InterCity Austin Trip

Last summer, a select group of Jefferson Parish leaders traveled to the Texas state capital for an in-person exchange of ideas.

For the second time in three years, organizers at the Jefferson Chamber of Commerce put together an insightful, off-site agenda for invited community leaders (private sector, elected officials, nonprofits, educators) to glean proven, positive initiatives from another city that might be applicable to the Greater New Orleans area. 

After tabbing Nashville as the initial ‘InterCity Visit’ destination in 2021, Chamber officials chose to continue this beneficial and forward-thinking exercise in Austin, Texas, this past July.

“Our criteria for selecting cities for these InterCity trips is finding a comparable place with a track record of recent prosperity in multiple facets of life – a healthy economy, a growing population, a quality educational system, a business-friendly climate,” Chamber President Ruth Lawson said. “Austin is a place that has been thriving for close to 30 years and  has dealt with similar opportunities and threats so that’s what made it an ideal location for our second trip.”

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During the three-day visit, the Jefferson Parish contingent engaged with officials from Travis County, Texas, in a series of panel discussions, boardroom presentations and on-site visits. In particular, the group  observed how Austin completely transformed the old Mueller Airport site (which closed in 1999 when Austin-Bergstrom International Airport opened) into a vibrant residential neighborhood/retail center/commercial office space through a private-public partnership.

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Several in the Jefferson Parish traveling group drew parallels from Austin’s success with the old airport to the continued development of the Churchill Technology & Business Park in Avondale.

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“I think in some instances, these trips serve as validation of what we’re doing (in Jefferson Parish) and that we’re on the right track,” said Jerry Bologna, President & CEO of the Jefferson Parish Economic Development Commission. “But in other aspects, it’s an opportunity to see what communities are doing differently than we are that has positioned them for success. What stood out on this Austin trip was the realization that initiatives put in motion years ago to redevelop and ‘put into commerce’ underutilized areas have paid off with long-term benefits,” Bologna continued. “Many of the strategies used were innovative – such as tax incentives – and as a result of those decisions, those targeted areas are thriving.”

In addition to successful land banking projects, the host committee from Austin also shared how the strategically branded suburban communities around the city encourage residential real estate development, how green energy programs have improved quality of life for residents, and how reshaping educational curriculum improved workforce training in “professions of need” in and around Austin.

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Jefferson Parish President Cynthia Lee Sheng, who attended InterCity Austin last summer, said local leaders began putting several of the concepts learned in Texas into action back home nearly immediately after returning. Specifically, Parish leaders met with representatives of Delgado Community College and formed a partnership to shape training to fit the needs of open job positions, so that existing Parish employees can have opportunities for advancement and be promoted from within. Additionally, Jefferson Parish Planning and Building Permits directors scheduled virtual follow-up meetings with their counterparts from Austin and Round Rock, Texas, to learn more about ways to streamline and simplify the permit process to create a more business-friendly environment.

“In Jefferson Parish, we are constantly looking for new processes to bring our services to the next level,” President Lee Sheng said. “I believe innovation in government starts with new ideas and the willingness to try them out. When you see other communities tackle the same problems in a different way, it makes you question your own procedures, and it can be an incredible catalyst for change.”

Intercity Austin Final Logo 2023


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