A few months ago we got a heads up about a business plan competition in New Orleans called 504ward (after the city’s area code). The competition will give $100,000 in seed money and as much in donated business services to fund the business idea that can retain talented young people who went to New Orleans during the recovery and rebuilding after Katrina.
The contest, spearheaded by entrepreneurial nonprofit Idea Village, drew 141 business ideas from 14 states. Now the group will choose 20 semi-finalists, with a winner chosen from the top five in April. (You can check out short videos of some of the business ideas here.)
This kind of economic development that fosters new businesses and new industries is particularly important during a recession. Louisiana, heavily dependent on the oil industry, now faces big budget gaps since oil prices have plunged. Other places depend on tourism, which suffers in a recession. (Here in New York, we lean heavily on Wall Street for tax revenue.) States should value entrepreneurs who can create jobs, diversify the tax base, and provide some growth and stability for areas that that traditionally rely on industries vulnerable to boom-and-bust cycles. So keep an eye on the ideas that come out of 504ward.