GNO Views: Not for Nostalgia

Announcement of Chiquita
Returning to New Orleans

The announcement that Chiquita was coming home to Greater New Orleans this week struck a nostalgic chord in the region. My email and phone has been filled with bunches of messages (replete with banana puns) about memories of buying bananas on the wharf, the Great White Fleet, when New Orleans truly was the Gateway to the Americas, etc.

And indeed, the return home to Louisiana seemed nostalgic to Chiquita, as well, with Senior VP Mario Pacheco saying, “We at Chiquita are thrilled to return to the port and the great city of New Orleans.”

But don’t think for a moment that Chiquita is implementing an entirely new shipping configuration because of fond memories. They are doing it because of our logistic advantages, at the mouth of the Mississippi. They are doing it because of our cost advantages, with KPMG naming us most economical business location in the USA. And they are doing it because of our economic development leadership, which may be the most aligned, energized and able in America.

International Shipholding did not come back from Mobile for nostalgia, though they certainly love this place. Rain CII didn’t come back for the food and music, although they might have missed it in Houston. All of these great companies are coming back for one reason – the New Orleans region is once again a top place to do business.

And it is not only the best companies that are coming back: it is the best people, too. According to Forbes, Greater New Orleans is the “#1 Brainpower” region in the USA, with a 21% increase in college grads since 2007. An analysis of IRS data by demographer Joel Kotkin indicates that New Orleans is also #1 in the USA for attracting “Workers in the Prime,” the 25 – 49 year old demographic. According to Kotkin, “The Big Easy’s gains are related, at least in part, to the return of people who fled after Katrina, but it also reflects a newfound demographic vitality backed by substantial economic improvements.

Nostalgia moves hearts, but opportunity moves companies and people.

Michael Hecht
President and CEO
Greater New Orleans, Inc.