Water Economy

Help us support one of our greatest assets: the water economy.

Water Challenge

Water is Southeast Louisiana’s biggest asset. Louisiana comprises 40% of the nation’s wetlands. The region has a thriving port and maritime industry. It has a growing water management industry, especially with the large amount of coastal restoration work taking place.

But, water is also Southeast Louisiana’s biggest threat. Louisiana accounts for 90% of wetland losses in the nation. Locally, flooding caused by heavy rainfall occurs frequently when drainage systems are overwhelmed. The region’s source water is threatened by runoff, sewage contamination, and agricultural pollution. Over the next 50 years, as the climate continues to change, inaction will cost the Greater New Orleans community nearly $8 billion in stormwater flood damage, $2.2 billion in subsidence damage, and $600 million in avoidable insurance costs.

Water is so ingrained in Southeast Louisiana’s way of living and economy; however, there has been a lack of support for innovators and entrepreneurs who have solutions to the challenges that Southeast Louisiana faces due to water. Moreover, in New Orleans, people of color own 36% of all firms, but those firms only receive 2% of the region’s sales receipts. Inequities exist for employees, as well – the water management industry’s highly-skilled, high wage occupations, such as landscape architects, comprise up to six times as many white people as people of color.

In 2010, together with the Idea Village, the Foundation co-founded the Water Challenge, a nationally-awarded program that mentors start-ups on how to turn their ideas to solve the region’s water issues into viable solutions. In 2014, Propeller, a local social enterprise accelerator, took over the implementation of the Water Challenge. This program culminates in a Water Challenge Day that is a featured event during New Orleans Entrepreneur Week. Through its work in the Water Challenge as well as its Start-Up and Growth-Accelerator, Propeller is aiming to reduce these inequities. GNOF has been funding Propeller’s water work since its inception in 2014.

Green Infrastructure Workforce

The Office of Resilience and Sustainability (ORS) is working with other city departments, New Orleans Business Alliance and the Greater New Orleans Foundation to execute the proposed National Disaster Resilience project (NDRC) for workforce development training and seed the creation of a green infrastructure economy that benefits disadvantaged businesses. These workforce development and disadvantaged business opportunities will help ensure that the jobs and contracts coming from the $200-$300 million spent on green infrastructure projects over the next five years will go to New Orleanians, especially African American men and DBEs. There is also increased private sector demand for green infrastructure due to the City’s stormwater management regulations for redevelopment and new development passed in 2015.

Many contracts the City currently executes have DBE requirements of 35%, however, the prime contractors indicate that they cannot find DBEs that are qualified to do the work. Additionally, the New Orleans Business Alliance, which is now fully integrated with the Network for Economic Opportunity, is looking to use existing funding streams to train entry-level workers, but needs more information on types of courses and competencies that are needed for the field.

The implementation of the following initiatives will leverage $3 million in workforce development funds within the NDRC project. These three initiatives are interdependent and necessary to establish the career pathways for the green infrastructure jobs that will come out of the City’s green infrastructure projects.

Green Infrastructure Career Pathway Convenings

The Greater New Orleans Foundation and New Orleans Business Alliance know that connecting green infrastructure employers with training and education providers is integral to the development of a comprehensive and well-designed career pathway. It also recognizes that conversations amongst industry and the education sector are not always organic but sometimes require more coordination and cultivation to build alignment and trust. Therefore, GNOF and NOLABA will host a series of convenings which bring together green infrastructure employers, training providers, and educational institutions to discuss the existing and anticipated green infrastructure pathways for workers in our region. Through the convenings, GNOF and NOLABA will gather and collect information on current trainings and education programs, identify any gaps in the existing curriculums, as well as hear from employers on the necessary skills and competencies required to gain employment and move along a career pathway in this sector.

Competency Inventory

Currently, there is a lack of information regarding what skills and competencies are required for the various green infrastructure projects the City of New Orleans will be implementing over the next five years. There is also no estimate of the number of jobs which will be created by these projects. This gap makes it difficult for training providers to plan for green infrastructure training programs.

Given this, GNOF and NOLABA via its partner BW Partnerships will be performing a competency inventory which estimates the skills and possibly number of jobs which will be created through the HUD and FEMA gray infrastructure and green infrastructure projects.

Want to know more?

To learn more about our environmental work at the Greater New Orleans Foundation, get in touch with James Logan.