Major changes in New Orleans economic development abilities

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wwltv.com

Posted on March 18, 2012 at 7:40 AM

Updated Sunday, Mar 18 at 10:41 AM

Bill Capo / Eyewitness News

NEW ORLEANS -- One month ago, General Electric announced it would locate its information technology office in New Orleans, with 300-high paying jobs. Area leaders were ecstatic to be chosen over many other cities.

"The GE announcement I think will prove to be a watershed moment in the economic history of this city," said Michael Hecht.

"For decades we undersold ourselves," Hecht said. "For decades we talked about ourselves as really being just four blocks of Bourbon Street, instead of one of the best places in the country to run a business and have a family, and raise a family."

"At GNO Inc. we concentrate on three industries that we call foundational. Those are energy, trade, and advanced manufacturing, and then three that we call diversifying, which is digital, medical, and sustainable industries. And we have actual major projects from major developments in all six of those."

"Can we generate enough workers to satisfy the demands of companies that want to be here. Can we generate enough sites, industrial sites and office space sites for the companies that want to be here?"

It's taken a long time to get here, but it is a good position to be in, and Michael Hecht says that this is just the beginning. But he cautions city business and political leaders have to be careful not to lose this momentum.

"We can't let up. Our gains are real but they're not necessarily permanent yet," Hecht concluded. "We have to keep making sure that we make this whole progress sustainable by ensuring that we have the right policies in place, we stand up then right institutions, and most of all, this Culture of Excellence."

Hecht predicts we may face some challenges in the next five years that other cities might envy.

Hecht cites positives he uses to get business leaders interested in locating in New Orleans; first that it is less expensive here; second, tax incentives; third, the city's culture, our lifestyle, has become a major selling point; and there is an energized economic development team involving state, city and business leaders.

Michael Hecht of the business development group Greater New Orleans Inc. says the GE announcement symbolized the major changes in the city's focus on bringing new business here.

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