It fascinates me to look through the lenses of the outsider. As a native, I’m not always as in tune with what makes this city so unique as those who aren’t local. I adore meeting new people, especially people who aren’t from here. I’m always intrigued by the many reasons that they chose to move. Why New Orleans? Why now?
The answers to these questions vary considerably. Some came down to rebuild after hurricane Katrina, fell in love with the place and never wanted to leave. Some loved it before the hurricane. Some came for jobs. Some came with no job all for a life change. Whatever the reason, the common link points back to passion-for something, for someone, for anything, for New Orleans.
But, why New Orleans? Why now? Earlier this year, Forbes Magazine has called New Orleans one of the biggest brain magnets in the country, while traditional magnet cities like New York have taken quite a hit. The common argument has been that the events following hurricane Katrina have set this new wave of energy into motion, and Forbes also agrees with this analysis.
Why now? In the years following hurricane Katrina the government has made a concerted efforts to create jobs. They have provided incentives for the film industry and for technology start-ups and this has brought creative talent to Southeastern Louisiana. No doubt about it. Combine new jobs, company incentives and a low-cost of living, New Orleans becomes a favorable environment for those with a vision. But even with all the financial incentives in the mix, people still have to want to be here.
Why New Orleans? In the broader culture of the US, we have seen the rise of something called the “creative class.” The description of the creative class sounds a lot like the younger generations (except it encompasses people of all age groups): a class of people who are educated and innovative, people who value culture, the arts, education and expect for their hometown to offer them a diverse buffet of ways to experience and learn. These people see value in life outside of the office as much as they value their careers, they crave balance and actively seek it.
In a recent study of the cultural economy, Mayor Landrieu says, “This report…vividly illustrates that culture is inseparable from our way of life in New Orleans. We enjoy a diversity of cultural riches that most cities can only dream about. This report, for the first time in our City’s history, puts numbers to what we instinctively know—New Orleans is one of the leading centers in the world for the intersection of creativity and commerce.” If you look at the lifestyle of New Orleanians before the hurricane in relation to the creative class one can argue that New Orleans would have begun to move in this direction even if the hurricane hadn’t happened, the hurricane simply put the city on a national and global stage and lit a fire under the local governments initiatives.
Just as people are drawn to New York for its fast pace, energy and beauty, people are drawn to New Orleans for its slower pace, unique people and commitment to the soul. People marvel at New Yorker’s lifestyles for the stuff that they have and the careers they devote themselves to, where they marvel at New Orleanians for the culture they create and the relationships can’t live without. It comes down to passion. New Yorkers are passionate about success: wealth, fame, knowledge, career skills. New Orleanians are passionate about life: friends, family, conversations, experiences, feelings.
As gen-x and gen-y move to the forefront of national discussions, their perspectives on life will also evolve the US perspectives. New Orleans appeals to the soul of the creative class and we are witnessing a shift. A shift in the passions of United States citizens, and in the energy, business world and soul of New Orleans.