New Orleans Attracting Young Entrepreneurs

Leslie Jacobs started 504ward just three short years ago. His goal: “retaining young talent in New Orleans.” So far, it appears he has succeeded.

Though academics and city officials have yet to measure how many young adult newcomers there are (and how many have actually stayed in New Orleans), there is clearly a critical mass. Teach for America, for example, has 400 core members in the New Orleans area this year, in addition to the 650 alumni who never left. Sixty percent of the Young Leadership Council’s (YLC) 1,500 members are not from New Orleans. 504ward has 7,200 members, 70 percent of which are newcomers to the city.

  So far, the general outlook is one of optimism, evidenced by the hundreds of tech startups and social entrepreneurial ventures created by newcomers and natives alike. There are signs, however, that a vision for mass retention of the educated young adult population, particularly the newcomers, may not align with New Orleans’ economic reality.

One significant issue is the local job market. As the Associated Press reported in August, New Orleans gained 13,700 non farm jobs over the past 12 months — 13,300 of which are in the service-providing sector. YLC executive director Amy Collins says the nature of the marketplace is an important factor.

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