Connected Cities, Hurricane Katrina, natural disaster, New Orleans, Resilience

A street jazz band performs in New Orleans, Louisiana. Photo by Dustin Almond.

Tomorrow, New Orleans, the Gulf Coast, and the nation will mark the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. All this week, people from around the world have been gathering in New Orleans to talk not about “The Storm” as it is known locally, but about recovery and resilience. AECOM has been part of that recovery and is building a more resilient New Orleans and region with major projects and support across the Gulf Coast.

I am honored to have been invited by the City and the Rockefeller Foundation to participate in the events this week. In launching their new Resilient New Orleans strategic agenda, Mayor Mitch Landrieu said that they are not rebuilding the city as it was, but as they imagined it could be.  President Obama, who visited yesterday, told us that New Orleans has shown the nation and the world what resilience means.  He even mentioned several of the projects AECOM had a major role in from our levee work and ecosystems restoration for the US Army Corps of Engineers to the support of FEMA to drive recovery in this region.

As I walked around the city and met with local residents, city and state officials, and our local office staff, one thing that was abundantly clear is the love these people have for this city and the region. In the face of adversity and hard work, people on the Gulf Coast never give up. FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate said that resilience does not mean natural disasters will not occur, but that cities and communities will survive, recover and prosper.

At AECOM, we support that mission every day.  Our staff work with public and private sector clients to design, build, finance, and operate infrastructure that will last and is ready for the changes in weather, population, and technology.  But we also drive resilience in our internal operations and facilities through our corporate Global Resilience Group to ensure all of AECOM’s people and assets are prepared for whatever comes our way.

Back in New Orleans, recovery comes with a side of jambalaya, a cold drink, and some hot jazz.  We are proud of the work AECOM and especially our local team, many storm survivors themselves, have done right here in this wonderful place.

Josh Sawislak ( is global director of resilience for AECOM.

Originally published Aug 28, 2015

Author: Josh Sawislak