The “Cha-Cha of Progress”


The past few months have been very busy for economic development in Greater New Orleans. We have enjoyed some truly massive wins, but also seen a few setbacks. I call this the “Cha-Cha of Progress.” It is an imperfect metaphor, but one that captures the idea that progress is often a “two steps forward, one step backwards” process – and that if you keep this up on a sustained basis, you’ll really get somewhere over time.

Last week, we announced Formosa, a Taiwanese company, in St. James parish. The investment in this plastics facility is huge: $9.4 billion, but perhaps even more impressive is the jobs – 1,200, with an average salary of $84,500, plus benefits. In addition, there will be 8,000 construction jobs, and at least 8,000 projected indirect jobs. In total, this is the largest announcement ever made on the Mississippi River. Formosa will likely double the tax base of St. James parish, and is clearly a big step forward for the River Region and Greater New Orleans.

Recently, we also announced that DXC Technology is placing 2,000 jobs in downtown New Orleans, at their first domestic Digital Transformation Center. DXC is the single biggest economic development jobs win in New Orleans and Louisiana history, and was ranked the #2 economic development deal in America for 2017. The win – over 30 other cities – represents the culmination of a decade-long strategy to diversify our economy through tech jobs. DXC Technology is an unprecedented step forward for Greater New Orleans.

Last week, we also publicized that iMerit, an Indian company specializing in artificial intelligence, will be hiring 100 people for an office on Poydras Street, right next to DXC. What makes iMerit special is not only its cutting-edge technology, but also that iMerit’s recruiting strategy focuses on hiring underserved members of the community. So, iMerit represents a step forward not only for our tech sector, but for “inclusive innovation,” as well.

On the other hand, it was also confirmed recently that Smoothie King will be moving most of its headquarters to Dallas. While the total number of jobs (40-50) is not great, we never want to lose a headquarters, and particularly one that was founded in our region. Smoothie King will maintain a local office, keep its name on the Arena, and retain all its Louisiana retail stores. The decision to move to Dallas ultimately came down to the food franchise cluster that exists there (Jamba Juice recently moved to Dallas, too), and Dallas’s massive airport. Our takeaway is two-fold: first, clusters have “gravity” – which is why GNO, Inc. focuses on them (see Digital Media); and two, our obsession with growing our own airport is justified, and our successes, like British Airways, are truly important.

Greater New Orleans has been dancing fast, and we don’t intend to stop. We are going to keep doing the “Cha-Cha of Progress” – fighting for each win, and learning from the occasional set-back – until we fulfill our mission of creating a region where our kids can stay and prosper.