It’s easy to draw parallels between Austin and New Orleans. Both have a laid-back, quirky vibe. Both have world-famous entertainment districts (Sixth Street and Bourbon Street). Both have bustling tourism, film, and music sectors. Both even have nonstop flights to London.
Yet for all of its fantastic qualities, New Orleans lacks one attribute that Austin already has — recognition as an established, much-hyped tech hot spot. Austin frequently is mentioned in the same breath as Silicon Valley, whereas New Orleans isn’t in that stratosphere.
From a business standpoint, New Orleans is an Austin wannabe.
“Austin is very much what New Orleans aspires to be,” Michael Hecht, president and CEO of Greater New Orleans Inc., an economic development organization, tells CultureMap. “We try to model ourselves off Austin.”
Indeed, Hecht has proclaimed New Orleans is “going to be the new Austin.” In that regard, it’s Silicon Bayou versus Silicon Hills.
Among all the cities that come to mind, Hecht respects Austin the most as it relates to delivering a potent blend of business and culture. New Orleans may have the culture part locked up, but it’s still striving for platinum status as a tech hub. In promoting New Orleans, Hecht likes to tout its low-cost, high-culture environment.
“New Orleans is basically Austin 20 years ago,” Hecht says.
In a 2016 interview with New Orleans publication Gambit, Hecht singled out what he perceives as a significant difference between New Orleans and Austin. He said Austin “created” its image as a cultural destination, while New Orleans was born with it.
“The culture in New Orleans is historic and indigenous. It’s not created,” Hecht told Gambit. “You will never see a ‘Keep New Orleans Weird’ campaign. That would be like having a ‘Keep Water Wet’ campaign.”