Symposium Offers Lessons from Katrina for Japan’s Earthquake and Tsunami Recovery


Participants at the roundtable.

On September 19 and 20, Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz, PC, in partnership with the Shibusawa Eiichi Memorial Foundation, New Orleans BioInnovation Center, The Committee of 100, The Idea Village, the Mississippi World Trade Center and the World Trade Center of New Orleans, presented the U.S. – Japan Reconstruction Symposium: Business Leaders for Reconstruction in Japan.

Honored guests from the Shibusawa Eiichi Memorial Foundation visited New Orleans for an event that promoted the revitalization of the economy in Kamaishi City, Iwate Prefecture, through an exchange of ideas and experiences from business leaders in the U.S. and Japan.

The Japanese delegation — which included Professor Takeo Kikkawa (Professor of Graduate School of Commerce and Management at Hitotsubashi University), Mr. Akio Ono (President, Ono Foods Co., Ltd.), Mr. Takahiro Sasa (Deputy Manager, Industry Promotion Department, Kamaishi City) and Ms. Akiko Iwasaki (Owner, Houraikan) — provided reports on the Japanese tsunami disaster and the degree of recovery in Eastern Japan. Several leaders from New Orleans and the Gulf Coast also presented on some of the amazing successes arising out of the tragedies of Katrina.

The Japanese delegation was particularly interested in how New Orleans used the Hurricane Katrina disaster as an opportunity to create an “entrepreneurial ecosystem,” as demonstrated by Tim Williamson, co-founder and CEO of The Idea Village.  Other presentations included lessons on rebuilding Louisiana from Elizabeth Thomas from the Center for Planning Excellence. Curtis Soderberg of CSRS and Stephen Pettis of Jacobs explained how the events of Hurricane Katrina shaped the global standard for disaster recovery response.  Each presentation offered a unique look at the seven years of post-Katrina revitalization of coastal infrastructure, society and economy.

On September 20, 30 participants including the Japanese delegation and business and government  leaders from Louisiana and the Gulf Coast gathered for a closed-door roundtable to discuss the different aspects of disaster recovery and specifics of how to successfully rebuild an economy following the losses suffered during both Katrina and the Japanese tsunami.  The roundtable heard from those who were directly involved with New Orleans economic recovery, including Aaron Miscenich of the New Orleans BioInnovation Center, Committee of 100 Louisiana CEO Michael Olivier and CEO of the New Orleans Business Alliance Rod Miller. Each participant provided vital insight and feedback to the Japanese delegation on multiple aspects of recovery and post-disaster challenges.

Donna D. Fraiche, shareholder in the New Orleans office of Baker Donelson and Honorary Consul-General of Japan for New Orleans, noted, “Committed business leaders in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast region know what it takes to mobilize private enterprise to revitalize a region recovering from disasters, and we are eager to support the economic recovery of Kamaishi City and the areas affected by the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami. The Symposium partners are grateful for the opportunity to exchange experiences during these two days and believe leaders of both Japan and the Gulf Coast benefited from this collaboration.”