NOLAbound: Dear New Orleans
You’ll go away, but you’ll come back someday.” - Sleigh Bells, “Comeback Kid”
Dear New Orleans,
First of all, I wanted to say thanks. I just spent a week touring your city from the perspective of an entrepreneur, with an unbelievable level of access to some of your best and brightest citizens, and had an amazing number of adventures in the process.
You remain, as always, my most favorite city of all time.
While I was there, I was blown away by the amount of progress that’s taken place in the past few years. I knew you guys had made leaps and bounds, but what I discovered during this trip was that you had also completely reinvented yourselves. You are a new city. A New New Orleans.
You have a police chief who is top notch. A mayor who is refreshingly positive and forward-thinking. A school system that will serve as a model for the future of education in America. You have an architecht that cares deeply for the soul of the city. You have hundreds of brilliant, fresh, enthusiastic entrepreneurs looking to improve your city through new ideas and new thinking. Your future looks bright. Consider putting on some shades.
You also have a group of the nicest, kindest, gifted, talented individuals in the people that were a part of the NOLAbound project. Cameron, Jamie, Zoey, Curry, Kurt, Crista, Denise, and all of the rest of the people involved deserve recognition for the near-yearlong effort they put into this project. They deserve keys to the city. At the very least they deserve some sweet vacation time.
While I was here I spent a lot of time walking your streets alone. I did this on purpose, because a lot of people say a lot of things that turn out to be very untrue. They say that NOLA’s not safe. That you’re in danger anywhere outside of the French Quarter.
They are wrong.
I walked along your streets through several neighborhoods high and low, jamming along to some Sleigh Bells with token white iPhone earbuds dangling. At no time did I feel anything but safe, happy, and welcome. I was not approached by anyone with anything but a smile and a wave. I was not robbed. I was not attacked. I was not murdered.
I’m sorry I wasn’t there for the early stages of the recovery. I’ll spare you the gory details, but it wasn’t for lack of trying.
I promise to be there for the next stage of the recovery, and for the rest of my life. I’ll be coming home soon. It won’t be soon enough, but it’ll be as soon as possible. And we’ll catch up then, for sure.
In me and my fellow NOLAbounders I promise that you have a set of people who are now inextricably linked with your city’s history and its future. We were once fans, and now we are lifelong ambassadors. We will not take that duty lightly.
With much love,
posted: March 19, 2012
NOLAbound Day Two: NOLA Rising
“Be bold, and mighty forces will come to your aid.” - Basil King
Now that we’re all settled in and fully immersed in the NOLAbound project, our group has begun to dive into the reasons why we’re here. There seems to be a different question for every member of the cohort. Some are here out of curiosity, others out of nostalgia, and others with a hard set question to answer. I’m a little of all three, but mostly the latter.
In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, New Orleanians were faced with one of the most daunting and formidable challenges presented to an American community in the 21st century: How to go about rebuilding a city that had been completely reset. I was somewhat surprised today to learn that New York City served as a touchstone during the recovery, but it makes total sense.
After 9/11, NYC was faced with a similarly daunting task. Not only was there the challenge of recovering from the physical and psychological damage created by the attacks, but also the challenge of restoring peoples’ interest and faith in Lower Manhattan as a center for tourism, business, and community. You don’t think about the amount of effort and work that goes into a city’s recovery from a public, PR-based standpoint, but it’s there, and in both cases the efforts and results have been tremendous.
Today we heard from several leaders in the community from our four areas of interest: Arts-based businesses, Digital Media, Biosciences, and Sustainable Industries. One thing that continually caught my ear was the amount of growth and energy that seems to be happening in each of those areas. Louisiana created some of the most powerful incentives in the country to help bolster businesses in each of the areas here in New Orleans, and seven years later we’re seeing the rewards that have come from those incentives.
From the morning’s moving, candid talks with Michael Hecht from GNO Inc and Robbie Vitrano from Naked Pizza to the afternoon’s informative panel discussion and site visits with specific members from the interest areas, we learned a lot about the recovery and rebirth of New Orleans from the perspective of an entrepreneur. I was most moved by the fact that every single person we spoke with held the improvement of the city and the community on equal level with the success of their business.
In New Orleans, succeeding as a company means succeeding as a community, and vice versa. It’s a welcome change from the infighting and hyper-competitiveness I’ve seen in other areas of the country.
As the sun set, we were treated to a rooftop dinner on the terrace of Second Line Stages and got to meet several more community leaders in our key areas and our gracious host, Susan Brennan. Again, I was impressed by their emphasis on the community’s success as part and parcel of their own.
We rounded out the night with a trip to Oak Wine Bar, where Arabella Proffer and I got to turn the camera around a little on our hosts, and I learned more about the origins of this fantastic and unique project.
The amount of growth and energy that’s here, that has come about from all the changes and efforts made over the past seven years, is nothing short of remarkable. New Orleans and Louisiana were bold enough to take on the challenge of repairing a city decimated by disaster, and mighty forces indeed seem to have come to their aid.
I cannot wait for Day Three.
posted: March 16, 2012
“In America, there is New York, New Orleans, and San Francisco. Everywhere else is Cleveland.” – Mark Twain
You get off the plane in New York or San Francisco, and there’s an immediate vibe. You can sense it amongst your fellow travelers. It’s the friendliness in the eyes of the clerks in your terminal. “Welcome friend,” they say. “This is our city. Don’t mess with it.”
In New Orleans, the vibe is so intense it’s nearly tangible. People talk about it incessantly. It’s some sort of magic that’s inexplicable by words alone. It must be felt.
Today I arrived in New Orleans at Louis Armstrong International Airport to the that same familiar vibe that I’ve known since I was a kid. Growing up within an hour’s distance of New Orleans meant frequent trips there during childhood, adolescence, and especially during my college days. It was during those days at LSU when I formed a permanent and unbreakable bond with the city.
I’m here now with nearly ten years worth of hindsight in my career and a lifetime of appreciation for New Orleans, tasked with the request of analyzing the city from a standpoint of someone in the Digital Media industry. Not as a fan, not as a native Louisianian, but as a person with a good bit of experience in the tech world. I’m not here to see the New Orleans I know and love, I’m here to see The New New Orleans.
I’m here to determine where NOLA fits into my industry in terms of economy, job market, and opportunity. I’m excited by the implications of what I’ve seen and heard so far.
Between the introductory interview, head shots, emotional meet-and-greets, second lining with some Mardi Gras Indians through Downtown, and a VIP experience at the Hornets/Lakers game at the New Orleans Arena, I’ve had very little time to write down what I’ve actually experienced in the past twelve hours. But I’ve already had several days worth of noteworthy moments and overwhelming observations. That’s how NOLA rolls in general, and I believe that’s how the NOLAbound trip will roll specifically. Months worth of experience packed into a few days. I couldn’t have asked for a better task.
And I’ve already met several members of my NOLAbound cohort, all of them as talented as they are brilliant. I look forward to meeting the rest.
I’m excited about what’s to come in the days ahead. I will keep you posted.
posted: March 14, 2012
The diversity of cultures and people. The fact that despite its big city size it still retains a sense of hospitality and friendliness. The nightlife, the amount of things to do, the food.
New Orleans! It has a pulse and a vibe unlike any other city I’ve been to. No other city is as cool, haunting, lively, and enigmatic as NOLA. When I leave other cities, I don’t miss them. When I leave NOLA, I feel like I’m leaving someone I love.
For several years, my dream has been to move to New Orleans and start my own app development studio. In 2012, I will be in a place where I can finally make this dream become a reality. I hardly need any more reasons to move to NOLA, but it would be great to experience New Orleans from the NOLAbound perspective, and see all the various reasons why NOLA is the perfect place for an entrepreneur like myself.
I think it is the most unique, vibrant, and resilient cities in the USA. It has more history, culture, and charm on one city block than some entire cities could hope for. I know it isn’t without its own faults, both from Katrina and from long-lasting challenges, but it is a city I root for on a daily basis.
Employment. Everyone I know that grew up in Louisiana and dispersed around the country has said, adamantly, that they would move to NOLA tomorrow if there was a job to bring them there. It’s a factor that has kept me in Houston for nearly a decade. I feel that if New Orleans could bring a stable and energetic local job market to fruition, it would bring many many more people to call it home.
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