Idea Village founder and CEO Tim Williamson, a nationally respected business leader whose determination to expand economic and leadership opportunities for New Orleanians sparked an entrepreneurial renaissance in his hometown, has been named President of NOLA Media Group.It's a week for old favorites in the world of "volunteer entrepreneurism." Yesterday it was Irvin Mayfield and Jim Bernazzani. Today it's Williamson. The guys should really get the band back together and play a number. If only so many of them weren't in jail. Pour some out for Greg Meffert and Ray Nagin. Once upon a time Williamson and Meffert kind of made their careers locally by being in the circle of businessmen that produced Mayor Nagin.
Williamson replaces Ricky Mathews, who previously announced his intention to transition out of his role as NOLA Media Group president and help lead new initiatives with Advance Local, a group of affiliated websites and newspapers of which NOLA.com and The Times-Picayune are members.
It Helps to Know the MayorBut Williamson's neoliberal capitalist bona fides extend beyond mere cronyism.
"We started out lucky, says Williamson. "I call it the MN [Mayor Nagin] factor. Ray Nagin, a former vice president and general manager for Cox Communications in Southeast Louisiana, who had never held political office, defeated New Orleans police chief Richard Pennington in the mayor's race in early 2002.
"He's entrepreneurial, says Williamson. "He understood business; he understood what we were talking about. There was finally a sense of possibility that we could actually create a world-class entrepreneurial community.
"What's critical to this is vision, continues Williamson. "The mayor stated that his vision is to make New Orleans the entrepreneurial capital of the world.
Williamson, 51, is an Isidore Newman High School (1983) and Tulane University (1987) alum. He began his career as an investment banker on the East Coast, including a stint as Vice President of Investments at Bear Stearns in Boston. In 1996 he became regional general manager at Cox Interactive Media, responsible for building Internet markets in Austin, San Antonio, Oklahoma City, Omaha, Pittsburgh and his native New Orleans.Cox cable, Bear Stearns, Tulane, Newman. You could add "Legion of Doom: founding member" to that resume and it wouldn't be the worst thing on there. This is pretty much a made man we're talking about. Which is why one wonders if he's really this dense or more likely just dishonest when he cites historian Lawrence Powell in this video in calling New Orleans "The place where capitalism was founded. The original silicon valley." This is true, of course. It conveniently glosses over all the slavery, though.
We've actually mentioned this before in the context of the Confederate monuments controversy. But the book to read is Edward Baptist's The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism. Baptist focuses on banking and credit "innovations" pioneered by the entrepreneurs (like Vincent Nolte in the passage below) trading humans and cotton futures at Maspero's during this founding of capitalism Williamson enthuses about.
Anyway, the inheritors of this proud legacy are pretty much running the town now so there's no point in objecting anymore. Maybe if they manage to bump us up to three "Entrepreneur Week" features per month, they'll finally find the Golden App that solves everyone's problems. Probably not, though. The track record isn't very good.