NOLA Skills and Aptitude Assessment
Did you ever take one of those “Skills Aptitude” tests? You know – the ones counselors give in high school to help kids figure out what types of careers they might enjoy based on their affinities or interests.
New Orleans needs somebody to come in and administer one of those tests, and then use the results to lure some real-live income-paying “industry” to the city… because if a long-term economy doesn’t start up some engines soon, the entire pre-Katrina mess is going to just wind back up. I don’t think anybody really wants to see that.
To even think long-term, of course, is very difficult for New Orleanians right now… but it’s time to start. Rebuilding and repopulating are immediate needs, but what will be different in ten years, if that’s all that happens? Nothing – and given the economic problems there before Katrina, that’s unacceptable.
So just for fun – let’s pretend the levees will be restored in the short-term and improved in the long. Will the economy grow? Not without some major effort and intervention.
What won’t help
It won’t help to expand tourism or gambling. Those are the traps that set up the city’s grinding poverty. Neither will overly focusing on Oil and Gas, because while oil executives may consider a return to New Orleans with major tax incentives, they require highly educated workers. Eventually, one assumes Tulane would reinstate its engineering program, but until they do, oil and gas will continue to bring in professionals from outside the local workforce. That’s not a bad thing in and of itself, but it doesn’t solve the employment challenge for the local people. (Note: There may be some other excellent engineering programs in the city that I don’t know about. Forgive me if I step on someone’s knowledge or feelings there…)
Manufacturing? Heavy industry? Where would one put a sizeable plant in the crowded urban landscape? The Port? That industry has modernized away many of the lower-skilled occupations.
Even if (big if) GW Bush delivers a Free Enterprise Zone for NOLA, who will set up there, when so many of the residents do not have the education or experience to work for many companies? (That’s not a permanent problem with no solution; it’s just today’s reality.) For businesses to come to New Orleans, the city initially needs to leverage innate skills and interests available today.
What will help
New Orleans is a right-brained city. It’s full of creative people who are familiar (and generally comfortable) with multiple cultures. It’s also a very tolerant city (racial issues aside). These are usable assets that would lend themselves to a number of business types, including (but not limited to):
(NOTE: I read in the BayouBuzz that Nagin is going to be in Hollywood today, presumably for exactly this reason.)
Any and all of these could come to New Orleans tomorrow and find local workers who would need a shorter ramp-up time than could be found in many other cities. NOLA could become an economic center supported by for several industries – without sacrificing its culture and uniqueness.
I know there are many more ideas that folks could come up with – those are just my own first thoughts. Eventually, though, people will start to emerge from the details of housing and returning, and when they do, the vehicles for forward progress need to be in place.
So where will the jobs come from? What is it that will make them come? What does NOLA need to be doing now to attract them (beyond the levees)?
Is anybody but me starting to wonder about the future, long-term?