Baton Rouge Area Chamber, Greater New Orleans Inc. pick Arizona for April workshop

The Advocate

The Baton Rouge Area Chamber and Greater New Orleans Inc. have selected the Greater Phoenix and Tucson regions of Arizona for an April 19-21 trip to learn what those cities are doing to address critical issues from a regional perspective.

The Arizona trip marks the second collaboration between BRAC and GNO Inc. for a Super Region Committee Canvas Workshop. Business and civic leaders from the southeast Louisiana region, consisting of the Baton Rouge, New Orleans and Houma-Thibodaux areas, will make the trek to Arizona.

The trips offer an “opportunity for senior business and community leaders to envision the future of our super region by looking at another strong point of comparison,” said Adam Knapp, president and chief executive officer of BRAC.

Organizers cited a number of reasons for choosing Phoenix-Tucson, including:

A recently embraced sense of regionalism and a coordinated push to make the area a leader in aerospace, technology, innovation, entrepreneurship and education

Similar demographics, especially in terms of minorities

The Arizona STEM Network, a collaboration among businesses, educators, government agencies and philanthropists whose goal is to graduate more students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics

Investments in modern infrastructure and transportation, such as Metro Light Rail and Park-N-Ride Services, that make the region easy to navigate.

Michael DiResto, BRAC senior vice president for economic competitiveness, said the chamber and GNO hope to draw more than 150 participants for the workshop.

Last year, about 170 people attended, and the feedback was universally positive, he said.

The top two concerns in the Baton Rouge and New Orleans areas are transportation and workforce development, DiResto said. The ways that the Phoenix-Tucson super region is addressing those issues offer valuable lessons for Baton Rouge and New Orleans.

For example, Arizona is looking at STEM statewide and bringing those ideas down to a local level, he said.

In addition, health care is an economic driver for Phoenix and Tucson, he said. The University of Arizona, a top 20 research university, has helped make southern Arizona one of the country’s top bioscience centers. The university, based in Tucson, also has established a medical school in Phoenix.

A year ago, the chamber and GNO visited Tampa and Orlando, Florida.

Previous workshop destinations by BRAC before its collaboration with GNO Inc. included Austin, Texas, in 2003; Nashville, Tennessee, in 2004; Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina, in 2006; Portland, Oregon, in 2007; Richmond, Virginia, in 2009; Pittsburg, in 2011; and Louisville, Kentucky, in 2012.

Details and registration for the workshop can be found at

The chamber named John Paul Funes, president and chief executive officer of Our Lady of the Lake Foundation, as the Baton Rouge area chairman for the event. GNO named Jim Hudson, chairman of IberiaBank’s southeast region, as the Greater New Orleans chairman.

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