Paul Murphy / Eyewitness News
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NEW ORLEANS -- Most economic indicators show New Orleans at a tipping point.

According to a recent study by the University of New Orleans, 72 percent of the city's pre-Katrina population is back and growing year over year.

Even with fewer people, the survey shows sales tax collections are more than 97 percent of what they were before the 2005 hurricane.

UNO Professor of Economics and Associate Dean of Research Janet Speyrer said perhaps the most telling sign is that housing prices are up by nearly 20 percent in Orleans from the same time last year.

'To me, what that's saying is that people are starting to have confidence in New Orleans as place to buy and perhaps develop,' said Speyrer.

The Wall Street Journal recently called New Orleans one of the fastest growing economies in the country.

According to Forbes, the city added more Information Technology jobs than anywhere in the nation over the past two years.

'We've had new companies arrive like GE Capital with their IT Center of Excellence and Gameloft the number two maker of handheld video games in the world,' said Michael Hecht, president and CEO of GNO, Inc., a public-private group promoting economic development for the 10-parish Greater New Orleans Region. 'That's tremendous success.'

But, with success comes some growing pains.

Hecht said with only three quarters of the city's population back, new business is struggling to find qualified workers.

'We're aggressively working with schools like Delgado and Louisiana Economic Development to come up with enough training opportunities so we will have the indigenous pipeline for these companies.

Crime also remains a huge economic development issue.

'I think the crime is the thing that if we don't address, is going to be something that will keep people both from visiting here, which will keep people from working here and will keep people from bringing their jobs here,' said Speyrer.

Hecht said the city also has to prepare for when the post-Katrina building boom ends.

'As a community, are we going to have the critical mass of people, the critical mass of companies and really the critical mass of culture, a forward, positive looking culture of excellence so that we will be able to sustain the advantages that we've been able to realize over the past couple of years,' said Hecht.

According to the UNO survey, residential construction in progress is up more than 6 percent year over year. Non-residential construction is up by 14 percent.

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