I’m a Preservationist

Michael Hecht is the president & Chief Executive Officer of Greater New Orleans, Inc. Here he shares his thoughts about preservation and local economic development.

This story first appeared in the April issue of the PRC’s Preservation in Print magazine. Interested in getting more preservation stories like this delivered to your door each month? Become a member of the PRC for a subscription!


Do you view historic preservation as economic development for the city?

The brand of New Orleans is a unique and effective competitive advantage in the economic development process. The architecture and urban fabric of New Orleans are fundamental parts of this brand. So, yes, historic preservation of key elements of the architecture and urban fabric of New Orleans is fundamental to long-term economic development success.


Labor analytics firm EMSI recently ranked the Greater New Orleans area in the top 10 cities in the United States for percent of jobs held by millennials. What are the biggest factors attracting young professionals to our city?

The “low-cost/high-culture” value proposition of New Orleans is hard to beat for millennials. While prices are rising, New Orleans is still twice as affordable as top coastal cities, with as much or more cultural richness. Basically, New Orleans is San Francisco at half the cost, but with nicer people.


GNO Inc. founded the Coalition for Sustainable Flood Insurance in 2013. What improvements to the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) would you like to see?

Flood insurance costs are currently reasonable, and, so, in fact, make the local economy possible. It is important that they stay that way! Our National Flood Insurance priorities for 2019 include a long-term reauthorization (five years or more), with reforms that include:

  • Improved Risk Assessment: Enhancing the way we assess and communicate risk will protect communities and the NFIP over the long-term, and help to close America’s flood insurance gap. Congress and FEMA should use state-of-the art technology to accurately and simply communicate flood risk.
  • On-Going Affordability: Premiums must remain affordable, and people who played by the rules at the time they built or bought their flood policy should not be penalized
  • More Mitigation: A comprehensive approach to reducing flood losses before a disaster occurs is the most effective means of reducing economic loss and protecting taxpayers’ interests. Federal, state and local governments should prioritize investments in mitigation, as should home and business owners
  • Increased Participation: Adopting policies that encourage more people to carry flood insurance will ensure a greater understanding of flood risk, help individuals and communities recover more quickly and fully following a flood event — and ensure a more sustainable NFIP.


What are the biggest growth areas for our local economy?

Biggest growth areas are:

  • Foundational (Historic) Industries:
    • Shipping and International Trade: At record levels, with Avondale back open, and port considering billion-dollar expansion.
    • Advanced Manufacturing: Building not only the “Mission to Mars,” but the largest windmill blades in the world (at the Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans East.)
    • Energy / Petrochemical: At historic levels of investment, thanks to natural gas revolution.
  • Diversifying (New) Industries:
    • Technology: Greater New Orleans is No.1 in the USA for technology job growth, and top 10 for Women and African-Americans in tech jobs
    • BioMedical: Greater New Orleans is No.1 in the USA for health care job growth, with big investments from Ochsner and University Medical Center
    • Emerging Environmental: New Orleans has an opportunity to be the “Dutch of North America,” the go-to for companies and expertise around resilience and rebuilding.
  • Also, our newest initiative: the New Orleans Music Economy.


Tell us more about the New Orleans Music Economy initiative launched by GNO Inc. What does that involve?

The New Orleans Music Economy initiative was created to jumpstart a thriving full music economy in Greater New Orleans that provides jobs and wealth to support musicians, intellectual property managers, publishers, agents, labels, professional services, creative services and all other aspects of the “business of music.” The goal of NOME is to build a true music economy in New Orleans: supporting artists, but also creating jobs and wealth in the “business of music.” We have retained global music consultancy Sound Diplomacy from London/Barcelona. Their final deliverable will be a strategic action plan for GNO, Inc. to execute. NOME is “Economic development with a beat!”


Turning a bit more personal, what do you love most about living in New Orleans? What is your favorite spot in the city?

My mother is from New Orleans; my maternal family is originally from Donaldsonville. Three things I love the most about New Orleans:

  • It is an intimate city, but that projects around the world
  • The only real sin in New Orleans is being boring
  • It is the most “human” city in the country.

My favorite spot in the city is the French Quarter at 6 in the morning, when there is a light fog over the streets, and all is quiet except for that random person who is still up, but really shouldn’t be.