24 Seconds With Michael Hecht of Greater New Orleans, Inc.

In conjunction with the NBA’s announcement that its 2017 All-Star festivities are coming to the Crescent City, we caught up with Michael Hecht, the president and CEO of Greater New Orleans, Inc. According to its website, the group’s mission is to create jobs and wealth in the local 10-parish region “by pursuing an aggressive agenda of business development – marketing the region – and product development.”

Hecht, who described the awarding of NBA All-Star as a significant economic victory for New Orleans, detailed the numerous benefits that come from hosting the prestigious, globally-watched event for a third time since 2008.

Pelicans.com: What are some of the components that make New Orleans an ideal All-Star host?

Hecht: There are three elements that make us so good, and in some ways, unparalleled as a host of an All-Star game. The first is that New Orleans is a globally-loved destination – we were just voted the No. 7 city in the world by the readers of Travel & Leisure magazine. The second is we have a long history and deep competency in hosting major events, whether it is Mardi Gras, Jazz Fest or All-Star games. Third, increasingly, whether it is for sporting events or living and working (day to day), people are choosing more compact, walkable urban environments. New Orleans really excels in that regard, in that we have downtown stadiums close to world heritage sites like the French Quarter, that allow a visitor to get around on foot, and not only experience the event, but the entire city in a compact and easily accessible way.

Pelicans.com: This is a very unique situation, given that bids for NBA All-Star are often granted two or more years in advance. What makes New Orleans a leading choice to host on such short notice, with All-Star coming in six months?

Hecht: New Orleans is unusual in that it not only has the physical infrastructure ready to go, but it has the human experience ready to go as well. So we’re not only able to physically host a major event at a moment’s notice, but we have the managerial competence to run it. That combination of people plus place makes us special.

Pelicans.com: What are some of the biggest benefits to a city of hosting a game?

Hecht: There are at least four clear benefits to the city. The first is the pure economic benefit, where we expect over $100 million in impact. The second is that it is a sampling opportunity, meaning that the tens of thousands of people who come here for the game will be able to experience not just the All-Star Game, but also the new New Orleans in a personal way – and that’s a great way to drive affinity for New Orleans. The third is branding – the millions of people around the world who watch the game will be able to see the new New Orleans, a place that is thriving, progressive, dynamic, diverse. That’s marketing that money simply could not buy; it’s invaluable. Lastly, from a narrower economic standpoint, events like All-Star games and Super Bowls are outstanding business development opportunities, because they let us bring in clients to games and get great networking opportunities. Invariably, business development comes from hosting these events. For one of our newest video-game companies, High Voltage Software, a main part of the sell to them (to come to New Orleans) was the NBA All-Star Game in 2014, because both the owner and his daughter are big basketball players.

Pelicans.com: From your perspective, what has been the general impact for the city of New Orleans to boast two professional sports teams, with the Saints here now for 50 years and the Pelicans entering their 15th season?

Hecht: New Orleans is one of only 30-plus cities in the U.S. that have two (major-league) sports teams. We are relatively small in terms of population to have two. So having them not only allows us to experience the benefit of hosting the NBA All-Star Game, but really gives us an overall presence that is relatively larger than our size. Having the teams allows us to punch above our weight as a community. They are an essential part of how we project to the rest of the world.

You can read the full article here.