Ten Years Post Katrina: New Orleans’ Economy

How can a struggling city grow and reform without disenfranchising long time residents?

Stephen Henderson talks with Rodrick Miller, president and CEO of the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation and founding president and CEO of the New Orleans Business Alliance, about investment and disinvestment and the similarities and differences between the two cities. 

  • Legacy of disinvestment: Miller says that Hurricane Katrina highlighted and accelerated New Orleans’ problems, but that the city had a forty-year legacy of disinvestment prior to the storm. Stephen says that this sounds like New Orleans and Detroit are in a similar situation. 
  • Former world players: Miller says both New Orleans and Detroit were important cities to the global economy, but they failed to diversify their economies and adapt to the changing global economy.
  • Persistent unemployment: Stephen asks about the 50% jobless rate for black men in New Orleans. Miller says we have not progressed enough, and thinks Detroit probably is not in a much better situation.
  • Federal investment: Miller says that most of the federal aid to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina was invested in infrastructure improvements, including water and road repairs to fix long-term decay and damage from the storm.  He says that a big piece of rebuilding was making sure that the jobs went to New Orleans residents. 
  • Revitalization and private investment in Detroit: Miller says that investment and development are important in all areas of Detroit, and that Midtown and Downtown still do not have the density or jobs to compete with other cities.  He says small businesses in neighborhood areas are particularly important because they hire the most Detroiters.

Click the audio link above to hear the full conversation.