New Orleans and the River Region has witnessed many changes since Hurricane Katrina disrupted life, for far too many in late August 2005.
Sometimes fate creates unexpected results, however, depending upon one approaches adversities. Now, thanks to this community’s resiliency, world’s assistance and infusion of new talents willing to pioneer through new uncertain beginnings, the region is experiencing growth like never before.
One of those new faces that have symbolized the spirit of enthusiasm is Michael Hecht, the President, and CEO of GNO Inc, the economic development organization representing the region.
Hecht, with the assistance of many, has helped elevate that organization to one of the best in the country and the region into the international contributor that it has so truly deserved.
As we have done before, early this week, Hecht and I looked back at the old year and onto the new, once again via online video, but this time, via Facebook Live. I wondered just what type of year did we experience and how much further have we moved away from the Katrina horrors.
Below is part one of a multi-part series with Hecht.
Interestingly, Hecht called 2016 year, “a chunky year”. Since oil prices were very low, because the federal elections brought upon such uncertainty, life was not as steady, as usual. But, in the overall scheme of things, Hecht said that the region hit on perhaps its biggest win of all, that is, to solidify its position as an international city, through strategic direct airline flights.
The crown jewel was the direct flight from Heathrow Air in London to New Orleans through British Airways which will connect, starting March of 2017, New Orleans to Europe for the first time since 1982. Add Condor Airlines and a couple of new connections, the region is fast becoming an international hub of its own, with the infrastructure for greater expansion.
Why is the direct flight so important to the city and to South Louisiana? To put it in casually familiar terms, according to Hecht, you’re in the “network”. You’re connected. You have arrived. You are no longer on the outside swirling in the”eddy”.
Practically speaking, the direct connection, a project that has involved so many local partners throughout the region, works hand and glove with other major opportunities. There is the new $8.5 billion (yes, with a “B” LNG operation in Plaquemines Parish, close to where the Mississippi River meets the Gulf of Mexico. Then, there is one of the fastest-growing technology conference, Collision, New Orleans swiped from Las Vegas. The direct flights enable greater accessibility for conventioneers, more business projects for the LNG project, more tourists to stay in the new mega Four Seasons hotel project at the foot of Canal Street in the completely revamped International Trade Center. It also has created greater synergies with the offerings from Vikings River cruise.
To help the additional influx of business people, tourists, and adventurers, the region is now constructing a new terminal at the Louis Armstrong Airport. To Hecht, this is not just any terminal, but a “shopping mall of airplanes”.
When talking to Michael Hecht either personally or via online video, I always enjoy watching his eyes widen as he speed-talks with obvious enthusiasm. The city and the River Parishes have come a long way since Katrina struck eleven years ago. Thanks to the vision of civic pioneers and talented new blood such as Hecht, the region is on the precipice of even greater opportunity as the City of New Orleans positions itself for our tricentennial in 2018.
Interview sponsored by Fred Herman Law Firm