What Jefferson Saw
From its earliest days New Orleans was about business. Some cities are settled by pilgrims in search of salvation; others by pioneers looking for space; but New Orleans was an entrepreneurial enterprise tracing back to Scotsman John Law and His Company of the West. In 1715 Law had been granted a contract by the French regent, Philppe of Orleans, to exploit wealth from the Louisiana territory. Though Law was not successful at finding the gold and silver he envisioned, a prosperous city nevertheless developed.
Eventually, as a new nation was formed and expanded, President Thomas Jefferson realized that this city, which connected the nation’s mainland via the Mississippi river to the Gulf of Mexico and then the world, was too valuable not to own.
“There is on this globe a single spot, the possessor of which is the natural and habitual enemy of the United States. It is New Orleans… through which the produce of three-eights of our territory must pass to market,” he wrote to Robert Livingston, the U.S.’s minister to France. Livingston was instructed to try to buy New Orleans from France. Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte agreed and then threw in the entire Louisiana territory reaching as far as Montana, thus completing one of history’s all-time best business deals.
Contemporary New Orleans has never been an important business city in terms of manufacturing or members on the stock exchange or richest companies. Its business activity is more the sum of its parts. There are the port, tourism and oil, but there are also lots of bits and pieces; some drawn here because it makes strategic sense. Many were a product of the post-Katrina migration as would-be entrepreneurs sensed New Orleans as a place of romance, adventure and opportunity.
Over the years New Orleans would develop a reputation as a party town too, a reputation which in itself would be good for business.
Biz New Orleans, the magazine, was founded in 2003, but did not return after Katrina when so much about the city’s future was in doubt. Now we have no doubt. The future looks bright, but even if it did not there would be stories to tell. As a business magazine with a companion website, BizNewOrleans.com, we intend to resonate to the pulse of the region and tell those stories.