by Rodrick T. Miller, President and CEO New Orleans Business Alliance
New Orleans’ strength is in its historic diversity in population and industry. Historic immigrant communities included French, Spanish, American, and African people. Legacy industries such as trade, oil and gas, manufacturing and tourism have built our strong economic foundation; while emerging industries such as film production, biotech, sustainable industries and digital media are charting our future course.
As Thanksgiving and the holiday season approaches, I am thankful for the innate diversity in our community, however, I know that we must do a better job of including all New Orleanians in our path to economic growth. The unfortunate truth is that New Orleans is one of the least equitable cities in the nation. Although 69% of New Orleans residents identify as a racial minority, our community has the highest income gap between minority and white residents of any major US city. In 2012, one in two of our working-age black men are unemployed. To begin to combat these systemic issues from an economic perspective, New Orleans needs a focused effort to create opportunities for all residents to prosper.
Our strategic plan for economic development, ProsperityNOLA, targets equity as a critical driver for establishing prosperity in our community. Equity is not only a moral issue; it is an economic imperative. A more equitable New Orleans will see a reduction in crime, lower unemployment rates, an increased tax base, and increased educational attainment. In ProsperityNOLA, we have identified three strategies and action steps that must be taken to increase equity in New Orleans.
The first is preparing our workforce: we have to strengthen our system to connect people with jobs and training opportunities. By developing demand-driven workforce programs with key training and private sector partners, we can fuel the growth of the burgeoning creative digital media and bioinnovation sectors and reestablish our strength as a manufacturing hub. Furthermore, by mapping clear career ladders within these industries, we can raise awareness of career opportunities for young New Orleanians and make local hiring a reality.
The second is promoting entrepreneurship and small business development. We know that minority owned businesses make up 38% of all businesses in Orleans Parish, but looking at businesses with employees, that number drops to 14%. Disparities exist in terms of dollars also: average annual revenues for minority owned companies are $885,000, while average annual revenues for white owned companies are $1.68 million. Solutions include a variety of programs and tools, such as incubator models to grow small businesses, increased coordination across public & private entities, increased access to capital opportunities, and coordinated technical assistance.
The third is to promote equity as an economic growth strategy to business leadership. Inclusion and access are the biggest challenges we face. We must develop and support strategies to connect disadvantaged businesses with opportunities through mentor-protégé programs, and by encouraging anchor institutions such as colleges and hospitals to contract with local minority owned businesses for services. By fostering strong relationships between minority and majority businesses, we will overcome the challenges of inclusion and access by building capacity and uncovering synergies to build a unified business culture.
You can participate in promoting equity no matter what your role is. New Orleans’ economy is already strong, but equity will be a key to fully realizing our potential.
There is much work to be done. Achieving the goals of ProsperityNOLA and increasing equity in business will require investments of time, money and resources. Business leaders must stand together as a community and affirm that valuing diversity in business and promoting equity means we will have an even stronger economy in New Orleans for ourselves, and generations to come.
In the Summer 2013 issue of Southern Business and Development, New Orleans ranked #1 of all major cities in the US Southern region for the greatest number of corporate projects between 2003–2012. This positive ranking indicates the strong economic performance of New Orleans in recent years, and its competitive position relative to other major cities in the region for business investment.
In New Orleans, thinking internationally is in our DNA. Our port and geographic position at the mouth of the Mississippi River, skilled local workforce, and transportation infrastructure, have made the city a center of trade for nearly three centuries. President Obama’s visit to the Port of New Orleans last Friday, and the recent news that New Orleans led the nation in exports per capita in 2012, confirms the scale of our opportunity in growing international trade and Foreign Direct Investment (FDI or insourcing companies).
FDI represents one of the best ways to see large-scale increases in jobs, construction, research and development, local purchasing, and reinvestment. Louisiana has had significant success in attracting FDI recently (Sasol’s recent project in Lake Charles), and Southern states as a whole have increased their share of FDI from 33% to 37% between 2003 and 2012. The Michoud Assembly Facility, favorable tax credits, and our burgeoning workforce are key advantages that demonstrate our competitiveness to international companies. Foreign firms like Gameloft are tapping into local creative talent while Blade Dynamics found the perfect manufacturing facility for their needs at Michoud. FDI supports a strong and sustainable economy by:
Stephen Moret was appointed secretary of Louisiana Economic Development (LED) by Gov. Bobby Jindal in January 2008. As the leader of Gov. Jindal’s economic development team, Moret has transformed LED into one of the top state economic development agencies in the country.
Q: What are the major benefits of doing business in Louisiana that you hear most often about from international investors?
When multinational companies seek to expand into the U.S., they typically look for three key assets: a business-friendly investment climate; availability of an extensive infrastructure that provides access to large consumer markets; and an efficient and available workforce that meets their needs.
Louisiana has clear advantages in all three of these areas. We consistently rank in the Top 10 nationally in several business climate rankings; our infrastructure in terms of ports, rail, highways and pipelines is second to none; and Louisiana’s workforce – combined with the best state workforce development program in the nation, LED FastStart® – meets the demands of the contemporary economy across an array of leading industries.
Q: What are Louisiana Economic Development’s major activities to attract international investment to Louisiana?
Over the past few years, Louisiana has become a global powerhouse in attracting large-scale, multibillion-dollar international projects. Foreign, multinational companies – such as Sasol, Shell, Gameloft, and Benteler – have taken advantage of Louisiana’s unique assets and LED’s custom-fit, public-private partnerships to develop workforce and infrastructure. That said, we firmly believe we can capture an even larger share of global investment.
LED conducts a variety of activities to attract foreign direct investment (FDI) to Louisiana, such as marketing missions to other parts of the world (e.g., Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Germany, France, India), advertising in international publications, and relationship building with top global site-selection consultants. Additionally, we develop and invest in targeted higher-education programs, workforce development initiatives, infrastructure, and customized incentives to make Louisiana competitive for specific FDI projects.
LED and the Louisiana Board of International Commerce recently commissioned the state’s first International Commerce Master Plan. The plan establishes a blueprint for success in FDI and trade promotion, and it includes targeted initiatives focused on infrastructure, workforce development, trade outreach, lead generation, and organizational best practices. We’re delighted to have the board’s support in executing this ambitious plan, which will result in greater global competitiveness for Louisiana and thousands of new job opportunities for our state.[Continue Reading...]