A Merging of the Minds

Partnership between GNO, Inc. and WTCNO is a win-win

Letting the world know Louisiana is open for global business, the respective boards of the World Trade Center New Orleans (WTCNO) and Greater New Orleans, Inc. (GNO, Inc.) have approved an operational partnership between the two organizations. WTCNO will move into GNO, Inc., forming an International Trade division within the entity.

In addition to a dedicated international trade division, the WTCNO offers GNO, Inc. global recognition, along with access to all World Trade Centers. At the same time, GNO, Inc. provides the World Trade Center with wraparound services and support of a successful economic development organization, says Michael Hecht, President & CEO of GNO, Inc.

“Together, both organizations are going to be stronger,” he says. 

- Sponsors -

Established more than 75 years ago as The International House with the goal of promoting international trade following World War II, WTCNO was the first of what’s become more than 300 World Trade Centers, spanning nearly 100 countries across the globe. Since its conception, WTCNO has hosted dignitaries from around the world while fostering peaceful international relations through diplomacy and free trade. 

“There’s a rule of thumb in every business, that either you acquire, be acquired, merge or you go out of business,” says Ed Webb, CEO of WTCNO. “The board of directors looked at me and said, ‘The last option is not an option.’” 

Webb felt that nonprofits—and not just the World Trade Center—were struggling. 

- Partner Content -

Entergy’s Energy Smart Program Brings Cost Conscious Innovation to New Orleans

Offering comprehensive energy efficiency at no cost to the consumer, Entergy’s Energy Smart program incentivizes Entergy New Orleans customers to perform energy-saving upgrades in...

“We had money in the bank, and we have over $2 million in our foundation, but we weren’t growing,” Webb says. “And with the pandemic, and then supply chain challenges, we kept seeing more businesses struggling.”

Webb consulted with his board leadership about the organization’s next step.

“You have to pivot. Rethink what you’re doing today, and look toward the future,” Webb says, adding that inevitably, discussions about acquiring or partnering with other organizations followed.

- Sponsors -

“The World Trade Center, in its core function, is international economic development,” Webb says. “The more we began talking to these other organizations, and talking to Michael, it made sense to partner.”

Webb commends his board for pushing the partnership concept forward and helping the finished product come to fruition.

“It’s a very non-selfish board, doing the right thing for this organization, for this community and for the state,” he says.

With direct GNO, Inc. support, existing WTCNO programs and services—business development, trade policy, trade committees, along with awards and events—will be enhanced and unfurled statewide.

Webb believes that in simplest terms, the partnership combines two stellar organizations—one that needed a “lift” from an aggressive, progressive organization, and another that wanted that an international element in its fabric.

“Michael realizes, like we all do, that we’re a global economy,” Webb says. “He is on a roll right now with some great things that he’s doing here. And he just came to us and said, ‘Look, I need this in our equation. So let’s make this work.’” 

Webb calls attention to Hecht’s “incredible reach” and his fresh message. 

“GNO, Inc. never really settles on one idea. They keep pushing the envelope, and getting it better,” says Webb. “In this current and future economy, people want new ideas.”

The synergy that comes from sharing an office is also exciting, Webb adds.

With a history dating back to 1902, GNO, Inc.—one of the top economic development organizations in the country—attracts companies, jobs and wealth to southeast Louisiana, and in doing so, creates a better environment for business investment in the region. 

As for how GNO, Inc. will benefit, creating a dedicated international trade division within the organization and gaining access to over 300 World Trade Center locations around the world will help the economic development engine both expand its resources and gain traction in new territories. 

Hecht says that, although GNO, Inc. is renowned locally, it’s not well-recognized outside of Louisiana, whereas the World Trade Center is a global brand. “It now gives us much better global brand name recognition.”

Hecht says that, together, the organizations will focus on three goals: encouraging investment in Louisiana from foreign companies; seeking opportunities for local and state companies abroad; and working on policies or issues that impact international trade.

Not only will the two organizations benefit from the partnership, but Louisiana will as well.

“As we’re coming out of COVID—and now with the war in Ukraine—international trade, particularly global supply chains, are being reshaped in the most dramatic way in decades,” Hecht says. “If Louisiana is able to focus on these changes, and how we can take advantage of them, it’s going to mean new opportunities for us in the future, in terms of both trade and foreign direct investment. The World Trade Center at GNO, Inc. will now be driving this focus.”

Hecht says the WTCNO, first formed in New Orleans, now has the opportunity to reassert its historical place as one of the premier World Trade Centers across the globe. 

“This will benefit the overall reputation of Louisiana as a premier trade destination,” he says.

Webb says the partnership signals to international ports that Louisiana is developing relationships beyond the state and the country. 

“Louisiana is open for global business,” Webb says, “and we’re serious about it.”

The model of “WTCNO @ GNO, Inc.” is based on other successful partnerships, such as one in Houston, where the World Trade Center is housed at the Greater Houston Partnership. WTCNO will begin to operate out of GNO, Inc. this spring.

Greg Rusovich, who will serve as the inaugural chair of the Trade Strategy Task Force for the combined entities, expects the partnership to pave the way for a surplus of statewide jobs and business.

“Frequently, we’ll find that when strong organizations come together, it gives an opportunity for scale,” he says. “And it gives an opportunity for depth, to be able to reach out to the global market with a single voice. And that single voice and focus—or, international trade—can be a tremendous assist for the state in growing our global trade and growing our ports.”

Rusovich acknowledged that organizations in Louisiana “speak with many different voices,” which sometimes leads to parochialism and confusion abroad. The partnership creates a single voice that’s aligned to speak on international trade, to serve the global market and to all be on one team. 

“Entities around the globe will come into Louisiana, or look at Louisiana, and see a lot of different entities doing the same thing, or speaking with different voices,” he says. “It’s important to be aligned with our strategies, with our marketing efforts, and with our service capacity.”

Digital Sponsors / Become a Sponsor

Follow the issues, companies and people that matter most to business in New Orleans.

Email Newsletter

Sign up for our email newsletter