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The We Generation

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Our team and our city show that great things can be achieved by working togetherweIt was the rhetorical question heard round the world. As Darren Sharper ran back the game-ending interception for a touchdown, the messages started coming in, too. A call from my brother in Brooklyn: “Who Dat?!”

A text from my in-law in Denmark: “Who Dat?!” An e-mail from a friend in Australia: “Who Dat?!” Back at home, our 3-year old was running in circles yelling “Who Dat?!” (And, somewhat less endearingly, “Stand up and get crunk!”)

My response to each of them–every rhetorical question deserves a response– was, “We Dat.” If the Saints are a metaphor for a resurgent New Orleans, it is because they epitomize what has lifted our region over the past four years: a remarkably broad and committed effort, where every day brings a different savior, a different star. In this game it was the sensational Sharper; last game it was the unheralded Garrett Hartley and his game-winning field goal.

The point is, the Saints are clearly a team of “we”; it is their collective talent and selflessness that has taken them from well-documented lows to celebrated new heights. This is why everyone, from presidents to residents, loves the Saints. They are a team of “we”–and so is our region.

Economic development is about quality jobs and quality of life. And if you look at our region’s wins in this arena over the past few years, you will see an unmistakable team effort:

  • The honor of being named “Major Market of the Year” by Southern Business and Development, due to a series of local, state and federal collaborations, including the groundbreaking Federal City project
  • Tens of billions of new investment in our region, thanks to the tireless efforts of our citizens and elected officials. These funds have not only rebuilt our region, but provided the jobs that have BusinessWeek calling us “one of the best places in the country to ride out the recession.”
  • Growth of new companies like the Receivables Exchange, iSeatz, TurboSquid and Naked Pizza that are led by fearless entrepreneurs who have made our region their home base for global expansion and prompted FastCompany to name New Orleans one of the “fastest” regions in the U.S.
  • A documented influx of recent graduates who are flocking to New Orleans, giving our region a Top 10 ranking for “Best Places to Live and Work for Young Professionals,” and stocking new hubs of innovation like the “I.P.” building
  • Corporate expansions, like Monsanto in St. Charles, assisted by local economic development partners, that have created hundreds of new jobs and continued work on other projects, like Nucor in St. James, that promise thousands more
  • An intense focus on economic development at the state level, from the governor on down, leading to important recognition like Louisiana being named No. 8 in the country for growth prospects by Forbes
  • Fundamental policy wins, like the exclusion of capital gains on the sale of Louisiana businesses, that were pushed through by business, political and community interests tired of us exporting our best people and jobs
  • An educational reform movement, led by parents, teachers and administrators, that has New York City’s Mayor Bloomberg calling New Orleans the national incubator for education reform
  • Innumerable community groups, faith-based leaders and individual heroes whose collective efforts have rebuilt neighborhoods and institutions from the ground up

All of these team efforts have collectively led the editor of World Trade 100 magazine (the Sports Illustrated of economic development) to declare: “the transformation that’s taking place in New Orleans both socially and economically is stunning.”

Go Saints. Go New Orleans.

We dat!