sustain their presence through this pandemic-related economic downturn and recovery period. Technical assistance is tailored specifically to the unique needs of each business participating in the pilot program.
In 2020, the Economic Development Administration launched the SPRINT Challenge to harness America’s entrepreneurial potential to address the economic, health, and safety risks caused by the coronavirus pandemic through entrepreneurship and innovation. This national competition supports the development, creation, or expansion of programs such as the Resilient Corridors Initiative that accelerate place-based economic development and respond to the challenges caused by the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.
In partnership with the EDA, the City, and other collaborative partners, NOLABA will use this grant to provide additional technical assistance and build capacity for another 40 small business owners. The grant funding will allow for over 600 additional hours of direct technical assistance and hands-on support with legal issues, marketing, branding, back-office operations, accounting, and more. The seven neighborhoods selected to participate in Resilient Corridors have experienced decades of disinvestment, making the impacts of COVID-19 especially devastating. Utilizing a place-based approach and leveraging the current resiliency factors of communities like New Orleans East, Treme, and Algiers (e.g., physical assets and current industry clustering), these neighborhoods will serve as the hubs of entrepreneurial-led efforts to transform the overall New Orleans economy.
With its receipt of this grant, NOLABA and partners will work closely alongside local entrepreneurs to reimagine product innovation, showcase the cultural richness of New Orleans, and carve a space for entrepreneurial ideation in thriving industries like biotech, healthcare, and food production.