The holidays and Mardi Gras bring relatives and friends to New Orleans, and year after year our guests marvel at our unique qualities. Our resiliency and willingness to shoulder heavy burdens while remaining light-hearted in spirit, makes us one of the most alluring and charming cities in America.
We have a great deal going our way. Forbes.com noted that New Orleans is No. 1 in the increase of college graduates living in a city in the entire United States and Inc. Magazine named New Orleans the “Coolest Start-up City” in America. We are topping many lists when it comes to economic growth, creativity and development.
But our continued success will rest heavily on our ability to collaborate and find common ground in business, government and social circles. I urge our colleagues in business leadership groups and our government and civic decision makers to come together in unity as a region. Questions we should ask ourselves include: How do we build bigger alliances in individual parishes like mine, which is Jefferson, and how do we do the same in other parishes? How do we work better as a region? How do we better compromise on policy so that more projects are a “win-win”?
Compromise: We must see every challenge in the decade ahead as an opportunity. If we are united enough to take on every challenge with vigor and a commitment to common goals, we will hasten our growth and become the envy of America across many categories. It’s really all about striving for the greater good and leaving personal agendas at the door.
Collaboration: Through a collection of voices singing in harmony, we can continue our momentum. National business leaders recognize that we are a pro-business state, and our new leadership must protect that mantle. But we must rely on unity inside our own parishes before we can become unified in a collection of parishes.
There’s no reason why South Louisiana or even Coastal Louisiana can’t become a Super Region that challenges Atlanta, Houston, Dallas, Nashville and more. The job market in combined areas including Baton Rouge, the River Region, Houma, Thibodeaux and New Orleans is robust — comprising more than 60 percent of the state’s workforce. When we collect ourselves as a region, we can compete for additional business from markets as enticing as our neighbors to the east and west.
Connectivity: Our ability to upgrade our transportation portfolio will have a great deal to do with our growth. Connectivity is critical to the success of our region. We already have a daunting start over other cities and regions with the expansion and upgrades planned at Louis Armstrong International Airport. And the new passenger train that will connect the two major cities, Baton Rouge and New Orleans, will reduce travel time for a more efficient use of transports. Imagine, the passenger train will go nearly 80 miles per hour with no traffic. Suddenly, the two areas are much closer for business, technology, communication, universities, health care and more.
Think Big: Actually thinking big is not good enough, we must think bigger than ever before. Of course we must continue to build on best practices, but we also must emulate those areas that are excelling in education reform, infrastructure enhancements, job growth and adding quality of life initiatives. Let’s shed the old adage, “That how it’s always been done,” and replace it with “Let’s think of something no one else has thought of doing, then do it first.” As we hearken back to that magical reopening of the Superdome in 2006 and remember the energy in the air that evening, let’s harness that energy again and use it to make the New Orleans region better and stronger. We are closing in on record-breaking success across many categories, and I am confident we will achieve a great deal together.
This editorial was initially posted on NOLA.com on November 27th, 2015.