Who can forget the video of the thousands of refugees living in squalor at the New Orleans Superdome, waiting for rescue while government entities squabbled over responsibility? Even today, when one sees mention of New Orleans, it is frequently in terms of rebuilding yet unaccomplished, continued vulnerability to hurricanes, or a dramatic drop in population.
The New Orleans brand is desperately in need of a makeover, to regain the 'laissez les bon temps rouler' (let the good times roll) image it once enjoyed.
Luckily, it is home to one of the nation's great events, the Mardi Gras. Even in lean times, the ebullient, colorful celebration is a magnet for the press. Leveraging this attention to rebrand the city is an obvious step.
Continuing to build on the success of the renovated Superdome will also help. Hosting the BCS football championship and the NBA All-star Game earlier this year were great legs-up for the city. And if the Saints could get into the playoffs, that would be très bon.
Securing as many trade shows and conventions as possible is another great way to rebuild a reputation. In 2005, New Orleans tied for seventh in the number of trade shows hosted. Attendees to these events are trendsetters, and a great boon in spreading a reputation virally.
Perhaps the most difficult task, however, is demonstrating to the American public that the city and the state have learned from their hardship and are prepared to deal with the next disaster more effectively. Visitors don't want to live with a nagging fear in the back of their mind during their visit. They want to feel that they are in a secure environment with a functioning police department and local government up to the task.
Come to think of it, so do the residents.