Community Leaders of East New Orleans

East New Orleans is a melting pot of diverse peoples and developing businesses. these five community leaders have been Key to East New Orleans’ rising.



Councilman James Gray

Written by Jessica DeBold
 

Councilman James Gray
 

Why did you decide to commission the East NOLA BDD the grant to print this directory?

First off, I thought they were an entity that could get it done. I also saw that the information they wanted to convey is of value. We all benefit knowing what is there and having more information about what is to come. I perceived them to be an entity that could gather this information for us. The directory will certainly be useful to the future development of the area.

What are some of the great things you’ve seen East NOLA BDD take part in and facilitate in the community, and what do you think is the positive impact?

I think there has been some positive impact already. A significant thing is the participation and discussions with potential businesses. It is valuable to have the current business community participating in discussion with potential businesses. There is information that they can get from each other that would be helpful in finding good locations in a particular area.

Also, they may be more effective than I would be alone in getting feedback about what changes are necessary to create a better environment for potential businesses. The short-term observations are that they have been a valuable asset to the recruitment of bringing other businesses to the area and hopefully the long-term results will prove that.

What are the top things about East New Orleans that you are most proud of?

• We have grown over the last three years faster than any other part of the city. The City of New Orleans has done a better job of attracting young educated people over the last couple of years than almost any other city in America. It’s hard to break that down into districts, but I do know that as an area [East New Orleans] is growing faster than the rest of the city in terms of retail tax income.

• When you look at the Walmart, Big Lots, New Orleans Hamburger and Seafood, the CVS, and just the general construction and increase in retail in the district, it has been very good. We are also recently broke ground on the $31 million Franklin Avenue Baptist Church, which in itself will be an excellent addition to the district. It adds substantially to the assets in the district.

• The progress we’ve made with the hospital in the East, including what’s in the main building itself. Also, the hospital is expanding as we speak. A doctors group moved onto the campus – which brings a wide variety of medical specialists on the campus.  All of these things are very good indicators for the future of the district, and they add a lot to it. Something tells me that when the hospital is finished their expansion, they still won’t have enough space. They need to start planning for something more even as we speak. If you quantify the growth, it has been incredible.

• If you tour what we’ve done with Joe Brown Park, if you look at the nature center opening in April, these will be terrific assets to the community. The Tipitina’s Project, also underway on the Lakefront, will be spectacular.

• What’s troubling is that because of the sheer size of the East, while we are growing more than any other part of the city, it is not as obvious to outsiders because of how it’s spread out. But numerically, the growth is phenomenal.

If we just made a list of all the things there today that were not there three years ago. If you look at what is under construction, or the construction is certain. The coming years are expected to be better than previous.

Can you tell me a little bit about some of the area’s public parks and trails and how residents benefit from the development of these natural spaces?

Joe Brown Park is a community park we can bring athletic events to such as semi-pro football the “Crescent City Kings,” high school football team and track and field. The U.S. Track & Field event can bring as many as 700 kids from out of town, which becomes a good thing for the hotels in the area. The park also has an Olympic-sized swimming pool, for which we are hoping to have swim meets very soon.

The Nature Center has been under construction for more than a year and should be completed sometime in April. The center has walking trails through swamps and will have a camping area, and there is a library in front.

In addition to Joe Brown, playgrounds and parks all over the East are newly improved.

Can you tell us a little bit about the levee system and recent investments made into their security and stability?
We now have a levee system that is made from state-of-the-art engineering. I don’t think that anyone now alive today will ever see that new system fail. Between the canals, lakes and pumping system, The East has become one of the safest places from water in South Louisiana.

The vast open spaces we have in the East make us one of the best places for industrial growth in Southern Louisiana. If you look at the recent floods in Baton Rouge, they don’t have an easy fix such as levees and a pumping system like we have. I think if the best engineers that money can buy believe that we have a pumping system that can withstand the kind of rainfall seen in Baton Rouge, we really are the place to be, whether residential or industrial in South Louisiana if you’re worried about potential flooding. We are equipped to deal with it – some evidence of that is the City of New Orleans just got a major reduction in flood insurance. Once they evaluated our levees and pumping systems, they decided the risk was much less than it was before.

As a resident of East New Orleans, what do you love about being a part of the community outside of your in-office duties?

I started life in Uptown New Orleans, and what attracted me to the East was the space. My yard is bigger and there are several parks in the East that are nicer than others outside of the East.

We are substantially safer than the rest of the city. The lowest crime is on the Lakefront, after that it is the East. We have plenty space for improvement, but we are really one of the safest places in the city of New Orleans. We have substantial numbers of middle-class people in New Orleans who moved here to get away from the crime problems found in the central city. Generally, the City of New Orleans is less safe than it should be. Although, it is really not as bad as most think it is. Many people believe we are much more dangerous than we are. If you look up the crime census, New Orleans is around number 71, which is a long way from being one, two, three or four.

If you look at the New Orleans census records, you can also look at the percentage of people with degrees and the city is substantially better than the state average, and better than Houston, Jackson and Los Angeles. Whatever is true for Greater New Orleans, the East is substantially better on average.

In conclusion…

We look at the fact that we were terribly hurt from the flood 11 years ago. If we look at where we were four years ago and look at where we are today, you will see drastic and rapid progress, even though we have a long way to go.

And, I think the rate of the progress is going to accelerate.

Four years ago, the hospital was not there. Today, NASA also has a contract to build the rocket that will take us to Mars – requiring the recruitment of thousands of engineers. All of those things have drastically changed our direction for the better. The new Franklin Avenue Baptist Church campus will be a big item that will make people look around and say “I need to invest in the East.” Between The Tipitina’s Foundation, Joe Brown Park, the Nature Center, when we talk about ten projects to get one is a big deal to the continued development of the community. We are having conversations about many projects right now, all of which will add to the community’s value.

Crescent Crown Distributing
 

Why does Crescent Crown choose to contribute to the East New Orleans Business Development District?

CCD is a leading company in providing and adding support to our local community, East New Orleans being one of them. We currently serve existing businesses that are thriving in this area, so we would continue to do so, along with seeking new clientele.

Can you tell me about the partnership between Crescent Crown and the East NOLA BDD? How has this relationship positively affected the community?

We have been pioneers in fostering relationships, and this contributes to empowering the community and influencing positive changes.

Why do you think East NOLA BDD is essential to the continued growth and strength of the community?

East NOLA BDD’s mission has been, and continues to be, establishing advance economic growth, investment and business development in East New Orleans through education and technical assistance for businesses. These initatives assist with infrastructure improvements and seeking image enhancement.

Why has Crescent Crown chosen East New Orleans as the location for its Louisiana Headquarters?

We were already present in East New Orleans pre-Katrina. Our decision to come back stronger than ever in East New Orleans is to help our community and all of our employees and team members rebuild in this area.

What are the advantages to your location?  Are the advantages according to industry and clientele or just regards to transportation convenience and cost efficiency?

As of right now, the advantages would be all of the above. However, our focus is on our clientele and growing in this industry. We need to continue investing in our community, so having our company headquarters here allows us to continue to grow and service an up and coming area of New Orleans.

Can you tell me about your facilities and what makes your business unique to East New Orleans?

East New Orleans has the available space needed for our company to improve and enhance our existing operations. Currently, our facility has adequate spacing for our business as usual, such as office space, warehousing of products and parking for our fleet of delivery and service vehicles. What makes us unique right now is the fact that we would be the only distribution company of our kind in the East New Orleans area. This would assist with shedding light on space availability to other companies to make East New Orleans their home as well, contributing to the beautification of commercial retail areas in this community.
 


Harrah’s Casino
 

Can you tell me about Harrah’s Community grant program, the Caesars Foundation?

The Caesars Foundation is funded by operating income from resorts owned or operated by Caesars Entertainment and its family of companies. Each gift supports high-impact efforts within a few key categories. Since its inception, the Caesars Foundation has gifted more than $70 million in support to charitable organizations. In 2015, the foundation committed over $1.5 million to non-profit organizations domestically and abroad.

Why did Harrah’s Casino decide to commission the East NOLA BDD the grant to print this directory?

This directory will highlight the many successful businesses that are in East New Orleans and keep dollars in the area so that they can be reinvested back into the community.

Why do you think East NOLA BDD is essential to the continued growth and strength of the East New Orleans community?

East NOLA BDD has shown that they are able to influence positive change in the community of East New Orleans.  Their initiatives to remove commercial blight and corridor beautification have helped attract new businesses to the area.

Can you tell me about the partnership between Harrah’s Casino and the East NOLA BDD? How has this relationship positively affected the community?

The printing of this directory will help highlight those businesses that have made East New Orleans their home and be a valuable resource for the residents in the community as well as outside communities who will hopefully take the opportunity to work with some the businesses in the directory.

What are some of the great things you’ve seen East NOLA BDD take part of and facilitate in the community, and what do you think is the positive impact?

The education and technical assistance workshops they provide for businesses in East New Orleans will help not only attract new businesses to the area, but also gives them the tools to help make them successful.
 


Cox Communications
 

Why does Cox choose to contribute to the East New Orleans Business Development District?  

After the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, East New Orleans was one of the first areas where Cox began to focus and rebuild our fiber network. East New Orleans was, and continues to be, a vital business and residential component of the Cox portfolio. We very strongly believed in being a part of the East New Orleans comeback, and we continue to serve and offer new and exciting products to East New Orleans today.

Can you tell me about the partnership between Cox and the East NOLA BDD? How has this relationship positively affected the community?

In the initial stages, Cox was approached about becoming a member of the East NOLA BDD. I am very proud that we were one of the first companies who signed up. We have been there from the beginning and have always been grateful for our partnership with the East NOLA BDD. Our partnership has enabled us to expand and grow our business in a way that would not have been possible without East NOLA BDD.

Why do you think East NOLA BDD is essential to the continued growth and strength of the community? What are some of the great things you’ve seen them initiate in the East?

Since Hurricane Katrina, there has been much success in East New Orleans from both a business and residential standpoint. This is due in large part to the vision and hard work of East NOLA BDD. The organization has been fundamental to the growth of our local businesses, enabling companies and organizations to better serve the community. The theme of the East NOLA BDD, “Develop, Discover, Live,” are true tenants that serve as a springboard for the success of East New Orleans.

Are there other partnerships Cox has established in East New Orleans outside of the East NOLA BDD?    

Cox serves on the Chairman’s Council of the Greater New Orleans Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber has opened many doors to new business and initiatives in East New Orleans.

How else is Cox active in the East New Orleans, whether through community projects or event sponsorships?

Supporting the community is one of Cox’s core values. We invest and participate in numerous educational and community events throughout the year, and we make sure that East New Orleans continues to be a part of these. We also produce a local public affairs program, “Across Louisiana” and we have had the pleasure of having representatives from East NOLA BDD on the program.

What would you say is the top three aspects of East New Orleans that make it an unique and invaluable part of Greater New Orleans?

• East New Orleans is the very first destination for all tourists traveling to New Orleans and has the potential to reap great benefits from the tourism industry. As East New Orleans continues to grow, more tourists will choose to spend their time in East New Orleans to take advantage of all of its newly developed commodities and attractions.

• East New Orleans is quickly growing and offers some of the best place to live, work and go to school. With newly renovated schools, attractive parks and diverse entertainment choices, there’s not much more you could ask for.

• East New Orleans has made great strides in hurricane protection. This enhanced flood protection infrastructure was not present before or during Katrina, but it is absolutely critical for home and business owners.


Franklin Avenue Baptist Church, SENIOR Pastor Fred Luter, Jr.


Why does Franklin Avenue Baptist Church choose to contribute to the East New Orleans Business Development District?

We’ve always been involved in our community. We are in an area where we pride ourselves on being a church that can give back to the community. When approached about contributing to the East New Orleans Business Development District, it was a no-brainer for us.

What are some of the great things you’ve seen East NOLA BDD take part of and facilitate in the community, and what do you think is the positive impact?

I’ve seen them take initiatives to do the street cleanups.  That’s always a plus because you want your neighborhoods, particularly for people getting off the interstate, to look good. They’ve removed a lot of blight from the community; they’ve painted the electrical boxes along the interstate. They are interested in making the community look better, and they want to make it better.

Why do you think East NOLA BDD is essential to the continued growth and strength of the community?

There needs to be someone in the community that has the community interest in mind. Even though you have individual homeowners and business owners, many times they are concerned about their particular home or business only. The East NOLA BDD is essential because they are concerned about their entire community. They will go out of their way to assist homeowners and businesses, but they want to make sure the whole community benefits by what East NOLA BDD has to offer. I think this is essential. We want to make homeowners and businesses aware of what’s going on. We also want to ensure that they have ways they can get involved.

What do you think are among the top things about East New Orleans that you are most proud?

• I am proud that it is the largest community in the city, by far. That says to me that a lot of people live in the East.  If you added all of the East New Orleans residents, it would be the fifth largest city in all of Louisiana. Lots of people think it’s a great area to live.

• The East Hospital has been a phenomenal plus!  With all of the people residing in East New Orleans, if someone got sick or needed medical attention, they’d have to drive all the way to Tulane Hospital, or Touro or even Ochsner, and that was just crazy. To have a fully equipped and beautiful hospital nearby is really great for the community today.

• Joe Brown Park is where families can come together and do things together. It is really great and they’ve added a lot of amenities to make Joe Brown Park beautiful. It is a great testimony to the new investments made into the community.

• The new schools are great, such as Little Woods that is new and beautiful. We have several others coming up, and that’s just another blessing for us.

• They just opened up a New Orleans Hamburger and Seafood. That’s one of my favorite restaurants; now there is one right in our neighborhood off I-10.

• I think the most important thing is just the diverse community. We have whites and blacks and Hispanics and Asians, and it’s just a splendid gumbo mix with all of our residents.

As a resident of East New Orleans, what do you love about being a part of the community outside of your in-office duties?

As a community, we are getting to the point where everything we need is here. There was a time that certain things were not in the area, and we would have to seek them in places like Metairie and Uptown. I think we still need to add more of a retail component, and I think that is going to be a great business venture for anyone looking to open more stores. Once they add that, there will be no reason to leave the area because we’d have all that we need.

Why is the Franklin Avenue Baptist Church choosing East New Orleans as the location for the second campus?

Our current location in the Upper Ninth Ward is landlocked, and we have no room to grow. When we as a church and our strategic planning committee, were meeting to look for someplace else to expand, the choice was obvious. There is no other place in the city that has the land that we needed to develop other than East New Orleans. “Go East young man, go East,” was kind of the no-brainer motto. On top of that, a lot of our current church members live in East New Orleans. Many of them are excited that we are coming close to their home, where some will be able to walk to church.

What do you think makes East New Orleans unique and valuable to the Greater New Orleans area?

It’s the largest community in the city. It’s the most diverse community in the city. I think those are two things that make it comparable to the rest of the New Orleans area. Also, we have the Michoud Assembly Facility that is known worldwide because of the NASA project. And so, it is a unique area in the city because of all of the community, the culture, the citizens and all the new construction.  I am proud to be a resident of East New Orleans and I am proud that our church is moving to East New Orleans.

 

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