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Economic Development

The Montessori Method at Home

The Montessori Method at Home

By Alejandra Guzman

Click aqui para español- > El método Montessori en casa

As an economic developer and because of my personal and professional interest in human development, I’ve always been aware of the relevance of early childhood education. With the birth of my daughter, I have experienced how critically important it is to be intentional about the opportunities we offer to children in their early years.

The human brain undergoes the most growth during the first three years of life. Babies must receive the most attention since they are developing the foundations of critical, emotional, social, and cognitive skills. Babies grow healthy attachments to their parents and caregivers in these first years. The experiences in this crucial time will shape their emotional intelligence and self-confidence.

    

I discovered the Montessori method in my quest to find information on what type of toys or experiences I should offer my daughter to help her develop. The Montessori method mainly focuses on promoting independence, hands-on learning, and providing a suitable environment for child development. Maria Montessori created this method. She was born in Italy in 1870 and was one of the first women to attend the University of Rome Medical School. Because of the positive outcomes, this method has become famous worldwide. This method emphasizes freedom within limits, independence, and respect for the social and natural development of the child. Finally, it pushes children to work with different materials to develop the power of self-discipline and concentration. The difference between the traditional educational method and Montessori is that formal education focuses on transmitting knowledge. In contrast, Montessori focuses on the natural development of children and leverages their genuine interests.

The Montessori method is easy for parents to learn and adapt to the home environment. There should be an emphasis on mutual respect between child and parent. Montessori recognizes each child as a special individual with unique needs, abilities, and learning styles.

As we apply this method at home, we have changed our environment to allow our daughter to move freely and feel the space as her own. We ensure everything is safe, from the furniture to securing cabinets, covering electric outlets, etc. We also organize her play material to be easily accessible for her and display them in a way that’s naturally inviting to play. We also limited the number of toys and intentionally chose them depending on their purpose and the skill they help develop.

We have evolved based on our observations and following her natural inclinations. She loves animals, so we offer material around this theme for her to remain engaged and excited about educational toys. We have also adapted the kitchen and bathroom to her size and further involve her in our daily routines. There is so much to discover with this method, and it can get overwhelming when you are balancing work, life, and the many different challenges that come with parenting. Finally, I found helpful websites that offer practical advice on adapting Montessori into our lifestyle, including The Montessori Notebook and Montessori in Real Life. 

My journey as a parent has just begun, and I’m excited to continue learning and growing with my daughter. It makes me happy to be able to share my experiences and hopefully help other parents in their journey.

A Time to Celebrate!

By Alejandra Guzman

Often, a long-term vision for economic development is hard to understand when you don’t see immediate results.

Two decades ago, many economic developers around town were rife with hope. They knew New Orleans had good people who believed in the city and were pressing for ways the community could connect and launch scalable entrepreneurial ventures. As a result, organizations such as the Idea Village were pushing for entrepreneurship as the agent of change needed in New Orleans to reverse decades of economic and social decline.

Years later, acquisitions of New Orleans companies like LUCID validate these ideas. For example, we learned that the Cint Group agreed to buy New Orleans-based analytics company Lucid for around $1.1 billion in late October, making it New Orleans’ first unicorn.

Startups that reach $1 billion in valuation for sure raise hope of innovation and entrepreneurship-driven growth for our city at a time when COVID-19 has caused so much damage.

In addition to LUCID, there have been other uplifting announcements in our ecosystem. For example, Levelset was bought in September for $500 million, and Latin American company Beliv bought Big Easy Bucha in November.

These transactions represent over two decades of efforts within the startup community. Exits validate New Orleans as a great place to start a business and continue with the cycle of investments and as inspiration to other entrepreneurs.

Levelset logo
Levelset logo

These acquisitions are proof of the value of supporting long-term economic development strategies. Both Levelset and Lucid were part of the Idea Village’s annual pitch competition and have benefited from their training opportunities and exposure to a broader network of funders and supporters.

Funding has been a long-standing concern for our city’s startups, and quite frankly, any startup in the country. The sales of these startups that local investors backed means that the investors will now have a cash pool for potentially supporting other local firms.

We hope this will be the case. Money that goes into a bank account does not help the ecosystem. Instead, the money needs to be reinjected into the community to fund other startups in the ecosystem.

New Orleans, French Quarter
New Orleans, French Quarter

We should all celebrate these exits as they are a big deal for our community!

The country needs to know what is happening in New Orleans. The more they hear about these accomplishments, the greater our chances of attracting talent and investors to continue growing.

¡Es momento de celebrar!

¡Es momento de celebrar!

A menudo, una visión a largo plazo del desarrollo económico es difícil de entender cuando no se ven resultados inmediatos.

Hace dos décadas, muchos desarrolladores económicos de la ciudad estaban llenos de esperanza. Sabían que la ciudad tenía buenas personas que creían en la ciudad y estaban presionando para que la comunidad se conectara y lanzara empresas que fueran escalables. Organizaciones como Idea Village ya estaban impulsando el espíritu empresarial como el agente de cambio necesario en Nueva Orleans para revertir décadas de declive económico y social en Nueva Orleans.

Años más tarde, estas ideas se han validado con la adquisición de compañías locales, incluida Lucid. A finales de octubre se supo que el Grupo Cint acordó comprar Lucid con sede en Nueva Orleans por alrededor de $1.1 billón. Primer unicornio de Nueva Orleans.

Las transacciones empresariales de compañías como lucid, levelset y big easy bucha representan más de dos décadas de esfuerzos de la comunidad de emprendedores en nueva orleans.

Las nuevas empresas que alcanzan el $1 billón en valoración sin duda generan la esperanza de un crecimiento impulsado por la innovación y el espíritu empresarial para nuestra ciudad en un momento en que COVID 19 ha causado tanto daño.

 Además de LUCID, ha habido otros anuncios alentadores en nuestro ecosistema, como Levelset, que se compró en septiembre por $500 millones y Big Easy Bucha anunció a principios de noviembre que sería adquirido por una empresa latinoamericana.

Estas transacciones representan más de dos décadas de esfuerzos dentro de la comunidad de empresas emergentes. Las salidas son importantes no solo para validar a Nueva Orleans como un gran lugar para iniciar un negocio, sino también para continuar con el ciclo de inversiones e inspirar a otros emprendedores.

Esta es una prueba del valor que trae el apoyar estrategias de desarrollo económico a largo plazo. Tanto Levelset, como Lucid, formaron parte de la competencia anual de presentaciones de Idea Village y se han beneficiado de sus oportunidades de capacitación y exposición a una red más amplia de patrocinadores y partidarios.

El financiamiento ha sido una preocupación constante para las empresas emergentes de nuestra ciudad y, francamente, para cualquier empresa emergente en el país. La venta de estas nuevas empresas que contaron con el respaldo de inversores locales significa que ahora tendrán una reserva de efectivo para posibles inversiones en otras empresas locales.

Ojalá este sea el caso. El dinero que ingresa en una cuenta bancaria no ayuda al ecosistema. Es ideal que el dinero se reinvierta en la comunidad para financiar otras empresas en el ecosistema.

Estas salidas son bien importantes para nuestra comunidad, así que celebremos. El país necesita saber lo que está haciendo Nueva Orleans y cuanto más escuchen sobre nuestros éxitos, más posibilidades tendremos de atraer el talento y los inversores para seguir creciendo.

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Leveraging Technology for Women Empowerment

Leveraging Technology for Women Empowerment
By Alejandra Guzman

Click aqui para español- >Utilizando la tecnología para empoderar a la mujer

During the last year, it has become evident that technology plays a vital role in the workforce. Many of us had to leverage virtual platforms to connect with our teams, clients, and stakeholders to keep our businesses going. As places in the world begin to reopen, technology will continue to be a critical part of our professional experience.


Another evidence of the effects of the pandemic is that it particularly hit hard the female talent pool. Women have the most jobs in the service industry, and this industry which requires face-to-face interaction was heavily affected by lockdowns. Other women were fortunate enough to stay employed during the pandemic, but a lack of childcare services and schools’ shutdowns compounded challenges for workers who are also parents. Daycare centers had to cut their staff, making childcare options less available and, in many instances, more expensive.


Although things are looking better now, lack of childcare availability has been a long-time issue for women in the workforce, prompting them to leave to become mainly caretakers. The current situation has provided an opportunity to question how we can shift the workplace dynamics to be more inclusive and offer the work-life balance that many parents, particularly women, need to stay productive members of our economies.
Although not every business or industry can maximize the use of technology and computers to offer the flexibility of remote work opportunities, the organizations that do ultimately benefit from saving on infrastructure costs, talent retention, and increased productivity.


I’ve recently discovered SheWorks!, a 360-degree platform that provides on-demand access to talent and data analytics. SheWorks! helps companies drive diversity by connecting them with an international pool of certified women while giving tools to hire, monitor, and manage distributed teams. The platform also supports talent directly by offering online resources to continue to enhance and learn new skills. They have partnered with Facebook, Google, SAP, Microsoft, and CISCO to provide access to free courses that allow women to grow and remain competitive.


According to Natalya Spicker, President of SheWorks!, women thrive when given access to remote work. “Prior to the global pandemic, 51 percent of women left the workforce due to lack of flexibility. Millions more lost their jobs following the crisis. As we look to the future, women will be at the core of economic recovery and SheWorks! is on a mission to empower them. We hack the gender unemployment gap by giving women access to remote work opportunities and connecting them with companies scaling their business while being committed to diversity and inclusion. Our 360-degree platform enables companies to grow with on-demand access to an international pool of certified, remote-ready, full-time professional women and tools and data analytics to hire, monitor, and manage distributed teams. It’s a win-win proposition that we firmly believe in.”


Their growing talent pool includes various disciplines, like content developers, writers, data analysts, programmers, and translators. They now have a network of close to 20 thousand women located across 75 countries. The founder of the company, Silvina Moschini, is an Argentinian who believes that technology is changing the future of work and that women should not have to choose between their personal and professional life. Under the philosophy of Sheworks!, the only thing women need to get a job is access to the internet and laptops.

To see how you can offer your talents and become part of Sheworks!, or to learn more about this platform, visit wheresheworks.com

NUEVO PROGRAMA DE ADMISIÓN INSTANTÁNEA OFRECE A LOS ESTUDIANTES DE ESCUELAS DE JEFFERSON PARISH ADMISIÓN AUTOMÁTICA A LA UNIVERSIDAD DE NUEVA ORLEANS

La nueva asociación hace que la universidad sea más accesible al mismo tiempo que impulsa una "fuga de cerebros" en la región

HARVEY, LA (28 de junio de 2021) - Las escuelas de la parroquia de Jefferson y la Universidad de Nueva Orleans (UNO, por sus siglas en inglés) se enorgullecen de anunciar un nuevo programa de admisión instantánea que otorgaría la admisión automática a la Universidad de Nueva Orleans para todos los graduados de las escuelas de la parroquia de Jefferson que cumplan con los criterios de inscripción.

“Obtener educación o capacitación postsecundaria puede ayudar a nuestros estudiantes a encontrar el trabajo que se ajuste a sus pasiones, aumentar su potencial de ingresos y contribuir al éxito profesional a largo plazo. Estamos orgullosos de asociarnos con la Universidad de Nueva Orleans para ayudar a los estudiantes a alcanzar sus metas y hacer que la inscripción en la universidad sea accesible y asequible”, dijo el Dr. James Gray, superintendente de las escuelas de la parroquia de Jefferson. "Cuando nuestros estudiantes eligen universidades y carreras locales, toda la región se beneficia de una fuerza laboral más educada y ciudadanos comprometidos con un interés personal en su comunidad".

 

“La Universidad de Nueva Orleans se enorgullece de asociarse con las escuelas de la parroquia de Jefferson para eliminar las barreras y aumentar el acceso a una educación universitaria de alta calidad aquí mismo en Nueva Orleans”, dijo el presidente de UNO, John Nicklow. "Un título de UNO puede transformar las vidas de los estudiantes a realizarse en una carrera sin la carga de una deuda excesiva".

Para ser elegible para la admisión automática, los estudiantes deben haberse graduado de una escuela secundaria de Jefferson Parish con un GPA general de 2.0 o superior y un GPA de Louisiana Core 4 de 2.5, y enviar una solicitud de admisión universitaria gratuita en apply.uno.edu.

Además de la facilidad de inscripción, la Universidad de Nueva Orleans se compromete a brindar asistencia financiera a los estudiantes de las escuelas de la parroquia de Jefferson. Como se prometió en su Compromiso de Privateer, la Universidad cubrirá la necesidad financiera de todos los estudiantes elegibles cuyos padres ganen $60,000 o menos. Además, los estudiantes serán considerados automáticamente para una beca académica que oscila entre $2,000 y $5,000 al año durante cuatro años.

Para obtener más información sobre el programa de Admisión Instantánea y para postularse, los estudiantes deben visitar apply.uno.edu. 

Para obtener más información sobre cómo las escuelas de la parroquia de Jefferson están preparando a los estudiantes para la universidad y sus carreras, visite jpschools.org/collegeready

Universities and Their Role in Economic Development

Universities and Their Role in Economic Development

By Alejandra Guzman

Click aqui para español- >Las universidades y su impacto en el desarrollo económico

It is hard to think about economic development without considering the role universities play. Academia, the private sector, and other financial stakeholders rely on one another to create economic opportunities. Leveraging talent, innovation, and location with the interconnectedness of each of these elements are critical to creating economic opportunities. Universities also play a crucial role in shaping the policies of a region and addressing the needs of society to boost the economic, social, and cultural development of communities. From a place perspective, higher education institutions contribute to their communities’ overall aesthetic and quality of life through their campuses and sites.
Many universities worldwide have evaluated their campuses and have aimed to provide living quarters for students and staff, offering high-quality public transportation and attractive commercial and cultural functions that enhance the quality of the location.
This quality of place serves their community and serves external stakeholders who seek to engage with universities expecting these institutions to address the needs of society, including fostering economic development.
University leaders understand these expectations, and many are already trying to strengthen university engagement with society by carefully considering the needs of the community for their evolution.

Two good international examples of universities that recognize stakeholder engagement and stimulates urban activity are the Tecnologico de Monterrey in Mexico and Bilgi University in Istanbul.

Bilgi University has followed a model of buying and restoring former industrial buildings in underdeveloped neighborhoods to provide adequate and affordable premises for its growing activities while giving a socio-economic boost to the surrounding city quarters.
A particular project that has garnered attention is the Santral project, involving a former power station. The rich cultural, political, and economic history of the site and Istanbul, more broadly, makes the success of this regenerating process impressive. Its design and use were carefully crafted to respect the heritage and needs of the community.
In Mexico, the Tecnologico de Monterrey has reimagined its urban footprint impact. This institution created Distrito Tec, an initiative that addressed a rapid outward expansion that ignited a low-density, resource-inefficient metropolitan area plagued by congestion and drug violence.

The university collaborated in designing a master plan for the evolution of the campus, which included 24 surrounding neighborhoods as part of a cohesive district. The urban transformation increased public and green space, pedestrian and cycling paths, and social cohesion through cultural and community programming.

New Orleans is home to a vast network of higher education institutions, including Tulane University, Xavier University of Louisiana, Loyola University New Orleans, LSU Health Sciences Center, University of Holy Cross, University of New Orleans, Dillard University, Southern University, Nunez Community College, and Delgado Community College. The contributions to the economic and community development that these institutions generate are tremendous and have a city, state, and national impact.
Let us celebrate and support our universities! They certainly play an essential role in our society.

 

The Intersection of Business and Community Impact

 

The Intersection of Business and Community Impact

By Alejandra Guzmán  

Click aqui para español- > La intersección de los negocios y el impacto comunitario

Working in the intersection of business and community impact has been my passion. I have seen how business practices make a difference and communities advance through corporate social responsibility and social entrepreneurship.

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) can be considered a self-regulating business model that a company implements to hold itself accountable. By doing this, they recognize the impact they have on society, the economy, and the environment. CSR can take different forms depending on the industry. Typically these practices include specific programs to address community issues and volunteer efforts. Companies benefit from boosting their brands while helping society.

Working at CEMEX, a multinational construction company, I discovered the power that CSR has to influence policy, create products and services to cater to community needs and provide a systemic change in leadership. I witnessed how the quality of life of thousands of people resulted from corporate social responsibility projects. Implementing CSR programs at CEMEX resulted in community access to construction materials for affordable housing, an international alliance to support Mexican youth’s access to higher education, and the integration of people with disabilities into the workforce through policies. 

In 2020, Google issued $5.75 billion in sustainability bonds, the most significant sustainability or green bond issuance by any company in history to fund environmentally or socially responsible projects. They are also conscious about how technology has been an essential ally during the pandemic and committed to getting critical information to keep families safe and healthy. Google partnered with Apple to provide technology that can help fight the spread of COVID 19. They offered help to businesses and have helped government and non-profit agencies run important announcements through their “Ad Grants Crisis Relief Program,” including vaccine-related content.

Social Entrepreneurship

Social entrepreneurship happens when companies take a step further and design services and products that create a social benefit while supporting their bottom line.  

Social entrepreneurs pursue social innovation and transformation in different fields such as education, health, environment, and business development. As a common denominator, these initiatives seek poverty alleviation and economic mobility through business methods and solutions to traditional practices.

Blake Mycoskie, the founder of TOMS Shoes, is a great example. Since its founding in 2006, this company has positively impacted over 100,000,000 lives. The shoe company donates 1/3 of its profits to grassroots efforts that help communities thrive. TOMS invests in three key issues that they believe will lay the groundwork for equity: promoting mental health, ending gun violence, and increasing access to opportunity.

Many more companies, large and small, are using business as a force for good.  You can find many examples of “Certified B Corporations” on bcorporation.net.  These businesses meet high standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose.

CSR and social entrepreneurship practices seek to solve society’s most challenging problems that government and nonprofits cannot solve alone.

 

Better Business Practices During Uncertain Times

Better Business Practices During Uncertain Times

By Alejandra Guzmán

Click aqui para español- > Mejores Prácticas de Negocios en Tiempos de Incertidumbre

Navigating the current environment has become a challenge for businesses in every sector. In the Real Estate Industry, one of my main focuses with the New Orleans Business Alliance, there has been a lot of uncertainty. I have been taking a close look at what is happening in the public and private sectors and consumer behavior. Ultimately, the Real Estate Industry, and almost every industry for that matter, is affected by these three areas. Without a doubt, one of the most challenging aspects of these times has been uncertainty. COVID does not have a precise expiration date. A couple of weeks ago, we did not know the presidential election results, and we still do not know if some of the consumer trends will stick for the longer term. However, it is also essential to acknowledge that there are other things that we do know. For example, we know that critical federal support will continue.

 

A great example of federal support is the Opportunity Zones Program. This vital tool was established by Congress as part of the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act and aimed to increase investment and revitalize communities. Since most of this program is in private hands, it offers a simple way to reinvest capital gains into distressed communities through Opportunity Funds.

There has been increased interest in investments with social impact within the private sector, particularly those promoting equity, diversity, and inclusion. This interest is part of the corporate response followed by the killing of George Floyd. For example, Bank of America announced that it would be committing 1 billion dollars to economic opportunity initiatives. They understand that the underlying community and social disparities have accelerated and intensified during the global pandemic. Mastercard has pledged $500 million to help close the racial wealth and opportunity gap for black communities across America. This year, several companies have decided to add Juneteenth, which commemorates the end of slavery in America, as a paid company holiday. The list includes companies like JCPenney, Google, Target, Lyft, Mastercard, The New York Times, and Nike, among many others.

PWC released a survey that shows how consumers are in “limbo” with 49% of consumers surveyed are avoiding leaving their homes, 50% are working from home remotely, 42% avoiding public transportation, and 57% practicing social distance from friends and community. Nesting at home means there is much more leisure time, leading to other consumption patterns such as online shopping, exercising at home, cooking more at home, etc. These consumer behaviors could ultimately have a long-lasting effect on how businesses operate, and because of this, many companies are currently evaluating their real estate needs.

With all of this happening in our environment, businesses and professionals could follow some best practices: 1) Base your strategy on what you do know, 2) Stay in touch with industry leaders through professional associations, and 3) Leverage business tools available to the public.

Base your strategy on what you do know.

It is easy to be overwhelmed when so many variables are in place. In this case, the best plan is to evaluate what we do know and develop a game plan based on this. As I mentioned before, we understand that some investors and corporations have an increased interest in equity and diversity. There are also federal programs that are promoting investment in distressed areas. Are you a minority-owned business? Could you serve a minority community? Perhaps you can leverage a national program.

Stay in touch with industry leaders.

There are many organizations in our community that bring together leaders and professionals from all backgrounds. A great way to stay aware of trends is to join one of these organizations or attend some events. In the Real Estate Industry, I follow ICSC and the Urban Land Institute.

Leverage business tools available to the public.

The New Orleans Business Alliance offers a suite of tools that allow businesses to understand the market. Regarding consumer behavior, the organization can provide businesses with real-time data of who their customers are in terms of demographics and consumer preferences and when and how often they visit their establishments. These reports are valuable when we are uncertain of what consumer trends will stick after the challenges presented by COVID. Visit www.nolaba.org for more information on this and other business tools.

Finally, I would add that whatever you do, don’t be discouraged. Be mindful of what is still within your power to do and do it. 

Keep moving; keep being productive!

Day of the Dead – honoring our community through cultural traditions

Day of the Dead – Honoring our community through cultural traditions

By Alejandra Guzmán         @aleguzman

Click aqui para español- > Rindamos honor a nuestra comunidad a través de tradiciones culturales

November is one of my favorite months in New Orleans. The weather is spectacular during this month and there is a rich cultural calendar. Although many of the big events and festivals typically programmed for this time of year have been affected by the pandemic, this should not stop us from finding creative ways to enjoy cultural traditions.

Whether or not we can attend an event there are many original ways we can celebrate and thus keep Latin culture present during this month.

 

My favorite example of one of the cultural events held during November is the Mexican festival known as the Day of the Dead. During these festivities, families pay tribute to their deceased friends and family. Through a series of activities, they welcome their souls through a celebration that includes their favorite meals, drinks, and belongings. This festival is celebrated between the 1st and 2nd day of November and it is believed that during this time the border between the spiritual world and the real world dissolves. The souls of the dead return to the world of the living to feast, drink, dance, and play music with their loved ones.

To honor this tradition, many communities in the United States organize festivities that include key symbols of this holiday and invite the community at large to celebrate. Although there were many events around the Day of the Dead canceled, there are fun ways to celebrate. A good idea is to create an altar of the dead in our homes. The tradition includes honoring our ancestors by putting photos of our family members and deceased and decorating with minced paper. The chopped paper refers to cut decorative paper that is used throughout Mexico for multiple parties. During the Day of the Dead celebration, this paper is placed around the edges of the altar to add color.

Another way to celebrate is with the traditional bread of the dead. This traditional bread is one of the foods most associated with the Day of the Dead. It is often placed on the altar, but you can also enjoy it at any time with coffee or hot chocolate!

In New Orleans, there are establishments that sell it or if you prefer, you can make your own bread. The internet is full of recipes to fulfill this mission.  Another tradition that can become a fun family activity is a traditional verse composition written especially for this season. They are usually satirical stories that mock people in a way that suggests they are dead, even if they are alive. It’s common to find skulls in Mexican newspapers and magazines that mock celebrities and political figures.

Promoting such activities with family and friends promotes cultural diversity, is a source of inspiration for creativity, offers an educational opportunity for all, and promotes social cohesion through healthy dialogue and family fun. These are all necessary elements for healthy and prosperous communities.

To stay informed of activities either in a virtual and face-to-face format around the city, be sure to visit the VIVA NOLA events section or the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Louisiana (www.hccl.biz) website.

Family Systems For a Healthy Economy

Family Systems For a Healthy Economy

By Alejandra Guzman

Click aqui para español- > Sistemas familiares para una economía saludable

This past July, my husband and I welcomed a baby girl into this world. I could have never foreseen being pregnant during a global pandemic. Within this context, my motherhood journey has tested me in many ways. With different protocols to be followed during routine prenatal doctor visits and delivery and hospitals limiting entrance to patients, not being able to share with loved ones, the process of welcoming a little one has been disappointing. But, the challenges presented by the pandemic go beyond the emotional ones.

As a working couple, both my husband and I value, even more, the importance of a system that supports families through paid parental leave, affordable healthcare, and a child care system. Our plans for the care of our baby before the pandemic included a childcare center so that we could return to our work responsibilities. Those plans had to change as many childcare centers closed to protect the health of families. Although we were able to build an alternative system with family support, we are conscious of the fact that many other working parents don’t have the same luck.

According to the Brookings Institute, parents with minor children comprise near one-third of the country’s workforce. If we want to see a healthy economy, we need the workers to remain in or re-enter the labor force. With the pandemic, the status of schools and child care programs dictates the ability for working parents to return fully to their jobs as the economy reopens.

Even before the pandemic, childcare options have been a problem, particularly for women who typically carry the responsibility of caregiving for children. The Brookings Institute reports that women are the majority of workers who struggle because they do not have a potential caregiver in their families. 55% of women depend on childcare and schools to be able to work. Balancing the act of getting work done and taking care of a family is a difficult task and can cause families to struggle financially and emotionally.

The Coronavirus pandemic has made it clear that a system that supports families also supports businesses and workers. An accessible childcare system is critical to our social infrastructure. Parents need childcare to obtain and maintain a job. Children need a safe place to be that promotes their healthy development while their parents are at work.

A robust child care system must provide access to adequate and affordable centers that are in proximity to the family. It is necessary to consider that in addition to the social and economic benefits of accessible child centers, the childcare industry is a significant driver of the economy.

The Louisiana Policy Institute for Children collaborated with LSU´s Public Policy Research Lab and others to get a sense of the impact of child care on Louisiana´s workforce, businesses, and the economy. Their findings include that childcare issues result in a $1.1 billion loss annually for Louisiana’s economy and that employees’ absences and turnover costs due to child care issues cost Louisiana employers $816 million a year. The Early Learning Policy Group reported that the child care industry has an economic impact of $99.3 billion.

As a mother and as an economic developer, I´m glad organizations like the Louisiana Policy Institute for Children and the Early Learning Policy Group advocate for the development of systems that work for families and promote thriving economies.

To learn more about this topic, visit www.policyinstitutela.org

Presidential ELECTIONS 2020

Presidential ELECTIONS 2020 

Let’s all go out and vote!

By Alejandra Guzmán @aleguzman

Click aqui para español- > En estas elecciones Presidenciales... ¡Salgamos todos a votar!

This year has been an unprecedented one that has brought a change in virtually every area of our lives. COVID19 came to shake us and force us to rethink many of the processes we follow in our private, public, and professional life. It has affected us so much that we have talked very little about the presidential election coming up in November of this year.

   

In every election, we hear about the group that will have the “power” to influence who will be our next President. Earlier this year, the New York Times published an op/ed piece about the Latino vote. The article mentions that, as it was the case in 2016, if Democrats want a chance to beat Donald Trump, they will have to have the support of the Latino voters. In 2016, the percentage of Latinos who showed up to vote was low. More than half of the 27 million Latinos with the ability to vote stayed home.

Regardless of why this behavior occurred, we must highlight that if the Latino community wants to be represented, they must go out and vote. It is important to recognize the power Latinos have as a community. This year, for the first time in history, the Latino vote will represent 32 million people, the largest minority group with the ability to vote in the United States. 

 

I would like to see a President who understands both the economic and social challenges that affect the Latino community. These include education, good jobs, and access to health insurance among other needs. It can be argued that everyone in the country is going through challenges in these same areas. However, the lens used to look at our community should be different. For example, many of our families speak English as a second language and in many cases, they are not bilingual. It is very common for public schools to lack staff with Spanish proficiency. Parents who do not master English have difficulty supporting their children, which causes an educational lag, among many other problems. This situation can snowball to bigger problems like barriers to entry into other educational and economic opportunities. In addition to this, many members of our community are still discriminated against, and others have a legal status that needs resolution. These conditions affect opportunities in all areas of their lives.

 

Let’s also consider that Latino businesses are essential to the success of the U.S. economy. There are more than 4.7 million Latino businesses in the country, and they contribute more than $700 billion per year. Despite these numbers, Latino businesses still have barriers to access capital that could allow them to scale their businesses. The U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce estimates that there is a $1.38 trillion gap. Although there are organizations dedicated to supporting the Latino community through their programs, partnerships, and lobbying, the Latino vote is needed to improve our community’s situation and to close these gaps.

 The Latino community is a strong community that contributes to the U.S. economy in a meaningful way. If we want representation, we all must go out and vote this November.

The Virtual Format, A New Reality?

The Virtual Format, A New Reality?

By Alejandra Guzman         @aleguzman

Click aqui para español- >  ¿El formato virtual, una nueva realidad?

Educational and networking events are an important part of my work as an economic developer. This is a way I connect with other professionals and conduct a lot of my business. Events allow our stakeholders to learn, connect, and develop plans. Considering the importance of maintaining these dynamics, the New Orleans Business Alliance as well as many of the organizations in which I contribute as a board member have decided to keep some of their 2020 programming in a virtual format.

Virtual events are online sessions that include the interaction of people in this format, rather than at a physical location. They work because they still allow interaction despite the distance. The type of virtual event will depend on the goals in mind.  Event types include formats such as virtual conferences that include a series of sessions or seminars with a single session.

 

For example, one of the programs I host through the New Orleans Business Alliance is the Real Estate Breakfast in partnership with the Urban Land Institute of Louisiana. During these breakfasts we bring speakers who present us with relevant information in the Real Estate industry. Since we launched this program, we have been quite successful with attendance at maximum capacity and very good feedback.

Due to coronavirus and social distancing requirements we decided to keep our 2020 Real Estate Breakfasts in a virtual format. Naturally, our whole team got a little nervous. We didn’t know what our audience’s response would be.

Fortunately, everything went well and on May 28 we opened our first event in this new virtual format. Our speaker was Bo Kemp, an expert in the area of private-public partnerships and real estate investments. Bo shared some of the tools available to help the Real Estate industry as a response to COVID-19 as well as his perspective on the current context. A great benefit of doing this event virtually is that we had access to people like Bo, who resides in Chicago. If we had done it in New Orleans, we wouldn’t have had the flexibility to bring in out of town experts like him. We were also able to expand the capacity of participants. In past events, we had encountered the need to set a waiting list due to physical space constraints.

Finally, the cost of hosting this event was significantly reduced. Luckily, the audience was very satisfied, and we received great feedback. While we recognize that this format can’t replace the value of networking when we meet in person, virtual events also bring many benefits.

All this has made us reflect and consider a hybrid format for 2021. The interesting thing is that we’re not the only ones thinking this way. It will be interesting to see how the virtual format will take a leading role in the following years. My bet is that we will be seeing much more hybrid formats in many areas including business and academic activities.

For the time being, we must take advantage of the resources we have despite the restrictions that arise.

See you next time!

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.

Inclusion in the Toy AIsle

Inclusion in the Toy AIsle

By Alejandra Guzmán

@aleguzman

 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

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.

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!

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 

Economic Development

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