Business People of the Year
Biz New Orleans | 12/28/2018
2018 was a year of beginnings — a year where we began building upon our region’s strengths across so many industries at one time that one can’t help but be excited for what 2019 will bring. And leading that charge into the future are these eleven professionals that Biz New Orleans is honored to celebrate as our third-annual Business People of the Year.
Within this group are leaders seeking to grow our record-setting tourism numbers even further by transforming our downtown landscape, giving our airport a $1 billion facelift and creating an anniversary celebration felt across the globe. In healthcare and biotechnology, we’ve got young entrepreneurs bringing exciting new ideas to the market aimed at not just improving quality of life, but saving lives in ways no one has seen before. In sports we saw the loss of our beloved Tom Benson, but thanks to his wife, Gayle, his legacy is continuing as strong as ever. We saw one of this country’s fastest-growing business schools open a $35 million expansion, one of our top tech companies go public and Jefferson Parish celebrate its most successful year in decades.
Finally, just over four years after gracing our first cover as “Mr. Business,” we welcome Michael Hecht back as our CEO of the Year. Continually stepping up his game to bring Southeast Louisiana to new heights, he and GNO, Inc. were integral in bringing our region its two biggest successes of the year, projects whose impacts will continue to ripple outward for generations to come.
Here’s to our “Elevating Eleven,” and to a very prosperous and exciting new year.
CEO OF THE YEAR
President and CEO
Greater New Orleans, Inc.
When Biz New Orleans was preparing to launch its first issue in October 2014, Michael Hecht was a natural for the cover. His business, after all — and that of the organization he leads — is to sell the city, and since joining the organization in June 2008, he has racked up an impressive set of wins, including more than 77 new companies drawn to the region and $30 billion in new investment.
In addition to helping to rewrite national flood insurance and bringing the first nonstop flight from New Orleans to Europe since 1982, GNO, Inc. played a substantial roll in both 2018’s No. 1 and No. 2 stories of the year — the purchase of Avondale Shipyard and the opening of DXC Technology, the biggest economic development jobs win in Louisiana’s history.
Under Hecht’s leadership, GNO Inc. has formed a truly comprehensive plan for the region’s economy, including work on coastal restoration and managing water resources, reformation of the state’s tax and budget structure and tackling criminal justice reform.
So, on the heels of his 10th anniversary leading GNO, Inc., and with this year being the 15th anniversary of the organization, Biz New Orleans is honored to celebrate Michael Hecht as our 2018 CEO of the year.
On finding his perfect career
“As a child, my favorite pastime was to build cities with my Legos and Lincoln Logs. That passion has been a part of my entire life…Taking this job was a chance to come home and a chance to build a better New Orleans region. This is where my lifelong passion lives.”
On the power of a team approach
None of our wins would have been possible without the remarkable partnership and trust that exists between our parish, region and state allies. This partnership is almost always cited by companies as a key reason why they choose the New Orleans region.
On his management style
“I believe in structural autonomy, meaning individuals are given goals and a specific vision of what success looks like but it’s up to them to determine the best possible path. Leadership exists to help, if or when needed, but there’s no micromanaging.”
On his side gig
“I’ve been DJing for about 20 years now…My specialty is electronica and ‘90s hip-hop, but I’m definitely more of a gourmand than a gourmet. I do a lot of fundraisers. The plan is actually to release my first album in 2019. On that note I’m excited that one of our special projects this year will be the New Orleans Music Economy Initiative (NOME). Led by former GNO, Inc. board chair Tara Hernandez, we’re working to create a full music business here, including agents, publicity and managers, much like Nashville has.”
On New Orleans
“We’ve reached a level of economic success in this region that wouldn’t have been thought possible in the weeks following Katrina, or, quite frankly, in the weeks before it.”
On his staff
“Our staff of 20 individuals is one of the most talented, energetic and dedicated in the country, I’m sure of it. I feel lucky to go to war with such a happy band of soldiers.”
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