Paul Murphy / Eyewitness News

NEW ORLEANS -- It wasn't long ago that New Orleans was at the very bottom of the Wall Street Journal's Marketwatch survey of 102 metro areas across the country.

The study considers factors such as unemployment rate, cost of living and personal income growth.

This year, the city went from from 77th on the list to 33rd.

'This is great recognition from the Wall Street Journal,' said Michael Hecht, president and CEO of Greater New Orleans, Inc. 'They did a statistical analysis of the entire country, 102 metros, and we were the most improved of any metro in the entire country in terms of economic competitiveness and we're thrilled.'

Hecht said the recognition validates the hard work done to rebuild the region as a business center post-Katrina.

'I think now the story of New Orleans, the business case of New Orleans with low cost, great incentives, focused leadership and world famous culture is beginning to get out there,' said Hecht.

Newcomers to the city such as Patrick Comer, CEO of the startup market research firm Federated Sample say the word is out, New Orleans is the place to be.

'You have the culture and dynamic rebirth, rebuild, resurrection of the city, which is a story people like to be a part of,' said Comer. 'You have state incentives, whether it's the angel investment tax credit or its digital media tax credit.'

David Kearney's family has been in the local shipping business for four generations.

He said the positive momentum in the region helps existing companies like his attract new customers.

'Now, they actually come to New Orleans first, let us roll up our sleeves and compete before they go back to Miami or Houston,' said Kearney. 'We now seeing kind of an us being included in the decision, whereas before we weren't even in the cards.'

Kearney said if the potential new business hits, his company may expand next year.

'That means hiring drivers for our trucks,' said Kearney. 'That means hiring laborers and forklift operators and as potentially hiring customer service folks as well.'

While New Orleans has come a long way, there are still challenges ahead.

Local business leaders say now that the city is becoming a hub for new business activity, it's more important than ever to correct those problems still keeping the city from reaching it's full potential.

'Until we get, I think past the tenth anniversary of Katrina and come back to what I call a new normal and see a New Orleans, New Orleans region even a Louisiana with better educational outcomes, better health outcomes, lower crime rates then we had pre-Katrina, we're not going to done,' said Hecht.

'If I look at trying to relocate talent back or for the first time to New Orleans, especially talent that has a family, those are the first two questions that come up, crime and education,' said Comer.

New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu released a statement about the Wall Street Journal survey.

'Once again, the rest of the nation is taking notice to the positive economic momentum we see in New Orleans. Our work to foster a better business climate in the city, promote entrepreneurship, and grow jobs here at home is paying off.'

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