Inaugural Morial Awards Recognize Companies for Economic Impact and Exceptional Contributions to Growth of Small Businesses Across the State

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, focus on small businesses and sustainability around the region is more important now, than ever.

(From left to right) Ms. Judy Reese Morse, President and CEO of Louisiana Urban League. Mr. Terry Williams, Airware Transportation and Logistics, President and CEO. Mr. Paul Flower, Woodward Design+Build, CEO. Mr. Mike Sawaya, President and General Manager of the New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center. Ms. Rocsean Spencer, Director of Small Business Program Director for the New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center.

NEW ORLEANS – (Dec. 4, 2020) – The New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center and the Urban League of Louisiana honored the winners of the inaugural Ernest N. Morial Awards at a socially-distanced luncheon on December 3 in the Convention Center’s Great Hall.

These awards recognize a small business and a corporation that have demonstrated 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.

Airware Transportation and Logistics was recognized as Small Business of the Year. Woodward Design+Build was recognized as Corporation of the Year.

These awards were established in celebration of Mayor Ernest N. Morial’s achievements and his legacy as a civil rights activist, and political pioneer. As the first Black mayor of New Orleans in 1977, a position he held for two terms through 1986, he championed the Convention Center’s construction and saw it as a way to promote economic development, especially for local and diverse small businesses.

“Small business growth has been a central focus for the Convention Center,” said Michael J. Sawaya, president and general manager of the New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, and co-chairman of the Urban League’s Annual Gala. “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 congratulate the winners for their achievements and we hope the awards will inspire businesses, big and small, to promote the economic growth of our small business community.”

Through their Small and Emerging Business Program, the New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center is committed to creating opportunity to help the SEBs of Louisiana succeed. The Convention Center encourages the hiring of local vendors for the purchase of goods and services at the Convention Center and provides easy access to new business opportunities through their SEBConnect app, and through the Ernest N. Morial New Orleans Exhibition Hall Authority’s website at exhallnola.com.

“We are proud to partner with the Convention Center to recognize those businesses, big and small, who continue to fearlessly triumph and support small business growth in a highly competitive environment,” said Judy Reese Morse, president and CEO of the Urban League of Louisiana. “We commend these exemplary businesses for their outstanding work.”

Since the Small and Emerging Business Program launched in 2019, 687 Certified Vendors have been registered and nearly $10 million has been awarded to SEBs and Disadvantaged Business Enterprises.

“The Authority has been a champion of more active involvement of SEB’s as a guiding principle for how business is done at the Convention Center,” said Bonita Robertson, Small and Emerging Business (SEB) committee chair, Ernest N. Morial New Orleans Exhibition Hall Authority. “Recognizing businesses that demonstrate active involvement in alignment with our vision is an appropriate way to continue the progress we have made in recent years, as well as to honor the incredible legacy of Ernest Nathan Morial.”

The Morial Award winners were presented with a trophy that was custom-sculpted by New Orleans visual artist Sheleen Jones, who is renowned for using her art to pay homage to the heroes of our city. The winners will also receive the Urban League of Louisiana’s full suite of capacity-building and training, technical assistance, and will have all expenses paid to attend the National Urban League annual convention.

The Morial Award trophy, custom-sculpted by New Orleans visual artist Sheleen Jones, was awarded to the winners at the December 3 luncheon.

(From left to right) Mr. Paul Flower, Woodward Design+Build, CEO. Mrs. Sybil Morial, Wife of Former Mayor, Dutch Morial.

Mr. Mike Sawaya, President and General Manager of the New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center.

(From left to right) Judy Reese Morse, President and CEO of Louisiana Urban League. Mr. Terry Williams, Airware Transportation and Logistics, President and CEO. Mr. Mike Sawaya, President and General Manager of the New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center.

About the New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center

With 1.1 million square feet of prime exhibit space, in an entirely contiguous hall, the New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center provides the largest single exhibit space in the country, features an award winning staff, first class amenities, and is the sixth largest convention center in the nation.  A leading contributor to the city’s robust tourism economy, the Convention Center’s event activity has produced $90.1 billion in economic impact since its 1985 opening, including $5.7 billion in new tax revenue for state and local governments.

About the Ernest N. Morial New Orleans Exhibition Hall Authority

The Ernest N. Morial New Orleans Exhibition Hall Authority’s (Authority) exclusive mission is to finance, construct and operate facilities in order to attract and conduct conventions, trade shows and other events that support and expand the economy of both the State of Louisiana and New Orleans Region. The Authority is composed of a 13-member board of commissioners, ten appointed by the Governor of Louisiana, and three appointed by the Mayor of New Orleans. Since 1985, event activity at the New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center has produced $90.1 billion in economic impact since its 1985 opening, including $5.7 billion in new tax revenue for state and local governments.

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