Editor's Note: We Can't Just Let It Ride
A few weeks before this year’s New Orleans Entrepreneur Week I received a phone message from a woman I had never met before, a Mrs. Jeanne Nathan. She wanted me to know about an event that was happening at NOEW that I should not miss — it was a presentation and panel discussion that her organization, the Creative Alliance of New Orleans, was putting on with the Downtown Development District about the importance of New Orleans’ cultural economy. I’d never heard that term before, so I was intrigued. I decided to check it out.
Included on the panel that day were some familiar faces — Matt Schwartz, co-CEO of The Domain Companies (and Biz’s CEO of the Year in 2017), and Tara Hernandez, president of JCH Development (also one of our Top 10 Real Estate Influencers of 2016) and the lead of GNO, Inc.’s latest endeavor, the New Orleans Music Economy Initiative (NOME). The entire panel seemed to share the same message: New Orleans is only New Orleans because of its creatives. Our architecture, our music, our food, our culture — those are what drives people to visit, to move here, to stay here amidst all the city’s problems. It’s definitely what brought my family here, and what keeps us here. But if that’s our biggest asset, why aren’t we doing more to protect it, promote it and grow it?
What really caught my attention, however, was when I went home and looked through the information that had been handed out and saw how many other cities have started investing in their creatives. For example, Austin has created the Building Austin’s Creative Capacity Project — an effort that prioritizes the city’s creative economy as an economic driver. Detroit is looking to bounce back from bankruptcy by directing new private investment toward its creative industries through programs like CREATE: Detroit. And next year, Bentonville, Arkansas, will open a 63,000-square-foot multi-disciplinary space called The Momentary. Formerly a Kraft Foods plant, the new space will be home to festivals, culinary experiences, visual and performing arts exhibitions and an artist residency program.
If cities like these — cities that can’t begin to touch the cultural assets that we have here — are conducting studies, channeling funds and creating partnerships and initiatives that bring together government and the public and private sectors, shouldn’t we, also, be upping our game?