Gulf Coast Economy Slowly on the Rebound

Much of the coffee, rubber, and steel in the United States travels through New Orleans along the Mississippi River on giant ships and barges. And although the Port of New Orleans is back to pre-Katrina levels, the economy along the storm-battered Gulf Coast is still suffering. Michele Norris and Robert Siegel report.

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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block, in Washington, D.C.

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

And in New Orleans, I'm Michele Norris.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

And I'm Robert Siegel. We're standing along an industrial stretch of the Mississippi River. From our vantage point, you can see the barges that ply the wide bend of the river, and you see the working Port of New Orleans. For this city, shipping is one of the bright spots.

NORRIS: Much of the nation's coffee, rubber and steel comes through New Orleans, and those giant ships and barges that residents literally look up to and that are right over our shoulder, they carry grain, chemicals and a vast array of other products. Two weeks ago, the Port Authority announced it was back to pre-Katrina levels.

SIEGEL: Most other businesses in New Orleans haven't fared so well. Few other New Orleans industries are back. Tourism used to generate over $5 billion a year. Now it's a fraction of that. Many hotels remain shuttered. In some cases, Mardi Gras staff have been let go. Many restaurants are closed, and so are major attractions like the Aquarium.

NORRIS: Today we're going to be looking at the economic fallout from Katrina, not just for New Orleans but also for the rest of Louisiana and the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Later this hour, I'll be talking with Louisiana governor Kathleen Blanco about the state of her state.

SIEGEL: And we'll also hear how the devastation of New Orleans has changed life in Baton Rouge. We start, though, with a look at Mississippi, and with our colleague, Melissa Block.

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