Business leaders say it just makes sense to brand Baton Rouge and New Orleans as one big metropolitan area. They say that will put more eyes on the region and bring in more business as well as jobs.
Members listened Wednesday at the Baton Rouge Rotary Club meeting as the heads of the Baton Rouge Area Chamber and Greater New Orleans Inc. listed points on why it makes sense for the two areas to partner.
They say together the southeast super region makes up 54 percent of the population, accounts for 59 percent of the jobs and 59 percent of state legislators are elected in this part of the state.
Adam Knapp with BRAC and Michael Hecht with GNO Inc. say the areas share similar concerns and working together is a competitive necessity.
“Our growth in the Baton Rouge Metro area is going to be so much stronger if Metro New Orleans and Houma/Thibodaux are a part of bringing in new investment and creating jobs and opportunities for all citizens in Southeast Louisiana,” said Knapp.
They say being one metropolitan area also makes the region better poised to compete against Houston, Dallas and Atlanta.
Hecht said getting LSU recognized as the state’s flagship university would also be important. Bringing in more industry could mean for students stay in-state after graduating instead of going to other states for jobs.
He believes the partnership has paid off in some ways already with the opening of the international gateway at the New Orleans airport in June.
“Now we have direct non-stop flights from MSY-New Orleans International Airport to Panama City in Panama. From there, you can connect to 50 destinations in Central and South America and the Caribbean,” said Hecht
The two groups are also working on better transportation connection. A passenger train is in the works. Knapp said it is feasible. Travel time would be one hour and 15 minutes between the cities with stops at Zephyr Field, Gonzales, LaPlace and Downtown Baton Rouge.