BR, N.O. officials heading to Florida

Business and political leaders from Baton Rouge and New Orleans will visit the metro Tampa and Orlando, Fla., area Nov. 3-5 to get ideas for developing a regional economy in southeast Louisiana.

Officials with the Baton Rouge Area Chamber and Greater New Orleans Inc. on Thursday released the dates of their first joint canvass trip.

While the exact details of the trip are still being worked out, the plan is to spend three days and two nights in central Florida, with each city getting “kind of equal billing,” said Lauren Hatcher, a BRAC spokeswoman.

Officials say central Florida was selected for the trip for several reasons. Tampa and Orlando are about as far apart from each other on Interstate 4 as Baton Rouge and New Orleans are on Interstate 10. The demographics of both regions are similar to each other, even though central Florida has a larger population.

Five areas have been identified as fields where central Florida can serve as a model to south Louisiana: super-regionalism, digital media, health care, crime and international trade.

“Central Florida has a lot for us to learn from, particularly in how our two regions can collaborate to further economic development in southeast Louisiana,” Adam Knapp, BRAC president and CEO said in a news release.

Since 2003, BRAC has made eight canvass trips, visiting cities such as Austin, Texas; Nashville, Tenn.; Raleigh-Durham, N.C.; and Louisville, Ky. But this is the first time GNO Inc. has participated.

Michael Hecht, president and CEO of GNO Inc., said the joint trip is symbolically important of the relationship between metro New Orleans and the Capital Region.

“This is another step together,” he said.

“The impetus behind this super-region effort is that the business community already views New Orleans and Baton Rouge as a single community, with a single laborshed,” Hecht said.

Hatcher said she has gotten a lot of questions from business and political leaders who are interested in the super-regional aspect of the canvass trip and the chance to network with people from Baton Rouge or New Orleans.

“We’ve gotten strong feedback and now that we have announced the location, we expect a pretty strong response,” she said.

The trip will be limited to between 125 to 150 participants, with a goal of having equal representation from Baton Rouge and New Orleans, Hatcher said.

Registration for the trip will begin next month. For more information, go to the canvass website at http://www.srccanvas.com/.