Same Mission, New Methods
A pioneering organization copied many times over across the globe, the World Trade Center of New Orleans uses modern avenues and initiatives to aid the international trade efforts of local businesses.
Caitlin Cain, CEO of the World Trade Center New Orleans, Jason French, Chairman of the Louisiana Energy Export Association and VP of Government and Public Affairs for Tellurian Inc., and Jessica Wickett, Development and Public Affairs for Venture Global LNG, give testimony before the House Natural Resources Committee at the Louisiana State Capitol, to announce the formation of the Louisiana Energy Export Association and provide an update on LNG projects in Louisiana. (April 26, 2017)
The reason for this organization’s existence is the same now as it was then, way back when the World Trade Center of New Orleans wasn’t called the World Trade Center of New Orleans.
Founded after the curtain dropped on World War II, the then-named International Trade Mart sought to encourage the expansion of local commerce by assisting in the creation of joint ventures, spearheading commercial educational projects and interacting with organizations who shared that same set of goals. Both a simple and genius concept when viewed through the rearview mirror of three-quarters of a century of success, the WTC of New Orleans template has been duplicated more than 300 times in 96 countries.
This prototype economic-advocacy organization currently features a diverse roster of approximately 1,000 members, including the Port of South Louisiana itself and many commercial operators within the Port District. Beyond the WTC’s strong maritime presence, the organization is also comprised of civic entities, transportation companies, engineering firms, freight forwarders, agricultural businesses, and even cultural enterprises that offer the world pieces of South Louisiana’s one-of-a-kind music and art.
“You look at the history of New Orleans, and it was founded on the concept of trade. It’s always been a part of our narrative,” says Caitlin Cain, the newly-appointed CEO of the WTC of New Orleans. “But the way in which we connect to trade and talk about trade and educate ourselves about trade has dramatically evolved. But, really, the mission of promoting international trade and creating these purposeful (connections) between members of those involved in trade has not changed.”
This Spring, the WTC of New Orleans showcased its ability to find worthwhile avenues to serve the varying needs of its diverse membership when it organized and hosted the first annual Future of Trade Summit in Baton Rouge.
The one-day event featured two panel discussions in the morning. The first — the Trade Policy and Future of Trade Agreements Panel, comprised of representatives from Louisiana Economic Development, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Leake & Andersson and Siemens AG — spoke about trends related to tariffs and taxes, and debated the impact on both a micro and macro level of proposed trade policies. Following that, the second panel — the Financing, Banking and Currency Panel, comprised of reps from Orion Instruments, JPMorgan Chase, U.S. Commercial Service New Orleans and Regions Bank — touched upon changes in the regulatory landscape and the direct impact it’s had on international finance and the banking and business community. Finally, over lunch, the Summit’s keynote speaker, Thomas H. Hudson (the CEO of G2, a liquified natural gas company) addressed the impact of this emerging energy sector on the Louisiana economy.
TOP LEFT: Ambassador of the European Union to the United States, David O’Sullivan speaks at a World Trade Center business roundtable on developments in the EU and Transatlantic Relations. (May 5, 2017) TOP RIGHT: (Left to Right) Don Pierson, Secretary, Louisiana Economic Development; Caitlin Cain, CEO, World Trade Center of New Orleans, and Thomas Hudson, CEO, G2 LNG pictured at the World Trade Center Future of Trade Summit held in Baton Rouge, LA. (May 9, 2017) BOTTOM: (Left to Right) Shawn Donnan, World Trade Editor, Financial Times; Edward T. Hayes, Chairman of the World Trade Center New Orleans, Honorary Consul of Ukraine in Louisiana and Partner, Leake and Andersson; Kaitlin Sighinolfi, Director, Government Affairs, Siemens, AG; Reuben Smith-Vaughan, Senior Director, Americas, U.S. Chamber of Commerce; and Don Pierson, Secretary, Louisiana Economic Development, pictured after the Trade Policy Panel at the World Trade Center Future of Trade Summit in Baton Rouge, LA. (May 9, 2017)
All WTC of New Orleans events — such as its 2017 “Doing Business in India” platform — tackle big-picture issues and also address (as Cain calls them) “hands-on, nitty-gritty technical issues” that affect its members regularly. By focusing on educational/technical initiatives, training programs and shaping dialogue of specific policies that are pertinent in the international trade sphere, every member of the WTC can benefit from these gatherings regardless of the specifics of their day-to-day operations.
“It’s an on-going challenge that many organizations have – trying to be everything to everyone,” Cain says. “And you do need to focus on what you can do really, really well and those things you can offer. And I think the Future of Trade Summit was an example of that, where we can provide programming that talks about the global macro issues impacting international trade from a policy perspective and a regulatory perspective. Then, you touch upon things that everybody needs – regardless of what type of trade they’re involved with – such as access to capital, training programs, technical assistance providers and experts that can tell you what you need to know if you plan to expand in a global marketplace.”
Besides facilitating formal, buttoned-up events for members, the WTC of New Orleans also advocates on behalf of its membership when proposed government regulations would either hurt or help a company’s bottom line. In addition, the WTC occasionally coordinates trade educational outings, allowing member institutions to showcase their operations. For instance, the Port of South Louisiana and the WTC of New Orleans orchestrated a “field trip” to the Port’s Globalplex and neighboring facilities last month. Among those invited included the entire WTC membership and honorary consuls from the Consular Corps of New Orleans — approximately five dozen country-specific representatives assigned to foster trade and economic opportunities between its host nation and the Gulf South of the United States. The group received a thorough tour of the Port’s massive layout and heard Port officials talk about dredging issues along the lower half of the Mississippi River and how it plays a role in the global food supply and national security.
“The ports are the backbone of our trade network and we work closely with the ports,” Cain says. “The Port of South Louisiana and the Port of New Orleans have been heavily involved with the WTC and its history for a very long time. Together, we really work to cross-promote key issues in the maritime field, such as dredging (on the Mississippi River). Or it’s touting the importance of the Mississippi waterway to the international trade community and developing educational platforms where we can talk about why the Mississippi is significant not just for Louisiana, but the nation as a whole.”
- William Kalec