Whirlwind of Development and Opportunities Continue in New Orleans Region
When I moved back to New Orleans from New York City in 2009, I didn’t know what to expect. Sure, I was excited to be closer to family, have a steady supply of fresh seafood, and be forever rid of my black down jacket. But the anchor of career prospects outside of the tourism and oil & gas industries seemed wishful. This worry was unfounded because New Orleans and surrounding parishes have been experiencing a whirlwind of development activity, attracting new companies, expanding existing ones, and creating more jobs and wealth in the region. Progress has been especially evident in the past two years and was succinctly summarized at ULI Louisiana’s 4th Annual What’s REALly Going On event.
Representatives from Jefferson, St. Charles, Orleans, and St. Bernard Parishes spoke of their long-term development plans and current projects underway. One of my favorite projects to hear about was the $60 million NOLA Motorsports Park being built in Avondale in Jefferson Parish. This sprawling 750-acre facility south of the TPC Louisiana Golf Course is the closest thing to heaven for a speed demon, where adults and kids alike can euphorically zip around the racetrack. Upon completion, this will be the longest racetrack in North America. Zoom, zoom!
In St. Charles, Parish President VJ St. Pierre cited $2.7 billion worth of planned industrial expansion. This includes projects like the Valero Green Diesel Facility and Dow Ethylene Expansion (each estimated to be $400 million), the $238 million Praxair Hydrogen Plant, and the $190 million Air Products Hydrogen Plant. A good education system and low crime rates which contribute to a high quality of life were a few major reasons convincing companies to expand into the parish.
Hearing the various presenters speak about their strategies and plans to attract new business to their parishes, I couldn’t help but wonder if there might be overlap in efforts and market cannibalization. After all, we all reside in Louisiana and, while each parish has autonomy over its economic development, our resources would be more effective with greater coordination and organization among all players. Michael Hecht from GNO, Inc. did note coordination among the parishes and highlighted key industries that the 10-parish Greater New Orleans region is targeting for new investment and development. Three of the sectors – Advanced Manufacturing, Energy, and International Trade – focus on building on the region’s existing strengths. The remaining sectors – Software & Digital, BioSciences, and Sustainable Industries – focus on leveraging regional assets to create new, diversified opportunities.
The New Orleans region has attracted a diverse spectrum of companies ranging from Gameloft, the Paris-based video game developer, to Blade Dynamics, the wind turbine manufacturer.
I think our country, states, parishes, and individual businesses can learn from GNO, Inc.’s successful use of a strategic analysis to define the region’s strengths which can then be turned into opportunities. Our firm recently conducted an internal SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) analysis to quantify our collective strengths as a company and to identify opportunities that would complement these strengths. It was a productive morning where each staff member not only learned an interesting fact or two about another, but gained a clearer idea of areas where we could develop more business.
New Orleans certainly isn’t the place I expected when I arrived in 2009. It’s better. The city is humming with activity and being touted as an outstanding place to live and work. Companies nationally and internationally are noticing our attractiveness and I’m certain we have the tools and leadership to reel them in. In the midst of all of this positive outreach, though, we need to ensure we are nurturing the companies that already exist in our region. More on that in my next blog article.
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