Friday, May 05, 2006
Big business on 'mission' in Gulf Coast
I was working on a story in my office this past Wednesday when I received a call from U.S. Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez. I've been doing a lot of stories on immigration of late, and I thought that since the secretary is a Hispanic immigrant like me, that's what he wanted to talk about. Instead, we began chatting in English, Spanish and Spanglish about another pressing story.

He told me about a trade mission he's undertaking. That's where U.S. business leaders travel abroad to an emerging market to look for investment opportunities, not exactly the type of story I would be interested in, because it fits neatly into the "so what" category.

When I, just to be polite, asked what country, his answer both intrigued and astonished me.

He said, "New Orleans!"

"New Orleans?" I threw back at him. "How's that?"

He told me that never before has a U.S. trade delegation gone on a trade mission inside the United States, but if ever there's been a place in the United States that needed it, it's New Orleans.

Here's his explanation: Our government has spent tens of billions of dollars in the area, much of it misspent, and New Orleans still needs a lot of help.

Secretary Gutierrez, who quit his job as chief executive officer and chairman of the board of Kellogg to work for the government, and took a huge cut in pay to do so, is a big believer in private sector initiatives. And he's convinced that "big business has a better shot at saving New Orleans than big government."

That's why he's on a bus, traveling throughout the Gulf Coast. On board with him are executives from 32 of the most powerful corporations in the world, including Citigroup, Caterpillar, Marriott, Goldman Sachs, Shell, Home Depot, Dow Chemical, Disney and Wal-Mart, just to name a few. On "360," we will take you along for the ride.
Posted By Rick Sanchez, CNN Correspondent: 3:12 PM ET
What a great idea! I hope these big businesses come through!
Posted By Anonymous Renee, Ashland, WI : 5:38 PM ET
Hey Rick,

Can't wait to get home from work (as soon as I detach myself from my computer) and watch!
It's about time we have some innovative initiatives in N.O.

A concerned Canadian
Posted By Anonymous Jennifer, Toronto, Canada : 6:15 PM ET
Finally, good news from the Gulf Coast. Bringing jobs into the area will raise the standard of living of individuals who thought welfare was their only option. Let's create jobs instead of raising taxes to improve the economic picture in this area.
Posted By Anonymous Tina - Chicago IL : 6:58 PM ET
It's good to see someone take the initative to rescue the Gulf Coast. Maybe if the government was run by business men and not politicians we wouldn't be in the fix we are now. The politicians spend so much time complaining about what the other side has or has not done that that they have forgotten what they were elected to do - make this country a place where the average American can live with the freedoms they were originally given.
Posted By Anonymous Marcia, Warren MI : 7:02 PM ET
Good for him! Finally, a highly placed representative of our government actually doing something for the people who pay his salary. I also commend the folks on "360" for keeping the Katrina catastrophe in our minds and hearts through the blogs and the show.

Charity money coming from businesses seems to get where it's supposed to go, and I have no doubt they will be more successful than the farce that is FEMA. While I disagree with most corporate workings, I finally have hope that the right people have been found. Power does not always corrupt.
Posted By Anonymous Karen, Tucson, AZ : 7:06 PM ET
To expound comments by Marcia from MI:
Yes, we are seeing the fruits of Mr. Bush's long-term fiscal plans! Interest rates low, unemployment at four-decade low, stock market roaring, home loan applicationss way up, and the IRS reports two percent increase this year in number of Americans making over $50,000/yr. That's your Republican-run businessmen getting the job done for long-term financial strength!
Posted By Anonymous Tina - Chicago IL : 7:20 PM ET
Maybe if the government was run by business men and not politicians we wouldn't be in the fix we are now.

I hate to remind you of this, Marcia, but one of the big selling points of the Bush/Cheney team was the pair's 'business' experience. You remember, CEO of Halliburton? And whatever it was that Bush supposedly did at Harkin? Sit on the board and lend them the luster of his family name, is about the extent of it, I think.

Yeah, they were going to come in and run Washington like a business. All balance sheets and like that.

How would you say that's working out for us, huh?
Posted By Anonymous Arachnae, Sterling VA : 7:53 PM ET
Maybe this is a step in the right direction. In business, people tend to be replaced if they don't get the job done. In politics, they seem to waffle and work on getting re-elected. Does the government ever get anything done? I really hope these executives can put their heads together and come up with a workable plan.
Posted By Anonymous Kathy Chicago, Il : 8:53 PM ET
Rick, I thoroughly enjoy your reporting. Great investigating!
Posted By Anonymous Missy, Fairfield, CT : 9:37 PM ET
"To expound comments by Marcia from MI:
Yes, we are seeing the fruits of Mr. Bush's long-term fiscal plans! Interest rates low, unemployment at four-decade low, stock market roaring, home loan applicationss way up, and the IRS reports two percent increase this year in number of Americans making over $50,000/yr. That's your Republican-run businessmen getting the job done for long-term financial strength!" To quote Tina from Chicago. I think that explains who she is working for, and why she works day and night so she has no time to answer poll questions. Defending Bush is a full time job.
What about all the billions in the deficit? That doesn't bother you at all?
These business men who are going to save New Orleans have to prove themselves first before we tell 'em what a good job they are doing.
Posted By Anonymous Barbara, Montreal QC : 9:59 PM ET
Hi Rick,
I just want to say I think it's a great idea..Anyone who helps the Gulf coast, in my opinion, deserves a Thank You..Thanks for whatever you can do..There's enough venom and anger in this world to sink a ship..It's time to help our neighbors and check the cynicism at the door..Happy Friday Take Care..
Posted By Anonymous Lorie Ann, Buellton,Calif. : 10:13 PM ET
I'm sorry but power does always corrupt, show me one instance in our history anywhere that power did not corrupt. You can't because the more power you get the more control you want. I think it's great that these large company's are in New Oleans trying to help. We will take it from where we can get it. But beware because we do not know the hidden agendas and there always is one. I read a report on the next election turning out like the one in 94 when republicans gained the majority. Only this time it may be swinging the other way. Then the next day big business is out with hands open trying to help. Since they live and die by republican power, they can ill afford to see the democrats gain control. So I expect to hear more stories like this before the next election.
Posted By Anonymous Mike Dallas Tx : 10:06 AM ET
It's nice to see someone take notice of the need here in New Orleans. While we only have 1 Fortune 500 company in the city (make that the state) we are in a position that we could be prosperous as long as we have someone backing us up.
Kudos to Carlos Gutierrez for noticing the opportunity of our great city and to those who support his efforts. It's nice for a change to see that someone is looking towards our future more than we New Orleanians do.
New Orleans could be the greatest port city in the world. We have the tourism market cornered and welcome those from all over the world. You come to our city to eat our seafood, indudulge in our food, culture and attitude. You enjoy our music and you use our oil - it's those things that make our state a "big business" and thanks to those who invest in us!!
Posted By Anonymous Gretchen Schneider, New Orleans LA : 4:14 PM ET
I hope "Big Business" will be able to help the people in the Gulf Coast, but I have reservations, as I do not trust Big Business anymore than I trust the current administration. Oh wait, are they not one and the same?
Posted By Anonymous Moe, Liverpool NY : 9:01 PM ET
LOL...the government is run by "business men"...that is the reason this country is going under. Research the jobs these governmental appointed people have held, plus their holdings in current companies. Does Halibuton ring a bell???? Power may not always corrupt, but absolute power certainly does!
Posted By Anonymous Moe, Liverpool NY : 11:27 PM ET
It's good to hear that, Ill be returning back to New Orleans come Fall to finish my year at Tulane and it seems hopeless-hopeless because housing has become scarce and rent high, but hearing this bit of news makes me hopeful.
Posted By Anonymous Thuy - Dallas, TX : 12:27 AM ET
Once again I say "Big Business" and the government are one and the same as far as I am concerned. Why is it when you equate "Big Business" with the government you are not listened to, not printed in blogs, etc. Can it be that the almighty dollar is ruling our free speech...hmmmm! The government certainly did very little, and is doing very little for the Gulf Coast. If the government gave as much money as it is sending out of the country to the Gulf Coast, perhaps the Gulf Coast would be on its way to recovery. As far as "Big Business" helping the Gulf Coast, I will believe it when I see it! Perhaps "Big Business" thinks it will be able to have the residents of the Gulf Coast work for pennies, as that is what they pay workers in other countries, as we all know and, as we all know, by doing this "Big Business" is depriving Americans of earning a decent wage/living. Perhaps it is not the immigrants who pose a problem in this country, but "Big Business" itself!
Posted By Anonymous Moe, Liverpool NY : 4:11 AM ET
Very possibly, big business would not be the answer to N.O. problems. Need I remind you of excessive Corporate CEO salaries and bonuses? Need I remind you of financial problems at corporations like GM, Ford, Delta and Comair? Then in the past, there was graft at Enron, World Com, Tyco, Adelphia and the likes. And when Corporations continue to take away employee benefits, could that be an indication that they are not so business savvy? Or does it mean that they are just in a position right now to do so?
Posted By Anonymous Cathy Lindy, Cincinnati, OH : 8:57 AM ET
This is a great idea! I believe this is what New Orleans could use right now. New Orleans needs money. Some investments and the photo op that American businesses still believe in the viability of New Orleans would help in reviving the city. "Big Business in the Big Easy" should be a slogan.
Posted By Anonymous Alisa, Atlanta, GA : 11:20 AM ET
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