Wednesday, April 25, 2007

New Orleans – SHRM Staffing Management Conference – Touring the City

This is one of those few departures from recruitment topics on this Blog. I am attending the SHRM Staffing Management Conference in New Orleans and this topic is on some of the personal things that I learned.

First of all, many of the politicians and the media are not accurately describing the resilience of the people of New Orleans and how much of the city has recovered from Hurricane Katrina.

Time and time again the people of New Orleans told me not to listen to “them” (politicians and unrealistic media). They are proud that their hard work has resulted in a substantial recovery for their city. Unlike the people seeking political gain and much of the media, the people of New Orleans have done an unbelievable job in their recovery. Some people do not realize that a city is not built (or rebuilt) in a couple of years. People with those expectations either are seeking their own gain; or possibly are using some illegal drug or too much alcohol. To paraphrase another saying, “New Orleans wasn’t built in a day.”

The residents of New Orleans refer to Hurricane Katrina as “the storm” or “the hurricane.” It’s almost as though they refuse to dignify her by using the name.

The ninth ward was effectively destroyed by the flooding and many of those people have left the city. It is interesting that the levees on the Mississippi held during the storm. The canal and lake levees were the ones that failed.

So what has to happen next? Well, not being a city planner, my guess is that the infrastructure has to be rebuilt to support the rebirth of the city. That is hard work. Then as the economy improves, the housing needs to be rebuilt. Obviously hard decisions need to be made regarding homes in areas such as the ninth ward. Is it responsible to allow people to rebuild where they may be in danger from future storms?

New Orleans was built on tourism and commerce. Thanks to the storm, much of each left the city. As both return to the area so will business and housing.

The GM of one of the major hotel chains told us that “The City of New Orleans is back. Now the city needs you to come for the first time (like me) or return – and spend money” (I helped!).

Now here are some tips. The food is awesome! I went to Shula’s Steakhouse in the JW Marriott for dinner my first evening. Okay, not very New Orleans’ cuisine but I was hungry and wanted something familiar first. Excellent!

Lunch on Monday was at the Acme Oyster House with several SHRM attendees. The fried oysters and crayfish were outstanding – great sauces. Monday evening was a special treat with my friends at Advanced Personnel Systems, Inc (SmartSearch Applicant Tracking System) – Sylvia Dahlby and Paul Smith, a new friend, Lori Corucci of Predix (candidate personality profiles), and an old friend, John DiPietro (author, speaker, and trainer). We ate at the Palace Café on Canal Street. It sounded like the red fish special was a big hit. My giant shrimp (is that an oxymoron?) with crayfish was very tasty. Thanks for the treat Sylvia and Paul!

Tuesday evening, Sylvia, Paul, Lori and I were joined by Doug Coull and Mike Estrada of Advanced Personnel Systems. We went to Olivier’s on Decatur St. What a great old restaurant with a long New Orleans family history! Paul had the catfish dinner that sounded very tasty. The rest of us enjoyed the Creole red fish special with jambalaya and crayfish ettouffee. Oh my goodness! Thanks Doug and Mike! This was an entertaining evening getting to know you and a special treat.

On Wednesday, I ate lunch at Johnny’s Po-Boys on St. Louis St. in the French Quarter. Their shrimp Po-Boy was so good! You have to have one of these sandwiches. Honestly there is no room for dinner now.

Find time to take a 2 hour ride on the steamboat Natchez down the Mississippi River and back. Start on the port side of the paddle wheeler. Most of the tour is on that side of the river. I imagine the evening dinner cruise would be magical as the lights in the city begin to come on.

A final couple of comments on Bourbon Street – Since it is almost 200 years old, I imagine that it was way ahead of Vegas in the saying “What happens on Bourbon Street, stays on Bourbon Street!” It is a really interesting combination of entertainment from tops in Jazz to bottom in taste – next door to one another. ‘Nuf said!

Enjoy New Orleans by coming here and experiencing this magical city. As Fats Domino sang, “Walkin’ to New Orleans!” It doesn’t matter how you get here, just find a way!