Economic Development

COVID19 has reminded us of the value of our green spaces

COVID19 Has Reminded Us of the Value of Our Green Spaces

Para español clic aquí ->El Coronavirus nos recuerda el valor de nuestros espacios verdes

By Alejandra Guzmán

COVID-19 affected the way we interact in our urban life. When our theatres, concert centers, restaurants, and cafes were all forced to close to maintain social distancing and protect us from the virus, we all searched for other means to recreate. Many of us have found refuge in our green spaces and parks. Although some sections such as children's play areas and sports facilities were restricted, the possibility of enjoying them was maintained as long as social distancing guidelines were respected.

Personally, I will forever remember the iconic chalk drawing that appeared on sidewalks around the entire city, including parks. These drawings became a symbol of our times living with the coronavirus when we had to stay at home and our children found healthy activities. Drawing with chalk doesn't require WIFI or anything other than creativity. These small demonstrations of art reminded us of our ability to stay cheerful. I see parks the same way. Visiting a park in these times brought to many so much joy and maintained our physical and mental health.

The community in New Orleans is fortunate enough to enjoy one of the oldest urban parks in the country. With more than 1,300 hectares, City Park offers a unique experience to millions of visitors each year. From the Botanical Garden, paths for running cyclists and athletes, to amusement parks, this amenity offers something for everyone. My favorite feature of the park is that it hosts one of the oldest families of oak trees. This includes an oak tree that is more than 800 years old.  Although this fact alone qualifies the park as a real treasure, there are many more reasons why we must appreciate and care for our beloved urban park.

For now, what many of us are appreciating is that green areas are a place where the community gathers to interact, recreate, and conduct some physical activity.  This became even more valuable when access to many establishments was restricted by COVID-19. Through recreation and interaction with nature, people of all ages have the opportunity to engage with civic life.  Moving forward, we should make every effort to maintain these places that give so much to our minds, bodies, and spirit.

If you want to get involved in maintaining City Park, be sure to connect with Friends of City Park (https://www.friendsofcitypark.com/). This organization is a regional nonprofit organization whose mission is to maintain and increase the value of City Park as a place of natural beauty, culture, recreation, and education for the public. 


Back to Business!

Back to Business!

Por Alejandra Guzman

Click aqui para español- >De Vuelta al Trabajo

As I’m writing this article, I’m conscious that a few weeks from today we will have new information about COVID-19 that will determine what our work life will look like. As much as we would all like to have a crystal ball that could let us see into the future, the only thing we can do is stay vigilant of the information that experts and key organizations release.

To gain perspective from experts, I’ve leveraged the community calls that the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce has organized for this purpose. They have brought on leaders in many different areas to discuss their COVID-19 insights, including finance, economic development, and health. One made me reflect more on what the next few months will be regarding our work environment.

This conversation included health experts, such as Dr. Jennifer L. Avegno, M.D., director City of New Orleans Department of Health, and Juan J. Gershanik, M.D., president of the Orleans Parish Medical Society. They went over the outbreak’s complex dynamics and gave us their quick “reality check” on key issues related to the outbreak. Most importantly, they provided information to determine how we should prepare for the next phase.

One fact they mentioned struck me the most. They mentioned that a vaccine typically takes four years to develop and to be approved. Although we all know that the brightest minds in the world are working to develop a vaccine for Covid-19 within a shorter timeline, the reality is that this process takes time and that without a vaccine the virus will linger around. So, where does this leave us? These medical experts insist that we all have the responsibility to take extra measures and precautions to avoid another outbreak while opening for business. Addressing the pandemic will continue to be a delicate balance between opening our economy and keeping our community healthy. From a business standpoint, business operators also have the responsibility of keeping their employees and customers safe. So, what does this mean to the design of our work practices? The situation for workers will vary industry by industry and the prime element to consider is sanitation standards and maintaining prudent distances between people.

In an office environment this may require an evaluation of which positions are suitable for working remotely. Although not every position is suited for remote work, this is an opportunity to redesign positions and use technology and other tools to maintain a productive remote workforce. In addition to this, other organizational practices are key. By maintaining a two-way channel of communication with people working remotely and supporting employees with clear, written, and up-to-date policies, business owners can ensure their organization is working remotely to its full potential.

With the evolving COVID-19 public health emergency we must continue to monitor and adapt in order to maintain a healthy economy and, most importantly, a healthy population. A great resource for maintaining adequate work practices during this pandemic can be found by visiting cdc.gov/coronavirus.

A sure thing is that this situation will leave a lasting impact on how we view work and interact in every single sector.

Innovation in Times of Crisis

Innovation in Times of Crisis

By Alejandra Guzman

Click aqui para español- >Innovación en tiempo de crisis

The COVID-19 global pandemic has triggered an unprecedented crisis that has tested us in every single imaginable way. Around the world and in the US, we have experienced lockdowns and other strategies to slow the spread of the virus. Nonessential businesses have shuttered, and many people have lost their jobs. Others have implemented remote working and thousands of schools have closed leaving parents to home-school. Critical protective equipment for healthcare professionals and other essential workers has been short in supply. Considering all of this, innovation has emerged. Companies had to adapt quickly to change and redesign their products or services, or even create new ones to respond to the emerging demands.

We have seen innovations and pivoting in just about every industry, from fashion to food and beverage. Airbnb announced a new global initiative to house hundreds of thousands of healthcare professionals, relief workers, and first responders around the world. American automotive manufacturers are now supplying ventilators and masks. Ford is assembling plastic face shields and is leveraging its 3D-printing capability to produce medical equipment parts. They are also collaborating with 3M on a respirator mask design that leverages the shelf parts from both companies. Brook Brothers is converting three of its factories into a producer of medical supplies, and like these, there are many other examples around the world.

Although New Orleans became one of the hotspots of infection, we quickly embraced a new way of thinking and doing. Members of the New Orleans Hospitality Industry found a way to address emerging needs. QED Hospitality which handles food and beverage services for multiple hotels, bars and cafes, shut down due to the health crisis, but soon after they created QED Services, and began coaching patients to use computer applications for telemedicine and familiarizing them with the process. QED Hospitality shifted about half of their employees to work on QED Services. Numerous craft distilleries around the city have been adding hand sanitizer to their local supply helping them stay afloat. Seven Three Distilling Co., Nola Brewing Company, Urban South Beer, Lula Restaurant and Distillery, and Sazerac House are some examples. The latter gave away cases of 190 proof grain alcohol, that can be used to eliminate germs on certain surfaces. They have prioritized their gifts to Louisiana-based first responders, government agencies, non-profit organizations, and healthcare providers. Good Wood Nola, a local company that specializes in the design and fabrication of custom furniture and architectural fabrication is now pivoting to produce face masks and other personal protection equipment. Other small businesses have found creative ways to support our community. Synergy Design Group, a company specializing in exhibit design for trade shows, events, and branded interiors, responded to the crisis by switching their materials, resources, and personnel to create COVID-19 response items, such as modular wall systems, medical pods, and face shields. The popular multichannel retail store Fleurty Girl that sells items inspired by New Orleans, announced via social media that they were donating materials to produce masks. “Apparently, our Fleurty Girl reusable bags are the proper material to make a droplet cover for N95 PPE masks. We have donated bags to help local makers make masks covers for frontline workers and for those with immune issues.”

Innovation in New Orleans has also emerged in the non-profit and public sectors where teams are coming up with support programs and showing their leadership by donating time, money, or equipment to the cause.

At a State level, LED released a guaranteed loan that is intended to support small businesses in the State of Louisiana. The Louisiana Loan Portfolio Guarantee Program, or LPGP, is a partnership of Louisiana Economic Development (LED), which will provide a loan guaranty fund; the Louisiana Bankers Association (LBA), whose participating members will offer the loans; and the Louisiana Public Facilities Authority (LPFA), which will administer the program. The Guarantee Fund will go up to fifty million where LED will guarantee up to 20% of the fund. Loans go up to $100,000 to Louisiana small businesses with less than one hundred employees impacted by the COVID 19 Crisis. Other attractive characteristics of this program include a fixed rate of 3.5% and the first six months will bear no interest and no payment will be due for the first six months of the loan.

At a local level, the New Orleans Business Alliance, the public-private partnership that focuses on economic development, released the Gig Economy Relief Fund to support local workers affected by the COVID 19. The organization committed the first $100,000 to the fund with the goal of increasing assets to a minimum of $500,000. Within its first week, the fund reached its half-million-dollar goal thanks to major donations from Saints and Pelicans owner Gayle Benson, Baptist Community Ministries, Gulf Coast Bank, and more. 

The Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Louisiana quickly assembled a group of bilingual volunteers to translate essential information coming from a wide range of organizations including government agencies, economic development organizations, and schools. Through this service, they have been able to assure that the Hispanic Community receives timely and accurate information to respond to the crisis. They have also set a series of weekly webinars to keep the community informed.

In New Orleans we are all united by a common purpose, seeing the system differently, unfreezing our organizations, and acting quickly with a new sense of urgency. This is a mindset that triggers innovation and results. I’m confident that this community mindset will help us address challenges that have been affecting us long before COVID-19, and as a result, will make us stronger in the long-term.  

Why Technology and Data Matter

Why Technology and Data Matter

By Alejandra Guzman

Click aqui para español- >La importancia de la tecnología y de los datos

There is a lot of discussion in the Economic Development field on how technology is changing the nature of our current jobs and what that means for the future of work and designing curricula to meet those demands. In New Orleans, the different organizations that are involved in this topic are in constant communication and coordination with each other to help address this challenge. Although this is a huge issue that needs to be addressed, I also want to point out that there are more positive aspects of technology and the data that can be collected through it. This is benefiting workforce development, for example, by increasing access to online curricula and providing more flexibility to both students and educators. It is also benefiting other areas of economic development. For example, at the New Orleans Business Alliance, we use data and technology to support our work around business attraction and retention.

A big focus of my 2020 work will be on developing and executing real estate, policy, and partnership strategies to promote the development of communities that have been handicapped by disinvestment. Technology and data analytics will play a large role in this.

In the case of real estate development, we partner with internationally recognized data analytic companies such as Buxton to build the case of why investment opportunities have a high probability of being successful in our market. Our partnership will help us gain access to relevant information and elevate our potential to recruit retailers and real estate investments to New Orleans. 

It is important to note that over the last decade, the process of retail site selection has changed significantly. Once considered solely an art, relying on the experience of seasoned professionals, it is now becoming a blend of art and science. In the past, cities would be analyzed mainly on median income levels and other demographic factors, which are important, but not the only ones. They do not fully capture the lifestyle details that explain why people have specific shopping behavior. Psychographics can provide a much clearer picture of the potential customer base. With data analytics, we now understand purchasing behaviors, media preferences, and lifestyle characteristics. This information has helped us clarify certain misconceptions around the communities we want to support.

We have proven with data that just because a certain area lacks retail and restaurants at the moment doesn’t mean that there is not a consumer base to support them. This has helped us focus our energy on the real challenges and make a more compelling business pitch to those brands that we want to attract. Our NOLABA team will be using this information on RECon, the International Council of Shopping Centers’ largest global gathering of retail and real estate professionals. 
For the 10th year in a row, the New Orleans Business Alliance will build a large contingency of locals to make the trek to Las Vegas from May 17-19 in an effort to showcase the retail and real estate opportunities our city has to offer.   

We are committed to working closely with our partners to keep new retail projects moving. All members of the New Orleans delegation will have access to the NOLABA booth with meeting space, Buxton data analytics (applicable to their specific projects), and networking opportunities, among other benefits. I´m very excited about the future of our city!

If you also want to be part of this effort, make sure to visit nolaba.org for more information.

Tax Tips March 2020

Tax Tips

By Jeiver Gonzalez

GNO Tax & Bookkeeping

Click aqui para español- >Tax tips marzo 2020

Did you know?...

As a business owner, pick the entity that’s right for you. For legal and tax purposes, you can structure your business in different ways, and choosing the right one can impact how you file and how much you owe at tax time.

Be consistent in your accounting methods. Even for an all-digital business, you’ll still need to keep records and account for your income and expenses. There are different types of accounting methods, but cash and accrual are the main two.

Be mindful of self-employment taxes. Depending on how you structure your business, you could be liable for self-employment taxes on your business income. Self-employment tax consists of Social Security and Medicare taxes, and it’s similar to the taxes employers withhold from their employees’ paychecks.

Know what tax breaks are available to you. The tax code offer s a number of tax credits for businesses, and you may be able to take advantage of some the first time you file your business taxes, provided you qualify. You can find a full list of business tax credits on the IRS website.

Inclusion in the Toy AIsle

Inclusion in the Toy AIsle

By Alejandra Guzmán


 Click aqui para español- >El pasillo de los juguetes se vuelve más inclusivo

Diversity matters for all organizations, not just out of principle but also as good business practice. Organizations have taken a long time to recognize the need for diversity in their practices, but fortunately many of them are taking firm steps to correct the lack of diversity in their products and services. More importantly, these organizations are also recognizing the impact that they have in the community at large. A great example of this change in practices is the ever-popular Barbie, Mattel popular doll. The famous doll that debuted in 1959 reflected a very specific body image in its original design. Over the years, Barbie became a global symbol of a certain kind of American beauty.

The controversy steered by Barbie’s body type and appearance has been known by many, and there have been claims that if Barbie’s measurements were made into a human-size scale, the measurements would be unnatural and completely unrealistic. As a consequence of this unrealistic image, little girls have been provided with harmful expectations of a body image and definitions of beauty, especially when the original dolls depicted only white, blue-eyed and blonde women.

Time Magazine reported studies that suggested that Barbie had influenced the girls’ view of an ideal body. A compelling study published in the journal of Developmental Psychology in 2006, found that girls exposed to Barbie at a young age expressed greater concern with being thin, when compared with girls exposed to other dolls.

Lena Dunham, writer and producer of HBO’s show “Girls,” and Winnie Harlow from “America’s Next Top Model” are two great examples of modern-day advocates for women empowerment and body acceptance. Dunham has been outspoken about body confidence issues and has been an advocate for “loving the skin you’re in.” She is constantly reflective in her social media posts where she often shares personal experiences with body shaming to remind people of the importance of accepting your body. Harlow, a model who has vitiligo, a skin condition that causes skin to lose its pigment, has used her fame to be an outspoken activist for body positivity and acceptance.

Mothers of this generation have been driving changes in the way products are developed. They are favoring empowering toys for their sons and daughters. The way they shop directly affects the profits of toy-making companies. Companies like Mattel have taken firm steps to introduce toys that are more representative of the real world, including changing the ever-popular Barbie dolls.

In 2016, Mattel introduced Barbie with three body types, and they are now taking a further step towards diversity by introducing their Fashionistas line. This line features 176 dolls, both male and female, with nine different body lines, 35 skin tones, and 94 hairstyles. This is a statement that beauty comes in many colors and shapes and reflects a more diverse society.

Mattel is not the only company creating dolls that have diverse appearances and abilities. American Girl´s 2020 Girl of the Year is hearing impaired. The line also includes doll accessories like, a wheelchair and a diabetes care kit. Another brand, Creative Minds, has a collection called “Friends with Diverse Abilities.”

These are steps in the right direction for diversity and inclusion. Not only is it the ethically right thing to do, but these changes also represent good business practices in an increasingly diverse society.

*Photo Courtesy of Mattel

Tax Tips February 2020


Tax Tips 

By Jeiver Gonzalez

Click aqui para español- >Consejos de Taxes Febrero 2020

  • If your cash flow allows it, you can pay in advance your Workers comp, General Liability, Income insurance and any payment in advance and use the Safe Harbor rule that allows you to deduct expenses in 2019 as qualified expenses. 
  • If a spouse or family member helps you with the technical aspects of your business, you can pay them as services provided and reduce your tax bracket. 
  • If you use part of your home as an office, you can make a weighted calculation of the value of that space, prorating the expenses and deducting them in your taxes. 
  • Marriage is worldwide and if you are legally married and your spouse lives offshore and you do not receive any income, you may include her/him in your taxes and take advantage of higher deduction on the filing status. (*restrictions may apply).

Sustainability. A Competitive Advantage in The Hospitality Industry

Sustainability. A Competitive Advantage in The Hospitality Industry

By Alejandra Guzman

Click aqui para español- >Sostenibilidad. Una ventaja competitiva en la industria hotelera

I inaugurated 2020 by participating as a speaker during the Independent Lodging Congress (ILC) that took place in New Orleans. This groups’ events focus on discovery, collaboration and idea generation for the hospitality industry. The ILC strives to connect visionaries and leaders inside and outside the lodging sector for the betterment of the industry and the communities they serve.

I was invited to discuss how the hospitality industry can embrace sustainable practices while promoting the success of their business. I started by clarifying that the concept of sustainability comprises economic, environmental, and social pillars. When an organization focuses on the environmental and social areas, the competitive advantage of economic sustainability is achieved.

Millennials are known for gravitating towards organizations that promote good social and environmental practices, especially sustainability. This generation is looking for meaningful and unique experiences that make them feel more connected to their communities, to other people, and to the world. The hospitality industry is responding to this trend by taking measures to cater to this market with changes like installing energy-efficient systems, adopting efficient waste management techniques, instituting green building rating and certification systems, and marketing themselves as eco- and community-friendly destinations. Hotels are also evaluating their internal policies and the impact they have on stakeholders to become more socially responsible, understanding that their operations impact the community at large.

The National Geographic has created Unique Lodges of the Word, a curated list of less than 60 lodgers worldwide that get recognized for engaging in responsible practices. These lodgers are selected based on four criteria: unparalleled experience, environment, authenticity, and sustainability.

One such hotel is Finca Rosa Blanca in Costa Rica. The 30-acre location includes an organic, sustainably forested coffee plantation of 7,000 trees, and creates a sense of belonging to the community by including culturally relevant practices in the hotel’s operations. Finca Rosa Blanca exclusively hires locally and develops relationships with schools and residents in the surrounding villages. They encourage ecotourism and support environmental consciousness and proactive sustainable practices. They have plans in place for recycling and regeneration, avoiding toxic chemicals and engaging in organic agriculture to reduce their ecological footprint and mitigate their impact on climate change. They have received several other awards and certifications including Costa Rica’s Certification for Sustainable Tourism and are one of many great examples of how sustainability is a competitive advantage in the hospitality industry.

If you are interested in learning more about best practices in the hotel industry, make sure to visit the ILC Congress webpage (ilcongres.com). Perhaps you want to plan your next vacation to a fabulous and sustainable destination? Then the National Geographic Unique Lodges of the World website is the way to go! Visit nationalgeographiclodges.com for more.

Tax Tips January 2020

Did you know? 

By Jeiver Gonzalez of GNO Tax & Bookkeeping

Click aqui para español- >Consejos sobre los Taxes

  • If you own an LLC and convert your company to an S corporation*, you could save thousands of dollars in paying taxes. *Must have legal status
  • If your cash flow allows it, collecting and depositing end-of-the-year checks at the beginning of 2020 could reduce your reportable 2019 income considerably.
  • If you changed any equipment and/or vehicle before December 31st, you can use the bonus depreciation and Section 179, which would allow you to deduct 100% of the cost as a 2019 expense. • If you used your credit card for business-related purchases before the end of the year, you can charge 100% of purchases in 2019 and pay for it in 2020.

Economic Development

Economic Development

By Alejandra Guzmán

Click aqui para español- >El Desarrollo Económico

As we enter the new year, many of us will reflect on what personal goals we want to accomplish in the coming months. As we go through this process, thinking about what we could accomplish as a community will be extremely valuable because our individual success is tied to the overall success of our community. Economic development is a fundamental component of every community, and it matters because people matter. It promotes well-being, quality of life and opportunities to develop human potential.

Creating the right conditions for economic development is a complex task that requires the participation of various sectors within our community. It requires a deliberate, holistic approach that should be centered on people. This approach to economic development recognizes that participants work together within a system and interact with each other. Participants include businesses and other sources of employment, workforce, and infrastructure. Each works independently from the rest, though they are all a requirement for development. A holistic economic development will matter only to the extent that it touches and changes the lives of all citizens. Cities that lead in attracting financial and human capital are able to expand access to economic opportunity. However, it is also important to consider that development requires intentional action across multiple generations to allow change to happen in all neighborhoods.

Everyone should have an opportunity to thrive and to be successful. In order to create opportunity for all, leadership in all sectors must ask essential questions: How can cities yield more positive outcomes for all urban residents, small business owners, and long-term stakeholders? What can we do to catalyze and accelerate more growth in the lower income and/or higher crime neighborhoods? How do we ensure that all members of our communities are involved in these discussions, so we can create more inclusive economic opportunities?

Although New Orleans is no stranger to the spirit of continual re-invention that animates American cities, the city’s leaders must continue to seek answers to the hard questions and take action to remain on a trajectory of equity and growth.

A great way to get involved in economic development is through the New Orleans Business Alliance Ambassadors Program. This program provides an in-depth insight into the work of growing and diversifying the city’s economy. For seven weeks, participants connect with industry experts and business leaders across all facets of economic landscape in New Orleans. This program can serve as inspiration on what can be done at the individual and community levels to support the economic development of our city.

Check out nolaba.org for additional details on this program and the application process.

Consider economic development as one of your 2020 goals!

Hispanic Chamber

Hispanic Chamber


--NEW ORLEANS - November 2019. Verizon and UnidosUS presented grant funding to the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Louisiana (HCCL) and provided a behind-the-scenes look at their new Latinos @ Work program. The event, which took place at the HCCL Foundation in Kenner, included a special curriculum demonstration from current program participants.

The grant will allow HCCL to develop a state-of-the-art digital learning center equipped with mobile technologies, specialized curriculum, and professional services to help program participants become more digitally competent in the workforce.

In partnership with Verizon, UnidosUS and its affiliates have developed digital learning centers in New Orleans and three additional cities through the Latinos @ Work program. This partnership represents Verizon‘s broader efforts to increase community engagement in New Orleans and surrounding areas. The HCCL has been selected to carry out and oversee the Latinos @ Work programming in the New Orleans market.

“Verizon is proud to partner with the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Louisiana Foundation to provide programming that will increase access to 21st-century skills in the Latino community,“ said April W. Brumfield, Director of Government Affairs at Verizon. “In today‘s digital world, nearly every career requires some level of digital literacy. We are excited to support programs that aim to bridge the digital divide.“

The program‘s digital literacy and job readiness contextualized toolkit will help community-based organizations, like the HCCL, provide soft and hard skills to participants through eight-week-long sessions.

Enrolled participants will also be provided with meals, childcare, laptops, and transportation during the duration of their course. The digital learning centers will be equipped with mobile technologies, curriculum, and professional services to help program participants become digitally competent.

The curricula will help individuals prepare for jobs that require digital skills and to be employed in those jobs. It will consist of modules that aim to elevate the skill sets of participants, including financial capability, digital literacy, job readiness, communication, and job search.

“The Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Louisiana is thrilled about this partnership with Verizon and UnidosUS because it will allow us to bridge the gap between the Hispanic community and digital literacy,“ said Mayra Pineda, President & CEO of the HCCL. “This will convert to better job opportunities and economic development for program participants and the community-at-large.“

According to a 2018 study by Pew Research Center, Hispanics account for 16 percent of the U.S. workforce, but they only represent 7 percent of all STEM workers. Latinos @ Work seeks to address this gap as graduates of the program will be connected to further education, training, and employment opportunities in the financial service sector, information technology, retail and customer service, and hospitality fields.

Diversity, A Competitive Advantage

Diversity, A Competitive Advantage

By Alejandra Guzman

Click aqui para español- >La Diversidad: Una Ventaja Competitiva

I was recently invited to be a speaker representing the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Louisiana at the Women Can Drive Business symposium presented by the American Business Women’s Association (ABWA). The group wanted to hear about why diversity matters and I immediately jumped at the opportunity. It is a subject I have been passionate about since I started my professional career.

Before discussing diversity, we first have to discuss identity. We must recognize that there are many facets to identity and that having a sense of identity is important because it allows us to stand out as individuals and have a sense of belonging. In a corporate setting, there is no one-size-fits-all strategy, and it is important to understand the composition of the community your organization serves, as well as to recognize the potential barriers your population might have before entering the market.

My first encounter with diversity was through an initiative focused on the integration of people with disabilities into society and the workforce. Mexico-based Movimiento Congruencia(MC) is an alliance between companies, hiring agencies, and other institutions. MC began in 2000 with 11 participating companies, and eight years later, 51 organizations were taking part, and over 500 individuals with disabilities had participated. Since then, the MC program has been extended to Panama and Colombia.

Initiatives supporting gender diversity also seemed to require a lot of effort to push through. Many times management required for anyone like me interested in the topic to build the business case for diversity, and at that time there was very little information available.

Reputable organizations, such as the consulting firm McKinsey & Company, have published studies that support the business case for diversity. Their Diversity Matters tudy, published in 2015, looked at the relationship between the level of diversity (defined as a greater number of women and more mixed ethnic/racial composition in the leadership of large companies) and company financial performance (measured as average revenue from 2010-2013). They collected data from hundreds of companies across four different countries.

The study found that there is a significant correlation relationship between a more diverse leadership team and better financial performance. The companies at the top quartile for both gender and ethnic diversity were more likely to have financial returns that were above their national industry median. This is a powerful finding that suggests that diversity is a competitive advantage that moves market share towards more diverse companies.Diverse companies have a competitive advantage when recruiting top talent, have a better understanding of their customers, employee satisfaction, and better decision making. This all leads to a cycle of performance that ultimately leads to financial success.

If you are interested in building the business case for diversity, I would encourage you to take a closer look at the Mckinsey & Company study.


McKinsey & Company’s Diversity Matters Research found a direct relation to a more diverse leadership to better financial performance 

Day of the Dead

Day of the Dead An important contributor to social cohesion and cultural diversity

By Alejandra Guzmán

Click aqui para español- > Celebración del Día de los Muertos

There is growing interest and recognition for the importance of cultural and creative industries that drive sustainable development and inclusive job opportunities.

At an international level, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) published guidelines and research to support the economic contribution of cultural industries.

The UNESCO reports demonstrate that knowledge-based economies are supported in creativity and talent and emphasize cultural industries as a conceptual framework for growth generators. A clear example of this is how software design and technology blend creativity to thrive.

Authors like Richard Florida, through his book The Rise of The Creative Class, make the connection between thriving economies (some based on tech) and distinctive creative elements present in a given city, such as a booming music scene.

In addition, the industries bolstered by cultural and creative economies are potentially an important contributor to social cohesion and nation-building through the promotion of intercultural dialogue, education, and collaboration.

My favorite example of this is the Mexican holiday known as the Day of the Dead (Día de los Muertos). During this holiday, families pay homage to their deceased friends and relatives. They welcome their souls with a reunion through a celebration including the favorite food, drinks and memories of the deceased. This holiday is celebrated on November 1st and 2nd, and the belief is that a portal between the spiritual world and the physical world opens at this time. The souls of the dead return to the living world to feast, drink, dance and play music with their loved ones.

To honor this tradition, different communities in the United States organize festivities and invite the community at large to celebrate. In New Orleans, there are various organizations that are honoring the tradition. The Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Louisiana has organized the Día de Los Muertos Festival on November 3rd, a day where New Orleans families will be able to enjoy local music, food, crafts, a costume competition, and the opportunity to bring offerings to an altar.

This celebration brings me back to my upbringing in Mexico. Every November, I contributed to my school’s altar and honored my ancestors by bringing pictures of my deceased family members and decorating with papel picado (pinched paper). The papel picado refers to decorative cut paper used throughout Mexico for all holidays and fiestas. During Día de los Muertos celebrations, this decorative paper is placed around the altar’s edges to add color.

We also enjoy the traditional pan de muertos (bread of the dead), which is one of the holiday’s most popular foods. The bread is often placed on the altar, but it can be enjoyed at any time with coffee or hot chocolate!

There are many other holiday symbols such as sugar skulls, the cempasúchil flower, and the literary version of calaveritas (little skulls). The calaveritas are traditional verse compositions written for the holiday in Mexico, and it is one of my favorite rituals. They are a compilation of satirical stories that poke fun at people in a way that suggests they are dead even though they are still alive. It is common to find calaveritas in the Mexican newspapers and magazines making fun of celebrities and political figures.

It is great to be able to enjoy the tradition of other cultures in the United States and to have these types of festivals that promote cultural diversity, inspiration for creativity, an educational opportunity for all, and social cohesion through healthy dialogue and family fun. I believe these elements are necessary for communities to thrive.

I am so proud of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Louisiana for organizing the Day of the Death Festival! 

Find more about this and other events via www.hccl.biz.

Until next time!

“During Day of the Dead, or Día de los Muertos, families pay homage to their deceased friends and relatives”

Photo Casa Borrega

Dia De los Muertos Painting by Marcella Escarfuller

Are you Opportunity Zone Ready?

Are you Opportunity Zone Ready?

By Alejandra Guzmán

Click aqui para español- > ¿Estás listo para las zonas de oportunidad?

There has been a lot of discussion lately about the recently released Opportunity Zone Federal Program, which was established by Congress in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. The program defines an opportunity zone as an economically distressed community where new investments, under certain conditions, may be eligible for preferential tax treatment. Localities qualify as opportunity zones if they have been nominated for that designation by the state and that nomination has been certified by the Secretary of the U.S. Treasury via his delegation of authority to the Internal Revenue Service.

The idea behind this is that opportunity zones will open up a pathway for private investors to put money into economically challenged communities, through a variety of tax benefits for the capital invested and gained, conditional on meeting certain requirements. The hope is that neighborhoods with a lack of investment will enjoy an influx of private capital, and investors will earn a nice return. This will be great for spurring investments and entrepreneurial activity.

Real estate development in particular is expected to benefit from this. Also, it can play an important role in creating resilient communities. When developing the right products through the right processes, communities can vastly improve. Opportunities such as job creation during construction and during the long-term operations of the development bring with them other neighborhood resources that didn’t exist before. In addition to that, development projects can positively affect the public realm by bringing vitality and safety to a neighborhood. When done right, real estate investment can reduce racial disparities, build a culture of health, and bring vibrancy to communities. Overall, this is a great opportunity to funnel investment to New Orleans by bringing additional capital for real estate development projects but also to support our local business owners and professional service providers to find opportunities.

To support the local community of investors, projects, and professional service providers, the New Orleans Business Alliance has created a series of comprehensive workshops focused on the Federal Opportunity Zone program.  Attendees can expect to learn about fund creation, operation, and equitable development outcomes throughout Orleans Parishes’ designated opportunity zones, as well as receive the tools necessary to attract investment.  Participants can benefit from networking with developers, entrepreneurs, banks and other institutions to find the best investment opportunities across New Orleans.  They will also be able to meet industry experts and connect with tax and real estate professionals who specialize in preparing businesses for Opportunity Zone investment and fund formation.

The first workshop takes place on November 19, 2019, 8:00 a.m.–4:30 p.m. at the Jung Hotel.

Visit www.nolaba.org for more information.

Until next time!

Kobra´s Mural Brings Louis Armstrong Back to Life in New Orleans

Kobra´s Mural Brings Louis Armstrong Back to Life in New Orleans

By Alejandra Guzman

Click aqui para español- > El mural de Eduardo Kobra que ha revivido a Louis Armstrong en Nueva Orleans

Culture builds strong communities and plays an important part in the rejuvenation of cities and the transformation of the ordinary into extraordinary. It also creates a sense of belonging and pride within a community.

New Orleans is the example of a unique American City that emerged from a cross-pollination of multiple cultures to create its own. The manifestations of the city’s culture can be appreciated in buildings and spaces, music and dance, social traditions, and cuisine. For centuries, New Orleans artists have captivated the nation and the world with their different forms of art. Residents feel proud to be part of such a unique city, and why wouldn’t we? There is a lot to be proud of! No other city can call itself the birthplace of jazz and be recognized as the bounce capital of the world.

Louis Armstrong is a prime example of this. Nicknamed “Satchmo” and later “Ambassador Satch,” Armstrong became internationally known for his charismatic stage presence, trumpet-playing style and unique voice. He was born August 4, 1901, in New Orleans, and every year the city commemorates his birthday with the Satchmo SummerFest, organized by French Quarter Festivals Inc. The first annual Satchmo SummerFest took place on what would have been his 100th birthday; that same year, the New Orleans airport was renamed the Louis Armstrong International Airport.

This year´s celebration was extra special, as globally known muralist Eduardo Kobra payed homage to our city´s cultural icon. On the week of Armstrong´s birthday, Kobra finished a fascinating mural on the corner of Gravier and O´Keefe, commissioned by developers ERG Enterprises and Kupperman Companies. His signature style brings Armstrong to life, using a collage of bright colors and geometric shapes in lieu of natural skin tones while depicting naturalistic shadow and light to create a photorealistic masterwork. Kobra’s mural has made this corner the epicenter of color for the neighborhood and brought a beloved historical figure back to life.

Kobra is known for depicting notable people around the world, including Russia, Great Britain, Brazil, Japan, Switzerland, France, Greece, Italy, and Mexico, to name a few. Kobra was born in the Campo Limpio region, near Sao Paulo, Brazil. Influenced by street culture, hip hop, and graffiti, he has now taken the world as his stage to prove that there is equal value between street art and fine art. Many believe there is greater value in street art, as it contributes to positive urban transformation, democratizes art, and has the possibility to raise awareness on the most critical social and economic issues of our time.

¡Until next time!

Last August, on the week of Louis Armstrong´s birthday, Brazilian muralist Kobra finished this fascinating mural in New Orleans on the corner of Gravier and O´Keefe streets. The mural was commissioned by developers ERG Enterprises and Kupperman Companies.

Photography: Matthew Seymour

Achieving Urban Opportunity, Access, and Economic Inclusion

Achieving Urban Opportunity, Access,  and Economic Inclusion

By Alejandra Guzman

Click aqui para español- >Logrando oportunidad urbana, accesibilidad e inclusión económica

Cities and regions are the key social and economic organizing units of our time. They bring together people, jobs, and all that is required for economic growth. Also, urban density tied up with diversity, sparks creativity and innovation in business, arts, culture and society. According to CityLab, almost more than half of the world’s population live in cities and by 2030 it is projected that more than 9 billion people will live in cities and urban centers. Great minds such as Jane Jacobs have noted that cities are engines of innovation and the concentration of talented and creative people promote and accelerate economic growth.

In the United States the revitalization of our major cities has brought great benefits to some but displacement and lack of opportunity to others. Gentrification and income gaps are an unfortunate reality to many.

Everyone should have an opportunity to thrive and to be successful in creating opportunity for all. Leaders in all sectors of society must ask themselves important questions: How can cities yield more positive outcomes for all urban residents, small business owners, and long-term stakeholders?  What can we do to catalyze and accelerate more growth in the lower income and/or higher crime neighborhoods?  How do we ensure that all members of our communities are involved in these discussions, so we can create more inclusive economic opportunities?

Although New Orleans is no stranger to the spirit of continual re-invention that animates American cities, we must keep asking ourselves the hard questions to remain on a trajectory of equity and growth.

To facilitate this discussion, the New Orleans Business Alliance and the Aspen Institute have partnered to bring the Socrates Program to our city. This partnership provides a forum for emerging leaders from various professions to convene and explore contemporary issues through expert-moderated dialogue.

Socrates also provides the opportunity for participants to enter a diverse professional network and the broader range of the Aspen Institute’s programs. The seminars are designed as values-based Socratic explorations to facilitate the exchange of ideas. The Socratic method is one of the most powerful tactics for fostering critical thinking because it provides participants with questions, not answers.

This year the Socrates New Orleans Salon will include a public panel and reception on August 27 (6:00 pm to 8:00 pm) and a day-long seminar on August 28 (8:30 am – 4:00 pm) and the theme will focus on Urban Opportunity, Access, and Economic Inclusion.

If you are interested in participating in this discussion, get the details via nolaba.org or AspenInstitue.org.


The Community is Our Priority

The Community is Our Priority

By Metairie Bank

Click aqui para español- >La prioridad es la comunidad

At Metairie Bank, “Enriching the Communities We Serve” is more than just part of our mission statement, it’s our pledge to continue making a difference in our community.

Giving back is an essential component of what makes Metairie Bank a community bank. We’re dedicated to providing support to the communities where we live and work. We invest in the future of our communities by promoting financial literacy, health, and the arts.


We offer assistance to non-profit organizations and support programs that strive to better our communities and the lives of our neighbors who live in them. 

Helping to Make Home Buying Easier

We are dedicated to supporting the promotion of financial literacy. We know buying a home can feel daunting. We’re here to relieve stress by providing educational information into the home buying process. Community Development Officer Marina Manzanares lead an informational home buying workshop to help people in our community feel confident turning their dreams of buying a home into a reality.

Giving Educational Opportunities to Local Students

Our own Scott Schellhaas, VP of Mortgage and Commercial Loans is also a Board Member of Jefferson’s Dollars for Scholars. Scott and Community Development Officer Marina Manzanares presented a scholarship to Haynes Academy graduate Taylor Tarleton, who will be going to LSU.

As a community bank, we invest in the future of the communities we serve. We are proud to help provide educational opportunities for the youth of Jefferson Parish.

Metairie Bank is Happy to Support the Murphy Education & Sports Foundation 

They will host their 10th Annual Back-to-School Giveaway in July. It’s an incredible cause that provides students with the tools they need to succeed, including backpacks and school supplies. 


Finances July 2019


By Jason Reeves

Click aqui para español- >Finanzas Julio 2019

Hi everyone! It’s officially summer time here in New Orleans! This month I want to touch on the topic of debt and offer a few summer reading options to help you along the way in your journey to financial freedom:


  1. What is debt?  Debt is the state of owing something, usually money, to someone else. It’s most often paid back to that person or entity with interest. What this means is whatever amount you borrow and the longer you take to pay it back, the more interest you will pay in addition to the original borrowed amount. 


  1. How is debt used? Our financial system is based on the concept of borrowing and lending. Another word for debt that you may recognize is “financing” and what that allows both businesses and individuals to do is borrow money on good faith, with the promise of repayment plus interest. Typically, the amount and the interest rate you’re approved for is based on your credit score. The higher your score, the lower your interest rate and vice versa. 


  1. What are the most common types of debt? The most common types of debt are home mortgages, car loans, credit cards, student loans, personal loans, and medical bills. Although some may argue that there’s a distinction in “good debt vs. bad debt” ultimately, they’re still liabilities that hinder you from building wealth. 


  1. How do I get out of debt? Debt is easy to get into and hard to get out of, by design. Once you’re focused on your goal to be debt free, list all of your current debts in order from smallest to largest and start paying them off one by one. This allows you build momentum and stay encouraged with small victories along the way. 


  1. Once I’m out of debt, how do I stay out? Understanding money and how it works is a learned behavior and the best way to learn is by studying. 

Three books I’d recommend for summer reading are: 

1) “The Total Money Makeover” by Dave Ramsey

2) “The Millionaire Next Door” by Thomas Stanley and  

3) “Think and Grow Rich” by Napoleon Hill


Would you like to put together a personalized plan? Schedule your initial consultation with me by sending me an email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Focus on Finances June 2019

Focus on Finances

By Jason Reeves

Click aqui para español- > Concentrarse en las finanzas Junio 2019

Hi everyone! It’s hard to believe that we’re already halfway through 2019! I hope you’re doing well and that you’re on track with your goals! This month we’re going to talk about five ways to help protect and grow your retirement savings.

If I leave an employer, should my retirement money go with me? In most cases, yes. The primary reasons are that once you separate from that employer, you can no longer contribute to that account. Also, if you were receiving any company matching contributions, they typically stop once you’re no longer working there.

What options are available? Any time you leave an employer, you always have four options. 1) Leave the money with your previous employer. 2) Initiate a rollover of funds to your new employer’s retirement plan. 3) Initiate a rollover to a Traditional or Roth IRA. 4) Cash out what you’ve saved.

What is a rollover, and will I get taxed? The word “rollover” refers to the fact that money is in motion. You’re moving it from one place or plan to another. There are specific rules and guidelines that need to be met so you avoid a tax penalty. For example, money coming from an employer plan is usually pre-tax. Because of that, any account you decide to roll it to needs to be pre-tax, so it doesn’t cause a taxable event.

What is an IRA? IRA is short for “Individual Retirement Account” and what it does is allows you to consolidate your money into one central location if you’re rolling it over from one or more employer plan. It also allows you to start saving and investing independently, without the use of an employer, if you’re self-employed for example. There are two primary types of IRAs and they’re called Traditional and Roth IRAs.

What’s the difference between a Traditional and a Roth IRA? The main difference between the two is that the Traditional IRA is designed for pre-tax money and the Roth IRA is designed for after-tax money. Also, money withdrawn from a Traditional IRA is taxable and money withdrawn from a Roth IRA is not, if the account is five years or older.

Would you like to put together a personalized plan? Schedule your initial consultation with me by sending me an email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Culture: A Fundamental Part of Economic Development

Culture: A Fundamental Part of Economic Development

By Alejandra Guzmán

Click aqui para español- > Nuestra cultura, una pieza fundamental para la promoción del desarrollo económico

During April and May, the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival welcomed hundreds of thousands of attendees while hitting its half century mark. This annual spring event has brought an array of concerts that expand to every genre of music. Some of the legendary artists who have performed throughout the years include Mahalia Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Fats Domino, Tina Turner, Ray Charles, Lenny Kravitz, Tony Bennett, Tito Puente, and the list continues! A 2019 local favorite was the Queen of Bounce Big Freedia. Those in attendance reported that she was electric.


Another 2019 highlight included Mayor LaToya Cantrell presenting George Wein the key to the City acknowledging his contributions to jazz festivals. Mr. Wein has been a jazz promoter and producer and his work has left an undeniable legacy. He was responsible for the Newport Jazz Festival, our very own New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, and has represented festivals all over the world.

In 1959, the jazz impresario married Joyce Alexander Wein, a lady who also left a great legacy to American culture. A chemist by profession, Mrs. Wein started her career as a biochemist at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, and later in New York at Columbia Medical School.  In 1963, she joined her husband and others in founding the Newport Folk Festival, which is recognized as a major engine for festival culture. Her many contributions to society include establishing the Joyce and George Wein Professorship Fund in African American Studies at Boston University and an Endowed Scholarship Fund at Simons College. Mrs. Wein passed away in 2005 leaving an important legacy.


Festivals bring tremendous economic value, particularly to local businesses that benefit from the activity, and visitors driven by the event. For New Orleans, Jazz Fest also sets the stage for additional festivals throughout the year and helps maintain our cultural brand. What started as a small celebration of music and culture with just 350 attendees, has become an attraction of 680 musical acts in two weekends, and contributes $400 million to the city.

To learn more about how culture contributes to the economy, plan to attend the New Orleans Business Alliance’s Annual Meeting on June 27th. The organization will present how its work promotes, supports and grows our culture while focusing on equitable and inclusive economic development. The theme of the event is focused on Economic Development Reimagined featuring acclaimed international business leader, Arnold W. Donald, a New Orleans native who serves as the president and chief executive officer of the Carnival Corporation.

For more information visit nolaba.org

Until next time!

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