The Super Bowl is expected to provide a $430 million boost to New Orleans' economy. Through the NFL's Emerging Business program, small businesses will have ample opportunity to get a piece of that revenue.

The NFL first launched its Emerging Business program, which targets women- and minority-owned businesses, in 1994. Each year, the league partners with the Super Bowl host committee--the organization based in the game's host city and charged with overseeing game-related events--in order to educate local companies on gaining access to business opportunities with NFL contractors.

This year's program, organized by the Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation, or GNOSF, included some 275 businesses in 30 industries.

New Orleans is no stranger to big sports events: it has previously hosted six Super Bowls. Through programs such as the NFL's, local sports organizations are making more efforts to involve small businesses. "We strongly encourage contractors to utilize local businesses," says Jeremy Boyce, the GNOSF's community relations director. The NCAA Men's Final Four was held in New Orleans last spring, and for that event, the foundation also organized a series of business workshops.

 

An Entry Point 

For some participants, receiving a contract for the Super Bowl has exposed them to business opportunities they otherwise would have overlooked. Jason Burns, the director of business development for QCS Logistics, provides courier, freight, and warehousing services. Founded in 1984, the company has primarily worked with medical and banking companies.

But after winning contracts for the Super Bowl and the NCAA Men's Final Four, the company is now considering expanding into events. "Without this program, we would have never had an entry point for introducing our services," Burns says.

Other business owners simply appreciate the opportunity for a bigger stage. Marie Hasney, the owner of Catering Connection Unlimited/Fleur de Lis New Orleans Cuisine, is gearing up for two major events on Sunday, including the VIP tailgate. Although Hasney's company is well established in corporate events, the Super Bowl is one of its largest bookings to date. "It's very exciting," she says, "though I'm being a nutcase about making everything perfect."

Education, Training, and Community

In addition to providing information on Super Bowl-related opportunities, the program includes a series of general business workshops in areas such as marketing, finance, and hiring. Those workshops ensure that all participants benefit from the program, even if they don't get contracts.

"Not everyone can get business from the Super Bowl," says Boyce. "But we can provide resources to help people improve their businesses in the long run."

For the many businesses that have fought to rebound in the years after Katrina devastated the city, those resources are certainly welcome. Many of the participants in the Emerging Business program are far from typical start-ups--they've been around for decades. But the hurricane effectively reset the clock, says Diane Lyons, the owner of Accent on Arrangements, which provides event and destination management services.

"After Katrina, every business is emerging all over again," she says. "We've been involved in Super Bowls before, but now is a glorious time."