On March 16, The New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center (NOENMCC) hosted the annual Morial Awards, during which Corporate Internship Leadership Institute was honored as “Corporation of the Year” and NANO, LLC was selected as “Small Business of the Year.”

The Morial Awards acknowledge local businesses 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.

“We would like to express our congratulations to the winners and honorees of this year’s Morial Awards,” said Michael J. Sawaya, Convention Center president. “As a major economic generator, we are committed to the growth and prosperity of our region. Celebrating the successes and investing in the health of local businesses is a big part of our philosophy to support small and disadvantaged business enterprises, as well as local corporations. It is not every day that such an outstanding group of intellectuals and entrepreneurs can gather together, and we wish to thank everyone who joined us in celebrating these outstanding organizations.”

Michael J. Sawaya, Convention Center President; Dr. Julie Morial; Perry Sholes, Founder/Executive Director, Corporate Internship Leadership Institute; Jerry Reyes, Chairman, Ernest N. Morial New Orleans Exhibition Hall Authority; Judge Monique Morial.

Corporation of the Year recipient, Corporate Internship Leadership Institute (CILI), collaborates with companies, educational institutions and students to provide internship opportunities throughout the New Orleans metro region, Gulf Coast area and state of Louisiana. Facilitates professional development and soft skill building programs, coaching and mentoring to college students.

“The experience of being nominated for such a prestigious award was validation of the work we have done, winning the award is somewhat unreal. We are so excited and honored for this recognition and now work to uphold the standard of the Morial legacy,” said Perry Sholes of CILI.

Architecture and interior design firm NANO, LLC took home the Small Business of the Year award. Founded in 2001, the New Orleans-based firm’s extensive portfolio includes commercial, residential, educational, municipal and industrial projects, including a role as the architect of record for the Convention Center’s ongoing $557 million capital improvements project.

Michael J. Sawaya, Convention Center President; Terri Hogan Dryer, Senior Managing Partner, NANO LLC; Dr. Julie Morial; Judge Monique Morial; Jerry Reyes, Chairman, Ernest N. Morial New Orleans Exhibition Hall Authority.

“As members of the New Orleans business community, this award means a lot to us,” said NANO architect and co-founder Terri Hogan Dreyer. “It reminds us that the work we do for our clients can have a broader, positive impact that continues long after our part in a project is completed.”

Gotech, Inc., and VPG Enterprises were also finalists and recognized for their achievements at the ceremony.

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.

As a part of the celebration, mayor Ernest N. Morial’s son, former mayor Marc Morial, addressed the attendees, and hundreds of local business leaders.

“I would like to extend a congratulations to the winners of this prestigious award,” said Marc Morial, who currently serves as the President and CEO of the National Urban League. “Your tenacity and investments in the growth of communities and small businesses across this state align perfectly with the work my father did during his tenure as Mayor of New Orleans. It was truly a distinct pleasure to stand in my father’s legacy at this event and in the building named in his honor.”

These awards are just a part of what The New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center does year-round to support local businesses. The convention center is committed to increasing business opportunities for the local community’s small and emerging businesses (SEB) and Disadvantaged Business Enterprises (DBE) by encouraging the hiring of local vendors for the purchase of goods and services.

In 2019, the Authority launched the Small and Emerging Business Program. In 2021, the convention center registered 252 new Certified Vendors and made $11 million in payments and contract awards to SEBs and DBE’s. In a recent report, the convention center revealed that 56 percent of its vendors in 2021 were either SEB’s or DBE’s showing a 30 percent increase from 2020.

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