Heading Back to the Big Easy

Glenda McKinley says New Orleans still has a lot to offer visitors and business professionals

0529neworleansIt’s the mosaic of cultures, cuisines, neighborhoods, and architecture that makes New Orleans a jewel of a city. There is a litany of discoveries—from the decadence and European charm of the French Quarter with its cobbled streets and hints of Caribbean influence to the grand Victorian structures of the Garden District to the bustle of downtown’s business district.

Though the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina has altered its landscape and economy, the city is unbowed. The pulse and culture of New Orleans remain vibrantly alive, and those who love it—natives and visitors—are determined to preserve its allure.

New Orleans native Glenda McKinley, president and creative director of GM Advertising, is committed through her business and personal efforts to rebuilding the city. “I have a deep sense of gratitude to New Orleans for embracing me as a young entrepreneur and for enabling my business to thrive for more than 21 years.”

Major industries include port operations, tourism, oil/gas production, and aerospace manufacturing. But there are growing industries that “for the creative and entrepreneurial-minded individual could provide a variety of opportunities,” McKinley says. “New Orleans is called Hollywood South, because of our growing number of film projects,” McKinley explains. “This city also waives the wait time for wedding licenses the way they do in Las Vegas, but here we provide a port for cruises as well as great hotels for a honeymoon.”

McKinley believes that cultural and social entrepreneurship could be big expansion areas as noted by the success of the Musician’s Village, a Habitat for Humanity project conceived by New Orleans natives Harry Connick Jr. and Branford Marsalis. Every year New Orleans also hosts more than 70 countries at the World Cultural Economic Forum on how to market culture as an economic resource. “It’s all about building the infrastructure,” McKinley offers.

McKinley gives us a tour of the celebrated city.

Accommodations

The Hotel Intercontinental (444 Saint Charles Ave.; 504-525-5566) is among McKinley’s favorites for its unbeatable views. “It’s [also] a great business hotel. The service is amazing and it’s a great central location.”

McKinley says the historic Hotel Monteleone (214 Rue Royale; 866-338-4684) “is a family-owned, very French Quarter experience. It’s walking distance to the shopping center and great restaurants; and the Carousel Bar is a great attraction.”

Hubbard Mansion (3535 Saint Charles Ave; 504-897-3535) is the city’s only black-owned bed-and -breakfast. It offers five suites, two executive apartments for extended stays, and a range of amenities that make for an intimate experience.

Dining

New Orleans is famous for Cajun, Creole, and Caribbean cuisines, all marked by French influence. Olivier’s (204 Decatur St.; 504-525-7734) provides authentic Creole dishes, where rabbit and crawfish étouffée are menu favorites.

Drago’s (2 Poydras St.; 504-584-3911;) in the Hilton New Orleans Riverside serves up the best char-grilled oysters, says McKinley.

At The Pelican Club (312 Exchange Place; 504-523-1504), an architectural gem located in a 19th century French Quarter town house, Chef Richard Hughes’ menu is a sensory delight.

Leah Chase, who is still stirring traditional Creole delights at age 86 at Dooky Chase (2301 Orleans Ave; 504-821-0600), is now joined by her grandson Edgar Chase, a graduate of Le Cordon Bleu in Paris.

ATTRACTIONS

McKinley’s must-do list includes the African American Heritage Trail, a multi-destination tour that illustrates African American history and cultural traditions by transforming the state into a living museum. It begins in the historic Tremé neighborhood and visits the famed St. Louis Cemeteries, St. Augustine Church, and the River Road African American Museum. Continue on to the majestic Evergreen and Melrose Plantations, the Creole Heritage Folk Life Center, or any of the destinations on the 26-site trail. For more information on this vibrant city, visit www.neworleans.com.

This article originally appeared in the May 2009 issue of Black Enterprise magazine.

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