Our Views: Cities’ unity key to growth

The extraordinary efforts of New Orleans’ business, civic and political leadership to develop an economic plan is predicated on a concept that is drastically at variance with the city before Hurricane Katrina: collaboration.

Yes, it is drastic. The ProsperityNOLA plan for the next five years puts collaboration within the city and beyond it as the first in a list of growth strategies for the city.

Collaboration is born of necessity. New Orleans was an insular and declining city before the hurricanes of 2005.

“When before groups worked in silos and often at cross-purposes, post-Katrina funding and recovery opportunities forced them to work together to efficiently utilize resources to impact the greatest number of people,” the ProsperityNOLA plan said, perhaps glossing over a bit the failures of the Nagin years.

The business leaders and public officials who worked on the ProsperityNOLA plan benefit from what the report acknowledged as today’s enthusiasm for cooperation among all the economic development officials of the state, the region and the city.

“Collaboration efforts, at times, may extend to regional efforts within the state, or as in the case of advanced manufacturing’s space development activities, the efforts include nearby states,” the report noted.

That observation about the redevelopment of the Michoud facility and its potential in collaboration with the Stennis Space Center just over the Pearl River is only one of many ties that we trust will be part of this intensive effort through 2018.

If anything, we believe that the report understates the necessity for collaboration not only within New Orleans’ metro parishes, but with its neighbors, including Baton Rouge — both as an economic force and a home of state government and universities with a statewide mission of research and public service.

Among the ProsperityNOLA targets is biomedical innovation, and that clearly should not be limited to the physical assets of the city today. The development of the ProsperityNOLA plan must embrace the brainpower of scientists across the state, but particularly in the medical schools and LSU’s Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge.

After all, LSU and Tulane are training doctors in New Orleans, Baton Rouge and Shreveport today. Each outpost has expertise that can fuel the kinds of new innovations and, hopefully, also biomedical companies that contribute to the growth of the city and the state.

The ProsperityNOLA plan targets five industry clusters, each with some existing strengths and potential for New Orleans’ growth. We applaud the plan, which can be found in detail at http://www.nolaba.org.

Businesses, though, operate with little regard to political boundaries. We face competition from such large urban centers as Houston and Atlanta, just to name those close by.

The economic cluster that is New Orleans and Baton Rouge combined — not to mention the energy and petrochemical development between them, and in Lafayette and Lake Charles today — can be knit together into a powerhouse in the South and the nation.