by kari dequine harden
New Orleans bureau
March 20, 2013
NEW ORLEANS — Plans for a series of four “Social Renaissance” annual events aimed at attracting and connecting young professionals were unveiled Thursday afternoon in front of a group of city, business and tourism leaders.
The first event is a “Diner en Blanc,” a massive outdoor dining experience held at a top secret location. The “pop-up” dinner for 2,000 people takes place across the country and the world and will debut in New Orleans on April 20. It originated in Paris more than 20 years ago.
Cleveland Spears III, president and CEO of Spears Consulting Group and producer of the event, said that he already has 700 people on the waiting list. He said that people, all dressed in white, will meet at a central location before being transported to the secret site.
Spears said the events are designed to foster networking opportunities among young professionals and bring in diverse people from across the city, region and country.
On July 13, an awards show called The Millennials will honor “dynamic young professionals under age 40 doing amazing things across the region.”
In October, The International Night will feature music, arts, food and culture from around the world at a free, outdoor festival.
To culminate the premiere year, a New Year’s Eve party will welcome back the young professionals, at which a short film will be taped.
As a few of the presenters joked that they were too old for the events, Spears said the experiences are tailored to appeal to the 25-40 age range, but all ages are welcome to attend.
Ashton Ryan, president and CEO of First NBC Bank, title sponsor of the event, talked about changing the culture in which people have to leave the city to get good jobs and the Social Renaissance as part of the business community’s goals to build the workforce from within as well as attract from the outside.
The series is also sponsored by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Louisiana and the Hyatt Regency New Orleans Hotel.
Mark Romig, president of the New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corporation, said the events will entice young professionals from across the region to not only to visit the city but to consider relocating here.
Council member LaToya Cantrell called young professionals the “lifeblood of any city,” and a driving economic force.
Spears said diversity is a key element of the Social Renaissance. He said the mission is to gather people from different cultural and economic backgrounds and cross sections of the community, to meet and share experiences.