Economic development organizations see progress as more local businesses reopen; ponder the future

Louisiana Economic Outlook
New Orleans skyline photo.
New Orleans skyline photo. (Source: WVUE Weather)

NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) -With the first phase of the reopening of Louisiana’s economy complete and the start of the second phase underway, economic development organizations said they are witnessing signs of progress up-close.

Grady Fitzpatrick is Senior Vice President of Business Development with GNO, Inc, a regional organization dedicated to growing economic development.

"We're starting to see trends where people are heading back to the office. We're downtown, you see more foot traffic,” Fitzpatrick said.

Todd Murphy is President of the Jefferson Chamber of Commerce.

"I know I work in a 10-story office building and suddenly I see cars in the parking lot again and people are coming in and out, so I think it's going to be gradual,” said Murphy. “I think people are using commonsense. I go into a lot of establishments and they’re all trying with masks and sanitizers.

And weeks ago, GNO Inc. launched what it calls the GNOPivot Marketplace to help local businesses buy PPE and it says lately there has been an uptick in traffic.

"Which shows people are preparing their work sites and their workforce and office places. I think we're doing it smart; it's going slow. People are still working remote, but we are seeing some progress,” said Fitzpatrick.

Murphy said it is a mixed bag, in terms of how businesses who have reopened are faring so far.

"It's a steady opening, we are in Phase 2 and I think it depends on what type of business you go to, but some are doing very well right now, some are still kind of struggling to get their employees back,” Murphy stated.

Fitzpatrick commented on prospects for new economic development later this year and early in 2021.

"We are bullish on a couple of sectors I think that New Orleans, the region as well as the state is primed and ready for, the first is logistics and manufacturing,” he said.

Fitzpatrick sees new opportunities as the U.S. begins to rely less on China to make products. Logistics he says involves getting products from manufacturers to consumers. He thinks there will be a need for more distribution operations.

"Which then actually benefits us, where we used to see the distribution centers really tied to the large population centers, Atlanta, Houston, Dallas, you'll see more regional distribution centers that can reach markets quickly. The north shore, St. Tammany, Tangipahoa have an opportunity there, they've got distribution networks as well as the south shore of New Orleans, so I think logistics and manufacturing are areas that will see an uptick and really have seen activity already,” said Fitzpatrick.

Murphy agrees there could be some new businesses as people reinvent themselves due to the pandemic’s impact on the economy.

"I want to be optimistic, but I also think it's going to be very tough. We as a state have a lot of our eggs in one basket and that is in tourism and hospitality. Oil and gas is already hurting,” he added.

Fitzpatrick said there will continue to be new entrepreneurs especially in the digital sector.

"We will continue to see and support a lot of entrepreneurship that ties into tech, so we are one of the fastest growing tech markets in the country. That diversification is still important, we saw what happened with oil prices with the shutdown. Some of our technology companies, especially in the video game space, we're seeing record, record month,” he said.

And GNO Inc., is also focused on retraining people whose employment disappeared during the pandemic by working with local colleges and universities and private partners.

"To up-skill, retrain for the jobs that are coming online, so whether it’s software development, whether it’s automation, Telemedicine,” said Fitzpatrick.

While Murphy said the economy will not return to gangbuster status overnight, he is encouraged by the enthusiasm he sees among business owners and the general public that wants to support local businesses.

“I think eager is the word, people are eager to get back and get this economy growing again,” said Murphy.

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