Progress For New Orleans

Putting the NEW back in New Orleans

Browsing Posts tagged economy

In industrial accidents such as the Deepwater Horizon and subsequent oil leak, there is a usual but unfortunate pattern to civil litigation and victim compensation.

It seems to me that the person who’s on the lease would bear full responsibility for everything that happens on that lease, but generally the way these things shake out is that the partner with the least to lose, and therefore pay out, will get thrown under the bus and the victims will get screwed.

There is another method for ensuring that all victims are compensated and all costs associated with the oil spill are paid.

Place a lien on BP’s existing gulf leases.

Place a lien on BP’s Gulf leases until such time as the full cost of the clean up is paid for, personal losses of Gulf coast residents are covered and the states recover the lost tax revenue they miss collecting because economic activity along the coast is disrupted or curtailed.

The state legislatures of Gulf coast states need to place liens on BPs Gulf Coast leases equal to about half of the production from their active wells and future exploration. We don’t want to undercut all incentive to produce but we need to ensure that all financial costs for this spill are paid for by the responsible parties.

We need to do this and do it now.

Lien on BP until they pay for everything they need to.


This is just a set, in concise form, of many of the themes, backgrounds, motifs and issues that are going to be central to this forum going forward. I expect that these will change over the course of writing in more detail. And who knows, my mind may change on some of these in the future. But now, just now, these are some of the more important points I’ll be working on with posts here.

- The River. The reason New Orleans is here, the reason our city was built here, and the reason we are still important to the rest of the country is due, primarily, to the river. Forget this and you will suffer for it.

- International Trade. We built a lot of things and grew when trade was central to our life in New Orleans. We began to ignore it and we began our decline.

- Tradition may or may not be a problem. Insularity almost always is.

- Romanticizing New Orleans and thinking that it is so “unique” that it doesn’t need to participate in the U.S. or world economy is one of the most damaging things you can do to the city. The people of New Orleans make it unique and if the people can’t sustain themselves then New Orleans dies as they leave for economic opportunity elsewhere.

- If you think national retail chains and large scale business are somehow incompatible with New Orleans, you haven’t been here long enough.

- Those who complain that they don’t want New Orleans to be like “Houston or Atlanta”  don’t seem to realize 1) Both those cities started out trying to be like New Orleans (in terms of economic primacy) and 2) that a lack of opportunity for our citizens will have them moving to places like Houston or Atlanta.

- Historic preservation is fine in small doses and when completely voluntary. When it becomes compulsory and preservationists become strident it becomes stifling.

- The combination of strident preservationists and an insular ruling class combine to be like a bad jealous lover for the city of New Orleans. They don’t want you to change and they don’t want you to meet anyone new.

- I will struggle to remember that you can get into a lot of trouble speaking in metaphors and similes in New Orleans.

- Neighborhood Organizations can be a double edged sword in a community, providing a method for disseminating crucial information and being a catalyst for positive neighborhood projects but oftentimes being resistant to change, a self appointed cadre of the NIMBY-minded with a reflexive NO towards most new development.

- Basic code enforcement, or rather the lack of it, is impacting economic development.

- In New Orleans, oftentimes, something is restricted so that you can have the privilege of paying to do it or have it done. More regulations generally just mean more opportunity for corruption.

- Almost every new development that has been built in the city in the past 50 years has had a positive impact on the areas around them. In the cases where you think they haven’t you need to perhaps look closer at what is causing the decline.

- Concentrating poverty has failed miserably.

- And to paraphrase Ernie K-Doe. “When you got your money in your pocket, that’s your money.”  That pretty well underscores how important individual economic opportunity is and why we should do the things we need to do to make sure that we build a prosperous city.

So… these are it… mostly, in a couple of bullet points what we will be talking about here.


The proposal- Turn the old New Orleans Charity Hospital into a
biomedical business incubator.

The background – For a decade New Orleans has been looking to promote
the biomedical industry as a growth sector for its economy. As new
facilities for medical services are planned and come online there are
concerns about the disposition of legacy buildings. Amongst these is
the old New Orleans Charity Hospital. Concern about the fate of the
building is affecting discussions about the new modern,
state-of-the-art hospital facilities that are more suitable to the
practice of modern medicine than the Depression era, WPA inspired old
Hospital. This proposal seeks to, at once, provide and answer to that
question AND attract jobs and investment that are sorely needed in an
economically depressed and hurricane recovering New Orleans.

The plan – Use Old Charity Hospitals square footage as research space
for biomedical startups. Give over entire floors or wings to research
on a per square footage basis that starts at a very low cost and over
the course of a set term increases to market rate.

The mechanisms – A possible way this can be approached.

1 – An authority is set up to handle the building and research space
applications.  For sake of this exercise it is called the Old Charity
Biomedical Incubator Authority. (OCBIA)
OCBIA would be responsible for:
-       Basic building maintenance.
-       Processing applications for space
-       Tenant management
-       Building management.
This can be a city-state partnership, a private-state partnership, a
city-private partnership. But whomever the partners were they would be
responsible for restoring basic systems to the Old Charity Building.
The composition of the OCBIA board should be from the research and
financial sectors with a couple seats to represent city and state

2 – A biomedical start up would apply for space. – There would be a
form that would ask several questions to see if qualifying criteria
were met.
-       Type of research.
-       Committed funding sources. Grants, venture capitalist, private sources,
-       Projected square footage needed both at the beginning and at height
of research. To plan for future expansion of the research project.
-       Demonstration of ability to handle build out expenses and first
years lease payments.

A committee of researchers and financial administrators either would
evaluate the proposal on several criteria.
-       Long term prospects of success.
-       Added value to local economy of successful research.
-       Ability of the management team to see research through to conclusion.
-       Long term viability of the company.

3- Once chosen the start up would be responsible for:
-       The build out of their raw space
-       Lease payments
-       An annual report on progress of their research

The organization handling the process would be responsible for:
-       Providing a basic electric, water and sewerage service as well as
maintaining elevators and common areas.
-       Overseeing the build out of each research space to ensure there
weren’t permanent alterations to the building, or that any permanent
alterations didn’t undermine the building.
-       Managing tenants, contracting for shared services, like waste disposal.
-       Handling disputes between tenants.

4 – The start ups would be housed in the incubator for a set period of time.

After a suitable time, businesses would “graduate” from the incubator
to the local real estate market. This period can be 5 to 10 years.

A condition of participation in the incubator is that upon
graduation they would commit to continue to locate their business in
New Orleans.

The benefits-

New Orleans can be expected to reap several benefits from this proposal
-       Biomedical research jobs at good wages for an educated workforce.
-       The ability to attract and retain a college educated information workers.
-       A revitalized local real estate market for both research space and
market rate housing.
-       Enhanced economic positioning and increased economic diversity.
-       An adaptive reuse project for an outdated building.
-       A new industry built on a foundation of innovation.


The Why.

Comments off

Like everyone in New Orleans, Hurricane Katrina and the subsequent flooding affected my thinking about my city and my relationship with it.

Prior to the storm I had very little interest in local politics and the policies and personalities which ran the city. I was more focused on national issues.

But you can’t see your city in ruins, your fellow citizens either suffering or running wild in the streets, on national television for a couple of weeks without thinking that we must have been doing something seriously wrong to get us to this point. So, while the levee failures were the engineering failure that wrecked havoc on the physical infrastructure, we had economic and social failures that stretched for years and decades prior that had wrecked havoc on the lives of the citizens..

I started to look at Katrina through the lens of our economic decline and how that played into the problems before, during and after the storm. How lack of economic opportunity left folks vulnerable because they lacked the resources to choose their own path, how the lack of good jobs slowed the recovery and still continues to slow the recovery.

It is a big change for a self-identified “art guy”. I’ve gone from writing screenplays to thinking about zoning policy. The drive towards making up stories has been supplanted by the need to attempt to do the things needed to ensure New Orleans’ economic sustainability. If you had told me 10 years ago I’d be this “pro-development” I would have laughed. But things change and it changes you.

Central to this is the idea that people need jobs, in general, and good jobs, in particular in order to put their lives back together. They need economic opportunity and a good shot at career advancement to meet their obligations to their families and have the resources to enhance their lives and their community. And if they don’t find it in New Orleans they will leave to find it somewhere else.

As a result of this I have become extraordinarily sensitive to anyone who stands in the way of our city’s economic development. It is a “jobs first” outlook. It has made me very sympathetic to those who are bringing jobs to the city and fairly hostile to those attempting to obstruct those who are bringing business and jobs to the city.

Put simply- I will generally support those who are doing something and oppose those who look to stop them. To borrow a baseball rule, the tie goes to the runner.

New Orleans can only survive in a meaningful way if we work diligently to make its economy strong. Not just for its own purpose but because it allows its the city to retain and attract its population, it allows it to access the resources from the nation it needs to protect itself from hazards when it can demonstrate it is economically important to the nation. It allows the citizens to maintain themselves and be in a position to make their own choices.

And this is why I am working towards a future for New Orleans. Not just one that is a whisper or pale reflection of the past, but one that finds us, once again a world economic center.