New Orleans and Baton Rouge: A super region?

New Orleans and Baton Rouge: A super region?

NEW SARPY, LA (WVUE) - When most people think of the cities of New Orleans and Baton Rouge, they usually don't think of those areas as twin cities.

But in terms of marketing Louisiana as a place to do business, business and economic development leaders are already working to sell Greater New Orleans and Baton Rouge as one metropolis.

"The population of Houston is larger than the entire population of Louisiana, so we can't compete just as Orleans, or even as just Greater New Orleans," said Michael Hecht, president and CEO of Greater New Orleans Inc.

There is already a catchy phrase and marketing materials.

"We call it the 'super region,' although when we include Lafayette and the bayou region we call it the 'super-duper' region," Hecht said.

The Jefferson Chamber of Commerce is fully on board.

"You put these two regions, New Orleans and Baton Rouge together, and you pick up 2.2 million people and just a lot of resources," said Todd Murphy, president of the Jefferson Chamber.

"Long term, I think you'll begin to talk about New Orleans and Baton Rouge in the same way you talk today about a Dallas-Fort Worth," Hecht said.

That would give those trying to lure economic opportunities to the state more selling points in the ways of educational institutions and hospitals in the expanded metropolis.

Tulane University economics and finance expert Peter Ricchiuti applauds the idea.

"You've got Minneapolis-St. Paul, you're a much bigger prize if you can come in at these things together, and there used to be that there was a lot of in-fighting, but about this, somebody in Houma didn't want to come into New Orleans and such, but that really was unproductive behavior," he said.

Ricchiuti said when one area of the state benefits from economic development, often areas not far away feel the effects.

"While that [new] facility may not be in your parish you're going to get a lot of benefits that roll off it, and so if they can work together, it'll be a big, big plus to the region," he said.

And Ricchiuti said in terms of linking the areas, it's already happening on the industrial corridor stretching along the Mississippi River and interstate.

"A lot of those chemical facilities and industrial facilities, they're connecting the two cities all by themselves, so the wind is at their back for getting these things together," he said.

And the ultimate goal is have New Orleans and Baton Rouge considered a single metropolitan statistical area by the U.S. Census Bureau. But a lot must happen before that can become reality.

"At the national policy level, it's about demonstrating enough commuting between our two communities so that the Census Bureau actually designates us as a single MSA," said Hecht.

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