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Thursday, August 24, 2017

Opinion: New Orleans Business Alliance responds to 'Is New Orleans Worth It?'

Posted By on Thu, Aug 24, 2017 at 5:00 PM

Editor's note: Our cover story this week, "Is New Orleans Worth It?," has been widely read and discussed both on our website and Facebook page. State Sen. Conrad Appel wrote his own response on the website The Hayride. Author Kat Stromquist will be on Informed Sources Aug. 25 and The 504 Aug. 29 to discuss it further, as well as on Oliver Thomas' WBOK radio show very soon.

In the meantime, Quentin L. Messer Jr., head of the New Orleans Business Alliance, has written his own response, which we are publishing here.

click to enlarge Quentin Messer, head of the New Orleans Business Alliance.
  • Quentin Messer, head of the New Orleans Business Alliance.
click to enlarge screen_shot_2017-08-24_at_4.53.35_pm.png

“Is New Orleans Worth It?” was a compelling read on multiple levels. As the article outlines, there is very real disappointment among some in our local economy’s ability to absorb talented professionals. As leader of the New Orleans Business Alliance (NOLABA), the economic development organization focused on growing the New Orleans economy, I felt compelled to respond.

First, despite the tremendous progress that has been made in our local economy, significant work remains for NOLABA and other partners in economic development, like Louisiana Economic Development, GNO, Inc. and the City, to create a robust economy that is capable of creating high-quality opportunities for talented corporate and not-for-profit management professionals who want to live in New Orleans.

Moreover, the need to grow job opportunities is not isolated to the professionals profiled in “Is New Orleans Worth It?” It extends to New Orleanians across the full range of educational attainment and skill ability, notably returning citizens and other friends and neighbors who might encounter barriers to stable employment. NOLABA is dedicated to this work of helping local companies expand, thereby creating more employment opportunities. In addition to retaining and growing our current companies, we are working actively to attract new companies to our city. Further, NOLABA is engaged with our partners to grow small businesses and create more successful high growth companies since nearly 90 percent of all companies in New Orleans are small- and medium-sized businesses as defined by the federal government. And our startup ecosystem is stronger — New Orleans has more Inc. 5000 companies than any other city in Louisiana this year!
Second, we recognize that plans and work don’t matter unless positive impact is felt by people dealing with real disappointments, so we stand ready to connect with individuals and organizations willing to join us in our work to retain those have made the decision to live in our great city. The article quoted my colleague Mary Matthews, who leads 504ward. In addition to Mary’s efforts directing an organization whose mission is to retain young professionals, on September 28, NOLABA will hold a “Winning in the Talent Marketplace” symposium focused on talent attraction and retention strategies. Contact us at 504-934-4500 or visit www.nolaba.org for more information about this important event.

Last, we must remain hopeful about our city. The answer to the question, “Is New Orleans worth it?” is “Absolutely yes, New Orleans is.” Like any city, we do have our challenges; however, I challenge you to name a nearly 300-year-old entity without challenges. This is not to minimize the disappointment that is being experienced by too many. However, I submit that if we cease to speak positively about our city, how can we expect to attract the human and financial capital required to address public safety, infrastructure and other factors that adversely affect our city’s competitiveness for talent and capital? We can’t keep losing talent if we want a prosperous economy for ourselves and future New Orleanians.

In addition to coming together to find solutions to limitations in our talent marketplace, in October, collectively, we have an important choice to make in our citywide elections. Let’s demonstrate that New Orleans is worth it by continuing to educate the candidates on the importance of focusing on economic growth and retaining talent in order to have the financial resources to support critical government services. Voting on Oct. 14 will make our voices heard.

We can overcome our challenges, and we will. You don’t get to be 300 without being worth it.

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