Region Q1 2024

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On the Cover

The Space Launch System (SLS) rocket’s liquid oxygen tank structural test article is manufactured and stacked at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans East.

Photo Credit: Jude Guidry, NASA

Greater New Orleans, Inc.

President & CEO

Michael Hecht

Senior Vice President of Business Development

Josh Fleig

Senior Vice President of Communications

Matt Wolfe

Senior Vice President of Advancement

Sara Bradford

Renaissance Publishing


Drew Hawkins

Art Director

Ali Sullivan

Account Director Meggie Schmidt

Digital Director Rosa Balaguer

Production Designers

Ashley Pemberton, Czarlyn Ria Trinidad

Chief Executive Officer

Todd Matherne


4 REGION Q1 2024
Contents THE OFFICIAL PUBLICATION OF GREATER NEW ORLEANS, INC. 6 Letter from the President 8 About Greater New Orleans, Inc. 10 By the Numbers 12 World Trade Center New Orleans Year in Review 15 Louisiana Wind Energy Week Louisiana's Role in Offshore Wind Developments 18 Greater New Orleans Regional Aerospace & Advanced Manufacturing Partnership (GNO RAAMP) Seeking to close workforce gaps and promote job creation, public and private leaders formed a unique sector partnership designed to fortify day-to-day operations at NASA Michoud. 22 Banking on New Orleans Hancock Whitney’s Liz Hefler loves her city. 24 Nurturing New Orleans’ Innovators How Opportunity Hub Creates an Ecosystem for the Energy Sector 26 Photo Gallery 30 Newsflash 32 Newsflash Copyright 2024 Region, GNO, Inc., and Renaissance Publishing, LLC. No part of this publication may be reproduced without consent of the publisher. Region is produced for Greater New Orleans, Inc. by Renaissance Publishing, LLC 110 Veterans Blvd., Suite 123 Metairie, LA 70005 (504) 828-1380 | TO ADVERTISE
Meggie Schmidt at (504) 830-7220 or email 1100 Poydras St., Suite 3475 New Orleans, LA 70163 (504) 527-6900 Q1 2024 / VOLUME 5 / NUMBER 1

Welcome to the Q1 2024 issue of REGION Magazine! As we embark on a new year, it is time to reflect on the milestones and achievements that continue to shape our region’s economic landscape. This issue of REGION Magazine brings you an exciting array of stories showcasing the dynamism and innovation across Southeast Louisiana.

We begin with a comprehensive recap of the past year for the World Trade Center New Orleans, highlighting the significant strides made in promoting international trade and investment. This year-in-review demonstrates how the synergy between the World Trade Center and Greater New Orleans, Inc. has bolstered our region's global economic footprint.

Next, we delve into Louisiana Offshore Wind Week, an event underscoring our state’s pivotal role in the burgeoning offshore wind industry. This week-long event brought together local suppliers, global developers, and environmental specialists to discuss and strategize the future of sustainable energy in Louisiana.

In this issue, we also introduce the Greater New Orleans Regional Aerospace & Advanced Manufacturing Partnership (GNO RAAMP). This initiative bridges workforce gaps and stimulate job creation by supporting the vital operations at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility. Learn how public and private leaders are collaborating to sustain and expand this critical sector.

You’ll meet Liz Hefler, Hancock Whitney Bank’s Greater New Orleans Regional President, who shares her deep-rooted love for the city and her vision for fostering financial growth and community development. Her profile is a testament to the spirit of dedication and community service that drives our region forward.

Last, we explore the innovative work of Opportunity Hub (OHUB), an ecosystem builder creating pathways for success in the energy sector. Discover how OHUB is nurturing local talent and fostering an inclusive environment for entrepreneurs and innovators.

These stories exemplify the resilience, creativity, and strategic vision that define Greater New Orleans. Each article in this issue is a celebration of the people and initiatives propelling our region towards a prosperous future.

Thank you for being a part of our journey. We hope you find inspiration and insight within these pages as we continue to build a thriving community together.



Greater New Orleans, Inc. (GNO, Inc.) is the economic development nonprofit for the 10-parish region of southeast Louisiana.

GNO, Inc. is built on a simple but broad mission: To create a region with a thriving economy and excellent quality of life for everyone.

The key is GNO, Inc.’s two-pronged approach to economic growth: by focusing on business development, the alliance aims to attract, retain and develop businesses that will employ our future workforce, propelling our economy forward and upward. This initiative is coupled with a concurrent nurturing of the business environment: by proposing, promoting and facilitating policies that improve conditions for business operations, GNO, Inc. ensures that businesses and corporate leaders are

positioned for long-lasting success.

For GNO, Inc., it is not enough to simply serve the community: we must also be a part of it. Real influence and significant change starts from within, and the alliance’s presence in the community is evident and expanding. Working together with the business community, regional stakeholders and all levels of government allows GNO, Inc. to coordinate, consolidate and catalyze action on key issues and opportunities, effectively maximizing job and wealth creation and creating systemic impact.

From workforce development and coastal stabilization to fiscal and criminal justice reform, GNO, Inc. is driven by results. It’s helping to create a robust and growing middle class and, in the process, ensuring our region’s continued prosperity.

8 REGION Q1 2024
ABOUT GREATER NEW ORLEANS, INC. LOUISIANA STATE GOVERNMENT Louisiana Economic Development FEDERAL GOVERNMENT MEDIA PUBLIC PROSPECTS PARISH ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT ORGANIZATIONS Jefferson Orleans Plaquemines St. Bernard St. Charles St. James St. John the Baptist St. Tammany Tangipahoa Washington STAKEHOLDERS Our Investors Parish Government Colleges/ Universities Legislators Business Community Nonprofits Influencers

Greater New Orleans


An economic snapshot of Greater New Orleans’ 10-parish market




31.1% of Louisiana’s population resides in Greater New Orleans




Regional Average Earnings



51,606 Private Establishments


660,790 Civilian Labor Force








Unique Job Postings in Q1



Regional Unemployment





Xavier University announces new medical school Xavier University, one of the top-ranked HBCU’s in America, and Ochsner Health, Louisiana’s largest private employer, have announced that they are partnering to form a new medical school, the Xavier Ochsner College of Medicine (XOCOM). XOCOM will be the only HBCU medical school in the Gulf South, and just the fifth one nationally. The last HBCU medical school to open was Morehouse in 1975.

Louisiana joins lawsuit against FEMA

In June of 2023, Louisiana joined nine other states in a lawsuit against the federal government over Risk Rating 2.0. Then-Attorney General Jeff Landry called the increases a “disaster of its own” that risk driving out families and businesses. The lawsuit alleges that the new premiums are being set in an “arbitrary and capricious” manner and accuses FEMA of violating a mandate to provide flood insurance coverage at reasonable rates.

New children’s hospital coming from Ochsner

The Gayle and Tom Benson Ochsner Children’s Hospital is dedicated exclusively to children and their families, providing an optimal experience for all. The new stateof-the-art facility reflects the high standard of care that Ochsner Children’s offers, as Louisiana’s leading pediatric program. The new location is expected to attract and retain top medical professionals, ensuring that children receive the highest quality care.

A master plan for reopening Lincoln Beach is in the works

City officials signed a contract to develop a master plan for Lincoln Beach, a historically significant Black beach that has been closed since the 1960s. This redevelopment is crucial as Lincoln Beach will become the city's first public beach in decades upon reopening. Sasaki Associates, an international planning and design firm, will undertake the project over the next year. The city has allocated $24.6 million from bonds and other sources to fund this redevelopment effort.

Audubon Nature Institute announces “Riverfront for All” project

The Audubon Nature Institute aims to begin construction this year on a $30 million project called Riverfront for All, which will transform the Governor Nicholls and Esplanade Avenue wharves into open-air spaces, creating one of the country's longest contiguous riverfront parks. This project will establish a 2.25-mile walkable and bike-friendly park stretching from Bywater to the Warehouse District. Audubon hopes to complete a portion of the project before New Orleans hosts the Super Bowl in February 2025.



Value of Exports from the New Orleans Metro Area


Largest U.S. metro measured by value of exports







Greater New Orleans ranks #2 Logistics Leader in the U.S. [Business Facilities, 2023]

MSY ranks as a Top Midsize Airport [Wall Street Journal, 2023]

GNO, Inc.’s mission is to create a Greater New Orleans with a thriving economy and an excellent quality of life, for everyone. For more information about the market, or help with your business, please contact our Research and Business Development team:

*Due to data collection methods, previous GNO By the Numbers are not directly comparable

GNO Region: 99.5 U.S. Average: 100 SOURCE:
REAL ESTATE OFFICE Local Vacancy: 6.7% National Vacancy: 13.8% Local Rent:
National Rent:
INDUSTRIAL Local Vacancy: 2.7% National Vacancy: 6.1%
Inventory: 55M ft2
Local Rent:
National Rent: $11.93/ft2
Inventory: 83.4M ft2

The World Trade Center of New Orleans’s Year in Review

2023 was a big year for The Big Easy’s World Trade Center, both at home and abroad

2023 marked the first full year under the operational partnership between the World Trade Center New Orleans (WTCNO) and Greater New Orleans, Inc. (GNO, Inc.). For the WTCNO this partnership allows the organization to better serve its members and preserve and grow the WTCNO legacy. For GNO, Inc., this partnership fosters a dedicated international trade arm within the organization, driving jobs and investment in the region. Together, the two organizations are embracing the WTCNO’s rich legacy as the founding World Trade Center in what is now 300+ across the world, while looking ahead to the future of trade.

Together, under this partnership, the WTCNO had a remarkable year in 2023, showcasing Louisiana’s potential as a vibrant hub for international trade and investment. “Together, with our members’ commitment to promoting international trade and economic growth in Louisiana, 2023 was a resounding success for the WTCNO,” said Harrison Crabtree, Director of World Trade Center of New Orleans.

“The World Trade Center New Orleans is showing the world that Louisiana is open for business,” Crabtree added. Some of the WTCNO’s most shining accomplishments of last year include:



WTCNO partnered with GNO, Inc. to promote international trade in Louisiana. The WTCNO engaged with nine international companies to highlight the state’s market as a business hub and explore expansion opportunities. These collaborative companies span various industries, including technology, advanced manufacturing, transportation, and logistics.


In 2023, the WTCNO hosted the inaugural Louisiana International Trade Conference, which attracted over 100 members of the state’s trade community. Panel discussions highlighted challenges and opportunities that Louisiana companies face in a global environment. The WTCNO was joined by keynote speakers, Ambassador Geraldine Byrne Nason, Ambassador of Ireland to the United States, and Eugene Laney, President and CEO of the American Importers and Exporters Association.

WTCNO also executed trade missions to Ireland, focusing on technology and health sciences, and to Montreal, focusing on transportation and logistics. These missions likely involved meetings with companies and organizations in the respective sectors.


New Orleans’s World Trade Center hopes to be the premier voice of international trade and business in the Gulf South, with its ultimate indication of success being the presence of a vigorous and growing international business community, in industries such as advanced manufacturing, energy, transportation and logistics, and technology, supporting Louisiana’s status as the “gateway to North America.”

To that end, this year WTCNO partnered with GNO, Inc. to heavily promote international trade in Louisiana. The organization engaged with nine companies to highlight the state’s market as a business hub and explore expansion opportunities. Collaborations span various industries, including technology, health sciences, transportation, and logistics.


In this very big past year, GNO and the WTCNO met with and welcomed over 90 government and business leaders from 33 countries, including Prime Minister of Montenegro Dritan Abazović, the Ambassador’s of Belgium, Ireland, Ivory Coast, and Slovakia (from where?),, seven Consul Generals, and three members of Parliament. These visits to Louisiana not only indicate a growing interest in the state as a hub of international trade, but also provide a unique opportunity to highlight the economic benefits our market presents.

Other visiting trade delegations included a Francophile tour for French businesses and organizations to their sister city of New Orleans, highlighting to them the innovation ecosystem in Louisiana.


In 2023, the World Trade Center New Orleans took on a proactive role in advancing policies at the local, state, and federal level that solidify Louisiana as a hub for trade and international investment. During the 2023 Louisiana Legislative Session, advocacy efforts included supporting legislation such as the creation of the Office of Port Development within Louisiana Economic Development.

Countries Hosted by WTCNO

In 2022 and 2023 alone, the World Trade Center New Orleans has hosted government and business officials from over 40 countries.

WTNO hosted a Washington D.C. fly-in event to bring members of the Louisiana trade community to our nation’s capital to meet with the Louisiana delegation, emphasizing the economic importance of the state’s trade sector to the Louisiana delegation. Additionally, in conjunction with GNO, Inc., the WTCNO hosted a Day at the Capitol, providing its members with the opportunity to highlight the important of trade to members of the Louisiana legislature.

“By proactively identifying legislation that impacts international trade in Louisiana, we are able to support one of Louisiana’s most critical sectors that employs over 500,000 residents across the state,” said Harrison Crabtree, Director of the world Trade Center New Orleans.


Blowing in the Wind

Louisiana’s Role in Offshore Wind Development

In the race towards a more sustainable energy future, Louisiana stands at the forefront — you could even say “sailing” ahead. The Pelican State is poised to harness the potential of offshore wind.

Spearheading the initiative is a collaborative effort from GNO Inc., along with an array of organizations ranging from big corporations to philanthropic entities and educators. The GNOwind Alliance is a free P3 pro -

gram managed by GNO, Inc., and includes more than 250 organizations with a shared vision for Louisiana’s leading role in the emerging offshore wind industry. Together, they orchestrated an immersive, multi-city experience aimed at propelling the wind energy industry from mere concept and “what ifs” to tangible reality.

Part of that effort includes Louisiana Wind Energy Week, or “Wind Week.” Held for the first time in Janu -


ary, the event convenes local suppliers, community stakeholders, national partners, global developers, and environmental specialists in a week of enriching activities surrounding the State of Louisiana’s emerging offshore wind industry.

“The program is designed to advance key conversations concerning the opportunities and challenges facing the development of a robust offshore wind industry in Louisiana – carrying the State’s legacy as an offshore energy leader into the future,” said Cam Poole, Energy & Innovation at GNO Inc., and Program Manager for the GNOwind Alliance. “We’ve found that bringing diverse perspectives together who all want to see this move forward as robustly and sustainably as possible benefit greatly from having in person convenings like wind week to come together and problem solve.”

Poole said the inspiration for Louisiana Wind Energy Week came from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL)’s National Offshore Wind Supply Chain and Workforce Assessments, which captured at a national lev -

el the immense economic opportunities that would materialize alongside the growth of the offshore wind industry. This also included some of the actions necessary to capture these opportunities from a federal and state policy perspective. “In partnership with the Southeast Wind Coalition, we brainstormed how we could take the findings of these studies most relevant to Louisiana companies and communities and distill them into an actionable program,” Poole said. “A week of robust discussions and planning sessions is what we landed on and thus Wind Week was born.”

The event took six months of planning and included an all-hands-on deck approach with local, national, and global partners – demonstrating the diverse groups committed to seeing Louisiana play a strong role in this emerging sector. NREL helped with initial program development of the Supply Chain and Workforce Workshops that took place in Baton Rouge over the first two days, and GNO Inc. partnered with University of New Orleans, SeaAhead, and the National Wildlife Federation for a day focused

A breakout group of offshore wind stakeholders meet Jan. 17 during Louisiana Wind Energy Week in Baton Rouge. Photo credit: The Pew Charitable Trusts

on environmental planning and research concerning offshore wind, and Tulane University Law School led the charge on regulatory and financial discussions with a closing program at Port of New Orleans.

Attendees included members of the GNOwind Alliance as well as additional local businesses, community college, higher education, and apprenticeship partners, regional environmental NGOs, and state leaders. Wind Week also saw national partners from the Oceantic Network, NREL, Turn Forward, American Clean Power (ACP), RWE, Shell, and others coming to Louisiana to participate and drive forward the program.

NREL ranks Louisiana #4 nationally for its wind resource potential, and the Gulf of Mexico cumulatively carries a majority of the nation’s wind resources –demonstrating the essential role the region will play as the nation seeks to expand offshore wind as an emission free energy resource that can provide clean power to industry and residential customers. But Poole said the Gulf has a bit of a “Goldilocks” issue. “On average, wind resources are available but at a lower speed than ideal for most turbines coming in at 7.5 m/s compared to the 9-10m/s ideal,” Poole said. “At the same time, we have a higher hurricane incidence which also necessitates wind turbines that are built to withstand these occasionally high-force winds. So innovators, such as those here in Louisiana like Gulf Wind Technology, and OEMs like Vestas (who has a project planned off Cameron Parish) have an impetus to design and produce products that can address these issues.”

Additionally, Poole said the energy market in Louisiana and across the Gulf differ from the East Coast, so there is a need to reconcile how to approach the offtake or “end use” of offshore wind energy. With 70% of our power going to industry and what are considered ‘hard to abate’ carbon-intensive sectors, many believe that Louisiana is well aligned with the ability to produce green hydrogen with wind power through a process referred to as electrolysis. GNO, Inc. through the GNOwind Alliance, not only helps create a forum for discuss and collaborate around these issues, but also drive action forward on them.

“I wish more people knew that offshore wind is an industry that isn’t looking to undercut Louisiana’s existing energy leadership, rather build upon it,” Poole said. “Louisiana’s legacy in offshore energy production is a big reason why many are banking on offshore wind’s success here, and provides an opportunity for exiting

operations to satisfy external and internal motivations to reduce their carbon intensity.”

One of the attendees of Wind Week said the program of events did an excellent job convening experts to discuss solutions to the most pressing topics facing the U.S. market writ large — such as transmission and interconnection, Jones Act compliance challenges, and leasing and permitting needs.

“There were also great forward-looking discussions on how Louisiana can strengthen its already leading position in the domestic offshore wind supply chain, as well as integrate the existing oil and gas workforce into offshore wind through expansion of training opportunities,” said Alexandra St. Pé, Project Director, RWE Renewables. “The lesson I took away from the week was that the same Louisiana grit and ingenuity that powered the world over the last 75 years, will be the engine that fuels the region’s expansion into offshore wind.”

St. Pé echoed Poole and said one of the challenges in the Gulf of Mexico for offshore wind is lower average wind speeds than regions where offshore wind has historically been developed, as well as regular severe wind events like hurricanes. Organizations like RWE see this technological challenge as an opportunity to partner with leaders in the region who have worked in offshore energy for decades, and with other partners across the value chain including wind turbine manufacturers, to develop innovative solutions that can enable development of offshore wind in the Gulf while also providing new designs and technology that can be used elsewhere.

That’s why they’re supporting a consortium effort led by LSU, called Gulf Louisiana Offshore Wind or GLOW, to secure federal funding for local research and innovation into turbine designs and technology that can optimize for the local conditions — and this technology can be exported to other markets around the world.

For St. Pé, investing in wind just makes sense — both for the planet and for the state. “Offshore wind has the potential to be an incredibly important energy resource for Louisiana,” she said. “These projects produce a lot of energy – in fact, just one rotation of one offshore wind turbine can power a home for a day. As energy demand continues to increase, offshore wind offers an opportunity to diversify our domestic energy supply while expanding the Gulf region’s world-class energy and maritime expertise to build and operate the projects.”

Next year, Louisiana Wind Energy Week will take place January 27-31, 2025.


Meeting The Needs of Today’s (and Tomorrow’s) Space Exploration Missions

Seeking to close workforce gaps in South Louisiana’s aerospace manufacturing sector and promote job creation for years to come, public and private leaders formed ‘GNO RAAMP’ – a unique sector partnership designed to fortify day-to-day operations at NASA Michoud.

In New Orleans East on an expansive 829-acre sprawl

– 43 of those acres dedicated to a singular aerospace manufacturing operation – NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility has a long, proud and somewhat perplexing history of simultaneously changing the world while remaining under the radar on a local level.

Quite literally the first steps that led to man’s first steps on the moon took place at Michoud, affectionately known as “America’s Rocket Factory.” Beyond NASA, Michoud is also home to 10 other tenants, including aerospace manufacturing goliaths like Boeing and Lockheed Martin. Approximately 3,500 individuals are employed at this regional economic hub that is responsible for $600 million in economic impact annually.

“NASA Michoud is one of the shining stars here in the region,” said Josh Tatum, Vice President of Retention and Growth at GNO Inc. “Ever since the Apollo mission, every rocket has come through New Orleans – that’s where the rocket has to start. So, you’re talking about decades worth of expertise, infrastructure, and the countless hours of hard work that went into every space mission all coming from the Michoud facility.

“So, yes, this is a huge economic driver in our area, but it’s also part of our nation’s history and a reflection of what the people of this region are capable of.”

And yet, compared to well-known aerospace efforts conducted in Houston and Florida, Michoud’s role in NASA’s overall legacy hasn’t always received the expected fanfare

one might expect. One area that seems to be of concern for the industry over the past years is the lack of awareness of all the high-wage, high-demand careers that are offered at NASA Michoud. The need to increase visibility, partnerships, and collaboration is critical to ensure there is a generational workforce pipeline used to staff highly skilled, well-paying technical careers at the storied aerospace manufacturing facility.

Recognizing the issue, in Sept. 2022, the National Space Council and U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris launched an initiative to raise the profile of aerospace facilities (like Michoud) while promoting STEM education in younger generations. Months later, leaders from the public and private sector unveiled a multi-layered workforce development program tailored specifically for Michoud, the crux being the announcement of Greater New Orleans Regional Aerospace & Advanced Manufacturing Partnership, or GNO RAAMP for short.

At its core GNO RAAMP is a “sectorial partnership,” essentially a coalition of industry leaders in the same field from a shared labor region teaming with educational and economic development organizations that find solutions for workforce issues and bolster job growth both in the present day and for years to come.

“One of the biggest puzzle pieces in this operation – or any operation, really – is the workforce,” Tatum said. “It’s vital to ensure we have the dedicated, structural system that supports the continued operations at NASA Michoud and all of its tenants.”



In order to accomplish that vital objective, GNO RAAMP’s initial plan was strategically constructed into three interconnected philosophical and strategic pillars: Expose, Train, and Sustain. By ‘Expose’ GNO RAAMP aims to not only open the eyes of local students when it comes to careers in aerospace manufacturing, but to also showcase the realistic and achievable roadmaps others have traversed to land those jobs. Adopting a “You Can Be What You Can See” mindset, GNO RAAMP has connected with schools throughout the local 10 parishes that comprise the Greater New Orleans area to get bright and promising students who have shown an interest in STEM disciplines to Michoud so they can witness day-to-day operations at the facility first-hand.

Technicians at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans prepare elements that will form part of the midbody for the exploration upper stage. Manufacturing flight and test hardware for the future upper stage is a collaborative effort between NASA and Boeing, the lead contractor for EUS and the SLS core stage. Photo courtesy of Teams with NASA and Boeing, the core stage lead contractor, at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans have fully integrated all five major structures of the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket’s core stage for Artemis II, the first Artemis mission that will send four astronauts around the Moon and return them home. Image credit: NASA/Michael DeMocker

For more than 60 years, NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, Louisiana, has been “America’s rocket factory,” the nation’s premiere site for manufacturing and assembly of largescale space structures and systems. The government-owned manufacturing facility is one of the largest in the world, with 43 acres of manufacturing space under one roof—a space large enough to contain more than 31 professional football fields. Michoud is managed by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, with several areas of the facility used by commercial firms or NASA contractors. Photo courtesy of

The original tract of land, located in eastern New Orleans, was part of a 34,500 acre French Royal land grant to local merchant, Gilbert Antoine de St. Maxent in 1763. Situated on 832 acres of land, construction on buildings 102 and 103 started in 1941 and was completed in 1943. Building 103 contains over 1.86 million square feer or 43 acres of manufacturing under one roof. It is one of the largest manufacturing facilities in the world.

Daphine Barnes, Executive Director of Economic Mobility & STEM at GNO, Inc. is leading these exposure efforts through customized programming that is geared to close the workforce equity gaps within STEM careers, especially for women and communities of color.

“In order to develop strong workforce pipelines, we have to start as young as possible to expose individuals to career opportunities that exist right here in their backyard”, said Barnes. “If we can show the region’s youth that they can change the world and be a part of history right here at NASA Michoud, we will be able to see individuals access economic mobility opportunities that provide generational wealth creation for our communities. It is a game changer when we develop programs that allows underserved individuals see what they can be.”

Within the first year of GNO RAAMP, Barnes have developed programs that are building the exposure opportunities that are changing lives. “Women In the STEM

Economy” (WISE) and “Sons of STEM” are two programs that are brining student groups out to Michoud to spark the minds of the next generation.

“NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility has been a staple in the New Orleans community for over six decades and has built NASA space flight hardware for all human space flight missions, from Apollo to the Space Shuttle, and now Artemis,” said Hansel Gill, Michoud’s Acting Director. “Throughout the years and across all levels of production, the dedicated team members at Michoud have been deeply woven into the fabric of our mission. Our workforce is extremely proficient and highly skilled, and many have given Michoud and the agency some of the best years of their lives. Since the inception of the Regional Aerospace and Advanced Manufacturing Partnership initial planning meeting, Michoud has recognized the value of these partnerships and collaboration efforts.”


Gill said working with industry stakeholders like GNO Inc. has allowed Michoud to focus on mission requirements, while GNO Inc. and RAAMP partners assist with workforce development, which ensures the pipeline of the facility’s generational workforce remains enduring and strong.

When it comes GNO RAAMP’s “Train” pillar, decision-makers within the sectorial partnership continue to build upon an already-established infrastructure of educational and mentorship programs structured to give the next generation of Michoud workers the necessary skills to thrive in a one-of-a-kind workplace.

For years, NASA Michoud and its affiliated manufacturers have awarded internships to higher-education students from Historically Black Colleges & Universities majoring in STEM and innovation disciplines, as well as scholars from Nunez Community College enrolled in technical curriculum intentionally crafted to fit the needs of NASA and the tenants at Michoud.

While beneficial for the students, the tasks Michoud officials have been able to assign in previous years were severely limited because these mentor programs were tagged as “internships.” GNO RAAMP officials are in the process of going through the procedural measures

necessary this past year to reclassify internships at Michoud under the aerospace manufacturing program as apprenticeships. On paper, the difference between an “internship” and “apprenticeship” seems like a matter of semantics. But in practice, the new designation allows students to get more hands-on, real-world experience and be tasked with more complex and technical assignments.

Finally, the third pillar: Sustain.

As these programs mature and become more popular with college and university students at various institutions throughout the Gulf South, the hope is that influx of STEM-trained talent will provide Michoud with a deep enough workforce to not only sustain current production standards but also promote new manufacturing developments.

“At the center of this initiative are the employers,” Tatum said. “They’re telling us what they need to remain successful. From there, our mission is to craft programmatic efforts with regional partners to support aerospace and advanced manufacturing employers. If done right, we hope to see continued growth – developing new footprints, new investments, and new jobs from this sector partnership.”

On Sept. 11, 2023, technicians at Michoud started installing the first of four RS-25 engines onto the core stage of NASA’s SLS rocket that will help power NASA’s first crewed Artemis mission to the Moon. The work, which was completed in October, followed the joining of all five major structures that make up the SLS core stage earlier in 2023. NASA, lead RS-25 engines contractor Aerojet Rocketdyne, an L3 Harris Technologies company, and Boeing, the core stage lead contractor, continued integrating the remaining engines into the stage and installing the propulsion and electrical systems within the structure. Photo courtesy of

Banking on New Orleans

Hancock Whitney’s Liz Hefler loves her city

From her earliest origins to her appreciation of each unique neighborhood, to her deep involvement in giving back to the community, Elizabeth “Liz” Baldwin Hefler knows what it means to be a New Orleanian who loves New Orleans. It was Hefler’s lifelong interest in New Orleans that first led her to work at Hancock Whitney Bank, where she has recently taken on the title of Greater New Orleans Regional President.

Born and raised in the Crescent City, Hefler and her brothers were taught from a young age about the importance of giving back to the city they loved. Their parents led by example by doing extensive volunteer work themselves, and this lesson was further instilled by the Academy of the Sacred Heart, where fifty hours of service were required for graduation. Hefler says she spent her most meaningful volunteer time as a mentor to a young child at Good Shepherd School.

Spending every single Wednesday afternoon for a year with a young student helped her realize how important it was to a child to consistently show up on a regular basis. “She always greeted me with a smile and hug, which would often surprise me,” Hefler says. “I viewed myself almost as a stranger to her, but to this ten-year-old girl, I was a dependable, safe, understanding adult to whom she could talk and who cared.”

After graduation from the Academy of the Sacred Heart, Hefler then went on to receive her Bachelor of Arts degree in economics at the University of Virginia. Family and the city of her roots called her home after graduation, and she was inspired to ask what industries helped New Orleans to thrive. Thus, an interest in commercial banking first bloomed. Starting in the credit analysis training program, Hefler began her tenure at Hancock Whitney in 2004. Working in the bank’s commercial and middle-market segment, Liz Hefler now boasts twenty years at the Gulf region’s banking institution. Even

more cause for celebration, she was promoted to the role of Greater New Orleans Regional President in August of 2023.

But as any true New Orleanian knows, life is never all about work. One of Hefler’s favorite things about New Orleans is how active of a city it is. When she isn’t working, you can find her spending quality time with friends and family. She and her husband Henry are happily kept busy by their three children ages six, ten, and twelve.

But you won’t find them simply sitting at home. As a family, they love to explore New Orleans culture by taking frequent family outings to museums, parks, restaurants, festivals, and of course, parades! One of Hefler’s favorite aspects of life in New Orleans is how proud New Orleanians are of their city.

22 REGION Q1 2024

“We love to show off how much we have to offer,” Hefler says. “Many people don’t realize how many options exist—there’s truly something for everyone to enjoy.”

And as people who have spent their whole lives there know, and those dreaming to one day visit can imagine, one of the best things to enjoy in New Orleans is the food. “Every section and neighborhood in the city has that bistro, diner, café, or restaurant that puts their own special touch on serving some of the best local food, whether it’s comfort food or high-end cuisine.”

Liz Hefler continues the practice of giving back to the community instilled in her at a young age and that she will no doubt pass on to her own children. She is very involved in her children’s school lives and extracurricular activities, and, like her own parents, she knows how to lead by example. She is using her education and work experience to help the next generation of New Orleanians achieve financial success.

Hefler is a financial education advocate and helps facilitate money management programs at greater New Orleans schools. She serves on the boards of the Stuart Hall School for Boys, Ascension DePaul Services of New Orleans, the Louisiana Children’s Museum, and New Orleans Museum of Art. A past American Cancer Society Louisiana Belle, she has also been an active supporter of and served with the Louisiana Museum Foundation, the New Orleans Board of Trade, and the Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse.

Through her work at Hancock Whitney and her work in community service, she has had a multitude of opportunities to work with outstanding community leaders. One of the benefits of this is getting to know people who truly care about Greater New Orleans and the people who call it home.

“I’m grateful for that mentorship,” she says, “which has helped prepare me for a new chapter in my professional career— serving as Hancock Whitney Greater New Orleans Regional President.” Liz Hefler is honored and proud that she can continue to serve her hometown and contribute to her community’s success.


Nurturing New Orleans’ Innovators

How Opportunity Hub Creates an Ecosystem for the Energy Sector

The magic behind Opportunity Hub (OHUB) is finding the best ideas and putting the right resources behind them. Originally founded in Atlanta in 2013 by Rodney and Shanterria Sampson, it is no wonder the ecosystem building platform found its way to New Orleans, a city that knows how to find strength and innovation through community. Through numerous programs, OHUB is on a mission to create equitable access to the new energy and climate technology sectors. And as a leading hub in the energy sector, the Gulf South is a perfect home.

As Leroy Brown, ecosystem building lead for OHUB, puts it, cultivating the best ideas out of the New Orleans community is like making the perfect pot of gumbo. “You gotta cook that roux slowly. You have to add the ingredients in a certain sequence with certain timing. If you do it the right way, you’re going to have a really special dish that’s going to have a lot of different ingredients, and they’re going to have all the individual flavors.”

This is how Brown approaches ecosystem building. The ingredients — or innovators and entrepreneurs of the greater New Orleans area — are already there. They simply need to be brought together so that everybody can share, eat, and enjoy a tastier gumbo. Or brighter future in this case.

“What’s important when it comes to the ecosystem, is being able to pull folks in who may not have felt included or had access before,” Brown says. “Being able to be around so many aspects of our city—from the economic development level, the new energy concept, the folks who are investing— gives creative people the ability to help create and reimagine the space that we know as Louisiana. That’s a big deal.”

Bringing together these bright minds to ensure success for all is what OHUB does best. They are working with Greater New Orleans, Inc., The Biden-Harris Administration’s Economic Development Administration, and Louisiana Economic Development as a part of the “H2 the Future Build Back Better Hydrogen Energy Innovation Initiative” to launch a New Energy Technology Incubator. NETI will prioritize racial equity in innovation, entrepreneurship, and investment.

Brown describes the NETI program as a kind of climate technology bootcamp where they’ve invited innovators to share their ideas on new energy technology. Topics include recycling, coastal restoration, energy efficient houses with new types of insulating and sensors, improving water quality, hydropower, and artificial intelligence.

NETI first introduces 100 aspiring high-growth new energy, climate, hydrogen, and sustainability company builders to ex -

perience “the best practices for ideation, design thinking and business model generation.” Fifty startups will move onto OHUB’s High Growth Company Building Certificate program taught by Dave Parker author of Trajectory: Startup: Ideation to Product/Market Fit. From there founders pitch investors and set up business development meetings. Five startups will receive up to $100,000 each in seed-stage investment.

“What we’re doing,” Brown says, “is putting projects from black and brown founders, and also socially and economically disadvantaged individuals, through the riggers to help them get a better understanding of their business and how to present and pitch it. Then once they’re prepared, we get them in front of as many people as we can so they can continue to seek funding.”

OHUB also produces a monthly newsletter, podcast, and hosts monthly events called #OHUBFridays where they invite members of the ecosystem to speak on and share their experiences as inventors and entrepreneurs. Past speakers include Dr. Lonnie Johnson, inventor of the Super Soaker and holder of more than 130 patents, and Jasmine Crowe, founder of the Goodr Co., a sustainable surplus food management platform that leverages technology to reduce food waste and combat hunger.

The through-line for each of OHUB endeavors is Brown’s favorite aspect of working for the organization: Getting people included that weren’t in the dis -


cussion before. “There are folks that have great ideas that are pulling them off the shelf. But those are the same people that, when they’re in the room, give other people great ideas because they feel like they’re included.”

It is a simple idea that has seen New Orleans through many a storm—that they are stronger together. “We come together in crises,” Brown says. “We come together to win. Community is our superpower.” A large reason Brown believes that OHUB has been and will continue to be successful in the region is they understand they’re here to immerse and integrate themselves into the culture and community and not act as an addition.

With his eye on the future, Brown is excited to see how OHUB can explore the crossroad of climate action and culture in New Orleans. “What does climate technology mean to the artist and the storytellers and the musicians

of this city?” His current goal is to connect with creatives with the hopes of having them share their art, music, and stories at future ecosystem meetups. “Because they are as much a part of the reimagining of our city as anybody.”

It is Leroy Brown’s hope that OHUB can continue to create a space where the growing founder community in New Orleans can flourish, believe, and invent. “I want people to see that Louisiana is a place where you can bring your ideas and feel like you’re going to get the support needed to manifest your dream.”

Opportunity Hub seeks to nurture the New Orleans ecosystem of founders, innovators, entrepreneurs, and inventors in order to grow local and global economies with the special aim of closing the racial wealth gap. Through their endeavors of high-growth company building and early-stage equity investment, they will ensure the brightest ideas are planted in the richest soil.


In January, GNO, Inc. celebrated its 20th anniversary with a record-setting 1,500 business and civic leaders from across the Greater New Orleans region attending the 2024 annual luncheon. With the theme “20 Years of Impact,” the event featured remarks by outgoing Chairman Susan Bonnett Bourgeois, incoming Chairman Chris Kane, and a presentation by President and CEO Michael Hecht.


In February, economic development leaders celebrated the opening of ADVANO’s new silicon battery materials pilot plant at the New Orleans Regional Business Park in New Orleans East. The facility will enable the company to deliver ton-scale volumes of its proprietary technology and enter electric vehicle qualification programs in 2024.

GNO, Inc. President & CEO, Michael Hecht, spoke at the FEMA National Flood Insurance event in Arizona. Joined by FEMA NFI Administrator David Maurstad in a fireside chat, they discussed collaborative strategies to ensure accessible and affordable flood insurance for all like the need for a multi-year reauthorization, an affordability program, and NFIP debt forgiveness to focus investments on mitigation.


Michael Hecht, GNO, Inc. President and CEO, provided testimony before the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs regarding the National Flood Insurance Program. GNO, Inc. has been a leader in the Coalition for Sustainable Flood Insurance since 2013. During his testimony, Michael emphasized the urgent need for program reform, specifically addressing FEMA’s administration of Risk Rating 2.0 and the associated impacts.

Last year we partnered with OHUB to support climate-tech entrepreneurs. Five startups from the first cohort of Opportunity Hub’s New Energy Technology Incubator (NETI) earned $275,000 in equity investment at New Orleans Entrepreneur Week.


GNO, Inc. and Bank of America released the 2023 Greater New Orleans Jobs Report, which offers a thorough review of the region’s key occupations. This is the fifth installment in an annual series of reports that examines current and anticipated trends in employment across both established and emerging industries. The findings from this year’s report not only help policymakers and businesses understand the evolving economic landscape but also ensure that educational and training programs are aligned with the region’s employment needs.

Nieux Society hosted our January ecosystem meetup, Startup NOLA Now! The event was a fantastic blend of networking opportunities and engaging discussions, featuring insightful conversations led by local executives from Meta,  Adobe, and Google.


New Orleans is the country's No. 2 city for food and drink, according to Food & Wine's annual Global Tastemakers Awards. New Orleans was well represented in the magazine's annual awards, with six restaurants, bars and hotels making the cut. The city's dining scene was singled out for "seamlessly bridging the old and the new." The profile of New Orleans highlighted Dooky Chase, Brigtsen's, Dakar NOLA, Wild South, and the upcoming Acamaya.


For the third year in a row, Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport (MSY) has been named one of the top airports in North America, in a widely watched customer satisfaction survey that rates airports on wait times, service, cleanliness and other factors. New Orleans airport was named one of three top-performing airports in the category of airports that handle 5 million to 15 million passengers annually, according to the survey.


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