Announcing: Rising Tide 8 Panel Discussion

The eighth Rising Tide Conference will take place on September 14 on the campus of Xavier University. Register today at http://risingtidenola.com/

Beyond Tourism Beyond Recovery

In a recent editorial, Governor Bobby Jindal became the latest in a growing string of commenters to call New Orleans “America’s Comeback City.”   Since 2007, its population has grown faster than that of any other American city. And over the course of its long recovery from disaster it has largely bucked the trend of national economic downturn.

As the recovery period draws to a close, how is the city preparing to maintain this momentum? According to the Greater New Orleans Community Data Center, “the New Orleans area has experienced notable growth in knowledge–based industries, including higher education and insurance services, while maintaining older industrial strengths.”  In 2012 New Orleans led the nation in business startups per capita.  The New Orleans Business Alliance has completed a strategic plan to take advantage of these assets and build a stronger more diverse economy as the city moves forward.

But even with these developments in progress, New Orleans remains as reliant as ever on tourism.

Tourism has been the city’s traditional calling card and remains so through the recovery.  But its dominance is not without consequences. Tourism wields tremendous influence on the city’s business community, on its politics, and ultimately on the day to day life of its residents.

Residents often complain that the city prioritizes the needs of the tourism business over those of neighborhoods with regard to streets, lighting, transit and other basic infrastructure.   Meanwhile, within those neighborhoods, businesses dedicated to fostering New Orleans’s trademark cultural cache can create livability issues for nearby residents who have to deal with the noise, litter, and other inconveniences associated with city’s famous amusements.

Finally, the very act of turning the city’s unique cultural heritage into a set of mass produced touring experiences can diminish the authenticity of that very culture.  Is it worth it? According to a recent Loyola University study, the average salary in tourism and hospitality is only $26,000.

Can we do better by the waiters, cooks, musicians, artists, tour guides and the like who support the “cultural economy”? Does the industry  have too heavy and influence on the city’s major land use and infrastructure decisions?  How do we balance the demands of the tourism industry with the needs of neighborhoods and those of us who just like to live here?  And is the city doing enough to diversify its economy beyond tourism as it moves beyond recovery?

Moderated by Charles Maldonado: Staff Writer at The Lens
Charles Maldonado is The Lens’ government accountability reporter, covering the city of New Orleans and other local government bodies. He previously worked for Gambit, New Orleans’ alternative newsweekly, where he covered city hall, criminal justice and public health. Before moving to New Orleans, he covered state and local government for weekly papers in Nashville. In Knoxville, Tenn., Maldonado received numerous awards for his reporting of a billion-gallon coal ash spill at a Tennessee Valley Authority power plant. A native of Detroit, Maldonado and his wife are expecting their first child.
Kevin Fox Gotham, Ph.D. is a professor of sociology and associate dean of academic affairs in the School of Liberal Arts at Tulane University in New Orleans. He has research interests in urban redevelopment, real estate and housing policy, tourism, and post-disaster recovery and rebuilding, and sustainability studies.
He is the author of several books including: Race, Real Estate and Uneven Development (2014 SUNY Press), Authentic New Orleans: Race and Culture in the Big Easy (2007, New York University Press), and Critical Perspectives on Urban Redevelopment (2001, Elsevier). His new book (co-authored with Miriam Greenberg), Crisis Cities: Disaster and Redevelopment in New York and New Orleans (Oxford University Press) will be released in early 2014.
Brice Miller is a New Orleans jazz trumpeter and cultural engagement and public humanities specialist. For many years he taught jazz education for New Orleans Public Schools and created K-16 music and art education programs. He is presently an assistant director with Community Affairs at The University of Alabama, specializing in intercultural and diversity issues on campus, community/scholarly engagement and outreach using the arts and public humanities.
As a jazz artist and performer, Miller has enjoyed a phenomenal career as a musician and entrepreneur, traveling internationally since age 17. He is also the leader of Mahogany Brass Band, one of New Orleans’ only young brass bands maintaining the legacy of the tradition while still pushing the genre forward. Miller has performed at Carnegie Hall on three separate occasions, Kennedy Center, festivals throughout Europe including Umbria and North Sea jazz festivals, and Tivoli Gardens in Denmark to name a few.
Miller is a two-time graduate of Xavier University in New Orleans, where he earned a Bachelor’s in Music Education and a Master’s in Educational Administration and Leadership. Miller works for The University of Alabama Crossroads Community Center, an initiative of the Office of Community Affairs.  He is an Interdisciplinary Ph.D. candidate at The University of Alabama with a concentration in community and scholarly engagement using the arts and public humanities.
Meg Lousteau is the executive director of the Vieux Carré Property Owners, Residents and Associates (VCPORA), a non-profit neighborhood advocacy group formed in the 1930s to protect and preserve the French Quarter. Lousteau also serves on the board of the Historic Faubourg Tremé Association, and on the PRC’s Property Advisory Committee.
Lousteau earned a Masters degree in Urban and Regional Planning from the University of New Orleans’ College of Urban and Public Affairs. She worked as assistant director of the Preservation Resource Center’s Operation Comeback program, and later became founding executive director of the Louisiana Landmarks Society. After Katrina, Lousteau became involved in real estate and renovations. However, her love of preservation and advocacy lured her back to the non-profit world, and in November of 2008, she accepted a position as the first executive director of VCPORA.
Robin Keegan is a professional planner at GCR Inc. with over 18 years of experience in housing, economic development, community planning and housing program design. She is currently managing the New Orleans Economic Development Plan for the Business Alliance and spearheading housing recovery efforts in New York post-Hurricane Sandy. Before joining GCR, Keegan served as Director of Real Estate Planning for the Housing Authority of New Orleans and Executive Director of the Louisiana Recovery Authority, overseeing $14 billion in funds for housing, infrastructure and economic development initiatives.
Keegan earned an M.S. in Planning and Preservation from Columbia University and a B.A. from Macalester College. Before moving to Louisiana, Keegan provided economic development consulting services in New York, serving as Deputy Director for the Center for an Urban Future and Project Manager for the New York Industrial Retention Network. She has served as Adjunct Professor in Economic Development at Columbia, instructing on economic development through the arts.
Mark Romig serves as President and CEO of the New Orleans TourismMarketing Corporation (NOTMC), the city’s official leisure travel promotion agency. He is an established public relations and marketing professional and is accredited (APR) by the Public Relations Society of America. Romig has been involved in a variety of historic and milestone events throughout his career, including the development of the Hotel Inter-Continental New Orleans, the 1984 Louisiana World’s Fair, and the wildly successful Idea Village New Orleans Entrepreneur Week. Romig was recently tapped by the Saints to succeed his father Jerry as the Stadium Announcer for the home games in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. He was Co-Chair of the Media & PR Committee for the New Orleans Super Bowl XLVII Host Committee.
Romig is a member of the Board of Trustees and Board Secretary for Xavier University of Louisiana and is a member of the Board of Directors of the Emeril Lagasse Foundation. He currently serves as a member of the New Orleans City Park Board of Commissioners and on the board of directors for Covenant House New Orleans. Romig taught public relations courses at Tulane’s University College for several years.
Romig graduated from Brother Martin High School and attended the University of New Orleans, where he received his B.S. from the School of Business Administration (School of Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Administration). He was named the school’s outstanding alumnus in 2012.

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