Four years ago this month, the world watched in horror as the Gulf Coast was brutalized by Hurricane Katrina. The devastation of the iconic American city of New Orleans grabbed headlines for weeks. Eventually, though, the story of destruction worked its way to a back-page brief on the way to becoming an afterthought. But what really happened to New Orleans after the storm is nothing short of an economic and cultural renaissance.
Today, New Orleans is a thriving, urban, hip metropolis bursting with business possibilities--a testament to what some federal money, tax incentives, American ingenuity and a lot of soul can do to revive a city and an economy. It's a wonderful place to start a business, evidenced by the array of people taking advantage of the opportunities there (see "The New Orleans Saints,").
When we started researching this story many months ago, I had the opportunity to visit New Orleans along with writer Jason Meyers. Our journey took us down Magazine Street, around the Warehouse District and through the still-devastated Ninth Ward. And while the watermarks remain in some places, the city shows definite signs of healing--both spiritually and economically. Along the way, we met the entrepreneurial intelligentsia behind this economic revival and witnessed firsthand how small business is driving the new pulse of New Orleans.
Like all good reporters, we started our work in a bar--but not just any old joint. We went to Loa, which sits off the lobby of Sean Cummings' exquisite International House hotel and is one of the city's entrepreneurial hot spots. Talking with the assortment of local business owners who regularly link up there, one thing became clear: New Orleans not only has a pulse, it also has a strong heartbeat, courtesy of a collection of entrepreneurs who recognize opportunity and work together to redefine the city's economy. As our tour ended, we spent an evening with some of the entrepreneurs who are leading the city's renaissance. We kicked around the idea of New Orleans as a blueprint for the rest of the country. Could it work in Detroit, we wondered? If New Orleans can rise up the way it has after one of the worst disasters in its history, what's stopping other cities from replicating the model?
The answer is: absolutely nothing.
Be sure to watch our documentary about New Orleans at entrpreneur.com/neworleans.
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Amy C. Cosper,