Economic Development


“The future of our city depends upon smart economic growth and development which offers opportunities and access to all our residents and which recognizes and preserves our city’s character and culture.”

–Desiree Charbonnet

Focus on Fundamentals

The most striking fact of the New Orleans economy today is how far behind we are in securing for our people the good jobs that lead to a decent income. In recent years, nearby Baton Rouge has significantly outperformed New Orleans in job creation. In 2015, the median household income in New Orleans was $8,000 less than the median income for Louisiana, and a whopping $17,000 less than the national median income. To break that down, half of New Orleanians have a household income (all earners in the household added together) of less than $36,793 per year. The national median income is $53,889. The gap is a tremendous problem affecting the way our entire city functions. Its effects are far-reaching—from crime to housing to street conditions, we would all be better off, together as a city, with more jobs that paid higher wages. This is not just a problem at the low end of the market or affecting only young people; the problem is systemic and widespread.

My key economic goal will be to raise the median wage in New Orleans to the national standard. Across the city, in every neighborhood, our destinies are linked. This priority has to be a top priority for businesses, non-profits, government, labor, and everyone who can make a difference. We are all better off when everyone can make a decent living.

The next mayor must address the jobs problem head on, and I am sharing here my thoughts on how to approach raising incomes at many levels across the whole city through a long-term strategy to bring the New Orleans economy into the 21st century paired with immediate policies to help as much as possible here and now. There is no silver bullet, no single magic thing we can do and make everything perfect. At its core—beyond tax policy, procurement, and training—my economic development plan is about our people. We must work together toward a community where everyone can prosper—a safer city, with strong businesses, leading industries, better streets, affordable housing, a more efficient public transit system, and a drainage system that works.


“No building is solid without a strong foundation, and a strong economy is the foundation for everyone’s opportunity to build a decent life.”

Workforce Training & Development

People in New Orleans are often under-employed. Mostly, they are not jobless (unemployment is at 6%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics), but the job they have does not earn enough money or make good use of their abilities and potential. Our people need better jobs. Recently, the Gambit Weekly reported a Brookings Institution finding that 70% of New Orleans job creation is occurring in low-wage industries. To bring better jobs to the city, companies will want to see that we have a workforce prepared to fill them. New Orleans should have the best-trained workforce in the world.

That begins by fostering relationships with the public schools, where every child should have an opportunity for a good education from a highly qualified teacher. Further, we must capitalize on the tremendous asset we have in our colleges and universities. I will work with the business community and educational institutions to create a world-class workforce development program. Education is widely recognized as the best pathway to greater opportunity and higher income. It’s time to turn a slogan into reality and make sure we have a solid path to job readiness.

From public universities to private colleges to community colleges and technical schools, the city map is dotted with educational institutions. Wherever you are in New Orleans, there’s a college nearby. Many of those institutions have long been embedded parts of our neighborhoods and landscapes. But they have been under-utilized as potential partners in the city’s progress. I will work closely with them to coordinate curricula with employment needs and move the New Orleans economy into the 21st century. Nearly two decades in, it’s time.

Furthermore, these institutions of higher education, of which New Orleans has 12 (including the proposed culinary school), are themselves creators of stable jobs with good pay and benefits. I would use their intellectual capital for the good of the city by, for example, instituting a competitive grant program for student and professor recruitment, research, and training. Grants would be awarded based on the prospects for job-creation and income-growth for New Orleans. In recognition of the importance of these institutions not just to Orleans Parish, but the entire region, I will work to form partnerships in this program with other parishes.

Support Local Businesses

We have to support and grow the opportunities already here. That means supporting the city’s legacy industries and employers such as the Port of New Orleans and the New Orleans International Airport, the hospitality industry, and health care providers. We should also focus on small and emerging businesses so they can provide more and better paying jobs to our citizens, particularly in burgeoning fields like technology, green and environmental businesses, and coastal restoration planning and projects.

I will also reinstitute the city’s Economic Development Information System to pinpoint, catalog, and prioritize the needs of local businesses, keeping an eye out for strategic opportunities and any way the city can help leverage, stabilize, and assist our existing local businesses.

I support creative and innovative approaches to partnering with local businesses. For example, we should reinvigorate the Neighborhood Commercial Revitalization Program, which would aid areas like the Lower 9th Ward in offering crucial business services such as marketing, financial advice, accounting and legal help, low-interest loans, and gap loans.

Cut Red Tape at City Hall

We should make it easier for people to do business in New Orleans. If it’s a goal of our city to encourage new businesses, then people should be met with encouragement and help when they come to City Hall. We need to streamline permitting and compliance processes, and offer not just forms but assistance in helping people get their projects off the ground. Every small business represents someone’s dreams and sweat and hard work, and we need to remember that and respond accordingly.

Focus City Policies on Opportunity and Equity

To make things easier and foster job growth, I will create a single front door portal for economic growth, with effective tools, policies, and practices to maintain and attract job-creating industries. I will encourage strategic public-private partnerships to secure sustainable new job-creating industries.

For workers, I will strongly support every effort we can make to raise wages across the entire city. I will aggressively enforce the city’s “Living Wage Ordinance” which requires businesses with city contracts to pay their workers a minimum of $10.55 per hour. I would press for a living wage, such as the proposed $15 minimum wage, and additional policies that would increase wages for struggling working families. I will ensure that historically disadvantaged portions of our population have a fighting chance at good jobs, including fledgling small businesses, women, and minorities. We especially need to encourage opportunities aimed at veterans, those who have offered themselves in service to all of us, and support the principles and policies of Equity and Equal Opportunity in all economic development projects. I will maintain and improve the Office of Supplier Diversity, mandate equal pay for women in all city contracts, encourage businesses to hire minority, female, and local workers and professionals. I will further encourage businesses to partner with minority-owned, female-owned, and small local businesses. We need to improve the reformed contracting procedures for personal service contracts, requests for qualifications, and requests for proposals being used by all city departments. Too often, these requests elicit only a few responses, and I want to see the process opened up to give more people and more small, local businesses an opportunity to participate.

We also need to improve the reintegration of the formerly incarcerated. We must always ensure public safety as our first and highest priority, but if we’re going to break the cycle of crime in New Orleans, we have to provide positive alternatives, especially for non-violent, low-level offenders. Additionally, I support the fairness and equity of policies like “Ban the Box.”

Capitalize On the City’s Major Assets

We must do a better job leveraging our existing assets, making them work for us as a city. For example, the Greater New Orleans Business Park in New Orleans East remains underutilized. The business park has easy access to waterways, rail, and the interstate highway system. Major tenants there include NASA, and a new production studio for TV and movies. Another example: the Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge is one of the largest wildlife refuges in the United States. The city should foster partnerships with local universities as well as the federal and state wildlife departments to make the refuge an area to promote policies that support healthy eco-systems and coastal restoration projects. I support the swap of the New Orleans Public Belt Railroad to the Port of New Orleans in exchange for unused docks along the riverfront. This creative use of city-owned assets could spur economic growth.

Other areas around the city ripe for economic redevelopment: Duncan Plaza, the area along Convention Center Boulevard near the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, old Charity Hospital and the old VA hospital, the old Naval Support Port of Embarkation on Poland Avenue in the Bywater, and the continued redevelopment of Federal City in Algiers.

New Market Tax Credits

With every plan I have offered, I have stressed fiscal responsibility. In addition to existing funding mechanisms, I have identified sources of money such as the New Market Tax Credit that we can tap to spur business investment and growth in previously underserved areas. Other cities, such as St. Louis, have used these tax credits to secure the infusion of hundreds of millions of dollars. I will take the lead in aggressively pursue these opportunities for New Orleans. These and other creative financing mechanisms offer the hard-working people of New Orleans the opportunities they need to be successful. I want our city government to be a partner to workers and businesses alike as we work together for widespread prosperity across the entire city.