Doing Business in New Orleans
With a never-ending lineup of festivals and a population that makes good times a top priority, it seems like there would never be time for business in New Orleans. But this city works just as hard as it plays and is rapidly rising to become one of the best places to do business in the South. Home to one of the world's largest ports, a thriving central business district, tax incentives and a creative spirit, more companies are making their home in the Crescent City.
A diverse economy
New Orleans has a fairly diverse economy with the main sectors being the oil and gas industry, shipbuilding, tourism and aerospace manufacturing. Home to internationally-known universities and hospitals, the city is also one of the country's top meeting and convention destinations.
Some of the largest companies in New Orleans include: Ochsner Health System, Tulane University, Northrop Grunman Avondale, Entergy Corporation, Hibernia National Bank, Lockheed Martin and Superior Energy Services.
Tourism still remains one of the top revenue generators and contributes almost 30% of the city's operating budget through hotel occupancy and sales taxes. Tourism largely led the post-Katrina economic recovery and brings in an average of $5 billion per year. More than 7.5 million visitors came to New Orleans in 2009, supporting hundreds of restaurants, hotels and tourism-related businesses and employing tens of thousands of workers.
Low cost of living and strong incentives
Many companies and entrepreneurs are attracted to New Orleans because it is a world-class city with a relatively low cost of living. With an abundance of universities, employers can have access to a qualified labor pool at below market rates and a moderately-priced real estate market means that office and warehouse space can often be found at a discount comparable to other comparable cities. Overall, New Orleans offers businesses more bang for their buck.
New Orleans also has a number of great business incentives such as the Enterprise Zone (EZ) program, the Restoration Tax Abatement program and the New Market Tax Credit. The popular Technology Commercialization Credit and Jobs Program offers a credit on any tax liability equal to 40% of an investment up to $250,000 in commercialization costs.
GNO, Inc., a regional economic development agency serving the 10-parish Greater New Orleans region, is a great source of information for doing business in the city. The organization can coordinate visits, advise you on incentive programs, provide a dedicated project manager and connect you with business leaders in the region.
In the years following Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans saw an influx of young professionals and entrepreneurs who viewed the city as a new frontier. A 2010 report by the Brookings Institution showed that New Orleans has pushed far ahead of the rest of the nation in business creation. Dozens of web-based businesses have been founded here in the past few years as New Orleans has become a hotbed of business startups.
Organizations such as Net2No, Social Entrepreneurs of New Orleans and Voodoo Ventures are great resources for entrepreneurs looking to set up shop in the city. Held every March, the New Orleans Entrepreneur Week features guests and seminars of interest to start-ups in the Crescent City.
More information and resources
New Orleans Chamber of Commerce
Net2NO (NetSquared New Orleans)
Social Entrepreneurs of New Orleans
New Orleans Entrepreneur Week
Louisiana Small Business Development Center (Greater New Orleans Region)