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In the decade since Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, its people have written one of the greatest civic comeback stories in U.S. history. Caterpillar – which built many of the pumps and back-up generators installed after the disaster to protect the city’s flood walls, drainage canals and hospitals from a future storm – salutes their resilience and resolve.
It took weeks after Hurricane Katrina smashed into the U.S. Gulf Coast in late August 2005 for the world to fully grasp just how much had been destroyed by the storm or lost in the chaos that followed. But one thing became very clear, very quickly. While the scope of the disaster was enormous, the people it affected were bigger than anything Mother Nature could throw at them.
Nowhere was that more true than in New Orleans, where most of the storm’s estimated 1,800 victims died. Katrina brought the worst of times to New Orleans, a city whose breezy unofficial motto is “Let the good times roll.” But when the hard winds blew and the water rose mercilessly, most New Orleanians proved they could roll with the bad times, too.
Not everyone rose to the occasion. The select bipartisan U.S. congressional committee appointed to investigate the disaster identified “failures at all levels of government that significantly undermined and detracted from the heroic efforts of first responders, private individuals and organizations, faith-based groups, and others.” But the committee also found “many, many heroes” and “examples of astounding individual initiative that saved lives and stand in stark contrast to the larger institutional failures.”
With folks like that living in it, New Orleans would surely rise again. And so it did. Ten years on, the signs of the city’s rebound – and of the resolve of its people to avoid a repeat catastrophe – are everywhere.
Returnees – who have flocked back to New Orleans by the tens of thousands as rebuilding efforts gained traction – have turned the city from one the fastest shrinking to one of the fastest growing metro areas in the country.
In fact, New Orleanians can now boast that their city has gone from “worst to first” in a whole bunch of important categories. Forbes called it “the No. 1 brain magnet in America.” The Wall Street Journal’s Market Watch team ranked the city No. 1 for business climate and Bloomberg News has called it America’s No.1 boomtown.
Its economy, which performed better than the nation as a whole during the recession thanks to rebuilding efforts, continues to outperform. Investments in public and private infrastructure, including a massive new flood protection system, certainly helped. But small businesses are playing a big role, too.
According to the Data Center, an independent non-profit group that has tracked more than 30 indicators of the region’s economic health in the post-Katrina years, the entrepreneurship rate in metro New Orleans is 64 percent higher than the national average and 40 percent higher than other fast-growing Southern metro areas.
On the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, Caterpillar salutes the unsinkable spirit of the people of New Orleans. We were there to witness that spirit as it emerged in the immediate aftermath of the storm, when our local dealer, Louisiana Cat, brought over 400 pieces of our heavy earth-moving machinery into the region to support the cleanup and when the Caterpillar Foundation – together with employees and retirees – donated more than $2 million for people in the U.S. Gulf Coast.
We continue to be witnesses to the city’s remarkable rebirth today. Because behind the scenes, Cat® products and Caterpillar people are hard at work making a difference in the new New Orleans. We’re powering the massive floodgate pumps that now surround and protect the city. We’re providing local hospitals with uninterruptible back-up electricity. We’re moving the dirt that is shoring up the fragile coastline that cushions the city’s critical levees from the brunt of any storms.
We’re proud of the people of New Orleans and their neighbors along the Gulf Coast. And we’re proud to be working on these and many other critical projects in southeast Louisiana because they promise to make the region’s defenses against the next Katrina as strong and resilient as its people were in the face of the first.
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