Five on Five

In honor of Biz New Orleans’ fifth anniversary in print, we asked the top five economic development leaders in the region to share their thoughts on the successes and challenges of the past five years, along with what we can expect in the years to come.

 

Andrew P. Jacques


Executive Director | St. Bernard Economic Development Foundation

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Biggest wins over the past five years?

St. Bernard’s renaissance has been driven by steady growth from our largest employers, a population boom thanks to a thoughtful residential development strategy by St. Bernard Parish government and an unprecedented level of cooperation between the public and private sectors. The headlines are centered around population growth. Arabi ranked as the sixth-fastest growing suburb in America by Realtor.com, and the parish as a whole came in as the eighth-fastest growing small county/parish in the country over the past seven years, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. In other areas, the Meraux Foundation partnered with local artists to strategically cultivate an arts district in Old Arabi, catalyzing additional retail and residential development, and The Ranch Studios endured the uncertainty surrounding the film industry and now boasts new renovations, expansions and an occupancy rate typically near 100%.

Biggest challenges?

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Sunni LeBeouf

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Without a doubt, it’s perception. St. Bernard Parish, and all of our stakeholders, have bought into a bigger-than-me mentality with the mission of building the parish we deserve. Those efforts are paying off with new residential construction that any neighborhood, in any parish, would be envious of, along with a burgeoning cultural arts hub in Old Arabi and a growing list of quality of life amenities. All of this complements the already established highly ranked public school system, world-class fishing and recreation, and an astonishingly low crime rate. In many instances, our challenge isn’t addressing an issue, but instead telling our story more effectively.

What does the next five years hold?

Looking into the crystal ball, I see a well-established base of young families setting down roots to take advantage of the spectacular new residential construction, school system, low crime and proximity to Downtown New Orleans. Did you know the distance between the St. Bernard/Orleans Parish line and Canal Street is only 5 miles? Meanwhile, St. Bernard is well positioned to win two to three “home run” economic development projects in the coming years, with a 600-plus-acre Louisiana Economic Development certified site in Meraux, available opportunities for maritime development along the Mississippi River and the gorgeous, historic former Ford Assembly Plant facility in Old Arabi. As the parish’s demographics continue to trend upward, I also anticipate our diligent focus on retail, mixed-use projects and amenities for the youth to bear additional fruit in the years to come.

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Jerry Bologna


President and CEO | JEDCO

Biggest wins over the past five years?

JEDCO has much to be proud of over the past five years. We have been directly involved in the attraction of nearly $2 billion in new investment and the creation of thousands of new jobs throughout Jefferson Parish. Most notably, we played a major role in the acquisition and subsequent repurposing of the former Avondale Shipyard, which is expected to lead to the creation of 2,000 new jobs. Ochsner’s expansion along Jefferson Highway will mean nearly $400 million in new investment and thousands of new jobs. Meanwhile, the attraction of the Fuji Vegetable Oil plant, as well as national brands like Amazon, Sleep Number and US Foods, continues to signal that Jefferson is a global destination for investment and employment opportunities. At the same time, we have helped usher in a new generation of learning by helping to construct Delgado’s River City Campus and Advanced Manufacturing Center of Excellence right in Churchill Technology and Business Park.

Biggest challenges?

There are several challenges we need to overcome in order to maintain our momentum in economic development. Our legal environment and corporate taxing structure have been cited by corporate relocation executives as impediments to locating in Louisiana. We face additional challenges with flood insurance and the high cost of auto insurance. Additionally, our colleges and universities are producing quality candidates; However, a lack of funding and resources is preventing them from producing a larger employee pool. As economic developers, we can only be successful in attracting and retaining companies if we are able to provide companies with a pipeline of qualified talent.

What does the next five years hold?

The next five years look bright in Jefferson Parish. From the continued revitalization of Fat City to the implementation of an exhaustive master plan for the Churchill area, Jefferson is moving forward on all fronts. We are working with the owners of Elmwood Shopping Center and Clearview Shopping Center on ambitious adaptive reuse plans for their respective properties, which will help us protect our retail base. These plans will include mixed-use developments, which will incorporate residential living with retail and commercial uses. At the same time, we will be implementing an innovative housing pilot program in Terrytown to encourage the construction of new homes and significant renovations and modernization of our existing housing stock. This program is designed to attract the next generation of homebuyers and protect the parish’s tax base. Our hope is that we will be able to replicate this program in other parts of Jefferson Parish. I also believe that the next five years will see a greater focus on destination healthcare as well as our exportable offerings in food manufacturing, healthcare innovation and environmental industries. Jefferson is well positioned, with a diverse economy, to maintain our momentum.

 

Chris Masingill


CEO | St. Tammany Corporation

Biggest wins over the past five years?

St. Tammany Parish has enjoyed some major economic development wins with the announcements of numerous business expansion projects. When companies like Globalstar, Diversified Foods, DANA and Arcosa choose once again to invest in St. Tammany, it reinforces the area’s competitive advantage — a talented workforce, a desirable quality of life and a convenient location within the region and Gulf South.

The opening of Northshore Technical Community College’s Lacombe campus in 2017 created an incredible opportunity for our residents to earn degrees and industry credentials here in St. Tammany, and 2018 signaled a new chapter for economic development in St. Tammany with the dissolution of the St. Tammany Economic Development Foundation and the launch of St. Tammany Corporation. This new brand set the tone for the establishment of a new organizational culture, under new leadership, that operates under an expanded mission and vision. The goal is to build capacity, sophistication and competitiveness to make St. Tammany the destination of choice for high-skill talent and business formation, attraction, expansion and retention. In February 2019, we launched THRIVE2023 – St. Tammany’s five-year economic development strategic plan. The St. Tammany Corporation team is focused on implementing strategic plan objectives; reinforcing our commitment to facilitate economic development in a proactive, forward-thinking and innovative way.

Biggest challenges?

My tenure at St. Tammany Corporation began in July 2018, and since that time, the main challenge has been connecting the landscape with the new way of doing economic development while introducing and reinforcing the new functions of our organization. We are continuing to create a high-performing economic development organization while re-establishing, reconnecting and strengthening our partnerships with agencies and institutions that understand the importance of economic development and advocate for growing jobs and creating wealth, advancing workforce and talent development opportunities, and promoting St. Tammany to be the destination of choice for businesses, families and communities to thrive.

What does the next five years hold?

Workforce and talent continue to drive economic development decisions and data show that our residents are major players in the regional workforce; we take that role and responsibility seriously. We will lead initiatives for sustainable and innovative job creation and retention, while our agile and dedicated education and training partners prepare our residents for current and future employment opportunities. St. Tammany Corporation will be aggressive in our data-driven lead generation efforts to bring new businesses to the area while assisting our existing industries as they grow and mature through our business retention and expansion program. St. Tammany supports opportunities to grow in the scientific and technical services, business and professional services, corporate headquarter relocations, distribution and logistics, water transportation and auto-related transportation industries. By engaging with site selectors in person and through the interactive tools on our website, we will showcase St. Tammany — and our region — as a destination of choice for industry and talent. Additionally, we will evaluate the land and site inventory to gauge opportunities for investment and redevelopment, and assess the entrepreneurial activities in our area to create a business formation strategy that enhances the existing regional assets. Collectively, these efforts will form the foundation of future business and talent development opportunities for St. Tammany to THRIVE.

 

Quentin Messer


President and CEO | New Orleans Business Alliance

Biggest wins over the past five years?

Our biggest wins can be divided into four categories. First is the validation of New Orleans as a regional software tech hub — evidenced by the growth of Lucid and the successful recruitment of GE Digital and ultimately, DXC Technology and Accruent, among others. Second is the continued growth of the bioInnovation and life science sector within the city (i.e., the opening of the new VA hospital, the growth of companies like AxoSim, the launch of New Orleans Health Innovators and unparalleled business development partnerships between LSU and Tulane. Third is the creation of 25 Opportunity Zones throughout the city. Representing 16% of all zones statewide, these zones enable the city to leverage the federal tax code to attract financial capital to historically under-invested areas. Finally, New Orleans has seen significant enhancements to the city’s talent and workforce development system through a restructuring of the Workforce Development Board and deployment of the STRIVE professional development curriculum.

Biggest challenges?

Here, again, they can be divided into four categories.  First is the social impacts of climate change (i.e., developing an economy that is resilient to the global movement toward alternative energy sources), and rapid transformation of the food industry (e.g., Beyond Meat’s market capitalization). Second is the accelerated transformation into a city of lifelong learners (i.e., simultaneously improving our K-12 education system; scaling training programs such as STRIVE and Operation SPARK for opportunity youth); and retaining millennials as they age and start families. Third, we are challenged with retaining citywide hopefulness in the sustained upward trajectory of the local economy amid frustrations of the rising cost of living — particularly in housing costs — and wealth creation disparities facing small business owners of color. Finally, we need to continue to foster the growth of the tourism/hospitality sector through aggressive marketing to national and international audiences while simultaneously augmenting the Business Alliance’s message that New Orleans is open, ready and serious about doing business.

What does the next five years hold?

I expect New Orleans to continue to grow, assuming there are no adverse macroeconomic forces affecting the local, state, regional and national economies. I also believe the accelerated diversification of the local economy will continue as Business Alliance programs such as the New Orleans Health Innovators challenge and MedCity News Conference attract more high potential digital health and bioinnovation companies to our city. The sustained focus on creating a business-friendly policy environment will continue to change outdated external perceptions of our city, thereby making local businesses more confident to invest locally and place New Orleans on the radars of more national site selectors and others involved in business relocation decisions. Our city and its businesses, large and small, will become more empathic to removing non-skill, non-competency-related inhibitors to consistent employment — like transportation, child care and mental health [services] — through greater employer embrace of innovative benefits like EdNavigators and New Orleans Workforce Innovations.

 

Michael Hecht


President & CEO | Greater New Orleans, Inc.

Biggest wins in the past five years?

I would highlight three wins as the most significant for the region over the past five years.

First would be DXC Technology choosing New Orleans for its national “Digital Transformation Center.” This represented the single biggest jobs win in Greater New Orleans and Louisiana history, with 2,000 positions at $60,000-plus salaries. Further, DXC demonstrated that New Orleans could compete and win nationally against competitor cities like Nashville. Finally, DXC moving into the Freeport-McMoRan building both practically and symbolically represented the continuing diversification of the GNO economy, led by tech.

Next, I would go with landing British Airways at MSY. BA is the first non-stop flight to Europe from New Orleans since 1982 and is part of the reason why Louis Armstrong is the fifth-fastest growing airport in the United States over the past decade. GNO, Inc., and the business community realized that we had to ensure our airport was globally connected in order for us to succeed.

Finally, I would pick fixing National Flood Insurance. In saving not only Louisiana, but the nation from the devastating, unintended consequences of Biggert-Waters, GNO, Inc., developed a deep level of relevance both across the region and the nation that continues today.

A nice capstone on our recent economic progress was that New Orleans was recently named “Major Market of the Year” by Southern Business & Development, for the most economic wins in the South, tied for first with Nashville.

Biggest challenges?

Greater New Orleans has had to address a range of challenges, most of which predate Hurricane Katrina. Some of the challenges have been economic, including our historic lack of diversification, and loss of professional jobs, dating back to the 1960s. Other challenges have been more around quality of life and include education and crime. Broadly, the brand of New Orleans has proven to be a double-edged sword: On one hand, people around the world know and love New Orleans. On the other hand, the brand has historically stood for music, food and culture more than business and general quality of life. I am pleased to report that we have made significant progress in all three areas. Today, the single biggest challenge we must tackle is stormwater management.

What does the next five years hold?

Looking into the future, people can expect to see continued economic diversification. Foundational industries like trade, energy and advanced manufacturing have great momentum. At the same time, new industries like tech, life sciences and water management will continue to grow. Key economic assets like the airport and NASA Michoud will maintain their upward trajectory and our schools, public safety and infrastructure improvements will be models for others. Most of all, in an increasingly homogeneous world, the unique culture, human warmth and singular charm of Greater New Orleans will continue to attract new visitors and residents from around the globe.

 

 


 

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