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New Orleans has actually become a fairly lively tech hub

It’s hard to imagine New Orleans popping up in any conversation about tech hubs in the United States, but that’s starting to change. Poverty, rampant crime, and a severe shortage of jobs caused tens of thousands of young professionals to leave the city in search of better opportunity during the late 90’s and early 2000’s, and Hurricane Katrina only served to hasten the city’s decline. However, the post-Katrina New Orleans that we see now has actually become a popular destination for college graduates, and the city is quickly becoming one of America’s top tech hub.

Brent McCrossen left New Orleans for Seattle in September of 1998, part of enormous “ brain drain” that hit the city even before the arrival of Hurricane Katrina. But four years ago, he returned to the city, as part of a thriving startup scene that arose in the wake of the storm. In the late ’90s, life in the Big Easy was a little too, well, easy, McCrossen says. He wanted a challenge. To make something of himself, to build something new. New Orleans just wasn’t the place to do that. There simply weren’t many opportunities for ambitious young people, so many of them moved on. “I remember my mom crying as I pulled out of the driveway,” he says. “But I always told her I’d be back once I’d found something to bring back with me. I just didn’t know what.” Roughly 42,000 people between 22 and 35 left New Orleans during the decade. Plagued by crime, poverty, and a dearth of jobs, the city’s population grew only 4 percent in the ’90s, well behind the 10 percent growth nationwide. Moneyball author Michael Lewis, venture capitalist and early Compaq investor Ben Rosen, and Steve Jobs biographer Walter Isaacson were among the city’s bright stars who departed the city in the decades prior. Even before Hurricane Katrina and the flood that followed, many feared that New Orleans was dying.

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