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entrepreneur business : Entrepreneurs Leverage New Orleans’s Charm to Lure Small Businesses

From left, Seema Sudan, Shawn Burst, John Barton, John Walsh and Sean Cummings in front of Entrepreneur’s Row. credit : Lee Celano for The New York Times

entrepreneur business : It was a long time, since the word "optimism" was spoken in the same sentence as "New Orleans". But a small group of entrepreneurs has recently been using this word to describe their efforts to small businesses in New Orleans. For now, their enthusiasm may be larger than their results. But they say that the city's low rents and business tax incentives, together with his music and culture have proved to be powerful lures, despite the still efforts to curb past the destruction of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

"We see exactly the same thing that we in the Bay Area in the mid-90s," says Michael Hecht, 38, president of the Greater New Orleans Inc., a non-profit economic development. He moved to New Orleans in early 2006 after the time in San Francisco and New York. "There is a sense of opportunity and the opportunity to work with people who have the horsepower to realize these opportunities."

Since Hurricane Katrina, at least four formal entrepreneurial hubs were in New Orleans: Entrepreneur's Row, the Icehouse, the IP (an abbreviation for intellectual property) and Entergy, the Innovation Center. While they all hope to individual companies, they are not technically incubators. Instead, they house start-ups and established companies, while the "clustering of like-minded entrepreneurs in building their businesses," said Tim Williamson, 44, co-founder and Chief Executive of the Idea Village, a nonprofit group founded in 2000 to contributed to the IP --

So far, they seem a bit to the right. According to the Louisiana Workforce Commission, the New Orleans metropolitan area reported an increase of nearly 100,000 nonfarm jobs from October 2005 - shortly after Katrina - until June 2009. By 2016, the Commission expects that New Orleans area employment to grow 24 percent from 2006, or 98.8 percent of the pre-Katrina levels.

"There has never been a better time in Louisiana for the creative class to thrive," said Mitchell J. Landrieu, the state of the Lieutenant Governor.

Jon Guidroz, 27, is one of the entrepreneurs who were convinced to enter the city. He grew up in New Orleans, but lived in Massachusetts and works for Free Flow Power, a company in the renewable energies, after Katrina. "I wanted to return to help," he said. But he said that he did not have a strong business reason to move.

Then, last year, Sean Cummings, a real estate developer and entrepreneur in New Orleans, FreeFlow accidentally found the site and found that the company is a Mississippi River project in the works. Mr. Cummings, 44, co-founder of the group called Startup New Orleans, asked Mr. Guidroz to visit his offices in New Orleans at 220 Camp Street, a loft building Entrepreneur's Row. As an additional incentive, Mr Cummings even offered him six months rent free.

"He helped me fulfill my dream for this business in New Orleans," said Mr. Guidroz, which back in January. "Until these guys rolled out the red carpet for me - immediate access to a major network in the city and state for Getting Things Done, local investors to find - I do not think we would have done it."

Entrepreneur's Row was founded in May 2007, when Mr. Cummings received a call from Nicolas Perkin, Co-founder and president of the Claims Exchange, an electronic marketplace for buying and selling of debts. Mr Perkin had recently getting married, and he and his bride wanted to relocate to New Orleans from New York. What did Mr. Cummings think?

Mr. Cummings thought it was a great idea, and the two men set out, such as to attract other businesses in the city. "To really succeed, New Orleans must be based on the few opportunities where we have a competitive edge," said Mr. Cummings. "We must also entrepreneurs, employees will contribute to a joyful life. It is a home-run success story. Entrepreneurs invent New Orleans, such as Prague, after the curtain, like Milan, as a small Seattle."

Together with three other managers, Mr. Cummings and Mr. Perkin came with Startup New Orleans, a Web-based information service to connect entrepreneurs with the resources they need to create a new company. In March 2008, Mr. Cummings founded Entrepreneur's Row. Today it is home to nine companies, including receivables Exchange, Mr. Guidroz firm Freeflow Power Socket and Audio, a music licensors. (Mr. Cummings has a financial stake in at least six of the company.)

The Icehouse - a 12,000 square-foot renovated warehouse in the Seventh Ward, which was heavily damaged by Katrina - opened in April 2008 and is now home to seven companies. You pay $ 600 per desk per month, based on a telephone with private number, high-speed Internet, a kitchen and a roof deck access.

"One of the things we wanted, after" Katrina "was to ensure that our footprint had maximum impact," said Robbie Vitrano, president of the trumpet, a branding and business development company that is managing the building. "We wanted in the neighborhood, was the renovation." Mr. Vitrano, 45, is also a co-founder of Startup New Orleans.

Earlier this year, the Idea Village and Greater New Orleans Inc. renovated a 85,000-square-foot building at 643 Magazine Street in the warehouse district and called it the IP - (Intellectual Property). It has nine tenants, including TurboSquid, a 3-D modeling companies; TJ Ebbert and Associates, a disaster management consulting firm, and Carrollton Technology Partners, a company of technological development. The building has a café, a gym with his and her saunas, Business Concierge and several "brainstorming room."

Part of the appeal is that New Orleans is perhaps the ultimate college campus for adults. After work, many young entrepreneurs gather for drinks at International House, the boutique hotel in the Central Business District that Mr. Cummings opened 10 years ago in the street from his loft building. Mr. Cummings and Mr. Perkin also monthly meetings at the hotel in which entrepreneurs the possibility of war stories and Vent.

"What about the city like no other - everyone wants every success," said Seema Sudan, the owner and director of design at the Strickwarenfabrik LiaMolly companies that moved to New Orleans in October 2007. "I've never been to a place that is community-oriented," she said. "Competitive is no further. The point is that cooperation. And this town is like, the people helping each other rebuild their homes to build companies."

She said she also appreciated the quality of life, and the fact that they paid $ 800 for a 900-square-foot studio in the Garden District, and $ 1800 for a three-room apartment with garden and tree house.

Two years into his project, Mr. Cummings is thrilled.

"I am thrilled by the caliber of talent," he said. "It is a thriving creative culture of the invention. And it grows every day." - entrepreneur business


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