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How Small-Business Growth And Entrepreneurship Have Powered New Orleans' Post-Katrina Comeback

Ten years later, the New Orleans regional economy has not only rebounded from its darkest days following Hurricane Katrina, but has proven resilient and innovative in the face of devastation.
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Nearly 10 years ago, Hurricane Katrina shone a spotlight on the major challenges the greater New Orleans region had been facing for decades: high poverty, structural unemployment, major population declines, a non-diversified economy and migrating businesses. All this meant that in the 40 years preceding, the area had underperformed the national average in job creation by more than 40 percent.

Today, with our partners at GNO, Inc. and the NOLA Business Alliance, New Orleans is diversifying its economy, creating jobs in digital media and bioscience, and fostering an emerging environmental industry focused on coastal restoration and sustainability, all while sustaining foundational industries like energy, international trade, advanced manufacturing and hospitality.

Post-Katrina New Orleans has reversed decades of economic instability and transformed the area from worst to first on many lists, and the region is at the highest point of economic rankings in its history.

This remarkable story has captured the attention of industry leaders, attracting companies such as GE Capital, Gameloft, Cobalt, Chiquita, and dozens of others to expand or relocate to New Orleans. National retailers such as Costco, H&M, Whole Foods and Walmart are filling a historic void of vital storefronts. The influx of companies and retailers has created over 14,000 jobs and brought $7 billion in capital investment to the metropolitan area over the past five years.

To complement economic development on the corporate level, one of the city's most important booms has occurred in the growth of small businesses and the creation of an entrepreneurial ecosystem.

In New Orleans, nearly 79 percent of our workforce is composed of jobs sustained by local, small businesses. Entrepreneurial activity in New Orleans is 56 percent above the national average. Fueled by an engaged community, strong financial incentives and an unmatched culture, one of the fastest growing startup hubs has grown out of the recovery of New Orleans. From Idea Village's New Orleans Entrepreneur Week, which attracts over 10,500 entrepreneurs and investors, to Propeller's focus on social innovation, to a rapidly growing minority entrepreneurship initiative called PowerMoves.NOLA, we are developing a diverse ecosystem for small businesses.

Five years ago Goldman Sachs saw the renewed potential of New Orleans and chose us as one of its first sites for the 10,000 Small Businesses initiative. The Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses initiative has turbocharged our focus on small-business development, providing a customized education program and offering small-business owners the opportunity and the building blocks to a practical business education. The cohorts of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses initiative range in industry: manufacturing, retail, plumbing, construction, tourism and health care. In partnership with Delgado Community College and Hope Enterprise, Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses has invested $20 million to help grow and create jobs at 400-plus local small businesses to date. In fact, just six months after completing the program in New Orleans, 69 percent of graduates of 10,000 Small Businesses reported increasing revenues and 44 percent reported adding jobs.

We're adding one, two and three jobs at a time by providing the support -- technical, educational and capital -- needed to jumpstart sustained growth. A great example of the impact this investment is commercial cleaning services business owner, Barrett Wiley. Since joining Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses, he has hired 17 employees while seeing a nearly 180 percent increase in his company's revenue.

Our private and not-for-profit partners have embraced the entrepreneurial ecosystem with innovative approaches to small-business development and sustainability. It's no surprise, then, that Forbes has called us America's #1 Biggest Brain Magnet and has said we're the "Coolest Startup City in America."

Ten years later, the New Orleans regional economy has not only rebounded from its darkest days following Hurricane Katrina, but has proven resilient and innovative in the face of devastation. We still have our challenges to face, no doubt. We continue to strive to improve workforce development and skills training to create pathways to prosperity. And we are working to ensure that the economy is open to all residents so that no one gets left behind. But it is clear the New Orleans economy of today is providing unprecedented support for small business and entrepreneurship growth; because of it, our city's best days are ahead of us.

Spotting small business growth opportunities is just one of the strategies taught in the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program. Visit for more information on how the program can help you grow your business.


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