Coastal land loss, water management and the consequences of fossil-fuel energy production are challenges for south Louisiana, yet in the eyes of the region’s chief economic development group,  these issues are also business opportunities with the potential to spawn a whole new industry here.

The business alliance Greater New Orleans Inc. has launched a new initiative called Green N.O., a program its leaders hope will position New Orleans as the nation’s center for sustainable and environmentally-friendly businesses.

“It’s up to somebody or something to convene the diverse players already active in this industry and GNO Inc. is that convener,” says Michael Hecht, president of GNO Inc.

The upshot could be new investment, new businesses and new jobs for the region. The formation of Green N.O. comes on the heels of a study commission by the state claiming that Louisiana could add up to 90,000 jobs over the next two decades by developing sustainable industries, with most of these jobs likely based in the greater New Orleans region.

“This is a prime place to foster green industries in one respect because of the brand we have here, and it’s a brand with substance,” Hecht says. “We have experience with eroding marshlands, with water management. We live in one of the most dynamic regions in the country, and we have an intense relationship with the environment.”

The green theme can cover a broad spectrum of businesses with familiar job categories ranging from engineering and research to blue-collar construction to sales and marketing. For instance, the sector includes areas like energy-efficient construction, disaster mitigation and response and renewable energy generation, especially in the realm of hydrokinetics, or producing energy from the flow of rivers, an area Tulane University’s RiverSphere project is now pursuing.

To get started, Green N.O. is now forming a number of committees of industry leaders to focus on marketing the area to other green businesses; advocating for government regulation and incentives friendly to the sector; supporting workforce development for green-specific jobs; and researching areas where Louisiana can be most competitive.

“The demand is already there. We’re already talking with companies that want to come here for this type of work,” Hecht says. “If we do this right, the next time there’s an oil disaster somewhere around the globe, the technology and know-how to fix it should be coming from Louisiana.”

For updates on Green N.O. programs and events, see