Thursday, September 01, 2005

The situation in New Orleans.

I usually don't link our blogs, but I wrote this entry over on our Local 59 Shop Talk blog.

Here it is:

The situation in New Orleans continues to unravel and it's getting difficult to see how the city will find its footing again. It was, in so many ways, the perfect storm — Mother Nature's fury, an ill-advised location, an underpaid police force rife with corruption, impoverished neighborhoods.

It's been decades since the city of New Orleans was a true community and became an amusement park for booze-filled conventioneers. Any visitor who ventured away from the French Quarter quickly encountered some of the poorest, most desperate neighborhoods in the country. Yes, there is plenty of wealth in the area, but there seemed to be very little in the way of a business community that had actual connections to the city.

What has struck me in the coverage of the disaster is the absence of business leaders coming forward to form alliances and put forward plans for solving the crisis and planning reconstuction. In most areas of the country, this would be standard procedure.

In New Orleans, there doesn't seem to be a business community that can help lead the city out of the situation. In fact, I can't think of a single national company with a New Orleans address. Floating barge casinos are not bulwark companies. The fact that they now lie twisted up on the shores of the Mississippi is an apt metaphor.

Anyone who thinks business and community don't mix should be persuaded otherwise this week. A Visitors & Convention Bureau cannot lead a city in times of crisis. Government and quasi-government leaders cannot do it themselves. Think back to 9/11. Along with Mayor Giuliani, the business leaders of New York City stepped forward to galvanize people and create a sense of hope.

Right now, it's crisis management in New Orleans. But the problems began long ago, when business turned its back on the city and government — rather than help foster companies that would make New Orleans a true community — spent most of its time developing tourism.

Our company is located in a town — Kalamazoo, Michigan — that has experienced more than a few economic hits in recent years. Fortunately, business leaders have stepped forward and worked diligently to keep the community growing. It's difficult work — it's far easier for successful business people to simply watch their money grow — but it's vital and it's made a great difference.

I'm making a donation to the relief efforts for Hurrican Katrina — the immediate needs are overwhelming. But perhaps some good can emerge from all this human misery. Perhaps now, every city and town will work harder to ensure that business is an essential part of the community fabric.

1 Comments:

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5:06 PM  

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