Could Water Management Be New Orleans’ Next Big Export?
For years, Louisiana was the only state in the country to have a master plan for dealing with coastal land loss. Now other states, like Texas, are following suit. Louisiana´s motivation is clear: The state loses approximately a football-field’s worth of land every hour. Louisiana´s Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority estimates that, left unattended, the loss of the state’s wetlands will worsen the annual cost of flood damage from an average of $2.7 billion to approximately $19.9 billion. Yet in the face of such dire predictions, some see an opportunity for southern Louisiana to position itself as a leader in water management and to reap the economic benefits of not only addressing the state´s issues, but of selling that expertise to others.
This is the conclusion that economist Robert Habans of The Data Center reached in his study released earlier this month. Hagans found that in the aftermath of 2005´s Hurricane Katrina and the 2010 BP oil spill, the heavy construction industry grew, as firms rebuilt the city’s broken levees and constructed massive flood protection systems. However, other industries associated with heavy construction have not necessarily fared as well. For example, engineering jobs didn’t increase at the same rate.
Habans tells Next City that while southern Louisiana has done well in terms of bringing in construction jobs, it lags in the number of engineering positions. “If we had more of the design work, that’s what we would see,” Habans tells Next City, explaining that in order to bring in technical positions, such as engineering, the area needs the capacity to envision projects and how to execute them.
Still, Habans cautioned that because water management is “an emerging sector,” there isn’t good data yet on on the employment trends in this field. At the same time,the report suggests that improving connections between specialized fields in the region, such as heavy construction and civil engineering, “will be crucial to the cluster’s long-term development.”