Looking Back to Look Forward

We’ve come a long way in five short years.

The first issue of Biz New Orleans came out in Oct. 2014. Since that time, business in Southeast Louisiana has gone through a lot of changes. On the politics side, Congressman Steve Scalise had just become the majority whip when we launched —he was featured on our second cover — and Gov. Bobby Jindal was struggling with a $1.6 billion budget deficit — the largest Louisiana had faced in 25 years. In Oct. 2015, John Bel Edwards became the governor, and is currently heading into a runoff election Nov. 16 to try and maintain his position.

Our first year in print was also the same year of the 10-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina and BP settle money arrived from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster — $6.8 billion for Louisiana, of which $45 million went to the city of New Orleans and $53.1 million to Jefferson Parish. An additional $10 billion was distributed to businesses and individuals across the Gulf South. The natural disasters kept coming, however, with the next being the Baton Rouge Flood of August 2016. Leaving 13 dead, and damage estimated at $8.7 billion, it became the state’s worst natural disaster since Katrina as 80% of those affected, including 20,000 businesses, did not have flood insurance. Agricultural losses were estimated at $277 million.

Uber and Lyft also launched locally in 2015, the ABWA (American Business Women’s Association) New Orleans chapter returned following a 9-year absence, and The Outlet Collection at Riverfront – the nation’s first upscale outlet center in a downtown area — celebrated its first anniversary in business.

It was a busy first year, and things have definitely not slowed down since. So, in honor of our fifth anniversary, we took a look back at some of the top stories we’ve covered over the years in a wide array of industries. It’s by no means comprehensive — and does not include our booming real estate industry as last month’s issue was entirely devoted to it — but we feel it does offer a bit of a feel for how much has happened in our region in such a relatively short period of time.





New Orleans has long been a favorite for tourists, and not just domestically. In 2015 — before the launch of direct international flights — New Orleans saw a 37% growth in international tourism, the highest of any city in U.S. (9.78 million visitors from over 70 countries). Copa Airlines launched its nonstop service to Panama City, Panama from New Orleans in 2015.

Following shortly after, in 2016, after 34 years with no direct flights to Europe, Condor announced its plans to offer seasonal service from Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport to Germany and British Airways announced nonstop service to London. British Airways flights began in March 2017 and Condor in May. Choice Aire also began flights to Honduras in Dec. In 2016, passenger totals broke records at over 11 million.

Locally, GLO Airlines launched Nov. 2015 with the aim of shuttling business clients around the South. In July of 2017, the airline shut down indefinitely due to a dispute with its operating company.

During the summer of 2015, the airport broke ground on a highly anticipated new North Terminal with plans to open in January of 2016. That date became October, then Feb. 2019, then May. An opening date remains unknown as of mid-October. The airport is currently the fifth fastest growing in the nation.

The National WWII Museum celebrated 15 years in operation in 2015 and announced it was launching a $325 million expansion to quadruple its size from 70,000 square feet to 300,000.

In 2016 and 2017, hotel construction boomed, with notable additions including the reopening of the Pontchartrain Hotel and the welcoming of Moxy New Orleans, the Jung Hotel, Alder, B on Canal and NOPSI.

Tourism momentum only continued to grow with New Orleans’ Tricentennial celebrations in 2018, the 35th anniversary of the French Quarter Festival and more hotel launches like the Eliza Jane and Towne Place Suites by Marriott and SpringHill Suites— the first building in the country to combine the two brands — and the 125th anniversary of the Roosevelt Hotel. It’s not surprising that New Orleans was named the “Top Travel Destination of 2018” by The New York Times.

The Ernest N. Morial Convention Center fell under new leadership in Feb. 2018 with the hiring of President and General Manager Michael Sawaya. Sawaya is currently overseeing a multimillion-dollar renovation and expansion that includes a 1,200-room Omni Hotel, which will serve as the official convention center hotel.


New Orleans Tourism Numbers Continue to Climb

2014 9.52 million
Spent $6.81 billion

2018 18.51 million
Spent $9.1 billion

(Source: DK Shifflet & Associates)




New Orleans Saints owner Gayle Benson walks on the field before an NFL preseason football game against the Los Angeles Rams in New Orleans, Thursday, Aug. 30, 2018. (AP Photo/Bill Feig)

This past five years has been all about the Bensons — starting in Jan. 2015 when New Orleans’ NBA and NFL team owner Tom Benson announced his plan to eventually turn over the franchises to his wife, Gayle. The decision sparked a family legal battle that made headlines, only ending shortly before his passing in 2018.

The value of both teams has continued to climb. Benson paid $70 million for the team when he purchased it in 1985. In 2016 — the year the team celebrated its 50th anniversary — the Saints were ranked 23rd by Forbes of 32 NFL franchises with a value of $1.52 billion. By 2018, the team had risen in value to $2.08 billion but fell a bit in the rankings to 26th. In 2012, Benson purchased the Pelicans for $340 million. In 2017, the team’s value was up to $750 million. In 2018, it had risen to $1 billion. In April of this year, the Pelicans got a new executive vice president of basketball operations, David Griffin.

It was announced in 2018 that New Orleans had won the bid for the 2024 Super Bowl.

Moving to New Orleans’ Triple-A baseball team, the Zephyrs got a new name in Nov. 2016, becoming the Baby Cakes. The change was short-lived, however, as this year the team completed its last season playing at Zephyr Field (where they’ve played since 1997) and is moving to Wichita, Kansas.





In 2014, just over 1 million passengers cruised out of New Orleans, with 33,000 passengers embarking on a cruise during just the first weekend of the winter cruise season, a record for the Port of New Orleans at the time. In December, then-President Obama announced his intention to end the United States’ embargo with Cuba, prompting hope for new cruising opportunities out of New Orleans. Earlier this year, President Trump banned “people-to-people” travel licenses to Cuba and the last American cruise ships pulled out of the country.

While one door closed, another opened when in 2018 Disney Cruise Line announced they would begin sailing out of New Orleans in Feb. 2020, and this past September added itineraries in 2021. The Port of New Orleans is currently the 6th largest cruise port in the nation.

On the River

Biz’s October 2016 cover celebrated the inaugural voyage of New Orleans-based French America Line’s luxury riverboat the Louisiane from the Gretna Ferry Terminal. Estimated to result in a $58 million windfall for the region, the Louisiane instead made only one complete voyage and has since been sitting in port due to a dispute over damages with its insurance company. The company’s website still holds an outdated promise of a return sometime in 2018.

In happier news, in Oct. 2018, American Cruise Lines launched the American Song, the first modern riverboat to sail in the U.S. A second boat, American Harmony, made its inaugural departure from the Port of New Orleans this past August. This summer Hospitality Enterprises (owner of the paddlewheeler Creole Queen) introduced Riverboat Louis Armstrong. The 3,000-passenger boat stands four decks high and is one of largest riverboats in the region.


Cruising Grows

Number of people cruising out of the Port of New Orleans has grown.

2015 1.02 million

2018 1.2 million



In 2015, oil prices plummeted by 46.5%, hitting $1.67 a gallon in October. As a result, the New Orleans area lost as many as 8,000 jobs. The same month, the Port of New Orleans celebrated the first anniversary of the return of Chiquita Banana after 40 years (including 10 years spent in negotiations). Unfortunately, they didn’t stay long. In July of 2016, following a change in management, Chiquita announced it was returning to Gulfport, Mississippi. 2016 also saw the expansion of the Panama Canal and the continued call for the necessity of river dredging following high waters.

In 2017, Gary LaGrange, president and CEO of the Port of New Orleans since 2001, retired and Brandy Christian (previously the COO) was chosen as his replacement.

Biz’s top story of the year in 2018 was the sale of Avondale Shipyard, praised as “one of the largest economic development announcements in Jefferson Parish history” by parish president Mike Yenni. Around the same time, Fuji Oil announced a $70 million investment in a new processing facility adjacent to Avondale, and Formosa Petrochemical Corp. announced it had selected St. James Parish as the future home of a $9.4 billion, 2,400-acre chemical manufacturing complex.



Port of South Louisiana Total Throughput Tonnage Grew

2014 291.83 million short tons

2018 303.10 million short tons





Food is everything in Southeast Louisiana so it’s not surprising the industry has been very active. In Sept. 2014 the Southern Food and Beverage Museum opened on O.C. Haley Blvd. That same fall, Ralph Brennan (our cover feature for June 2015) reopened Brennan’s.

In 2015, Alon Shaya opened Shaya — quickly named “Best New Restaurant in America” by Esquire — and Nina Compton opened Compère Lapin. Other notable openings included Balise, Willa Jean, Primitivo, St. Roch Market, Legacy Kitchen, Desire Oyster Bar, and SWEGS.

Moroccan carrots with chermoula and mint, labneh, lutenitsa, lamb ragu hummus with crispy chickpeas and pita bread, sit on a table at Shaya Restaurant, which opened in 2015. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)


Number of restaurants in Orleans Parish

Aug. 2005 984 (pre-Katrina)

June 2018 1,216

(Source: June 2018 analysis by The Advocate)


The National Fried Chicken Festival launched in 2016, as did Susan Spicer’s Rosedale and BB Kings Blues Club. That year was big for new grocery options as well — Mandeville welcomed a Whole Foods and the region’s first Trader Joe’s opened in Metairie.

Arguably the biggest industry story of the past five years hit on Oct. 21, 2017, when the Times-Picayune revealed the results of its eight-month-long investigation into Besh Restaurant Group for sexual harassment. Two days later, John Besh stepped down from BRG (which owned 12 restaurants, a bar and event space). The scandal brought a huge industry problem to light. According to a 2015 study by Restaurant Opportunities Centers United (ROC), 46% of males and 60% of females and transgender restaurant workers view harassment as “an uncomfortable aspect of work life.”

Another scandal brought changes to Tales of the Cocktail in 2018, causing CEO Ann Tuennerman to sell to Gary Solomon Jr., head of the Solomon Group, and Neal Bodenheimer, owner of bars Cure and Cane & Table. The organization was restructured as a nonprofit and gave back $250,000 in grants at its July 2018 event.





When news came that New Orleans would be hosting the Major League Gaming World Finals from Oct. 16-18, 2015, GNO, Inc., president and CEO Michael Hecht called it a win that “solidified Greater New Orleans’ reputation as the fastest growing software market in America.” At that time, nobody could have expected the growth that would follow.

The biggest win so far, however, came in 2018 with the opening of DXC Technology, a company expected to create 2,000 tech jobs within its first 6 years in business. It claimed the title of one of the “Top 20 Economic Development Deals in North America” in 2017 by Site Selection Magazine.

Also in 2018, Indian tech firm iMerit announced it will open its first U.S. delivery center in New Orleans, Accruent announced that the upcoming addition of a 250-job tech center and LM Wind Power shared plans to establish its Technology Center for the Americas at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans.

The region’s most celebrated entrepreneurial gathering, New Orleans Entrepreneur Week (NOEW), expanded its presence across eight neighborhoods for the first time in 2018, and in March of 2019 — Idea Village partnered for the first time with Tulane University to create the 10thiteration of the event.

In June of this year, Dreamleague Gaming announces New Orleans as its new Southern hub for its entertainment leagues, and in October, GDG New Orleans and Women Techmakers New Orleans will host New Orleans’ first community-run developer conference — DevFest New Orleans at Loyola University’s Miller Hall.

Thousands of people converged on New Orleans for the Major League Gaming World Finals in October 2015. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)


Greater New Orleans is…

7th in the Nation for Tech and Digital Media Business Growth (2013-2018)

3rd for Percentage of Women in the Tech Workforce (Feb. 2019)

5th for Percentage of African-Americans in Digital Media Jobs (Oct. 2018)




Education and Workforce Development

The most common issue Biz hears about from its readers is concern over our region’s lack of a skilled workforce. In the past five years, however, there have been huge efforts to address this shortage.

In 2015, Delgado broke ground on its River City site and Advanced Manufacturing Center of Excellence in Churchill Technology and Business Park, completed its $21 million Sidney Collier technical college and opened the Marvin E. Thames Sr. Learning Resource Center and the Delgado Entrepreneurship Center. In 2016, the Delgado Maritime and Industrial Training Center opened, as did UNO’s Digital Animation Studio.

In the fall of 2017, UNO saw its largest increase in undergrads in 8 years (a 15% increase), and in 2018, the Tulane A.B. Freeman School of Business completed its $35 million expansion, which included 80,000 square feet of new and renovated space at the Uptown campus. The school also expanded its footprint with the Stewart Center CBD, which is co-located with the New Orleans Culinary and Hospitality Institute, which opened Downtown on April 13, 2019.

In August of 2018, Loyola University made school history when it announced Tania Tetlow, J.D., as its new president. Tetlow is the first female and first layperson president in the school’s 108-year history.

Throughout this past year, Tulane and Delgado signed a transfer agreement and a number of new programs were announced at universities throughout the region. This fall, classes started for Tulane University’s MBA/Sustainable Real Estate Development Degree program — the only one of its kind in the nation.





The healthcare industry has seen unprecedented expansion over the past five years. The creation of a booming medical corridor launched in the summer of 2015 with the opening of the $1.1 billion, 2.3 million-square-foot UMC New Orleans at 2000 Canal St. and its promise to employ 2,000 people. The following year the $1 billion Veterans Affairs hospital opened right next door.

Further southwest, Thibodaux Regional Medical Center Wellness Center was dedicated on Oct. 27, 2016. The $73 million center is the first of its kind in the state that focuses on prevention, fitness education, rehab and sports and wellness. The economic impact to Lafourche Parish is estimated at $5.2 million a year.

On Jan. 11, 2017 Children’s Hospital broke ground on its $300 million expansion. The largest since the hospital was founded in 1955, it is expected to be complete in 2020. In May of the same year, Tulane opened its $1.1 million Professional Athlete Care Team Clinic, followed in August by Crescent Care breaking ground on a $23 million comprehensive health center on Elysian Fields.

Also in 2017, Ochsner bought MHM Urgent Care and announced its plan for a $100 million expansion in Greater Baton Rouge region. In recognition of very active expansion efforts and its role in the growth of the industry, Ochsner’s Warner Thomas served as our CEO of the Year in our Jan. 2018 issue. Later that year, Dr. John Ochsner passed away.

Finally, over the past few years medical marijuana has been a hot topic. In 2015, legislators set out framework for growth and distribution of the plant, with the first crop to be available in the fall of 2018. Instead, the first sale occurred on Aug. 7, 2019. Nine pharmacies throughout the state are currently distributing marijuana for limited medicinal use.


Greater New Orleans Ranks 1st in the Nation for Job Growth in Healthcare

2007 14,400 employed in the industry

2017 25,700 — a 78% increase
(130,960 people in Louisiana employed in healthcare in 2017 — Bureau of Labor Statistics)





When Biz launched in Oct. 2014, “Hollywood South” was going strong. Things changed, however, on June 19, 2015 with the passage of HB829, a bill that capped film incentives at $180 million — a big blow considering the state had issued $308 million in credits the previous year. Within a year the film business had declined by 80%. Among the casualties was the closing of Filmworks New Orleans, a 37-acre film studio in New Orleans East, which closed March 31, 2016 after only 1½ years in business.

As the film industry slowed, other entertainment options popped up, including a new movie theater — the Broad Theater opened in March 2016 — and the rebirth of a local gem — the Orpheum reopened Sept. 2015 following a $13 million renovation by Tipitina’s Roland von Kurnatowski and Dr. Eric George.

In 2017, with the film industry still slow but hopeful, Starlight Studios opened its $12.5 million, 12-acre campus near NASA’s Michoud facility and the New Orleans Film Society welcomed a new executive director, Fallon Young. In 2018, with film business picking up steadily again, Deep South Studios, the largest design-built independent film and television full-service facility in the Southeast, welcomed its first tenant on the Westbank.

Finally, this past spring Jazz Fest celebrated its 50th anniversary, the Joy Theater opened after $200,000 in renovations and GNO, Inc. launched the New Orleans Music Economy Initiative (NOME), aimed at bolstering the business of music in the region.


Musicians We’ve Lost

Lionel Ferbos

Allen Toussaint

Buckwheat Zydeco

Fats Domino

Lazy Lester

Dave Bartholomew
Spencer Bohren
Dr. John
Art Neville
Paul “Lil Buck” Sinegal




Banking & Finance

There were four big stories in this industry that Biz has covered over the past five years, by far the biggest being the failure of First NBC Bank. Only four years after going public in 2013, the bank’s share prices had plummeted by 90% due to poor lending standards and federal and state regulators soon closed the bank and initiated a $1 billion cleanup, the biggest in the nation since the end of the financial crisis in 2010. In an article in our March 2018 issue, we talked about the resultant moves by Whitney Bank to reopen all closed 29 branches and other banks like Fidelity and Gulf Coast were working to pick up the pieces.

Looking back to 2015, that was the year that EMV or chip cards became standardized and we spread the word that businesses who hadn’t switched could be liable for credit card fraud.

In our Nov. 2016 issue, we highlighted a new law that was going to take effect in April 2017 that required investment advisors to put clients’ needs ahead of own. Local advisors weighed in on their thoughts on the law, which aimed at cutting back on high fees.

On Dec. 22, 2017, the tax reform act was signed into law. Meant to simplify the tax code, it actually added 573 sections to the Internal Revenue Code and created some uncertainty in the industry along with a promise to especially benefit business and wealthier individuals. A guest piece provided by Postlewaite & Netterville in the March 2018 issue broke down what local businesses could expect from the changes.


Downtown Continues to Grow

$7 billion
in investment since 2005

national retailers added recently including Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom, Tiffany & Co, True Religion, The Art of Shaving and many more

restaurants & bars

sidewalk cafes

hotel rooms

Over 85%
of “Vacant and Underutilized Properties” either redeveloped or under development since 2012

jobs, making Downtown the largest employment center in Louisiana

people are in Downtown on the average weekday

6,775 units
Number of apartments and condos have more than doubled since 2008

residential occupancy

Source: Downtown Development District