The annual assessment by the economic development group Greater New Orleans, Inc. comes as one of its priority projects — reforming flood insurance — sailed through the U.S. Senate. The organization is also celebrating what it sees as a glowing economic climate for southeast Louisiana.
GNO, Inc. has been a leading force in changing legislation that would have drastically raised flood insurance rates throughout the country.
GNO, Inc. President Michael Hecht said the bipartisan effort shows Louisiana is a national leader for economic development.
“From little ‘ole greater New Orleans we can not only fix problems for Louisiana, we can fix problems for the nation,” Hecht said.
He told about 1,600 people gathered for the group’s annual meeting that times are good. He said New Orleans has tens of billions of dollars’ worth of projects in the works.
“In past years if we had a billion-dollar project in the entire state it was a decent year," Hecht said. "And now we have a billion-dollar in each parish.”
Hecht says one of the most important elements of continued success depends on workforce development. He says business must work with governments and schools to develop, and keep, residents in good-paying jobs.
“For the first time in decades, we’re going to experience the challenges associated with growth because for the first time in decades we’re actually growing. These are growing pains," said Hecht. "These are a good thing, alright. But if we don’t engage them in a positive way we’re not going to be able to grow into greatness. Growing into greatness is about growing intelligently.”
Outgoing Board Chairman Greg Rusovich said there’s a key project that must be finished to keep the region growing.
“We have just got to secure direct international flights to Europe, UK," Rusovich said, "and then to South and Central America.”
Incoming chairwoman Patricia LeBlanc says it will be a top priority.