The 504 Secret
Two Mondays have now passed since I departed MSY after a whirlwind of a week in the Crescent City. Now fully settled back into “real-life,” I can’t help but look back on the experience and feel that something almost magical happened during those 120 hours, amidst 26+ strangers, in a city I once thought I knew. It’s difficult to capture in words all that we experienced, the incredible people we had the privilege to meet, and the inspiring goings-on we had the opportunity to witness firsthand. I’ll argue that fellow NOLABounders, Micah Kotch, Cole Gainer, and any of the rest have done so more successfully that I could ever hope to do. Still—as succinctly as I can say it—I left New Orleans just over a week ago with the feeling that I’d been let in on an incredible secret.
The secret is that New Orleans is undergoing a renaissance like none I’ve ever witnessed. It is a city alive and well, bursting at the seams with entrepreneurial energy, and full of ambition and excitement among its citizenry. The opportunity it offers young professionals and entrepreneurs is unparalleled. As captured in the banners adorning lightposts downtown—NOLA truly offers a “blank canvas” upon which one can CREATE the life you wish to live (Thanks, @rxfogarty for the chance to capture this thought in the image above). Plenty of cities can offer a high paying job . . . a great sports team . . . or a robust entertainment industry; it is a rare gem, however, that can offer up the “whole package” of economic opportunity, unrivaled history, culture and music, fanatical sports fans backing championship teams . . . all this belied by an easy going pace of life and an authentic sense of community in the most complete sense of the word. We NOLABounders discovered that gem (among others), in New Orleans.
If warm weather, great music, friendly neighbors, and an incredible support system for entrepreneurs, weren’t enough, layer upon layer of incentives including tax credits, economic development awards, restoration abatements and more . . . pitch in to make New Orleans an outright wonderland for work and play alike.
As one of two physicians involved in the program, my ears were keenly tuned throughout the week to the future of the bioscience and healthcare industries in NOLA. I’ll admit that I’d never thought of any place on the Gulf Coast as a hotbed of lifescience research and innovation. However, as I stood behind the gleaming floor to ceiling glass of the $90M Louisiana Cancer Research Consortium and peered out over the future site of the $2.2B LSU/VA joint medical campus (expected to bring ~25,000 jobs to the region), I felt I was experiencing an exclusive sneak-peek at the reinvention of a health care system and the birth of a new epicenter of biomedical research. The two facilities mentioned above, along with the 66,000 square foot New Orleans BioInnovation Center, represent a monumental investment in the lifescience industry in New Orleans and, more importantly, in the health of the city’s inhabitants. I can’t wait to see what the next 5 years has in store.
The future of New Orleans is decidedly bright—after my NOLABound experience, I now stand more convinced of this fact than ever. Having met with some of the city’s most ambitious and capable leaders, the road to this bright future seems well mapped, though all are keenly aware that it will not be free of obstacles and challenges . . . a top notch and charismatic police chief seems poised to tackle the issue of crime, and inspired leaders in education are dedicated to success in the grand experiment of reinventing a broken school system. One last challenge this great city will face is pushing past the ingrained image of her as a place meant only for bachelor parties, mardi gras bead-catching, and great jazz. After 5 short days in the city, I now know just how much more multidimensional of a place she truly is. If you are one of the thousands of people who still hold on to that antiquated image and you’ve not visited this place in the last 5 years, I urge to you go—- buy a plane ticket, hop on a train, gas up the car . . . strap on roller skates if you have to. New Orleans is one of this country’s most uniquely charming, community-oriented, and magical places . . . and the renaissance currently underway is absolutely astounding. Get there. Get in on the secret. You may find, as I did, that you’ll never want to leave.
posted: March 27, 2012
It feels like it’s taken forever this day to arrive, but I’m finally en route to the Big Easy! Though the journey has included a couple of early hiccups (presently, a four hour delay at CLT airport), my excitement at this point is pretty much unshakeable. I can’t wait to meet the 26 soon-to-be-new friends I’ve had the pleasure of getting to “know” to the extent that blogs, twitter, and linked-in will allow. Seems to be a group defined by diversity . . . with respect to geography, industry, background, and life experience—- can’t imagine a better setup for productive dialogue, creative problem solving, and hopefully a good bit of merry-making mixed in as we get to know the “new NOLA.” After a brief glance at the itinerary, I’m thrilled to see the access we’ll be given to local industry leaders and key sites showcasing the city’s offerings in the way of incubating entrepreneurship. Add to that a cadre of quintessentially N’awlins events like the crawfish boil in Audubon Park and a night out on Frenchmen, and it looks like we have one incredible week in store! Time to go hunt down some airport dinner and find my way to the gate. See you soon, NOLA!
posted: March 12, 2012