The Destination is GNO

An online resource is changing the way people see and experience Greater New Orleans

Ask anyone what they imagine when they think of New Orleans, and whether they’ve been here or not, the answer will likely include one of the following: live music, delicious food, vibrant nightlife and can’t-miss festivals that encapsulate the heart and spirit of the south.

Sure, all those descriptions would be true, but how many people would describe the Greater New Orleans region as one of the country’s most family-friendly areas, a top destination for outdoor activities, or as one of the fastest-growing technology hubs in the nation? The reality is that Greater New Orleans is all that and more, and in order for the region to realize its maximum potential, people have to start seeing it that way.

Consider it a matter of perception, one that DestinationGNO is actively working to change. Created by GNO, Inc. and sponsored by Chevron, DestinationGNO is an online resource that shows not only what it might be like to play in New Orleans, but to live and work, or to spread roots and raise a family. Because behind the lights, colors and sounds, this region holds unlimited possibilities for people of all ages, backgrounds and interests to define the ways in which their careers and lifestyles intersect.

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“One of the biggest hurdles we face in our line of work is that a lot of people have an impression of New Orleans from Mardi Gras or a bachelor party they attended here once, so they don’t think of Greater New Orleans as a place where they can have a generally normal existence,” says Evie Poitevent, Human Capital Manager at GNO, Inc. and one of the key players in the redevelopment of DestinationGNO.

Originally launched several years ago, the site was recently the subject of a complete overhaul to both refine and revitalize its messaging. Featuring abundant imagery, at-a-glance statistics, a neighborhood finder and an ever-expanding list of companies that call GNO home, the site holds the potential to change perception with one visit.

“With DestinationGNO, we’re hoping to debunk a lot of those myths, stereotypes and caricatures of New Orleans, and present the wider region through a more family-focused lens,” Poitevent says. “That means repeatedly driving home the family-friendly messaging, along with visuals of outdoors and our abundant recreational and green spaces. We’re certainly talking up the culture and everything that makes this area unique, but we’re hoping the site conveys that you can choose the type of career and lifestyle you want in the Greater New Orleans area.”

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Finding Your Dream Job

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Diversifying and expanding career offerings has always been a critical mission for GNO, Inc., and DestinationGNO shows how far the region has already come in establishing a business-friendly market.

From manufacturing and health sciences to entrepreneurship and professional services, DestinationGNO users can explore their chosen industry’s existing presence and meet anchor companies that are driving those sectors forward. The comprehensive hub highlights hundreds of available positions with companies like DXC Technology and Accruent, which are creating thousands of technology jobs, and Advano, a sector leader in renewable and sustainable energy (see page 20 for a company profile).

Still, these industries are poised to stimulate even more economic growth and to widen the breadth of opportunity if more businesses choose Greater New Orleans as their home, making it more important than ever to attract professionals who can continue pushing the region to new heights.

Local research technology company Lucid is one of many employers hoping that tools like DestinationGNO will help to cultivate a more robust—and even more competitive—business environment. Established in 2010, Lucid bridges the gap between organizational needs and public opinion by conducting marketplace studies and surveys. 

Nicole Patel, Lucid’s Chief People Officer, says that while finding entry-level talent has been made easier by partnerships with local educators like the University of New Orleans and Tulane, finding experienced mid- to senior-level employees can still be a challenge when there are so many misconceptions about what the region has to offer.

“New Orleans is a place people want to live, and they need to find a professional opportunity that gives them the ability to stay,” Patel says. “We’ve been able to find people who have enough experience to be competitive and are seeking opportunities here in New Orleans, and a lot of the time, we hear that they didn’t know companies like this existed in the area.”

Patel says that for Lucid, which has several locations worldwide, attracting skilled workers is just one challenge that tools like DestinationGNO can help to solve. The other is attracting competitor businesses. It might seem counterintuitive, but Patel says that giving professionals more options is better for everyone in the long run because it increases the level of talent and ultimately promotes workforce retention.

“As new businesses come, we should start trading off employees. People are going to look for their next opportunities, and what we need is that other company they can go to in New Orleans,” she says. “We don’t want them to have that moment of, ‘Now what? Do I have to relocate again?’”

Considering this stance, DestinationGNO’s mission to change how people think about Greater New Orleans not only bodes well for relocating businesses and professionals, but for enriching the options and quality of life for workers who are already here.

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Something for Everyone

Attracting new businesses, entrepreneurs or skilled workers doesn’t always mean relocating an individual. Significant others (often referred to as a trailing spouse) and children can play a major role in a professional’s decision to either pursue or decline opportunities in a new area—meaning that changing perception about professional opportunities isn’t enough on its own. Questions will still remain: Where will their children go to school? Where can their spouse find employment? Where are they going to live? 

DestinationGNO empowers users with knowledge, helping them find the area that’s right for their families based on factors that would influence their day-to-day lives, including commute times to and from the airport and Downtown New Orleans, walkability and average cost of
homes. From there, they can discover nearby
public, private and charter schools, available healthcare options, and can even familiarize themselves with emergency preparedness protocols in their area. The goal is to not only answer any questions a relocating family wants to know, but to also answer the questions they haven’t even thought of yet. 

That’s no accident. In fact, the curation of the site was influenced by responses the GNO, Inc. team has observed over a decade of introducing transplant businesses and professionals to the area.

“We regularly conduct quality of life tours for companies that we’re bringing into the market, who are either on the verge of making a decision or who have just committed to coming to New Orleans,” says Poitevent. “It’s important for them to figure out not only where they’re going to live, but also where their employees and the teams they’re building will live. Time and time again, they’ll say, ‘I can’t believe New Orleans has normal neighborhoods, normal houses, normal schools.’ It all comes back to normalizing the Greater New Orleans area to the outside market.”

Leah Brown, Public Affairs Manager for Chevron’s Gulf of Mexico Business Unit, says that answering those questions is one of the main reasons Chevron was motivated to sponsor and support the development of the DestinationGNO site. 

“I grew up in Baton Rouge and my family would often make trips into the Crescent City. Like many people, with each visit I fell more and more in love with Greater New Orleans,” Brown says. “DestinationGNO lets people from around the world discover what we locals already know: our area is special, from our unique neighborhoods, to our arts, culture, cuisine and character. These are critical qualities people look for when making their next career move. With a few mouse clicks, prospective employees can tour almost 50 neighborhoods and see why this is a great place to live and do business.”

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Behind-the-Scenes Benefits

Apart from attraction and retention, DestinationGNO is also designed to be a valuable tool for HR professionals in the area. A password-protected portal allows HR directors and talent-acquisition leaders to connect with each other, make referrals and even find professional opportunities for other members of a relocating family.

“The HR Portal is intended for verified businesses to either share information about talent they find exceptional, like some amazing candidate they interviewed but just didn’t have the opening for, or even a trailing spouse,” says Poitevent. “They’re essentially able to make those high-quality talent referrals and to encourage communication and partnership within the HR community.”

The Portal also hosts a resource library with materials that HR professionals can download and distribute to help acclimate transplant or incoming workers. The library includes a schools matrix for the three most populous parishes in Greater New Orleans—St. Tammany, Orleans and Jefferson—as well as a master quality-of-life document, which is regularly updated with new information.

“We want all people to see that the sky really is the limit here,” Poitevent says. “You can create whatever type of lifestyle you want, with lots of choices and options, in a very welcoming and friendly place. Some of the most common feedback we get from prospects is how warm and friendly the people of Greater New Orleans are, and we want to make sure we share that with the world.”

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