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Hecht: Hope and Optimism for New Orleans' Future

Marine from Camp Lejeune, N.C., marks a home to indicate he found no occupants as houses in the lower Ninth Ward are checked for bodies or people who are still stranded more than two weeks after Hurricane Katrina hit.
Linda Rosler | NY Daily News Archive | Getty Images
Marine from Camp Lejeune, N.C., marks a home to indicate he found no occupants as houses in the lower Ninth Ward are checked for bodies or people who are still stranded more than two weeks after Hurricane Katrina hit.

Reflecting at "K5" (five years after Hurricane Katrina), it is tempting to claim success.

Our population is back; we outperformed the nation through the recession; global companies are moving to our region; reforms are making New Orleans a better place; and, of course, the Saints are world champions.

But the truth is, it’s too early to claim success. We have been buoyed by a short-term recovery economy, and significant long-term challenges remain. Decades are not reversed in days.

To really know if we have succeeded, to really know if we have created a New Orleans region better than before, we have to go out ten years. Here we will find the “new normal” that will come to pass after the Katrina money has run dry, and the economy is left to stand on its own.

At this point—at "K10"—we will be able to sit back, and reflect. And if indeed we have been successful, here is what it may look like:

  • New Orleans will be one of the great boutique cities in America. In a world of creeping sameness, NOLA will shine as a beacon of culture and cosmopolitan flair, attracting professionals and tourists, alike.

  • Globalstar, which recently relocated here from Silicon Valley, will prove to be the thin edge of a digital wedge, as dozens of firms move to Greater New Orleans and create “Silicon Valley South.”

  • Showing that you can make lemonade from oily water, Southeastern Louisiana will have become a global hub for sustainable industry. The “green” revolution, heralded by the recent move of Blade Dynamics to Michoud, will create thousands of jobs, diversifying our economy while sustaining our environment.

  • At the same time, next wave oil production will remain a significant—and safe—part of our economic mix, while Louisiana finally gets the royalty share it has so long deserved, to help fund restoration of the coast.

  • Greater New Orleans will reclaim the mantle of “Gateway to the Americas,” with reinvestment in its ports, rekindling of relationships with partners like Brazil, and a refocus on value-added port-side production.

  • Innovation will flourish, proving Entrepreneur magazine right: “In the midst of one of the worst national economies in decades, New Orleans is recreating itself as a hive of entrepreneurial initiative.”

  • Unprecedented—and ongoing—reforms will have finally addressed the four historic “dissatisfiers”: education, crime, corruption and flood protection, and Greater New Orleans will be as famous for its quality-of-life as for its food and music.

  • And of course, the Saints will have won their sixth straight world championship.
Source: Goody Clancy

If this is Greater New Orleans at "K10"—if this is even close—it will be the place we’ve always aspired to: with a diverse and resilient economy, a renowned quality of life, and an unquestioned reputation as one of the great places in the country to grow a company, or a family.

I think we can get there. I believe we are part of one of the great revitalizations of our lifetimes. Why? Because our fundamental advantages are still in place, our challenges are being addressed, and our leadership, energy and focus are unrivaled.

It is appropriate that we take a moment to pause and reflect at "K5."

But tomorrow, it’s back to work. "K10" is coming.

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As the CEO of Greater New Orleans, Inc., Michael Hecht leads an organization whose mission falls broadly into two categories: business development—marketing the region to businesses—and product development—creating better conditions for business. The ultimate vision is to make the region one of the best places in the country for both a business, and a family.

More information can be found at www.gnoinc.org.