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Optimism for economic development despite Ida, flood insurance concerns & COVID

Published: Oct. 4, 2021 at 6:03 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - People who work to attract new economic development remain optimistic despite southeast Louisiana being hit by Hurricane Ida, growing concerns about flood insurance costs, and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Walter Lane, Ph.D., is a University of New Orleans economist.

“Ida has just set everything back a little bit but I think the long-run picture is fairly reasonable,” said Lane.

Ileana Ledet is Sr. V.P. of Public Policy for GNO Inc., an economic development organization for the region.

“I think part of the challenge is, we’ve been in this start-stop process,” said Ledet.

Lane says post-Ida rebuilding will help the economy.

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“Not in the magnitude after Katrina but there is money pouring, a lot of people are rebuilding and the rebuilding is creating jobs,” said Lane. “There’s some economic activity having to do with the rebuilding from Ida that’s I think bringing some money into the city.”

Ledet says the area has learned to be more resilient.

“I think different businesses and individuals have started doing things a little bit differently, perhaps a little more efficiently, so yes, there are challenges related to all of those items, but I think that we’re in a better place to handle them going forward,” she said.

Todd Murphy leads the Jefferson Chamber of Commerce.

“We fared economically pretty well through the pandemic in spite of all of the factors against us. I think today, you know, people are trying to get their houses back together. But we’re still seeing an influx of people trying to move into Jefferson Parish, from a business standpoint and a residential standpoint,” said Murphy.

Murphy says Jefferson Parish has a diversified economy which includes retail, restaurants, the service industry, and industrial sectors and he says despite the hurricane, businesses are still interested in locating there.

“We’re seeing interest from people in the northeast who are coming to look at the industrial properties along the Mississippi,” Murphy said.

Ledet said opportunities are growing in New Orleans.

“We are diversifying the economy. We do have tech companies coming in,” said Ledet. “In recent years, we are building up this tech, eco-system, building on our digital media, there are more and more companies. We just had that big sale last week,” she said.

Still, there are concerns about new changes to the federal flood insurance program.

“I’m very concerned about the flood insurance rate going up particularly for businesses, you know, there are some for residential, but they seem to really be hitting businesses hard,” stated Lane.

Murphy says Congress needs to act to keep rates affordable.

“We’re seeing hundreds of dollars of increases and people just can’t afford that, and so the last thing we want is people dropping their flood insurance,” said Murphy.

Ledet says the billions in flood control improvements that were built after Hurricane Katrina are a selling point as they work to attract new economic development.

“We had this monster come and hit our area and the protections that were put in place, this big hurricane protection system that we have in place, and we stayed dry here in downtown New Orleans, recovered quickly, businesses are back, you have people back in their office buildings,” Ledet stated.

And she thinks the push to keep flood insurance affordable is not over as GNO Inc., leads the Coalition for Sustainable Flood Insurance, a national group, and other states have joined Louisiana in the fight to make the National Flood Insurance Program sustainable for the future.

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