The Urban League of Louisiana is proud to announce its partnership with the New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center on the launch of the Ernest N. Morial Small Business of the Year Award and the Ernest N. Morial Corporation of the Year Award to honor the legacy of one of New Orleans’ most emblematic mayors, Ernest N. “Dutch” Morial.

Morial was a civil rights activist and political pioneer whose accomplished career included many firsts including the first black mayor of New Orleans in 1977, a position he held for two terms, and the first African American U.S. Attorney in Louisiana. He also created the first office of Economic Development to coordinate the city’s efforts to retain and attract business and the first minority business enterprise counselor to assist small and minority-owned businesses. His son, Marc Morial, now President and CEO of the National Urban League, also served as mayor of New Orleans, making him part of the first African-American father-son duo to serve as mayor of a major city.

“The Urban League of Louisiana could not be more proud to partner with the New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center to support the Morial Awards,” said Judy Reese Morse, President and CEO of the Urban League of Louisiana. “An award that recognizes investments in the small business ecosystem to ensure its strength and vitality aligns perfectly with our work at the Urban League of Louisiana. Small businesses and corporations both, through their hiring and procurement practices, have a responsibility to practice equity and create opportunities that empower communities and change lives. When they are successful in this work, their efforts should indeed be applauded,” she said.

The Urban League of Louisiana focuses on small business development through one of its three centers of excellence – the Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation (CEI) which houses the Women’s Business Resource Center and Contractor’s Resource Center. The Center’s mission is to provide aspiring and existing small businesses with the training, counseling and resources needed to start and grow viable, scalable businesses. In 2019 alone, the CEI impacted the lives of over 1,400 unique individuals through counseling, training and connections to resources. Clients of the center secured over $26 million dollars in contracts, created 19 new businesses and 56 new jobs.

Morial championed the city’s largest industry, tourism, while also encouraging businesses to invest in New Orleans. He advocated for the development of New Orleans’ riverfront convention center, later renamed in his likeness in 1992, as a way to promote economic development, particularly for local and diverse small businesses.

“Small business growth has been a central focus for the Convention Center,” said Michael Sawaya, President and General Manager of the New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center. “We’ve made it our commitment to continue to support our local small business vendors and to honor the legacy of the Convention Center’s namesake, Ernest N. Morial. We want these awards to inspire businesses, big and small, to promote the economic growth of our small business community.”

The Ernest N. Morial Small Business of the Year Award and the Ernest N. Morial Corporation of the Year Award will recognize a small business and a corporation that continue to demonstrate innovative growth and economic impact, as well as, exceptional contributions to the sustainability and growth of local communities and small businesses across the state of Louisiana.

“Our hope by creating these awards is to not only remember and honor the incredible legacy of Ernest Nathan Morial, but to recognize those businesses, big and small, who continue to fearlessly triumph and support small business growth in a highly competitive environment,” said Bonita Robertson, Small and Emerging Business Committee Chair, Ernest N. Morial New Orleans Exhibition Hall Authority. “Small business growth is directly reflective of the strength of our economy; we want small businesses to not just survive, but thrive.”

For eligibility criteria and nomination requirements for small businesses and corporations, visit Submissions for these awards are due Friday, April 17th by 5 p.m. Nomination packages can be emailed to Rocsean Spencer, Small Business Program Director, New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, at Confirmation emails will be sent upon receipt of nomination packages.

Elected officials and individuals or firms who are currently suspended or debarred by the Federal government cannot qualify for these awards.

Nominated businesses should have seen growth in the past three years, have an established history as a business with a firm foothold in the local community, and a demonstrated ability to face problems and adversity with effective methods and solutions. Nominated businesses should be able to show commitment to their local community through programs and events that bring about positive changes such as youth, workforce, economic, and education development as well as businesses that support or maintain programs that deal with diversity, advocacy, and inclusion.

Nominations will be reviewed by a selection committee consisting of Michael Sawaya, Bonita Robertson, Judy Morse Reese and a member of the Morial family. Award honorees will be named at the Urban League of Louisiana’s annual gala on June 27, 2020. More details to be announced at a later date.