New Orleans Business Alliance Wins 5 Excellence In Economic Development Awards

NEW ORLEANS – New Orleans Business Alliance vice president of program development and strategy Alejandra Guzman made history Monday, Sept. 18, when she became the first Hispanic woman to win the International Economic Development Council’s Young Economic Development Professional of the Year Award.

         This distinction recognizes outstanding achievements by a young, emerging leader in the economic development profession. Guzman, 36, received the award at the IEDC annual conference in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, alongside NOLABA CEO Quentin L. Messer, Jr. and Board Chair Henry Coaxum, Jr.

         “I’m honored to be the first Hispanic woman to receive this award,” said Guzman, who joined NOLABA in 2016 and works to implement holistic approaches to attract and retain talent in New Orleans. “My passion is creating positive social change in the world, and the skills I’ve developed during my professional and academic career are integral to my success as an economic development professional.”

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         Guzman remains connected to the Latin community via the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and also by writing a bi-weekly column at Meridiano 90, which is a New Orleans online and printed newspaper with 5,000 weekly printed copies in Spanish.

         Coaxum, NOLABA’s Board chair since its inception in 2010,  received the 2017 Chairman’s Award for Lifetime Achievement in Economic Development. This award honors influential leaders who have shown exemplary commitment to economic development throughout their careers, and Coaxum has worked tirelessly through the past 30 years to promote economic prosperity and improve the lives of those living in his hometown of New Orleans. He owns three McDonald’s restaurants and a state-of-the-art training center that not only serves his own employees but also the needs of other community organizations.

         Coaxum’s dedication to his community was reinforced after he lost all three of his restaurants, an office complex, and his own home in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. He worked swiftly to get his nearly 300 employees back to work, and just six months after the storm, he purchased and reopened the St. Charles Avenue McDonald’s restaurant, the first in the area to open its doors. For his disaster recovery efforts, he received the Phoenix Award from the U.S. Small Business Administration in 2008.

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         The Anchor Collaborative launched in 2014 through a partnership among NOLABA, the Network for Economic Opportunity, Greater New Orleans Foundation and 15 major employers committed to expanding employment and contracting opportunities to local residents and businesses. The Anchor Collaborative was formed to deliver customized strategies to help businesses connect to a needed workforce and also strives to connect disadvantaged job seekers with high-growth sectors.

         An additional goal is to provide access for employers to five Workforce Opportunity Centers that assess candidates and provide intensive workforce readiness training with a one-year period of proactive post-placement support. By creating a unique business engagement model, the Network for Economic Opportunity reshaped the way anchor institutions, the public sector, small businesses, nonprofits and residents have oriented themselves toward economic growth and workforce development, reps said.

         The Outlet Collection at Riverwalk opened in 2014 as the first downtown outlet mall in the nation, generating more than $300 million in sales and 12 million visitors, and averaging 1,200 new jobs created per year. Nordstrom Rack opened in October 2016 as its second anchor store after NOLABA vice president Brenda Canada encouraged the Riverwalk as an ideal site for Nordstrom Rack’s expansion.

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         “On behalf of the IEDC Board of Directors and Excellence in Economic Development Awards Advisory Committee, congratulations to the New Orleans Business Alliance,” said IEDC Board chair Michael Langley, FM, CEO of GREATER MSP, Minneapolis–St. Paul, Minn. “Not only did they work to provide necessary services to their community; but also, their participation in the awards program sheds light on their stellar projects which other communities can now use as a benchmark.”

         NOLABA also won a Silver Excellence in Economic Development Award from IEDC for its WhyNOLA campaign.

         NOLABA launched its WhyNOLA campaign in August 2016 to continue promoting New Orleans as an advantageous city to start and grow businesses. The campaign is multi-faceted in execution, including video vignettes, blog posts on and graphics on social media. The content spotlights members of the New Orleans business community across all industries, from company CEOs to younger entrepreneurs, who tell their stories and encourage others to discover New Orleans as a place both to live and to work.

          “The awards process is a thorough, non-biased and multi-layered process,” Langley said. “These are extraordinary accomplishments for all winners, and an overall great effort by all participants. We look forward to next year’s awards competition.”

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