Sunday, August 05, 2007

Getting It All Out on the Table

I hope to have a lot more things (and a lot more thoughtful things) to say about this useful T-P article--"What's Houston got that N.O. doesn't? Plenty."

However, here are the things that caught my eye, which will form the basis of some serious thinking:

1. "There's vibrancy and intellectual activity," said Dean Taylor, chairman, president and CEO of Tidewater . . ..

2. I find this sentence says a lot:
Houston has 501 public companies and 915 public and private energy firms. The New Orleans region has just 11 public companies, and the local energy sector comprises 45 public and private firms, according to an analysis by the energy-focused investment firm Howard Weil.

3. This is interesting:
"We make it about New Orleans, but it's not really about New Orleans. It's about Houston," said Jeff Parker, president of Howard Weil, which is based in New Orleans. "Houston is the Mecca of the oil business. It is strategically the most important city in the U.S., and probably around the world, as far as the energy
business is concerned."
4. I want to think about the numerous comments about taxes, tax rates, governmental context, perceived safety, and whether our leadership has "taken care of" energy companies.

5. Do we really want those companies, who helped gut our wetlands?

6. We still have assets Houston doesn't: convenient size, and more (it won't be easy, but I'll think of something).

7. We need to let Houston be Houston, and we need to be who we are. A lot of the things I don't like about the suburbs/exurbs of New Orleans stem from their leaders trying to be Houston, which they will never be. They will just be an uglier and worse version of it. There are things I like about Houston, but we need to be who we are and complement what they do. Most importantly, our civic building efforts need to be rooted in a confidence and vision about ourselves, not fear/jealousy/hatred about what Houston is.

I wanted to get this down so that I can process it. Now I'm going on a run to eliminate the chest pains and nausea I got from reading and stressing out about some of the things in that article.


daneeta loretta said...

I think point No. 5 is the big one. Damn the oil companies. They are (along with the pharmaceuticals*) destroying America. When I was in school in the 70s, we went on a field trip to see a geodesic dome, which was completely self sufficient. Solar power, recycling...the works. "This" said the teacher dramatically "is how we will all live when you are adults." That was public school...and they lied. Or maybe, the teachers were being lied to as well. Where is that wonderful world we were promised? Destroyed...along with the Louisiana the beast...the oil companies. I'm sure you can find a 666 in there somewhere.

Will we every be free?

*because they are responsible for the systematic and government sponsored doping of Americans, which makes them too high to care about what's happening to the country.

MAD said...

I read the article, and found nothing new in it. Several
years ago, while writing a paper for a graduate school course, I researched the post-WW2 New Orleans business community, and found comments from leaders of the business community in 1949-50 lamenting how Houston and Miami were becoming economically ascendant, and were "taking business from New Orleans". We have lacked business leadership over the years, to be sure, but a large part of that failure was exactly what you mentioned, the failure of the business community to understand this city and to direct its business development to take advantage of those strengths.

Cade said...

Some things you may want to weave in:

The oil business is ultimately doomed - it is considered synonymous with energy in the article, but those companies aren't doing anything about renewable energy sources.

Traffic is an issue

Small businesses are the lifeblood of the economy (the long tail, if you will), but in the great inter-woven network of our economy, what is the role that the corporations play, and how many are necessary to make our economy vibrant.

We need diversity in the economy - we should have learned our lesson from the oil bust. Tourism has some drawbacks, but I would not consider it a single achilles heel like oil. Still, I think it all comes back to crime and education. You get those under control and you're really done - those are what attracts the quality people and keeps the quality people.

Leigh C. said...

Hell, in terms of diversity of the local economy, 9-11' travel aftermath should have taught this city the fallacy of relying on 80% of its revenues from tourism.

And, in Houston, there are no zoning laws. ANYTHING can be built right next to your house, school, business, what have you. I attended school near a sewage treatment plant, and it was not uncommon to see a thirty-story condo in the middle of a residential neighborhood of one-two story homes.

Then again, the way housing demolitions and property assessments are going, this city may well be in THAT handbasket to hell.

celcus said...

You must have missed this piece a few sections over:

2 out-of-town entrepreneurs could have located their high-tech start-up anywhere, but they've chosen to invest in New Orleans

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times..."

Anonymous said...

Summarily condemning the energy or oil business is not all that right. Back when there was some measure of prosperity and progress in Louisiana oil was very much a part of that. Let's not be hypocrites. We do want progress. We do want to be able to count New Orleans as an important place and not some sorry backwater. Having said that, I note that what's not mentioned in any of these analyses is that businesses usually go where there's easiest access to customers and/or raw materials. Other things are secondary. Louisiana, for instance, could have the greatest schools, lowest taxes and throw tons of inducements at some, say, major winery but they still wouldn't be relocating given as how you don't grow grapes here. However, since the Gulf has the oil there that's what we've had and if that's contributed to help propel New Orleans' importance I'm thankful for it (moreover, there's nothing wrong with riding that horse to fund our state; we really should have adopted Treen's concept of a CWEL levy back in the 80's).

Houston happens to be the largest city -- and one with a very major port as well as some proximity to the oil Gulf -- in Texas which has of course been the no. 1 oil state.

It seems like New Orleans missed the boat (no pun intended) on really taking off as the international gateway city and trading center which seems to have been a vision of some a while back. My idea in that vein is that the whole key is world-class infrastructure to reaffirm New Orleans' traditional place as a premier port.