It’s the second week of Out to Lunch Baton Rouge’s host Stephanie Riegel’s link-up with Out to Lunch Acadiana host Christiaan Mader and New Orleans Out to Lunch host Peter Ricchiuti for a statewide look at our business and financial life in Louisiana in what has become this unprecedented Covid Economy.

If you live outside of Baton Rouge, and everything you know about the city comes from what you hear or see on the news, you’d be forgiven for thinking that nothing goes on here but politics. That’s far from the truth. And it’s the reason the slogan of the Baton Rouge Area Chamber is, “There’s more to Baton Rouge than you might think.” For starters, there are over 1,500 businesses and organizations that are members of the Chamber.

The function of the Chamber is to support those member-businesses, help them grow, and to make Baton Rouge such a great place to do business that other people will be attracted to start or move companies to Baton Rouge. But, what does a Chamber of Commerce do when there is no commerce?

President & CEO of BRAC, Adam Knapp

President & CEO of BRAC, Adam Knapp

Stephanie puts that question to the President and CEO of the Baton Rouge Area Chamber, Adam Knapp.

Covid Economy Acadiana

In Acadiana, Lafayette is often referred to as “Hub City.” The reason for that is, Lafayette is the economic hub of the region.

The population of Acadania residents who shop in Lafayette, or go there to do business, is about 600,000. Once you figure in the oil and gas industry that pays $800m annually in local wages alone, plus the tech sector, the medical sector, and manufacturing – including one of the biggest jewelry manufacturers in the country – the economic impact of shutting down Lafayette rivals New Orleans and Baton Rouge.

Lafayette’s version of a Chamber of Commerce is the Lafayette Economic Development Authority, more often referred to by its acronym, LEDA.

The leading light of LEDA, Gregg Gouthreaux

The leading light of LEDA, Gregg Gouthreaux

The President and CEO of LEDA is Gregg Gothreaux. Out to Lunch Acadiana host Christiaan Mader spends a good part of his day reporting on the impacts of Covid 19 in his role as publisher of the local independent news organization The Current. As a result, this conversation between Mader and Gothreaux is particularly insightful and illuminating.

New Orleans Unique Covid Economy

New Orleans’ last total economic collapse wasn’t all that long ago. In 2005 Hurricane Katrina brought the city to a standstill. A large part of New Orleans’ economic recovery from that shutdown was driven by a Louisiana State initiative, called the Katrina Small Business Recovery Program. That program was headed up by Michael Hecht.

GNO Inc's Michael Hecht

Disaster Master: GNO Inc’s Michael Hecht

Michael is now President and CEO of an organization called Greater New Orleans Inc, a kind of super-charged Chamber of Commerce. Hecht is typically self-deprecating about his role in saving New Orleans after Katrina, but a lot of people credit him personally with saving small business in the city. Once again, we’re all looking for someone to tell us what to do to save small business in Louisiana, and beyond. Hecht’s advice may, once again, turn out to be invaluable.

You can find further discussion about Louisiana’s Covid Economy here.

Out to Lunch on Zoom

Out to Lunch on Zoom

Photos by Jill Lafleur.